“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Dear Spirit of Faith Family,
What a remarkably challenging yet illuminating year 2020 was for our congregation! These words from the prophet Isaiah have been a guide for me during a most surreal year, and I hope they will continue to guide us together. Reflecting on the past year, while I lament the struggles, setbacks, and sufferings, I also rejoice in the new opportunities and avenues 2020 has helped us all to explore together. And I give thanks, genuine thanks, for your willingness as a congregation to stick with us, support us, and accompany us on this journey through the wilderness, into the new thing God is doing here in Woonsocket. You have proven to be a nimble, caring, generous congregation—we are quite fortunate!
I expected a learning curve in my first year of ministry with you all, but 2020 steepened that learning curve in unexpected ways. There is no guidebook for how to do ministry successfully during a pandemic! Still, in the midst of this all I completed the requirements for the UMC to be licensed as a local pastor, including a week-long, all-day set of intensive “classes” to achieve my licensing (I even passed a psychological evaluation!). In this first year, while I have appreciated a great many things, what I have treasured the most are the new friendships, but also your willingness to allow me to be me. I am an unexpected, perhaps untraditional pastor, but your encouragement and patience has been a gift. Certainly my serving you all is a “new thing” God is doing in our midst.
After 2.5 months in place officially as your pastor, we made the difficult decision to suspend in-building worship. Amidst the disorientation offered by the pandemic, we were invited into new ways of doing ministry and being the Church. From “the church has left the building” guiding us into first online, then streaming, and drive-in modes of worship to returning to the building after eight months with various safety protocols in place, I am deeply grateful to each of you for joining me in these experiments of being Church in a new way. We embraced this difference and harnessed its possibilities—celebrating confirmation and Senior Sunday at a drive-in service, having a local news story done on us, continuing to reach our Prairie View residents with a bird feeder ministry, welcoming 40 new members, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Lutheran/Methodist parish in Woonsocket, transferring to worship screens, and through it all continuing to serve our community in multiple ways. In a context where many congregations have struggled, we have thrived.
I do not intend to hazard a guess as to what 2021 will bring, but we know that God continues to be present with us and through us. We have discovered (and continue to do so) and embraced what a pandemic church looks like; let us carry these lessons with us, considering also what a post-pandemic church might look like. My hope looking forward to this new year is that we will continue to live into and welcome the prophet Isaiah’s words for us. That we will harness and embrace the new and unexpected things God has and will continue to do here. That we will be open to new ways God will speak to us, guide us, encounter us in worship and service.
May we find joy and peace in the new things God is up to. May we be attentive to it, perceive it, and participate in it. Together. Blessed to be on this journey with you all!
On Dec 20, 2020, the congregation got into the spirit of the holidays by wearing their favorite Christmas sweaters and jammies to worship.
Due to delays caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, our original welcome of new members was rescheduled for November. To ensure a safe welcoming we christened November as "New Member November" and welcomed 40 new members throughout the month. Each Sunday we highlighted a few new members and families. Here are those who joined us; we welcome them, celebrating the things God has done in their lives, and looking forward to learning and growing in faith together with them as part of the Spirit of Faith Family:
Reid and Rachel Lindgren
Andrew, Emilie, Mathias, Gabe
Evan, Emmett, Selah
Karl and Nyla Kappel
Mike and Linda Kilcoin
Trent and Renee Foos
Scott and Sovanna Beekman
Todd and Angie Brueske
Lance and Laura Conrad
Pr. Agapito (Augie) and Birgit Aviles
Steve and Joan Jensen
Chuck Pyle and Amanda Metzger
Keith and Leslie Ohlrogge
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ."
537 years ago today Martin Luther was born. He would change the face of Christianity, and the world, launching the Reformation on Oct 31, 1517, when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg addressing corrupt practices and theology in the Church. It is hard to imagine what Christianity would look like without Luther. Happy birthday, Marty!
Here is Luther's morning prayer:
“I thank you, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.'
On November 1, 2020, our first Sunday back in the building since March, we presented this year's and last year's third graders with their Bibles. With each Bible was a letter, written by Pastor John:
Dear Church Family,
Since Palm Sunday, April 5, we have been holding worship drive-in style from our parking lot. It has been a joy to worship outside with you all during these months, and I am grateful for your willingness to embark on that experiment. I hope the Spirit found you wherever you may have been worshiping. Alas, seasons change, and colder weather is upon us. It was March 8 that we last worshiped together in-building. That has been 217 days, 32 Sundays, since we worshiped together in the sanctuary. We are excited to share we will be returning to worship in the sanctuary starting Sunday, October 25. This date is significant as it is Reformation Sunday, marking the 4thanniversary of the formation of Spirit of Faith. Of course, to celebrate we will be handing out cupcakes as you leave the sanctuary that day!
