Putting muscle in the message!

Runners at the start of the Lutheran Community Services Walk-Run Fundraiser

More than 160 people showed up at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd on Saturday, Sept. 21, to participate in Lutheran Community Services’ 2019 Walk/Run to end Hunger and Family Fun Day. In all, they raised $52,300 to benefit LCS’ food pantries in New Castle County.

St. Mark’s had another strong showing with 31 members registered and a fundraising total of $15,300!

In addition to the 5-kilometer walk/run, there were fun and games for children, including a bounce house, face painting and a chance to explore a fire truck from Talleyville Volunteer Fire Company. There was plenty of food, including hot dogs, brisket, watermelon, chips, cookies and drinks.

Musicians, including St. Mark’s own “Souls on Fire,” showcased their talents.

Many thanks to all those who helped with planning, including Barbara Breisch, Fred Melton, Margie Dodson, Brian Schmidt and Kyle Schuldt. Thanks also to Gwen Wisniewski and her mother, Kathleen, for cooking and Brian Schmidt for providing the smoked brisket. Finally, many thanks go to the hosts at Good Shepherd and their chairperson Linda Ulmanis for all of her vision, planning, and leadership.

— Kyle Schuldt

Welcome to St. Mark’s, Pastor David Mueller!

The Rev. David and Gigi Mueller

We are thrilled to welcome the Rev. David Mueller to St. Mark’s as our interim pastor.

Pastor Mueller was pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church for 30 years and has conducted eight interim assignments in the Southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware-Maryland Synods.

He and his wife, Estrellita “Gigi,” were remarried here at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by Pastor Carl Sachtleben on December 14, 1984. They are happy to be back among the people of St. Mark’s.

And we are overjoyed to have them with us!

Pastor Mueller’s official start date is August 1.

John Lasher: Director of Music and Worship Arts

St. Mark's music director John Lasher

St. Mark’s has a new director of music and worship arts — and he has a familiar face! We congratulate John Lasher, who has been our interim director for several months, on his recent appointment to this position.

Thanks, too, to the Search Committee and Leadership Council for helping us to navigate this challenging process.

We thought you’d like to know more about John and we sent him some questions.

First, a short bio:

John grew up in Newark, Delaware, where he was active in church music from the age of 7. He plays piano, organ and keyboard, and has played timpani and other percussion. He holds a Bachelors of Music Composition from Cairn University, where he also studied Bible and Theology. John is an accomplished actor, having appeared locally with the Brandywiners, Wilmington Drama League, OperaDelaware and at Delaware Children’s Theatre. He played “Watson” in a critically acclaimed performance of “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” in Philadelphia. He enjoys building computers, cooking and occasionally drives for Uber.

• What is it about music that appeals to you?

I don’t really know. Reportedly one of my first sentences was “Want Beethoven,” so I guess it’s in my DNA or something.

• What drew you to be a church musician?

Many of my earliest musical experiences were in churches. Music is an incredibly effective means of spreading the Gospel, and we are commanded several times in both the Old and New Testaments to praise the Lord with singing and other music.

• What drew you to St. Mark’s?

My dad happened to see an ad seeking a keyboard player for “Souls on Fire.” I responded, and the rest is history.

• What is your favorite kind of music and why?

If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be what I’ve heard called “dad rock” (I’m not a dad, but…) — Toto, Steely Dan, Chicago, that crowd. Jazz and Classical are definitely up there, too.

• What do you find most challenging about music?

Finding enough time to practice.

• Is there a musician that has especially inspired you?

If I had to pick one, probably Dave Brubeck. He was the first concert I ever attended (at 18 mos. old).

• How did you come to faith?

I can’t remember a time when I did not know the Lord. For as long as I have understood the basic concepts of sin and salvation, I have trusted in Christ as my Savior.

• How are music and faith connected?

Our God has commanded us to make music for His glory, and as previously stated, it is a very effective means of spreading the Gospel. You might not remember what was preached last Sunday, but you’ll probably remember the music.

• What is your favorite instrument?

The organ, for the range of expression it offers. But right up there with it is the human voices. I’ve heard it said that every instrument made with hands is, in some way, an attempt to mimic some aspect of the human voice. That’s the reason violinists play with vibrato.

