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Students at commencement

Vocation

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church

Location: Beldenville, Wisconsin
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Size: Between 150 and 200 average weekly attendance

Download Our Savior's VCP report or see report contents below:

Ministry context

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church is located in a quasi-rural setting. Our school district, Ellsworth, Wis., is the eastern-most suburb of St. Paul, Minn. We are surrounded by hobby farms and a very few active dairy farms. Our congregation members for the most part live in rural settings though we do have active members who live in St. Paul, Hudson, River Falls, and Red Wing, Minn.

We are unique in that we are a thriving rural parish. People need to drive here, very, very few are in walking distance. Still we are growing and thriving. We do have a “satellite” site for worship in a nursing home in Ellsworth, Wis. In many ways, we model the local parish concept. If people move to the neighborhood they become part of our congregation. Our worshipping community is comprised of former Roman Catholics who are comfortable crossing themselves, and former charismatic Christians who feel free to raise their hands.

Our biggest challenge is that since we are too familiar with each other, it is difficult for newcomers to break in at first.

Pre-existing practices

1. Narrative Lectionary

We have begun participating in the narrative lectionary to foster biblical literacy. We call it the narrative lectionary because we are not creative enough to come up with a different name. This began on Sept. 11, 2011. We do have several Bible studies happening here too. This has been happening for a long time, probably as long as the congregation has existed. Workingpreacher.org is the resource for the narrative lectionary. Group Publishing and Gather, the new magazine from Women of the ELCA, are our usual Bible study resources.

2. Blessing Vocation

Our participation in the Vibrant Congregation Project will help us address the area of vocation. Periodically throughout the year we do bless various vocations, and those who participate in them. This has been done for the last few years. We also emphasize the call to ministry daily in our lives. The Vibrant project in itself is currently our biggest resource.

3. Multi-Generational Confirmation

We have instituted a multi-generational confirmation program. We divide the Small Catechism up over a period of years beginning with fourth graders and their parents through the ninth grade. Each session just lasts a few weeks, and is finished before the doldrums of a normal confirmation program can set in. When a grade is not participating in a catechesis class, they are involved in a Bible study or in Sunday school. The involvement of the parents is allowing young members to examine their own faith and roles in sharing their faith in their homes and in their places of employment. We tend to use Group Publishing for most of our curricula.

Discoveries from listening process

1. Vocation as a Vocabulary Issue

We discovered that folks really have no concept of “vocation.” We think that it is a vocabulary issue. Ministry and service were far more recognizable. It matters in that the language of the faith/church is not readily familiar anymore. How can we speak of vocation when we have no idea what it means?

2. Sunday Disconnect

We discovered that the folks most interested in the project were often folks whom we do not see in worship. At least that was true in the participation of the surveys. It matters in that the disconnect from Sunday into the rest of the week is reflected in this fact. Often what we do in worship appears to have no tie into ones sense of vocation.

3. Prayer Connection

We discovered that we are a congregation with a very strong prayer life. It matters because this is a ministry that we can apply or tie in directly to vocation.
Opportunities for growth
We would like to make the term vocation a familiar and lived-out term within the congregation and outside of it too. We are also seeing the need to make Sunday worship as something more relevant and tied into the Monday-Saturday life. We would like to reach out to the missing generation as well, and learn from their absence and presence what is going on in their own faith lives.
Experiments undertaken

God’s Work. Our Hands.

Our initial paths of engagement include tracing the hands of our worshipers and recording their occupations and ministries on the hands. This is tied to the ELCA tagline, “God’s work. Our hands.” These traced and cut-out hands will adorn the nave of the church, and then be used as a launch to teach the term vocation in a concrete form. We planned to do this on Nov. 20, 2011, which is Christ the King Sunday, but also for our Thank Offering worship too. The third Sunday of each month is also “Blessing Sunday.” On these Sundays, we bless the various vocations of our members. In addition, we are adding another worship opportunity and style to draw folks in to participate in the project. We have a theme for the project which is “How do I know?” We figured that is the big question in relation to doing what God’s will is for our lives. We will begin a media campaign using the question as its basis and as an invitation to be here.