In an effort to maintain a safe yet meaningful worship experiencing during the pandemic, the church council and I have developed a plan, that passed unanimously, to return to the building safely and that will hopefully allow us to continue to worship in this way together for the foreseeable future. This will include masks worn by all in attendance at any activity held in the church—worship, Wednesday Night Live, confirmation, youth group, and others; we will have adult and child masks available if you do not have your own. Additionally, touchless sanitizer stations have been installed throughout the building, seating in the sanctuary will be adjusted to accommodate appropriate distancing, our new worship screens will allow for a no-touch service, and no fellowship time will be held in-building.
We recognize also that even with this plan in place you may not feel comfortable attending in person. We will continue to stream our service live on our Facebook page, as well as broadcast using our FM Transmitter should you desire to worship in our parking lot from your vehicle. Our request also is if you do not feel well or have a cough you will worship with us in one of these alternative ways.
We know church is going to look and feel different, but these are important measures to take to protect our church family, whom we love dearly. We hope and pray you will remain flexible and gracious as these policies may change as recommendations evolve and COVID-19 cases rise in the county. Our prayer is that these policies, practiced by all, will create a worship space and experience where all feel welcome and are able to worship in a way that is comfortable and safe to them.
I pray during these surreal, challenging times you would continue to love one another in thought, word, and deed, as well as see and practice the safety measures we have put in place as a sincere expression of our Christian love for one another. May we remain ever-mindful of the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as more important than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others,” and Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35 to “love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
God’s blessings to you all! Shalom!
Pastor John dropped off a donation of 2000 reusable masks for use by our ministry partner, Church on the Street in Sioux Falls. Rebel had shared they use about 400 masks per month, so this should last them hopefully nearly through the end of the year! Great to be in ministry together!
We received this note of thanks from Rebel:
"That is awesome! Thank you! We are trying to figure out how we can have people exchange them for clean ones and then us wash them at the laundromat for people. We will be using them as part of Laundry with Love. I pray this isn’t a need forever, but we will now live into a mask exchange ministry too. We are the church, no matter how it looks. Today it looks like this."
50th ANNIVERSARY----An update from Rev. Stanton Bockwoldt, who served the Lutheran/Methodist Parish in Woonsocket and Forestburg from 2001-2002:
Following my time at Woonsocket I was appointed/served (in each instance I began my ministry in July of the year listed and ended in June of the year listed):
Streeter/Medina/Tappen, North Dakota UMCs: 2002-2004
Wessington Springs, SD UMC: 2004-2008
Peace Lutheran Church (ELCA), New Lenox, IL: 2008-2015
Mosinee, WI UMC: 2015-2017
Centenary UMC, Shullsburg, WI: 2017-current
I was pastor at Woonsocket/Forestburg for just a year, but that year left an indelible mark on my life and my career. That was the year that my life, in a very real sense, fell apart. Shortly after arriving in Woonsocket I began to suspect that my then wife was having an affair. Three days before Christmas I discovered proof. Worst possible timing for a pastor. Initially, I did not share with the congregations what was going on in my life. Instead I tried to keep a stoic front and stuffed my feelings inside. I have no doubt that I may have said or done some things during my tenure at Woonsocket out of anger I was feeling in my heart toward my ex-wife. Things that were not intended to be directed to the churches or members.
I eventually shared the truth of what was happening in my life with my District Superintendent and she met with the parish council to arrange a two (or was it three) month leave of absence so that I could navigate through the mess that my life had become.
That meeting with the parish council is the event that has left such a mark on my life and ministry. During the meeting the District Superintendent shared that she would help to find pulpit supply during my absence and that the conference would cover the cost. She then shared with the council that the parish wouldn’t be expected to pay my salary during my absence. I remember that the council asked to speak privately for a few moments and asked the D.S. and myself to step out of the room. Needless to say, I was filled with angst, not knowing what they talking about. About five or ten minutes later the council asked us back in. When the D.S. and I returned, the chairman of the council stated (as best I can recall, this certainly isn’t verbatim), “we’ve talked about your proposal. We know that you aren’t asking us to pay Stan’s salary while he’s away but we expect our pastor to be there for us when our lives are falling apart. It seems that we should be there for our pastor when he life is falling apart. If its ok with you we’d like to continue to pay Stan while he’s away; the last thing he needs at this time is to worry about how he’ll be able to pay his bills.”