• What are a few of your hopes for music at St. Mark’s?

I hope to grow the church and thereby grow and improve our ensembles. I want to continue our musical outreach to the local community. I also hope, through music, to continue to build bridges to other churches in northern Delaware and the surrounding area.

• Do you make music elsewhere, too?

Yes. I participate in community theater, both as a performer and as a music director. I also have at least one album on Amazon/Spotify (search the full name John Percy Lasher) and I might make another one in a year or three.

A new chapter for St. Mark’s

Council President Kitty Dombroski and former Pastor Scott Maxwell

St. Mark’s is in a time of transition as we begin the process of finding a new pastor. As was announced in May, Pastor Scott Maxwell accepted a call to ministry in the Baltimore area and his last day was Sunday, June 16.
We had a wonderful turnout for our farewell to Pastor Scott and Candy that day and this wonderful congregation gave them a generous farewell gift.
Our Leadership Council, presided over by Kitty Dombroski, now is working to provide St Mark’s with an Interim Pastor.
The Rev. Bettye Wolinski, assistant to our Synod Bishop William Gohl, attended the Council’s meeting June 9 to review the interim process with us.
“It is Council’s goal to have the right Interim Pastor in place as quickly as possible,” Kitty said. “… I am confident that with the Holy Spirit leading us St Mark’s will be on the right track.”
A Transition Team will be formed to assist the Interim Pastor.
Sunday worship services will continue as scheduled (9 a.m. and 11 a.m.).
In addition, our congregational picnic is coming soon – Sunday, July 28 – as we join with our neighbors at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant for a combined worship service.
As Kitty says: “Lots of good stuff ahead!”

St. Mark’s strategic plan in focus at leadership retreat, adult forum

Jim LaDoux of Vibrant Faith

More than two dozen people in leadership roles at St. Mark’s attended a half-day retreat on Saturday, April 13 to discuss the congregation’s strategic plan, now under construction. The plan also was the focus of the Adult Forum gathering on Palm Sunday, April 14.

Leading both meetings was Jim LaDoux, who works with congregations around the nation as a coach/consultant for Minneapolis-based Vibrant Faith. LaDoux has counseled the new St. Mark’s Compass Team, tasked with developing the plan, which will then be presented to the St. Mark’s Leadership Council for review and consideration.

Three congregational forums also are planned in May (see schedule at the end of the article), during which all are welcome to ask questions and share ideas with the Compass Team.

Participants at the Saturday retreat included Council members, committee chairs and ministry leaders. They heard more details from the congregational survey that was done earlier this year. Nancy Wilkerson, convener of the Compass Team, sketched out demographic data and summarized perceptions and priorities listed by the 70 people who responded to the survey. And they heard key insights from LaDoux about what makes for an effective plan.

Nichole Bishop
Compass Team member Nichole Bishop discusses a map showing where members of the St. Mark’s family live.

LaDoux said the strategic plan aims to help the congregation “create a culture of spiritual vitality” in a way that honors our calling and mission and helps us to bring our best to one another and to our community. That requires inspection and reflection, he said, and an embrace of adaptive change. What should we hold onto? What has been meaningful? We don’t want to lose that. What should we reconsider—perhaps celebrate its value in the past and let it go as something that accomplished its mission? Adaptive change can help to make room for new growth.

“If you want a deeper connection to the community, what does that look like?” LaDoux asked. “Maybe it is three signature programs. You can’t manage 15. To do your best might mean you do less.”

LaDoux said he sees great strengths at St. Mark’s—especially its caring and service-oriented atmosphere. He agreed with all who expressed desire for better communication and said he also sees an immediate need to better define and sharpen the church governance structure. He sees that as necessary before any expansion or new programs or ministries might be considered. He is collating material gathered in the discussion groups, will summarize that information and work with the Compass Team to bring further clarity to near- and longer-term goals.

“There’s a lot to celebrate here,” he said. “Every church has challenges. Sometimes we get so caught up in the challenges that we don’t see the strengths.”

Telling the stories of God’s work in our lives is a powerful way to develop the faith community, he said.

