Council update: St. Mark’s ready to elect a Call Committee

Cross and stained glass window

Dear St. Mark’s Congregation,

What a long strange trip it has been. 2020 is not the year we thought it would be. In spite of significant obstacles and through the power of the Holy Spirit, St. Mark’s has continued to thrive and grow. Our Transition Team has created our Covenant Journey and has indicated that St. Mark’s is ready to start the call process for our new pastor.

Praise God!

St. Mark’s Council met with The Rev. Robin Litton from the Delaware-Maryland Synod to discuss how to move forward. We have been assured that there is a way. There has been movement of pastors within the Synod during the pandemic and it is vitally important that we move forward.

On September 13, Council approved a slate of eight candidates (see the full list below) to be on the Call Committee. This group of members must be elected by the Congregation to be on the Call Committee as per our Constitution (C13.04).

Council has scheduled a Special Congregational Meeting for Sunday, October 4, immediately following the 10 a.m. worship service, to elect the Call Committee members. You may participate in the meeting in person in the sanctuary or watch it electronically as an extended part of our live-stream coverage on YouTube.

St. Mark’s constitution also requires that election of Call Committee members must be done in person. No proxy or absentee ballots are permitted.

Ballots have been mailed to members and will also be available onsite. They will be collected in the parking lot until 1 p.m. on Oct. 4. If you participate in the congregational meeting remotely (via YouTube), you must still come in person to St. Mark’s by 1 p.m. to submit your ballot. You will not need to leave your car, but you must deliver your own ballot.

Thank you all for your prayers!

Kitty Dombroski

St. Mark’s Council President

Call Committee Nominees

These are the nominees for St. Mark’s Call Committee:

Amy Lane

A lifelong Lutheran, Amy and her husband, Kevin, live in Wilmington, Delaware. They have two adult children. Amy and Kevin have been members of St. Mark’s since moving to Delaware from Nashville, Tennessee, in 2001.

Amy’s professional background includes significantAmy Lane human resources and business experience. She was St. Mark’s first Director of Education & Outreach, then worked as the office manager and, eventually, as an HR specialist for the non-profit Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children. She then became a fiscal management analyst for the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. She now is the administrative specialist and a member of the management team at the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies.

“I’m honored to be considered for the St. Mark’s Search Committee and I look forward to participating in the process as God guides us to the spiritual leader that will be the best fit for our congregation.”

Cheryl Powell

Cheryl is a relatively new member of St. Mark’s, having arrived in early 2015 by way of Philadelphia. Cheryl Powell She is a physician’s assistant, currently employed at the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Medical Center. She is also a retired Navy yeoman.

An avid reader, she also enjoys sewing, cooking and singing, and is a member of the St. Mark’s choir, along with her brother, David McClure.

She has a grown son, Duncan, who is a graduate engineer, working in civil engineering at a firm in Missouri. His girlfriend, Corrine, is completing her veterinary degree. Cheryl and David reside in Claymont.

Elise Mitchell

Elise has lived in Wilmington since 2001 and became a member of St. Mark’s in 2003. Elise MitchellShe has been married to Tom for 17 years and they have two boys, Graham, 13, and Clayton, 11.

Elise has worked for Enterprise Car Sales for 16 years.

She is a member of St. Mark’s altar guild and enjoys crafting and restoring their home.

Francine Passerini

Francine has been been a member of St. Mark’s for 14 years. During that time, she has served as a Steven Minister and has been part of the Wednesday Bible study group, the craft group, Francine PasseriniCaring Hearts, co-chair of the Lutheran Community Services breakfast and (prior to COVID-19) was a tutor at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant’s after-school program called “Edge.” She has participated in many women’s and charitable activities.

Francine is a wife, mother of three and “Nonni” to 12 grandchildren. She is a native of Wilmington and a retired elementary and middle school teacher.

“I look forward to working with the Call Committee, the Church Council and the congregation with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to jointly select our next pastor.”

Jerry Schrack

Jerry has been a member of St. Mark’s since 2004. He is happily married to Cecilia and the Jerry Schrackproud father of Dana, Solomon and Holly.

Jerry has served St. Mark’s as a Sunday school teacher for the preschool and elementary age classes and most recently served as the “Zero Gravity” youth leader with Cecilia.