In that moment, I felt grace in a way that I had never experienced before and have rarely experienced since. I am convinced without a doubt that God was speaking to me and supporting me in and through the joint council of the Woonsocket/Forestburg Parish. I truly credit the council for showing me the real nature of grace.
The reason this has left such an indelible mark on my life and ministry is because I try to extend the same grace to others that I felt so deeply with the council. I have also committed myself to being an open-book with my congregations. I no longer feel a need to try to appear “ok” at all times. I have realized that by not being open I was doing two things unintentionally (1) lying to my flock (by avoiding the truth) and (2) denying the folks in my parish the opportunity to be in ministry to me. My experience in Woonsocket helped to realize that ministry is truly a joint effort between the people and the pastor. These are lessons for which I will be forever grateful.
Pastor Stanton Bockwoldt
May God bless you and the folks of the Spirit of Faith Lutheran Methodist Church of Woonsocket.
“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Continuing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the parish, we received this note from the parish's SECOND pastor, Joel Flugstad (served 1973-1977), pictured here with his wife Lenita in Norway last year.
August 19, 2020
To the Clergy and Members of
Spirit of Faith Church
I was surprised and pleased to learn, through Vicki Berg Linke’s letter, that the Ecumenical Project has come together, merging into a new, thriving congregation. It is really a spectacular development, and I thank God for it.
“You always remember your first,” as the saying goes. Woonsocket was my first call, and it will always be special. I have served other congregations, but somehow the memories of “the first” are clearer and more precious. The first call is where new pastors try out their stuff, usually with ‘mixed reactions.’ One thing always stands out for me from Woonsocket, namely how accepting and forgiving the people were when I made mistakes.
After Woonsocket, I was called in 1977 to be a missionary in Brazil by the old ALC. Within days of landing in Brazil I met Lenita, my future wife. Within months we were married (April 1, 1978).
Attached is a picture of Lenita and me last year in Norway.
We had three sons. The first, Abraham, was born prematurely and did not survive. Jonathan was born in 1980 and James in 1983,
We returned to the States in 1989.I served a congregation in Southwest Oklahoma (Altus) for a short time. Then I was called to San Antonio, TX (Gethsemane) where we served from 1992-1998. Finally I was called to Our Lord’s Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City where I was pastor from 1998-2012. After retirement I served as long term interim pastor in Chickasha, OK, for five years.
I greet with joy and thanksgiving the congregation Spirit of Faith, and especially any who might remember me. (I guess we’re in the - group now!)
I pray that the blessings of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – may rest upon this congregation, and that your FAITH in Christ will give you comfort, peace, and joy.
In Jesus’ Name,
Pr. Joel Mark Flugstad
11808 Bevenshire Rd
Oklahoma City, OK 73162
In continued celebration of the 50 year anniversary of the parish, here are remarks shared from the FIRST pastor, Jim Carpenter (pictured here with his wife Kathy in 1986). Pastor Jim served the Woonsocket parish from 1970-1973.
"To the members of Spirit of Faith, grace to you and peace from God our
Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
It is with humble gratitude that I remember the members of Spirit of
Faith. Fifty years ago sounds like a long time. Those of you who have
walked this adventure of faith with me know that it is not. It is truly
a “twinkling of an eye.”
Fifty years ago the Woonsocket Lutheran Parish was my first call. I was
nervous; I was excited; I wanted to do well. Both Kathy and I entered
into the life of the community eager to serve as best we could. Before
our arrival, plans had already been made for the United Methodist Church
to “buy some of my time” to serve them as pastor. It was a rather
unique setting. On any given Sunday, beginning with the United
Methodist Church, I led in a worship service. Keeping my robes on
following the service, I would walk down the sidewalk to Bethany
Lutheran for another service. I would then drive over to Forestburg for
yet another service. At the time, I was the only Protestant pastor in
Sanborn County. If the deceased was not “Catholic” I was the
officiating pastor. The first year I had twenty-two funerals! Mr.
Basham and I became good friends!
Though each of the congregations had previously been served by pastors,
everything was new for me. Kathy and I have been richly blessed through
these years with fond memories of ways that each of you received us,
welcomed us, and patiently walked with us through those beginning years.
There was much to learn for all of us. Those first years set us on a
course of very rewarding ministry. Your love and faith are exemplary!
You have done well.
I retired from active parish ministry on October 1, 2010. Matthew 25:21
became a recurring theme: “Well done, good and faithful servant…”
Those words I now share with you: “ Well done, good and faithful
servants!” Kathy and I continue to think of you. We continue to love
you. It is our prayer that this celebration will inspire you to
continue together in faithful ministry.
