Recently, I had the chance to worship at my home church in Maryland. I was back in town to preside over my niece’s wedding and had Sunday free to worship with my parents and oldest sister (a very rare thing when you’re a pastor). It was so wonderful to sit in the pew with my family and just be. I found myself closing my eyes as the music spoke to my soul and breathing deeply with each moment of prayer. It was something I didn’t know I needed until I was there and I’m so glad I had that opportunity. In addition to experiencing beautiful music and prayers, I got to hear a solid message from one of the pastors and get a sneak peek into some little known church history.
Zion Lutheran Church in Middletown, Maryland is nearly 280 years old. That’s a lot of history. I’ve always really appreciated the lessons that history has to give us and live by the statement, “You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.” It was fascinating to hear the story of when one of Zion’s pastors in the 1930’s had to stand in the pulpit on a Sunday morning and declare to the congregation that, “Once again, the bank where we hold our savings account has closed. We do not have enough funds to continue our ministry.” You see, during the Depression, banks were closing left and right and not even churches were safe from financial woes. In order to continue doing ministry in the community, the people of Zion needed to come up with $500, which was a tall order in those days. But they did it, and not just once, but three times. The people invested in the future of their church and it was saved.
I can’t imagine what it was like for the pastor at that time to speak those words to his people, but I’m guessing it was a scary moment in his ministry with the community. But somehow, a group of farmers and laborers found the means to invest in the future of the church. A future they wouldn’t necessarily get to be a part of themselves. They were building a future for their children, grandchildren, and many generations after them.
Immanuel is not in a time of crisis (our savings account is safe in a bank that is well insured). But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from this story. We too, can look forward to the future generations who will become the church; to the people who haven’t yet graced our community with their presence; to the children, grandchildren, and so on who have yet to even be born. We too, can find the strength and means to invest in a future that we may never even get a chance to see. We too, can assure that someday, the sons and daughters of Immanuel can share their own stories of spirit-filled music, soul-strengthening prayer, and beautiful worship with the faithful people who are a part of its history. That is what it means to be church - to be a part of a future that belongs to all of us and yet goes beyond us.
With God’s Blessings Always, Pastor Veronica