Coming soon:

• Three discussion sessions have been scheduled to give opportunity for all in the congregation to meet with members of the Compass Team, ask questions and share ideas. The schedule is as follows:
Sunday, May 5, 10 a.m. in the Seminary Room
Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m. in the Seminary Room
Sunday, May 19, noon in the Seminary Room

The Compass Team includes Pastor Scott Maxwell, Nancy Wilkerson (convener), Nichole Bishop, Peg Bradley, Beth Miller, Dwight Novotny and Mike Patterson.

In search of: Director of Music and Worship Arts

Organ console and pipes

Are we looking for each other? We are looking for a Director of Music and Worship Arts. Are you the one? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

A bit about us:

• We are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
• Our beloved music director passed away in 2018 after more than 50 years of devoted service.Sanctuary and altar
• We have two services—a traditional 9 a.m. liturgical service, which incorporates our pipe organ and adult choir, and an 11 a.m. contemporary service, led by our praise band “Souls On Fire.”
• We have a 16-voice adult choir.
• The “Souls On Fire” band includes keyboard, guitar and several vocalists.
Choir• Our music-making inventory includes:
o A pipe organ, installed in 1971. It has approximately 1,200 pipes in three divisions, 20 ranks, with eight pipe chests.
o Two baby grand pianos, one in the sanctuary for use in our Sunday services, one in the basement Great Room for use with large gatherings.
o A console piano in the second-floor choir room, which is used in Adult choir rehearsals on Thursday nights.
Worship band vocalistso An electronic keyboard in the sanctuary, used primarily by the “Souls on Fire” contemporary worship band on Sundays.
o Hand chimes, kept in the second-floor choir room, approximately three octaves, used rarely by the adult choir on Sundays.
• We are eager to develop and expand our worship experiences and are looking for a skilled musician to lead us—planning, organizing and directing the music and other artistic elements of our worship services, always pointing us to the One who is worthy of our praise.
• This is a 30-hour, part-time position. Salary and benefits are competitive and negotiable.
• We are a collaborative congregation and value partnerships with our greater community. We love sharing music arts and worship opportunities with others.

Position Description

The Director of Music and Worship Arts serves as the primary musician and coordinator for worship experiences at St Mark’s Lutheran Church. This position has overall responsibility for planning, organizing, leading and directing the music and other artistic elements of all services enhancing the worship experience for all. The candidate must have the musical ability to support both traditional and contemporary services.
Position Expectations:

1. Principal Musician and Accompanist
• The Director of Music and Worship Arts will develop, direct and oversee the musical life of such choirs and ensembles (including hand chimes and instrumentalists) as are needed to provide for a wide variety of musical involvement and expression within the congregation including both traditional and contemporary services.
• The Director will play the organ/piano/keyboard during worship services and rehearsals.
• The Director will be proficient in vocal leadership for both traditional and contemporary worship services. The Director will oversee, schedule and recruit all vocalists.
• The Director will prepare for worship services and rehearsals through practice and enhancement of personal proficiency in accompaniment.
• The Director will serve as musician/accompanist for weddings, funerals, memorials and other celebrations (additional compensation may be possible).
• The Director will identify and secure vocalists, instrumentalists and other worship artists for participation in selected services, including Christmas, mid-week/Holy Week services and festivals as appropriate.
• The Director will work with the Pastor to attend to Scripture and use the Lectionary as a guide to plan worship services in accordance with the seasons and community life of the church.
• The Director will compose, transpose and arrange music as needed.
• The Director will strive to incorporate a full range of artistic expression to enhance and add meaning to the worship experience.
• The Director will manage the musical instruments and music library.
• The Director will maintain licenses, copyrights, subscriptions and financial resources for the Worship and Music Department.

2. Colleague, Collaborator and Coordinator
• The Director of Music and Worship Arts will serve as a partner in ministry with the pastor, staff and congregation.
• The Director will connect the choir/ensemble/congregation with the greater community.
• The Director will create a network of colleagues and a list of substitute musicians.
• The Director will oversee and serve as the principal staff liaison to worship team leaders as a member on the Worship and Music Committee, including the altar guild, ushers, greeters, liturgists and nursery.
• The Director will determine and submit the annual budget requirements for the Worship and Music Committee and administer the expenditures of the approved budget.
• The Director will pray for, support and encourage members of the congregation to discover their personal gifts for leadership as well as participation in worship art expression.
• The Director will oversee the design of bulletins, programs and audiovisual effects (e.g., screen projections) to assist the community in worship.