Pastor Jim and Kathy Carpenter
1506 Circle Drive
Waverly, Iowa 50677"
Aug 1, 2020 marks 50 years since the formation of the Lutheran/Methodist Parish in Woonsocket. To mark this occasion, a keepsake booklet was created and distributed to attendees. If you would like one please let us know! In the meantime, feel free to peruse a digital version below.
Words of celebration from Rev. Rebecca Trefz, Executive Director of Ministries and Southeast District Superintendent of the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Words of celebration from Rev. Jonathan Steiner, Director of Evangelical Mission and Associate to the Bishop of the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Effective July 1, Pastor John Anderson is officially a licensed local pastor serving Spirit of Faith. To mark this occasion, member Sue Larson designed and crafted a beautiful stole to celebrate the occasion. It was presented on behalf of the congregation at the close of our July 5th worship on the island.
The stole features some of Pastor John's favorite colors, as well as the Spirit of Faith name and logo on one side. The individual colored squares are designed to resemble stained glass. Pastor John, who was unaware of and surprised by the presentation, said of the stole, "It is stunning. I love it and will treasure it dearly."
Spirit of Faith originally talked to Dr. John a year ago about helping us out temporarily as we were between pastors. Who would have thought it would turn out to be the perfect fit! No doubt the Holy Spirit continues to guide our congregation, and we are thankful to have Pastor John Anderson officially in place serving Spirit of Faith!
April 29, 2020
April 3, 2020
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (the Old Testament lectionary text for this Sunday) is a truly breathtaking text. Ancient Israel was in exile in a foreign land, in Babylon. They had seen some of their friends and family killed, and the Temple--the visible sign of God's presence--razed to the ground. They yearned for home, and for the assurance that God was still out there. In the ancient world, battles were won and lost not on account of one's military superiority but on the strength of a people's deity. If a people lost, that meant their god lost. In ancient Israel's mindset, then, since they lost, God must have lost. They wrestled with very real doubts that God was who they had believed God to be.
Then God shows up. God shows Ezekiel a valley of dry bones. There is no life here. No hope. And then God asks a question: "Can these bones live?" The obvious answer is no, but this is God asking the question. Ezekiel gives the most honest answer he can: "O Lord God, you know." You can almost hear the anguish in the prophet's voice. And then with but a word, the bones begin to reassemble. Sinews form holding them together, flesh covers them. And then the spirit . . . the spirit causes breath to come into them, and we get the answer to God's original question. Can these bones live? Yes! They can and they do! God tells Ezekiel these bones "are the whole house of Israel," who had felt "dried up," said "our hope is lost, we are cut off completely." And now they live. God promises restoration and the enduring presence of God's Spirit.
We may feel like we are in our own kind of exile right now--from work, friends, family, church, perhaps even from God. But the promise of Ezekiel 37 is that God is still at work. That God can and will still bring new life, even when that seems impossible, even out of a landscape of death. Even in these circumstances, where we feel dried up, hopeless, and cut off, hope remains. When it appears all might be lost, against a backdrop of despair, Ezekiel 37 reminds us that this too is a place inhabited by the Spirit of God. In a foreign land, absent familiar ways of finding and meeting God--much like we may find ourselves now, unable to worship in person--we are assured of God's presence regardless.
During the Fall 2019 semester I taught a class on Prophets and Poetry at Luther Seminary in Minnesota. When we got to the week covering the prophet Ezekiel (who is truly a remarkably odd, quirky prophet) I invited the students to channel some of that creativity and produce something artistic, inspired by the prophet’s own message. Some students wrote poetry, others did drawings or other visual representations. One student, though, was an accomplished musician and took this opportunity to break out of his own self-admitted musical funk and composed an original song inspired by Ezekiel 37's valley of dry bones. The result was a truly powerful expression of the pain, anguish, and uncertainty—beautifully interspersed with subtle glimmers of hope—felt by those during Ezekiel’s time. And perhaps also our own.
I share here a video of a live, open mic performance by this student of his song, "Home Again."
I encourage you to listen to it as you reflect on these words, on the words of Ezekiel 37, and on those things weighing heavily on your heart now.
And take comfort in the powerful words of the song's chorus:
"Did you forget that I love you, forget that I AM?
Forget that I saved you, forget that I can?
Forget who I was, forget who I've been?
Maybe you'll remember when I bring you home again."
Even when we feel as though God has placed us in the middle of a valley of devastation, rebirth and new life is possible. May we never forget.
DEVOTION ON PSALM 137 AND WORSHIP DURING COVID-19 (MARCH 20, 2020)
ST. PATRICK'S DAY DEVOTION AND MESSAGE AMID COVID-19 (MARCH 17, 2020)