St. Philip's 45th Anniversary Offering Appeal: Personal Letters (Part 4 of 9)
- Author: Jerry Jensen, Connie Bernardy, Richard Blair, Cora Johnson, Anna Johnson and Esther
- Updated: 03/20/2008
- Copyright: St. Philip's Lutheran Church
Four personal letters written by St. Philip's participants sent to encourage a generous offering.
All letters were mailed on Mondays in order to be delivered on Tuesdays:
First letter by Jerry Jensen, sent March 31
Second letter by Connie Bernardy, sent April 14
Third letter by Richard Blair, sent April 28
Fourth letter by Cora Johnson, Anna Johnson and Esther (high school juniors), sent May 12
For more on the story, click on:
St. Philip's Miracle Anniversary Celebration: Celebrating a Heritage of Faith, Courage and Hope
These are to be personal letters that are written to encourage people to give generously to the anniversary offering on May 18.
1. They are to express your own personal convictions.
2. Briefly who you are and how long a part of St. Philip's
3. Write briefly about the "faith heritage" you have received.
4. Encourage participation in the 45th anniversary celebration in May.
These letters are to be mailed using the return address of the sender and will be sent first class. If you by chance have a lot of sticky return address labels you would be willing to let us use, that would be great.
Each letter will have a header with the name, address and telephone number of the writer.
Each letter will be on 8½x11 paper. The paper will be folded twice (4¼x6½) to be placed in a smaller envelope.
One side of the 8½x11 letter can contain approximately 400 words. Each writer is asked to be as direct and succinct as possible. Please limit the number of words for your letter to no more than 800.
The letters will be prepared in the church office. They will be given for you to add your personal signature (first name only will work). Return them to the office and they will be mailed on the appropriate dates.
Letter 1 by Jerry Jensen, March 31, 2003
We at St. Philip's are in a severe financial squeeze. The money we need to maintain and grow the wonderful programs we have for our children and youth, our benevolence ministries and reduction of our indebtedness are not in the pared-down budget! I am sure we all realize how successful these programs are and how vital they are to the life of St. Philip's.
On this 45th anniversary celebration I would like each of us to ask, "What would God want me to do to address these needs?" The best solution is for each of us to be responsible and do what God would want us to do.
The place to start for me in determining what God would want me to do is to reflect back over the 27 years that I have been a member. My family and I have received a lifetime of blessings: baptisms, Sunday school, family retreats, Super Bowl parties, Crossways Bible Studies, confirmations, home Bible studies, friendship and support in family illnesses, and the list of blessings go on and on.
Then I pray for God's guidance and act on what God would want me to do.
Two passages from Romans are especially helpful for me. Paul asserts,
"If God be for us who can be against us?" and "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
I would like to ask each of us to do what God would want us to do. By doing so I know we will overcome the financial squeeze and continue to celebrate God's Word and do his work at St. Philip's.
Please join me in recognizing, celebrating and giving thanks for our rich heritage of faith through a special anniversary offering on Sunday, May 18.
Now is the time for us to join hands to ensure the heritage is passed on. Read more about it in the next article of "The Friend."
Yours in Christ,
Letter 2 by Connie Bernardy, April 14, 2003
Dear friends in Christ,
As St. Philip's 45th anniversary approaches, it is a perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on our faith heritage. In this letter, I will share my personal faith heritage with you. I will also explain the urgent need we have at St. Philip's and how we can respond.
It's hard to believe my faith heritage at St. Philip's started over 30 years ago. I have many fond memories of worshiping with my family at St. Philip's when I was a child. I vividly remember standing next to my parents in the pew joyfully singing from the red hymnals. Under the direction of Mrs. Moxness, I sang as a cherub in what we called "choir school." We sang underneath the baldachin wearing our little green ponchos with red tassels. I still remember my confirmation teacher, Mr. Hatten, teaching us the Bethel Bible series. And at confirmation camp at Camp Onamia we were spiritually moved as we sang around the campfire. Unfortunately, like so many other young people, my church attendance after confirmation dwindled to holidays and special occasions.