Desired Skills:
• Proficient on the pipe organ, piano and electronic keyboard.
• Proficient in vocal leadership.
• Proficient in directing choirs, instrumentalists and bands.
• Proficient in management and administrative skills.
• Proficient in the use of MS Word and MS PowerPoint.
• Strong organizational and interpersonal skills.
• Self-starter and able to follow through on specific tasks.
• Able to conceptualize and explain his/her work as ministry.

Professional Requirements:
• A degree in sacred church music, a degree in music or a musician with equivalent experience.
• Familiarity with a wide range of church music, including classical, traditional hymns, Gospel and contemporary Christian, rock, pop and country genres.
• Basic knowledge of sound amplification, mixing and recording technology.

Professional Relationships:
• The Director of Music and Worship Arts reports directly to the pastor.
• The Director of Music and Worship Arts is supported by the members.

This position requires a criminal background check and drug test. The above position description and duties stated are not all-inclusive. Additional duties and responsibilities may be assigned as needed.

To apply:
Does this strike a chord with you? Do you feel called to this kind of ministry? If so, let’s get to know each other and see where God leads.

We invite you to respond in either of these ways by April 30, 2019.
• Mail your resumé with a cover letter and contact information to: Worship Search Committee, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 501 Duncan Rd., Wilmington DE 19809
• Send your resumé with a cover letter and contact information electronically to resume@stmarksonline.org.

Survey says: Growth is top priority

Stylized compass

The St. Mark’s Compass Team, tasked with developing a strategic plan for the church, continues to study the data gathered in the recent congregational survey.

Analysis of the data continues—moving toward a full and more formal report that will summarize findings in five areas: fellowship and caring, faith and faith development, outreach, flexibility and atmosphere. Many challenges and aspirations have been identified.

The top priority identified by the 70 respondents, according to Compass Team convener Nancy Wilkerson, was to “develop and implement a strategy to attract new members and incorporate them into the life of the church.”

Many suggestions were shared on the “other priorities” page. Here are a few samples:

* Do more to meet the needs of young families
* Establish prayer circles, praying for members who have difficult situations arise
* Help us connect with each other across boundaries (service times/styles, age, marital status, etc.)
* Develop a program of service projects serving our neighborhood community
* Improve our website (Editor’s note: We’re already working on that! Keep the suggestions coming!)

Much more information is coming, so please stay tuned.

Coming soon:

* Discussion sessions will be scheduled to address questions, seek more information and further explain the goals of this process.
* Congregational leaders (Council members, committee chairs, ministry leaders) will gather with Jim LaDoux of Vibrant Faith at a retreat in mid-April to review the reports, discuss priorities and begin to shape St. Mark’s strategy.
* A full and formal report will be prepared and provided to the congregation.

A new chapter for Gail Rodger

Gail Rodger, director of faith formation

“To everything there is a season,” the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, and our Director of Faith Formation, Gail Rodger, has announced plans to retire, effective April 30.

Gail has been part of the St. Mark’s staff for nine years, accepting the part-time position after more than 20 years as a music teacher and choirmaster in South Jersey.

“I felt God had drawn me to St. Mark’s,” she said. “My heart’s desire has been to help people grow — myself included — through studying God’s Word, discussion and talking to one another. So many Christians go to church and don’t think about how real God is and that he wants a relationship with them. That relationship grows through spending time with him and through our contact with our brothers and sisters.”

She loves the spirit of generosity and service she sees at St. Mark’s.

“Many at St. Mark’s put their lifeblood into service here,” she said, “in Sunday School, at Sojourners’ Place, with Lutheran Community Services, Family Promise and so many other efforts.”

Through the past decade, Gail has coordinated ministries including Sunday School, the adult forum, special services such as Candlemas, fun events such as “Trunk or Treat,” community service in Edgemoor and women’s ministries, including the quarterly brunch, and St. Mark’s partnership in Vacation Bible School at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant.

