Thursday, July 28, 2022

A Week of Service

We began the week of service with a Northern Illinois Synod worship with other churches from the synod and Bishop Clements.  We worshiped outside at Patriots Gateway Center, following the service we played games and shared a meal together.  On Monday we left Rockford to pack meals at Feed My Starving Children in Schaumburg with many other volunteers.  We worked as a team to pack the meals, each of us with a different job to get everything needed for each meal.  During our few hours there, a total of 73 boxes filled which totaled 15,768 meals.  This will feed 43 kids for one year.

On Tuesday, we spent the day at Rock Cut State Park.  We enjoyed kayaking and paddle boarding on the lake and had lunch at Rock Cut.  It was a beautiful day.  Wednesday was a full day.  The youth began their day at Miss Carly’s where they helped bag snacks, unload vegetables from a truck, and had a tour.  In the evening they volunteered at Rock House Kids.  The youth ate dinner with the kids and played games.  The youth really enjoyed playing games with the kids.  I think this may have been the highlight of the week.  We ended with a lock-in at church where we played games, talked about the week, and slept a little. 

I am so proud of the youth for all they did this week.  They embraced the week of service and gave it their all.  We are blessed to have these extraordinary youth represent St. Mark.  

Becca Honzel, our summer intern did a fantastic job connecting with the youth and encouraging them.  She brought energy to each service event.  I think she especially enjoyed waking them up on Thursday morning with some lively music.  I have enjoyed getting to know Becca and watching her grow this summer.  She began the summer with a fun week of VBS and she ends her internship with a week of service with the youth. 

I witnessed God’s work in many ways this week.  The youth did not hesitate to jump in and help.  I enjoyed the week of service and the fun we had.  I even enjoyed sleeping in the basement of the church.  This week has been a blessing to me.  And I will say it again, I could not be prouder of the youth and we are blessed to have these extraordinary youth represent St. Mark. 

Peace, Pastor Katrina Steingraeber  


        

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Living the Life Right in Front of Us

Lately, I have struggled to make sense of all that has and is happening in our nation and our world.  I have been angry, sad, disheartened, and at a loss of what to do.  Perhaps some of you are feeling the same way.  I have lit candles and prayed, yet that did not seem like enough.  So, I decided to grab a book from my office as I stepped out to take my son for an appointment.  As I sat waiting for my son’s appointment to finish, I glanced at the contents section of the book titled, Liturgy of the Ordinary, Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, by Tish Harrison Warren.  My first thought was this is not really what I am looking for, but I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading the chapter titled Waking, Baptism and Learning to Be Beloved.    

The first thing that stood out to me was the comment on the ordinary parts of our lives and that there were ordinary parts of Christ’s life too.  “Christ’s ordinary years are part of our redemption story.  Because the incarnation and those long, unrecorded years of Jesus’ life, our small, normal lives matter.  If Christ was a carpenter, all of us who are in Christ find that our work is sanctified and made holy.”  In our small corner of the world, our ordinariness is beloved and made holy.  We can reflect God’s glory in our small, everyday tasks. 

The second thing that stood out to me was no matter our profession or position in life, we all have bodies that get tired.  “Whether you’re Mother Teresa or a stay-at-home mom, whether you’re a revolutionary, a student, or a tax attorney, life is lived in twenty-four-hour days.  We have bodies; we lag in energy; we learn slowly; we wake daily and don’t know what lies ahead.”  With the endless barrage of tragic events happening in our world, I have found myself lacking energy and emotionally exhausted at times.  Living into the ambiguity of our lives and what lies ahead is not easy.  I have found myself living in the moment or the day, and that is okay. 

Finally, “And every new day, this is the turn my heart must make: I’m living this life, the life right in front of me.  This one where marriages struggle. This one where we aren’t living as we thought we might or as we hoped we would.  This one where we are weary, where we want to make a difference but aren’t sure where to start, where we have to get dinner on the table or the kid’s teeth brushed… where we worry about those we love, where we struggle to meet our neighbors and love those close to us, where we grieve, where we wait.”  Living the life right in front of us can be hard or it can be boring and mundane.   Our whole selves, boring and ordinary, exciting or challenging, we are beloved children of God.  That is something that cannot be taken away from us and that brings me peace.  I hope it brings you peace too.

God’s peace, Pastor Katrina Steingraeber


  


Thursday, June 23, 2022

Reflections from Synod Assembly

As I have reflected on the Synod Assembly, I find myself filled with joy for the opportunity to be with fellow colleagues and with lay folks from across the Northern Illinois Synod.  This was my second time being a part of an election for the Office of Bishop.  When Bishop Clements was elected I served in a helper role with the election process.  This year I was part of the voting community.  Bishop-Elect Stacie Fidlar was elected to the Office of Bishop in the fifth ballot.  Pastor Stacie will begin her call to serve as bishop on September 1st and her installation will be on October 8th at Trinity Lutheran Church in Rockford.  Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will officiate the installation. 

