St. Mark’s Update: Welcome back!

Choir and praise band musicians leading worship in the sanctuary

Have you seen the restaurant commercial using the theme song for Welcome Back, Kotter? It’s a great song and used really well. If you don’t remember the show, you are young enough to look it up on the internet. It’s a sitcom from the 1970’s.

Welcome back, St. Mark’s! At our last last meeting on May 23, Council approved re-opening St. Mark’s following State of Delaware guidance. We have been worshiping in person since the fall, but with many restrictions. What this broader re-opening means, specifically, is this:

  • Open doorsIf you are vaccinated you are no longer required to wear a mask or social distance at worship if you choose not to do so.
  • If you prefer to continue masking up and socially distancing — that’s OK, too! It takes awhile to adjust to the new normal.
  • If you are not vaccinated, please consider getting the shots. You will be required to wear a mask at St. Mark’s and maintain physical distance.

The re-opening also means our choir and contemporary praise band can sing in the sanctuary again, instead of pre-recording all of the music every week. It was amazing to hear live voices again in our sanctuary. As is our normal tradition, live music will take a break for the summer and start again for our Homecoming/Rally Sunday. We’ll be sending more information on that when we are closer to September.

In other news, the roofers are waiting for supplies and I hope they are able to start very soon. The construction industry has taken a big supply hit and prices for materials are extremely high.

Have a wonderful summer! Church Leadership is working hard to get St. Mark’s “back to normal.” I welcome feedback and would love to hear from you with concerns and suggestions.

Kitty Dombroski

St. Mark’s Council President

In his own words: Interim Pastor David Mueller reflects on 50 years in ministry

Interim Pastor David Mueller

If you were with us for the special worship service and 50th anniversary celebration of Interim Pastor David Mueller’s ordination on Sunday, June 13, you know how special it was to hear about God’s work in and through him. If you missed that event, the livestream is archived on our YouTube channel.

Friends and family from far-flung places have thanked God for Pastor Mueller’s ministry and the way God has used him over this half century. The St. Mark’s family has special gratitude for the way he and his wife, Gigi, so willingly answered God’s call to serve as interim pastor here for the past two years.

We thought it would be great to sit down with Pastor Mueller, giving him opportunity to share insights from this extended period of service to our Lord. He agreed to this and John Lasher made it possible. The interview now is available on our YouTube channel, which you can reach by clicking on the image below. We hope you’ll listen in!

 

Love drama, art, music? Volunteer with Creative Arts Camp!

Summer Arts Camp graphic

Our next-door neighbor, Presbyterian Church of the Covenant (503 Duncan Road), is hosting a Creative Arts Camp on weekday mornings through July 30.

More than 60 children have signed up for the camp, which started Monday, June 21. The camp runs from 8:15 a.m. through noon each weekday. Drama, art and music are all on the agenda.

Sound wonderful? Volunteers are needed! You can join in by filling out the form at this link: https://forms.gle/otvNehPHeZ44miKi9

Songs, hymns and spiritual songs — together again!

Outdoor hymn sing

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God.” — Colossians 3:16

It has been more than a year since St. Mark’s worship has included in-person singing. Instead, because of the COVID-19 virus and the need to slow the spread of the pandemic, prerecorded music has been part of our worship. Those worshipping at home by way of St. Mark’s YouTube channel could sing along with gusto, but we haven’t sung together in the sanctuary since March of 2020.

John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, had an idea that resonated with many: He would organize an outdoor hymn sing.

Rain washed away the first date, but gorgeous sunshine smiled on Sunday, April 18 and almost two dozen people turned out to St. Mark’s parking lot for the event. Most everyone sat in camp-style chairs. Some sat on a nearby curb or in their car.

John set up his keyboard just outside the main entrance and placed several large speakers nearby.

He had prepared a booklet with 16 hymns, most of which were requested in advance by the congregation. It took almost an hour to sing through all of them, but the time flew by. It was good medicine to worship together, to see each other and to sing the songs we love so much.

“Many of those hymns bring emotion welling up in me that is so strong,” said Cheryl Powell, who attended with her brother, David McClure. “I can’t get through them without choking up.”

Among the hymns she noted: “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” the Navy Hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” the timeless “Jesus Loves Me” and, of course, “Amazing Grace.”

Other beloved hymns included “Blessed Assurance,” “Beautiful Savior,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “I Love to Tell The Story.”

Click on the image below for a quick sample:

Music is a treasure to many at St. Mark’s, which has had an active choir for generations and also — in pre-pandemic times — has had a less formal second service that includes a worship band.

“What sealed my membership in the Lutheran Church was the consistent use of music throughout the service,” Cheryl said, “and the story I heard about Martin Luther himself, urging another priest/churchman to ‘sing to the glory of God!’ as he played what is known as ‘the Lutheran hymn,’ [A Mighty Fortress].”

Thanks to John and all who came out to make a joyful noise!

Stay tuned. We hear there may be a sequel!