The Schracks live in North Wilmington. Jerry works at Swarthmore College as assistant Director of Horticulture and Grounds.

Michael K. Patterson

Mike has been a member of St. Mark’s since 2006. He is married to Faith, who serves on St. Mark’s Leadership Council, and has a son, a stepdaughter, two stepsons and six grandchildren. He Mike Patterson earned a B.S. degree from the University of Delaware in Operations Management Business and an MBA from Wilmington University.

He is a retired field grade Army officer with approximately 25 years of military service and a retired senior department head director of hospital in Pennsylvania, with more than 25 years of experience in facilities management.

Mike worked as a quality engineer with Thiokol Corporation, which manufactured rocket motors for satellites. He now teaches military science Army ROTC at the University of Delaware. His previous teaching experience included Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore and a public high school in Philadelphia.

Vicki McDowell

Vicki is an active member of St. Mark’s, teaching confirmation classes, serving as co-leader of the Wednesday Bible Study and participating in Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening Vicki McDowellBible studies. She is also a member of the Delmarva Emmaus community, actively sponsoring and supporting church members on their “Walk to Emmaus” experience and an active member in their “Fourth Day” community of alumni.

She is a member of the Kairos Prison Ministry Program in Delaware and served on six teams with the Maryland Women’s Team at Jessup (MCI-W).

Currently retired, she served in the United States Air Force for 20 years, attaining the rank of master sergeant. She has also done a lot of farm work and has worked as a groom with show horses, as a ranch manager and as the caregiver for her mother, the late Roberta Dukes.

Wayne Smiley

Wayne has attended St. Mark’s since 2009 and says he enjoyed the worship experience so much that he attended a new member class and joined the church.Wayne Smiley

Wayne was elected to the St. Mark’s Leadership Council in 2011 and was elected president of the Council at the beginning of his second term. He served two years as president.

He has played guitar with the contemporary worship band “Souls on Fire” for the last three years.

St. Mark’s goes live today — in the sanctuary and online!

Open doors

We have waited and prayed and longed for this day! For the first time in almost six months, the sanctuary at St. Mark’s will have worshippers in attendance! Church doors open at 9:45 a.m. and you will see many changes, as you know already if you have watched our “Reopening Day” video.

That’s not to say we have not been worshiping together throughout this long building closure, which was done in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We have been together — online!

And thanks to the work of John Lasher and our Worship Committee, that online option will continue for all who are unable to join us in the sanctuary for any reason. See John’s guide to the new “livestreaming” broadcast that starts today at 9:55 a.m.

Many thanks to Interim Pastor David Mueller and John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, for producing the weekly prerecorded worship services that have helped us stay connected as much as possible during this time of extended separation.

Thanks, too, to the musicians and the virtual choir, the worship assistants and all who have continued to support the ongoing ministry of St. Mark’s with your prayers, gifts, mask-making, fundraising, notes of encouragement and other assistance. Thanks to Council President Kitty Dombroski and all who serve with her on the Leadership Council and its Worship Committee. Thanks to Office Manager Cheryl Denneny and Sexton Rick Johnson and all who have given their time and talents during this unexpected interruption of life together.

Now some of us are returning to in-person worship, but many will continue to wait until the virus is brought under control or a vaccine is available. We trust you to make the best decision for you and your family and we want you to be comfortable and connected in the way that suits you best.

We will continue to provide online access to our worship services. They will be broadcast live on our YouTube Channel and then will be archived there for future viewing. You can participate at any time, wherever you have an internet connection.

Thank you for your patience as we continue to develop and refine the tools we use for these broadcasts. We are amazed at the ways God has provided — and we hope to fill you in on some of the stories behind the scenes in the not-too-distant future.

Click on the image below to link to our YouTube livestream. The text of Pastor Mueller’s sermon for today is also available below.

Altar and stained glass window at St. Mark's

“That Which Cannot Be Overstated” (Matthew 18:15-20)

Interim Pastor David E. Mueller

I believe most of you by now realize how important the righteous acts of Christians are to me. It is never exclusively or even primarily our personal salvation and spiritual well-being. We carry in our redeemed hearts and minds, the compassion, healing impulses and genuine concern for others of Christ.