I give thanks for the work of Bishop Jeffrey Clements.  He has served as bishop since 2016.  I am grateful for Bishop Clements wisdom during my time of candidacy.  Bishop Clements officiated my ordination and the installation service of both Pastor Chad and myself.  I wish him well as he prepares for retirement.  I pray for the synod as they begin to prepare for the transition from Bishop Jeffrey Clements to Bishop-Elect Stacie Fidlar.  I ask you to join me in praying for the synod and the bishops.  

I want to express my deepest gratitude to the synod assembly delegates from St. Mark; Marsha and Randy Scott and Laura and Mark Snyder. You represented the people of St. Mark with grace and love for our church and the larger church. Thank you for serving as delegates. 

My favorite part of Synod Assembly is the final worship service.  For me, this is the best way to end the assembly.  We come together to worship and gather around Christ’s table.  In Bishop Clements sermon, as some of you may have already heard me say, he gave us marching orders to Go!  Go to your neighbors for the sake of the world.  And go for the love of God and for the sake of the world.  This has been on my mind since Bishop said it.  I have spent time reflecting on what we at St. Mark do for the sake of our neighbor and our world.  My heart is filled with great appreciation and joy as the VBS kids brought in food for our St. Mark Market that serves our neighbors in need.  I also loved the sound of the change that was poured into the containers last Sunday.  The clinking sound of the changes was a joyous sound of loving our global neighbors through the work of the ELCA World Hunger.  I acknowledge there is much work that we must continue to do for our neighbor and our world.  I am confident that we will continue to do the hard work.

Peace, 

Pastor Katrina Steingraeber  





Thursday, June 2, 2022

What is Pentecost all about?

Pentecost literally means “50”.  Which makes sense since the day of Pentecost is 50 days after Easter.  In the Jewish tradition, Pentecost is the Jewish festival that comes fifty days after Passover.  It originally celebrated the harvest of wheat.  For Christians, Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit.  “Lutherans believe that we come to faith, remain in faith, and live our lives of faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Lutheran Study Bible pg. 1798) I often think about the Holy Spirit as one who keeps me on track and is not afraid to push me when I need it.  Each week when we proclaim our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed I am reminded of the importance of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.  

In Martin Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed, he writes “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead, the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in one common, true faith.”  The Holy Spirit is the one who helps to keep us connected with Jesus Christ.

Pentecost is also a day where the altar paraments are red, the stoles are red, and we encourage folks to wear red to church.  Red is the color of the Holy Spirit.  My ordination stole reminds me of Pentecost.  The dove on it reminds me how at the Baptism of Jesus the Spirit of God descended like a dove (Matthew 3:16).  The reds, oranges, and yellows throughout the stole remind me of the divided tongues, as of fire, that appeared among the disciples (Acts 2:3).  I am grateful for the Holy Spirit, who at times has pushed me and kept me on track.  I give the Holy Spirit credit for getting me through seminary and the Spirit often gets me through sermon writing.  I appreciate the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.  How do you see the Holy Spirit at work in your life? 

Peace, 

Pastor Katrina Steingraeber   


       

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Summer's Here!

This is the letter members of St. Mark received in the mail last week.

Dear Siblings in Christ,

With the hot temperatures upon us this week, it feels almost as if summer is already here. Even though Sunday School and other programs have ended, we have so much going on during the next several months that I thought it best to write it all down in one place, for you to read at your own pace.

To start, I am so thrilled that our 11:00am service will return to the lawn for the summer! We will begin worshipping by the playground on May 22nd, under the praise band’s excellent leadership. The format of that service really hasn’t changed since we came inside last fall, and it will continue to feature a great blend of traditional and contemporary music. Families with young children can use the playground during worship, and plans are underway to have picnic lunches on occasion after the service. When there is inclement weather, worship will be held in the Fellowship Hall. Our 9:00am service will remain unchanged, and there will still be plenty of coffee and donuts in the cafĂ© and Fellowship Hall.

Vacation Bible School is happening June 20th-24th, and it will be here before you know it! Children age 4 through 5th grade will gather every morning from 9:00am to noon that week. This year’s VBS theme is Food Truck Party, and it is going to be so much fun. In fact, after our closing celebration during worship on Sunday, June 26th, we will have food trucks on site for our first picnic of the summer! Registration is now open on our website. Thanks to a very generous donation, there is no cost to be part of this amazing week!

One face all our kids will get to know that week is our summer intern, Becca Honzel. Becca has been a member of St. Mark almost her entire life and is currently a student at Augustana College in Rock Island. I am certain her positivity and joyful spirit will shine through both at VBS and in all her work with our children and youth. Becca is part of a long St. Mark tradition; we have hired a college-age intern every summer for the better part of three decades, funded in whole by a generous bequest to our Endowment.