Midweek: The Rev. Jason Churchill

The Rev. Jason Churchill

This week’s Midweek guest is the Rev. Jason Churchill, pastor of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in downtown Wilmington. He and Interim Pastor David Mueller discuss the challenges (and opportunities) presented to a church in a city (with no off-street parking!). He also briefly discusses his experiences as a gay Christian and pastor. Click on the image below to watch the conversation on our YouTube channel.

Midweek Extra: The Rev. Clarence Pettit

The Rev. Clarence Pettit of Unity Church in Wilmington

Clarence Pettit, senior pastor of Unity Church in Wilmington, joins us for a third conversation with Interim Pastor David Mueller in this week’s Midweek Extra. In previous conversations, these pastors have discussed race and pastoral issues anecdotally. This week, they pursue a more theological discussion of these matters.

Click on the image below to listen in.

Previous conversations are available at these links:


Midweek Extra: The Rev. Gordon Simmons

The Rev. Gordon Simmons. Photo by John Lasher

Interim Pastor David Mueller is joined in this Midweek Extra by the Rev. Gordon Simmons, director of the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Delaware.

The office serves as a state public policy office of the ELCA and represents its strategic commitment to “step forward as a public church that witnesses boldly to God’s love for all that God has created.” This office works with congregations and individuals in Delaware to become better advocates for justice. You can connect by email.

Listen to the conversation by clicking on the YouTube link below:

 

Join us for an outdoor St. Mark’s hymn sing!

John Lasher's portable keyboard and a hymn book. Photo by John Lasher

UPDATE: Because of rain this morning, John Lasher has postponed this. We will try again on Sunday, April 18.

Music will always be a big part of life at St. Mark’s. We love the time-honored hymns of our faith, we love the choruses and the new music our worship band brings. We love our choirs, our special vocalists and our concerts. We just love to worship our Lord with song!

The pandemic punched a hole in a lot of our singing over the past year, but all was not lost. John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, and the Worship & Music Committee have worked hard to provide music each week that was both meaningful and accessible. Our faithful “virtual choir” and other musicians led us in worship and many of us sang along with gusto at home as we participated by way of YouTube.

Sunday we get to sing together again as St. Mark’s hosts an outdoor hymn sing, starting at 1 p.m. in the parking lot.

This will be good medicine for all of us and you’ll be part of something that has been part of our Christian tradition for centuries.

“There are hundreds of Bible verses about singing,” said John Lasher, who has a degree in music composition from Cairn University. “We are commanded in Psalm 98, ‘Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!'”

God loves the praises of his people! And he deserves to hear them!

“One thing the Protestant Reformation accomplished was the re-establishment of congregational singing as a central part of Christian worship, after it had been banned in the Catholic church,” John said. “Our denomination’s namesake, Martin Luther, wrote many hymns himself. We are even told in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn at the Last Supper. So, outside and socially distanced, we will once again engage in this vital form of worship.”

John has prepared a booklet with the songs we will sing. Almost 40 hymns were requested — too many to fit into this one event — so John says there may be a sequel! All hymns requested by more than one person have been included in the booklet.

You’re welcome to sing in your car or sit outside (bring a chair, if you want one).

If the weather gets cranky, we’ll move it back a week.

We hope you’ll join in! We think you’ll be glad you did!

Holy Week at St. Mark’s

Image of palm frond by Gini George from Pixabay

There are many opportunities to prepare our hearts as we approach Easter and the commemoration of our Lord’s death and resurrection. We hope you’ll join us this week. All in-person worship requires a reservation. All livestream services may be found on our YouTube channel.

Standing with our suffering sisters and brothers

A message from the Association of Asians and Pacific Islanders — ELCA, affirmed by the ELCA Conference of Bishops

“If one member suffers, all suffer together….” 1 Corinthians 12:26

The COVID-related surge in anti-Asian violence is physically and spiritually assaulting Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. This violence re-emerged from America’s historical and pervasive sin of racism. Asian American and Pacific Islander children and adults are facing assaults with racial slurs, bullying, spitting, physical injury and even death. These are not new in communities where Peoples of Color live. These violent acts of racism have and are happening in cities and towns across the United States. The virus of racism cannot be allowed to run rampant.

We, the Association of Asians and Pacific Islanders — ELCA, call on our church to once again unequivocally denounce racism by taking immediate actions to defend, protect, and uphold the safety and lives of Asian Americans. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that we are one body with many members. This member of the body is suffering. Let us bear this suffering together as one body.

We call on our church:

  • to model the example of Jesus, whose compassion was made visible by acts of love, culminating in embracing bodily harm to save us;
  • to undergird and measurably advance its fight against racism and apathy, in all expressions of the church;
  • to model how to tap into Jesus’s deep empathy as our collective power to stand against violence and promote the way of Jesus instead;
  • to urge, facilitate and invite all people in the ELCA’s sphere of influence, both within the church and beyond it, to unite in this crucial battle;
  • to declare a Sunday during this Lenten season to lament in order to express solidarity, help in healing, and support the victims of violence against Asian Americans;
  • to show how the ELCA will oppose racism, its death-dealing manifestations and proclaim ways to move forward as a church and society where all God’s people of color can be free to build a world of true peace, equality, justice, and kindness with others.