The story was told decades ago about a certain lighthouse, the obvious purpose of which was to keep ships in the channel and not aground at night. Volunteers showed up regularly to clean, repair and manage the lighthouse so that it continued to fulfill its purpose. But the volunteers started gathering, having parties and neglecting the lighthouse in favor of activities more fun but less noble and necessary. It no longer fulfilled its purpose!

Jesus warns against putting our lights under a bushel basket (Matthew 5:15). The Church, which is not a building but a community of believers, has as its purpose to “let your light so shine, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) When we move in on ourselves and fail to shine for the sake of others, we lose our purpose and reduce Christ’s suffering and death to meaninglessness.

At the very core of the Christian faith, however, is something even more important in a practical way. Without this core, we are not Christians at all for this core is also at the center of the nature of God. I am speaking of forgiveness!

David, in Psalm 103, professes the following: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…. He does not deal with us according to our sins … as far as the east is from the west so far he removes our transgressions from us.” (portion of 8-12)

Remove or ignore this core essence of God to forgive and we lose. Other gods may demand appeasement, sacrifices, rigid rituals, but God invites faith in who He is, and regarding us, what He does in Christ.

Matthew 18:15-20, our Gospel for today, is a powerful if really simple process about our learning to forgive. It is also perhaps one of the most abused portions of the Christian Scriptures, which has been used by Popes and other pious  persons to manipulate kings and other leaders. It has been used all too often as a threat: “if you do not do what I/we want, you will be excommunicated.”

Clearly, this passage has been rightly called “Church Discipline.” At the end of the process “if an offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” The Amish in our day and certain churches in the past have called this “shunning!”

Please do not go to the end of the process too quickly. As Christians forgiven, it is both our duty and our delight to be forgivers. This could not be any more serious or special. If we don’t forgive, we are not forgiven. In the prayer our Lord taught us, God the Father does the feeding, the avoiding and the deliverance. The only thing we pray for and do is to be forgiven AS we forgive those who sin against us. The forgiveness petition is the pivot around which the whole prayer matters and the Christian life centers. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:7), Jesus shared “blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”The word 'forgiveness' written in sand

Travel with me to the beginning of this process. If someone in the Church sins against you, “go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” The Eighth Commandment as we number them is about not bearing false witness. Luther went so far as to say that if we tell the truth about someone for malicious reasons, we are violating this commandment. Bearing false witness implies blabbing about someone else all over the place. The prescription in Matthew 18 begins with keeping the issue, whatever the sin is, contained. But it is more: “If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.” The purpose is not to judge the other but to hopefully embrace the other, to hold again the other in positive regard.

If that does not work, “take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” This mandate of two or three and not just one other witness is found in Deuteronomy 19:15 and thus has biblical precedent. Once again the purpose is to reconcile and restore the relationship and not to judge. The others are to witness to your behavior and not just to confirm the intransigence of the perpetrator.

If that does not work, “tell it to the church.” Only after several truly righteous attempts to straighten out the mess does it become potentially a public embarrassment and sanction. If even that does not work, then the person is to be shamed and shunned.

As antiquated as this process may seem and as abused throughout history as it has been, there are very practical advantages, especially to the forgiver whether the forgivee is moved to acknowledgment or not.

My favorite account in the Hebrew scriptures is the story of Joseph which takes up a significant amount of biblical space, Genesis 37-50. Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery. They were forced to come to Egypt to obtain grain due to a drought in Palestine 25 years later. They did not recognize Joseph and after Joseph’s own ruse — holding the youngest brother Benjamin responsible for a theft — he revealed himself to them. They all moved to Egypt, where the Hebrews would spend 435 years. Seventeen years after moving to Egypt, their father Jacob died. The brothers freaked out, believing now the axe of Joseph’s wrath was surely going to fall. What Joseph said to them in Genesis 50:15-21 is as beautiful as it gets. The deepest weeping comes from the forgiver. The brothers did not get their due! They had spent 42 years in guilt, shame and fear.

This is often true of anyone who has been in some way violated and yet has an opportunity to forgive. The one who forgives or is willing to forgive even if the other refuses to accept it, is free of the burden. When as Christians we are in a constant state of being forgiven and forgiving, we are far freer to be about the more positive aspects and privileges of our faith. Forgive us AS we forgive!