We are already deep into planning worship under the big top on the 11th of September. In the past, we have called it Rally Day, but over the last few years the weekend has grown and the name no longer fits quite right. Because of that, I am thrilled to invite you to join us for Septemberfest, a weekend of celebration and opportunity here at St. Mark. We will have a concert by Bob Rub and Margaret Dean on Friday, September 9th; meal packing for Kids Around the World that Saturday; and our familiar Sunday worship under the tent, with a catered barbecue lunch, petting zoo, and plenty of kids’ activities to follow. Our one worship service that morning will be at 10:30, with accessible seating for those who need it. Be on the lookout for more information later this summer.

One face you won’t see around this summer is my own. As most of you know, I will be away on sabbatical for the next few months. With seven years in the books as your pastor, it is time to take a rest and rejuvenate, so that I can return in the fall full of energy and ideas for our future together. My last Sunday with you will be May 22nd, and I will return on September 4th. Coincidentally, my sabbatical time will also double in part as parental leave. My wife Andrea and I are excited to welcome our second child into the world in mid-June. I will continue to pray for each of you during my time away, and I ask that you continue to do the same for me.

Finally, I want to encourage all of you to continue to do what you can to strengthen the ministries of our congregation. I talk a lot about our shared ministry, and it can sound clichĂ©. But, it is true. The pride I have for this place does not come from what I have done in my short tenure, but rather what each of you have always done for the sake of God’s people. Our ministries rest in both the simple and time-consuming actions of all our members. Staying in touch with one another, volunteering on Sunday, and participating beyond Sunday morning are what transform a group of worshipers into a community. Each of us is still recovering from the dramatic effect the pandemic had on our lives. As we settle into new habits and hopes, I encourage you to invest your time and yourself in the life of this place we all love so dearly.

Peace to you,

Pastor Chad McKenna



Thursday, April 21, 2022

Blessed Easter!

Easter is my favorite season of the church year.  Perhaps some of you feel the same about Easter.  This year Easter felt even more special.  At times I felt my inner child come alive with excited anticipation of Easter Sunday.  Part of my excitement is because this was my first Easter as a pastor.  But even more so, because this year we were in person, inside the sanctuary.  I was overjoyed to see the sanctuary filled with people.  The kids all dressed up in their Easter outfits.  The smell of the flowers filled the building.  And then the music.  The trumpet and bells playing and the choir and congregation singing; it was all so beautiful!  It was a joy filled Easter Celebration!

One of my family’s traditions is to take an Easter family photo before heading off to church.  This year our tradition changed a little bit since I am typically up and out of the house on Sunday mornings before anyone else is awake.  Instead of a picture outside we took a picture in the sanctuary.  A few other families did the same thing on Easter morning.  At first, I thought I would miss the traditional family photo taken in our front yard, but surprisingly I did not.  I enjoyed starting a new tradition, of taking a family photo inside the sanctuary of St. Mark with the beautiful, colorful glass as the backdrop. 

As we continue through the Easter season, I encourage you to continue to lift up the Easter proclamation; Alleluia!  Christ is risen.  Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!  Look for signs of Easter in the flowers as they begin to bloom, in the birds and animals as they move about the yard, and in the people, you encounter each day.  I encourage you to share the Easter joy with those around you. 

Blessed Easter to you all! 

Peace, Pastor Katrina Steingraeber



Thursday, March 24, 2022

Lenten Reflection

I am enjoying the Holden Evening Prayer services on Wednesday evenings.   From the glow of the candles, the words of each song, the singing bowl, and the smell of the extinguished beeswax candles, I love it all.  I was first introduced to Holden Evening Prayer while I was on internship.  I learned many of the songs and helped lead the service.  Until this Lenten season, I had not sung the whole Holden Evening Prayer service.  After singing all of Holden Evening Prayer, my love for this service has grown. 

The words of the songs are moving.  As we sing the words Let my Prayer Rise up, like incense before you, a lifting up of my hands as an offering to you, I can see some thin, faint lines of smoke for the burning candles rise up.  I imagine each thin, faint line carrying the prayers we lift up during the service and the ones we hold in our hearts and minds. 

As we journey through Lent and build on the Wednesday evening services, each service brings new meaning for me.  The confirmation class helped light the candles during the first two Lenten services, which is a great way to involve them in the worship service.  This week having Pastor Chad and Andrea McKenna singing together added another layer to the experience.  I loved the difference in the sounds of their voices and when they sang together with a little harmony.  It was so beautiful! 

Holden Evening Prayer services have been a blessing to me.  It is a spiritual practice of singing prayers and embracing a time of silence.  It has been my escape during a busy week as well as an intentional time spent in prayer with God.  I hope your Lenten journey has provided you and continues to provide you with opportunities to connect with God.   

Peace, 

Pastor Katrina Steingraeber



A Week of Service

We began the week of service with a Northern Illinois Synod worship with other churches from the synod and Bishop Clements.  We worshiped ou...