“Gail’s leadership as our Faith Formation Director has greatly impacted countless lives for the sake of Jesus Christ and her involvement in the community has connected us to our neighbors like never before,” said Pastor Scott Maxwell. “I am grateful for Gail’s willingness to share her gifts in ministry with our congregation. I will deeply miss her and her laughter, but I look forward to a continued relationship as she will still be a part of St. Mark’s. Thank you, Gail!”

The Human Resources Team will work with the Leadership Council to discern next steps, Pastor Scott said.

Gail said any successor “can expect a lot of freedom to dream together here and can expect a lot of support from the pastor and congregation.”

She hopes to spend more time with her family, especially her brother, Donald, who is seriously ill. She also plans to travel, do some writing and remain in fellowship with St. Mark’s.

“Thank you all for allowing me to serve God and you in this way for these nine years,” she said. “It will be hard to let go of a lot of things, but I’m excited to turn the page to the next chapter.”

Compass Team analyzing survey data, preparing formal reports

Stylized compass

The St. Mark’s Compass Team, tasked with developing a strategic plan for the church, has a lot of information in hand now, thanks to the 69 people who completed the recent congregational survey by the deadline. A total of 130 surveys were distributed. If you did not receive a survey, please call the church office at (302) 764-7488 to request one. We want everyone’s ideas on how to shape a great future for St. Mark’s.

As those of you who responded to the survey know, there is much to review and a careful analysis is underway.

Nancy Wilkerson, convener of the team, invested many hours assembling the responses, sorting them by relevant categories, attaching numeric scores to priorities and perceptions within the congregation and typing out individual comments.

“We’ll be working on this for a number of weeks,” she said.

Respondents’ statements about the church are divided into seven themes including: fellowship, faith, faith formation and education, outreach, flexibility, leadership, and overall satisfaction.

“We’re evaluating responses in a respectful, positive way,” said Mike Patterson, another Compass Team member. “They’re valuable and we appreciate everyone doing it.”

Surveys of area community groups and leaders are continuing and smaller focus groups will be convened for further discussion to help us clarify our mission.

“How do our greatest gifts help to meet the greatest needs?” Pastor Scott Maxwell said.

Here are a few bits of information about those who responded to the report:

    * 62 percent of respondents have attended St. Mark’s for more than 20 years, 16 percent for 11-20 years, 12 percent for 6-10 years, 10 percent for 1-5 years.
    * 68 percent of respondents are married.
    * 36 percent are between 65-75 years old, 28 percent between 41-64, 26 percent over 75.
    * 52 percent of respondents attend the 9 a.m. service, 23 percent the 11 a.m., 22 percent attend both.

Next steps:

    * Results of the congregational survey will be distributed when the reports and analysis are complete.
    * After release of the results, discussion sessions will be scheduled to address questions, seek more information and further explain the goals of this process.
    * Congregational leaders (Council members, committee chairs, ministry leaders) will gather at a retreat in April to review the reports, discuss priorities and begin to shape the St. Mark’s strategy.

Please continue to pray for this team as this work continues, asking God for wisdom, discernment and strength for the task.

In addition to Pastor Scott, Nancy and Mike, team members include Nichole Bishop, Peg Bradley, Beth Miller and Dwight Novotny.

St. Mark’s Strong: Annual meeting points to change, partnerships and great potential

Kitty Dombroski

Change is in the air at St. Mark’s, Kitty Dombroski said in her opening remarks at the congregation’s annual business meeting, held Jan. 27.

That can be great. And that can be dicey.

“Most of us don’t like change,” she said. “And let’s face it, change is really hard. It’s disruptive and unsettling.”

It is inevitable, though, and also essential for growth. Because of all of that, Kitty chose the “Love Chapter” — the 13th chapter of First Corinthians — as the focus of her devotional.

While it’s always nice to receive love, she said, it’s not always easy to be the person giving love. That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, which had many different opinions and challenges.