There is more. First of all, you do not have to and cannot forgive someone who sinned against someone else. As the Fallwell scandal has surfaced, Becki has been quoted as saying: “I wish Christians were as forgiving as Christ.” She didn’t violate or harm me. Perhaps the students, faculty and administration at Liberty University need to forgive her and her husband but not me. I cannot forgive someone for murdering another. It is noticeable how many of those affected by such a crime, are freed of a lifetime of anger and anxiety when they forgive the perpetrator even if they also get justice in imprisonment.

Secondly, no Christian community including St. Mark’s can or will survive the presence of animus and the absence of forgiveness in its midst. Jesus, still in the Sermon on the Mount says: “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go, be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23, 24) This is often associated with Holy Communion. It is first “Holy” because the meal was established by Christ. It is also “common unity” with those partaking with you. You might have heard someone say along the way, at the altar, Holy Communion is between me and God. No it isn’t! God is NOT present when chronic conflict or animosity exists between God’s people. God affirms the reality of His people: if they are forgiving, so is He; if they are not, neither is He!

I believe that we need steady reminders of the power and absolute necessity of forgiving grace all over the place within Christian community. Without it, there is not just something missing, but someone missing. Without God we lose! With God we forgive and win!

Hold On: A message from our Council President

Photo of Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, taken by Liza Agsalud. Used under CC2.0

I’ve been listening to music over the past few months while stuck in the house. I always feel better when I listen to songs I love and I tend to get them stuck in my head. YouTube is nice, it’s free and a bit of a time waster. Perfect.

I started with Bonnie Raitt singing “Angel from Montgomery,” but then John Prine died of COVID-19 and I was bummed. The world lost a beautiful writer. I don’t care how old he was.

The April “Lion” arrived and after reading Rev Mueller’s Musings I had Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young wailing “Ohio” for days. The distrust resonated with me.

Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Exodus” came next. Not exactly Lutheran theology, but I like being one of Jah people — even if just for a few minutes.

And now — Alabama Shakes. “Hold On.” I can’t get it out of my head. If you haven’t heard it (and you like loud, rock, Janis Joplin-type music) find it on YouTube. It’s addictive. Brittany Howard mentions somebody up above a few times in the lyrics so God’s in there too. At least I believe he is. It’s my kind of prayer — especially when she wails “I don’t wanna wait.” It feels like a cry from one of the Psalms.

St Mark’s Council met on May 17. It was a long meeting — three hours. We had a lot to discuss. Fortunately, before I wrote this letter, the Governor sent guidelines for opening churches. And then we heard from the ELCA and then the Synod. We are getting a lot of advice. But, to be clear, no one is sure. We have a lot of information and common sense to sift through. Members of the congregation have had some great ideas too.

And now we have to buy stuff that may take awhile to get here. We need to be clean and safe. We are still working on a tentative date and we’ll get those specifics out when we have them. We have to be safe. But I want you to know we are working on a plan.

Council formed a Building Safety Committee to come up with suggestions for opening the building for a service. The Worship and Music Committee is working on how to have a safe service. We may not know exactly when we will be together but we will do our best to be safe. Council will meet again on May 31 via Zoom for more discussion.

A few other things:

  • We applied and were approved for a PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan. The money has been deposited in our account.
  • The Great Room is finished – waiting for us to return.
  • We have changed the locks on the outside doors. Inside door locks remain the same. We are going to be careful about distributing keys. There were way too many keys out there and this was a good time to get that under control. Let me know if you need to get in the church and I will arrange for you to get in. Council will decide on May 31 how many and who to give keys to. The church building remains closed at least through May 31.

Hold On.

Jesus is Coming Soon (it’s on YouTube, too).

 

Kitty Dombroski

President, St. Mark’s Leadership Council

Photo of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard by Liza Agsalud of Los Angeles, Calif. / CC BY 2.0

For such a time as this: A message from Kitty Dombroski

A laptop with a virtual meeting

“For such a time as this.”

Six words from the book of Esther I can’t get out of my head. As a country, as a church, as a congregation we have never seen anything like the time we are living. My emotions have been all over the place. Concern, worry, irritation and fear are just some of those. And yet, in the middle of all of it — always when least expected — a lot of good. For such a time as this. Our congregation amazes me as we continue to be there for each other.