Eighteen years ago this June, Pastor Les married Dan and me in our beautiful sanctuary. The baptism of our daughter, Brielle, was an important milestone on my faith journey. Pastor Paul told us St. Philip's would only baptize a child if a parent committed to bringing their children to church regularly. I made that commitment. By the time our youngest daughter, Kyla, was baptized during St. Philip's 35th anniversary celebration, I was teaching Sunday school to 5- and 6-year-olds. Learning Bible stories with them and attending Bible studies changed my life forever. Passing on faith and God's love to children gives life so much meaning.
As a member of the Youth and Family Committee, I helped create our youth and family vision and mission statement. This was an extremely meaningful experience for me and being a part of its implementation has been even more rewarding. Our youth and family vision at St. Philip's is for every child in our community to feel, know and share God's love. Our faith community strives to accomplish this by building relationships with children and youth and by nurturing them on their faith journey. The blue "Grace" T-shirts you may see at church articulate St. Philip's youth and family vision and mission.
I am so thankful for all the people that have walked with and continue to walk with me and my family on our faith journeys. We feel blessed to be a part of St. Philip's congregation and ministry. All the people who were a part of my faith heritage as I grew and all the Christian friends we have made since Brielle and Kyla were baptized at St. Philip's are true gifts from God. We are so thankful for God's grace, our church facility and ministry, our spiritual leaders and our St. Philip's family. In this uncertain and secular world, St. Philip's ministry gives purpose and meaning to our lives.
As I reflect on my faith journey, there is a huge void from the time I was confirmed to the time we had children. This is a time when many young people drift away from the church. We've come to expect this and we pray that they will return when they have children. Yet, early adulthood is a time major life decisions are being made and participation in a Christian community is critically important. Unfortunately, most churches are not effective in reaching out to and engaging members of this age group in the life of the congregation.
Now, after 45 years of ministry, St. Philip's has a vital and vibrant young adult ministry. We cannot move backwards. God is calling us to push forward in this important ministry and we must meet the challenge. Cuts have been made in our 2003 budget for ministries that reach young people ranging from school-age children to young adults.
Now we have an opportunity to pull together and gather the needed resources to fulfill parts of St. Philip's ministry that could not be covered in our initial budget. By joining hands in this endeavor, we can ensure that our faith heritage is passed on to all generations. The best solution available is to give to our special 45th anniversary offering on May 18. (See the April edition of "The Friend.")
I believe God has big plans for us at St. Philip's. God calls each one of us to carry out God's mission by giving of our possessions, our time and our talents. Together, we can accomplish incredible ministry in God's name! Our giving allows us to have people with great spiritual leadership skills on our staff to lead our congregation in ministry. As members of our congregation, we are the ones who must step up to the plate (offering plate, that is.) Giving generously to our ministries makes a difference in the lives of others as well as our own. Participating in something that we could not accomplish alone gives purpose and meaning to our lives.
As joyful givers, God promises to enrich us in everything. As St. Paul urges in 1 Corinthians, "Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work."
We are very thankful for our faith family at St. Philip's. Because of St. Philip's, our hearts have been deeply touched and our lives are truly blessed.
Your sister in Christ,
P.S. I invite you to join me in prayer: Dear God, Thank you for St. Philip's. Thank you for all the wonderful people who share your love with us and so many others in need. They are truly a gift from you. Please bless each person at St. Philip's. Help us feel your presence and do your will. Bless St. Philip's with the financial means to carry out the ministry you call us to do. Help us to respond generously to the needs of our congregation. Help our ministries grow and overflow with your love and compassion. In your glorious name we pray. Amen.
Letter 3 by Dick Blair, April 28, 2003
Dear friends and members of St. Philip's,
Our 45th anniversary is rapidly approaching with May 18 being the day of celebration and thanksgiving!
Bette and I have attended St. Philip's since 1963. We have five adult children, all of whom appear to be personally well adjusted and even 4 1/2 of the 5 are now financially independent. During these 40 years, we have experienced baptisms, confirmations, marriages, etc. We have also experienced pastoral support with a hospital baptism, hospital in-patient visits, youth counseling, etc. Without any doubt, St. Philip's has been a significant factor and contributor in the life and growth of our family.
During these past 40 years, St. Philip's has been there for us in times of joy as well as in times of difficulty! I know our experience is similar to yours. St. Philip's has been there for all of us.