Love is the force that holds people together through all kinds of challenge – including periods of change. To punctuate this message, she wore a unique garment, a dress with a hem that bore the word “LOVE” all the way around it. It was a present from a special friend, she said, and she chose to wear it to St. Mark’s, “because St. Mark’s is where the love is.”Kitty Dombroski's 'Love' dress

“God is love,” she said. “Let’s remember that today, tomorrow, next week, throughout this year, working together in ministry to serve God. God is love. We should be, too.”

The unexpected loss of longtime, beloved music director Liz Lauber, who died in March 2018, has prompted some of the coming change as St. Mark’s seeks seek new leadership in that essential ministry. Gratitude was expressed to Nicole Matos and John Lasher, who stepped up to lead the entire music ministry after Liz’s death.

Other changes include:

* A new team at St. Mark’s — the Compass Team — which is working to develop a new strategic plan for the church
* A major new Mission Endowment, established by a gift of the late Ginny Franta, which will support new initiatives at the church
* Continuing renovations to the church building
* A new partnership with Family Promise of Northern New Castle County, which provides shelter to families in need of housing

Sixty-eight people attended the meeting, authorizing the endowment and its committee members, approving a 2019 budget of $336,000, and electing three members to the Leadership Council.

Kitty Dombroski is the new president of Council. The three newly elected members include Peg Bradley (for a second term), Faith Patterson and Nancy Wilkerson. All terms are three years.

The church also expressed gratitude to Lois Broeker, who has served the church on Council as president for the past six years and many years before that as a member of Council.Lois Broeker

Pastor Scott Maxwell reported on St. Mark’s extensive reach into the community — to include his own extensive outreach — and noted that he and Candy have had more than 150 dinners at their home since their arrival about two years ago. The St. Mark’s “Caring Hearts” team has been extremely helpful in assisting those with various needs in the congregation and more than 50 people have participated already in the new partnership with Family Promise of Northern New Castle County.

“I believe in the church,” he said, “and I believe that as we partner with others we will become stronger.”

St. Mark’s has teamed up with many area congregations during the past year, he said, including joint services and an annual picnic with our neighbors at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, with whom we also partner for Vacation Bible School. Church members also are active in service to Edgemoor Gardens and more than 130 people throughout the community have participated in the St. Mark’s-led Covenant Bible Study and Discipleship Fast Track studies in 2018.

Pastor Scott Maxwell
Pastor Scott Maxwell
“I have great hope for the church,” he said. “I’m excited about the church. It has so much promise. We can seek out relationships first and how to build those with integrity, honesty and authenticity. If we can move and live into this type of partnership the church’s future is bright and beautiful. And that web of God’s love will spread over not only Wilmington, but Delaware and the country and the world and we’ll be stronger and stronger for that.”

Reports also were received from Karen Hansell, financial secretary; Tim Bishop, treasurer; and Allen Kirk, for the audit committee. St. Mark’s is in good financial stead, they said, ending 2018 with a small surplus.

Annual meetingJanice Smith reported on efforts of the Music Ministry Discovery Team, which has spent months working to discern next steps for St. Mark’s in its music ministry. Congregants were surveyed, individual interviews and conversations also produced important input for the committee. A search team has been formed to develop a job description and begin the process of finding a new director of Worship & Music Arts Ministries. That team is co-chaired by Janice and Kitty Dombroski.

Karen Hansell reported on renovations to the building and said we are close to meeting our $63,000 goal. If more money is received, more work can be done! Already, significant upgrades have been made to the kitchen, to the Great Room (new windows) and to the parking lot.

The $350,000 Mission Endowment Fund was introduced and established with a five-member oversight committee. The committee will accept grant applications and recommend to Council which applications should be approved. An annual distribution of 4 percent of the fund balance will be available for grants. In determining distributions, the committee will consider the mission imprint in the community, long-term sustainability of the congregation and the vibrancy of ministries within the congregation.

Finally, Karen Hansell reported on the Christmas Bazaar, which was held for the last time in December. The bazaar has had a 16-year run, supported by scores of hard-working volunteers, who helped to build relationships in and through the church and community. Their work also raised significant support for St. Mark’s. More than $18,000 was raised through the 2018 bazaar, bringing its 16-year total to more than $215,000.