St Mark’s Council met on Sunday April 19 — not the way we always have, in a room, facing each other — but in a new way, on the phone and on our computers. For such a time as this. I am grateful for technology. Technology has brought us connectivity and using it is keeping us together. Without skipping a beat our worship services continue — not the way we always have in the sanctuary, with each other, but in a new way – on the phone and on our computers.  For some, in the mail. For such a time as this. I am grateful for our Interim Pastor Council President Kitty Dombroskiand staff. I am grateful for our members and the use of the gifts we have been given. The gift of technology and knowledge and persistence and a willingness and desire to continue.

While most of us have been waiting and praying at home, for some in our church this has been a very busy time. Our Worship committee, Communication Team and Staff have worked many hours putting together worship services that seem almost effortless. For such a time as this.

Good News.

During this quiet time in our Church life members of our congregation have been busy painting the Great Room — floor to ceiling. The floors have been cleaned and waxed. A lot of hard work went in to that. I am grateful.

Over the past weeks, while we’ve been social distancing at home, our Mission Endowment Fund approved and funded purchasing equipment to record our weekly and Holy Week Services. Worship services were recorded, blended and edited. A lot of hard work. I am grateful.

Our website and specifically, the Worship service viewership has increased weekly. March 15, our first Sunday online, was visited 133 times. Easter Sunday, we had 437 visits. A lot of hard work. I am grateful.

Our Council and Transition Team continue to meet. Our staff continues to work. Our members are doing everything they can. Leadership is making difficult decisions. I encourage you to continue to reach out to one another. The church is the people – not the building. But you know that already. Speaking of the building – back to the practical. I strongly encourage you to continue giving financially to St Mark’s. Our bills still need to be paid. Giving is down.

St Mark’s is still here. Call the office or Pastor. Continue to pray. We will be together soon. For such a time as this.

Kitty Dombroski

President, Leadership Council

We love you — stay home!

St. Mark’s Church BUILDING is Closed

I can’t believe I am writing this. In the course of two weeks the way we do church has changed dramatically — at least for now. New words and ideas are now part of my daily life —pandemic, social distancing, Coronavirus, CDC, stay safe. Maybe stay safe should always be there! It’s happened fast and for many of us it’s a little hard to keep up. Watching the news makes me crazy. Not watching the news makes me uninformed. It’s hard to know what to do. I know my sons want me to turn it off.

St Mark’s Leadership Council had an emergency meeting on March 17 to discuss the Delaware State of Emergency and the best course of action. We want to do the right thing — for the larger community, for St Mark’s and for each other. We decided that we had to close the church building. It’s the right thing to do. We are sad, but we don’t want to get each other sick. It’s really that simple. STAY HOME. It only takes one person with no symptoms. We decided to re-evaluate the decision on April 19. Council will meet remotely via a web call. If that sounds very techie to you — it does to most of us, too. It is new for us but it is the right thing to do. I am grateful for technology right now. This will pass. In the meantime – STAY HOME. We will be communicating with you.

IN THE MEANTIME:

  • A brief sermon and music will go out with a link in an email each Sunday afternoon. The website will also be updated.
  • Each day from 6 p.m. through 6:10 p.m., we ask members to be praying for each other, the church, and the world.
  • We will update and send out emails as needed. Please be sure to check the website daily and check your email spam (or junk) folder. We know that not everyone has email. Call the office and let us know if you need USPS mail.
  • We are trying to creatively establish ways to keep our spirits up during this crisis. Be patient, please, as we learn together what is most effective.
  • The Transition Team is still meeting! Please mail your Green Sheets including the first one, if you did not already do so. This is absolutely essential – especially now!
  • Help us help you! Let us know if you need anything including Pastoral Care. The office will remain open (Cheryl is answering the phone during office hours even if she is working remotely sometimes.) The office number is (302) 764-7488.

We love you!  Stay home! Stay Safe!

Kitty Dombroski, president, Leadership Council

The Rev David Mueller, interim pastor

Annual congregational meeting

Council President Kitty Dombroski

Please join us as we meet for our annual congregational meeting on Sunday, January 26.

We’ll meet in the Great Room (downstairs) at 12:30 p.m., enjoy a light lunch and receive reports from our Leadership Council.

This meeting is important to our future. You’ll get a good update on recent developments and have opportunity to ask questions and share your thoughts. Be part of our planning process!

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!”