Now the church needs all of us to help. The church is 45 and is in a mid-life financial crisis. The budget had to be significantly reduced and many areas need our help. The recent "Friend" has a list of the areas that could use help.
Bette and I will make a gift to the 45th anniversary. We believe the gift is one way we can say "thank you" for the blessings our family has received.
We ask you to do the same and please make a gift! It is needed!
Yours in Christ,
Letter 4 by Cora Johnson, Anna Johnson and Esther, May 12, 2003
[Note: These letters were printed on a folded 8½x11 piece of paper so as to make four pages. Each letter and the final conclusion was on one of the pages. Each of the letter writers signed her name at the bottom of her letter.]
by Cora Johnson
My name is Cora Johnson and I am one of the youth at St. Philip's. I am a junior at Irondale High School, and I became a member at St. Philip's last spring. Although I have only been at St. Philip's for a short time, through the welcoming congregation and abundant ministries, I quickly felt at home.
Through St. Philip's vibrant youth program, I have had the opportunity to serve God in amazing ways. Last summer, I went on the mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. My experience there will forever remain in my heart. We built three houses for families in need. Despite their poor living conditions, the families displayed a fervent hope and passion for life. They taught me to see God in the small things in life, and to truly appreciate the blessings God has given me.
I have also been able to serve God weekly through the TIM team program. Through TIM team, I have had the opportunity to interact and build relationships with the younger kids at St. Philip's. It always brightens my day to see their smiling faces each week. They continually remind me of the importance of having a child-like faith.
Over the past year, St. Philip's has become a place where I can embrace God while being supported by Christian brothers and sisters. The God-breathed relationships that I have with the staff, the youth and the other members have greatly helped me to build my foundations in faith. I am forever indebted to St. Philip's for all that I have learned here.
by Anna Johnson
Growing up, I cannot remember a time when St. Philip's has not been a part of my life. I was baptized as a baby by Pastor Paul, started Sunday school at age two, was confirmed last year along side some of my closest friends, and now, as a junior at Irondale High School, participate in youth group events.
Through the summer camps, weekend retreats and mission trips I have been amazed at the opportunities St. Philip's has provided to help me grow in my faith. Even more encouraging have been the relationships that I have formed not only with other youth but also with the adults of our congregation.
During confirmation I went through the mentor program. I met adults that care about me and are willing to give up their time and energy to be role models with whom I formed genuine friendships.
As a TIM (Teens In Ministry) teamer I had the privilege to work with various adults while teaching confirmation and Sonshine Kids. They showed me how to serve Christ by teaching others and how to become a better leader in the church.
On Sunday mornings, at Youth Live, I've had the opportunity to be led in small groups by a few different volunteers. The excitement they have in sharing the news about God's love for me seems to pour out of them when they open their Bibles and share what they have learned through their experience in the Word.
In the future I will endure trials that will shake my beliefs. However, I trust that the adults of St. Philip's have given me a firm foundation in my faith by showing me what it is like to be completely in love with our Lord.
Dear members of the congregation,
My name is Esther, and I am a junior at Blaine High School, where I am involved in music and theater.
I also have done a lot with the youth at St. Philip's. This connection has encouraged me in my faith walk immensely. The opportunities given me here have strongly influenced the person I strive to be.
For the past two summers I have gone to Mexico with our youth group. The experiences and people I encountered there have left a very strong impression on my heart to live humbly and walk faithfully with my savior. The two weeks I spent in Mexico are priceless. I learned more about the world and myself in my time there than I have in three years of school. It was truly amazing, and I look forward to returning this summer.
Thoughts from the three of us
It is evident that the ministries at St. Philip's are invaluable to people of all ages in our congregation.
On Sunday, May 18, at 9:30 a.m., we will all have a chance to celebrate these ministries at the 45th anniversary of our church.
We hope that you will all be able to join us and will take this opportunity to thank God for what St. Philip's has done for you by making a financial donation.
These offerings will allow the youth to continue to flourish in their relationships with God by participating in many of the programs offered here.
On behalf of the youth at St. Philip's, the three of us would like to thank you for your support and hope that you will continue to invest in the future of our church.
Cora, Anna and Esther