Thursday, May 13, 2021

Our Worship Continues to Grow!

Last month, I wrote about a major change in our worship schedule, with the addition of a second service and a return to worship indoors that we hope will be permanent. With recent announcements from the CDC and Governor Pritzker’s office, we expand a little bit more, to allow more worshippers and more opportunity to spend time together.

On Sunday, May 23rd, our capacity for 9:00am worship in the sanctuary will jump all the way to 155, thanks to the Bridge Phase which allows for a simple 60% capacity. Registration will still be required. Those who are fully vaccinated may sit close together, but that decision is up to you and those around you, as St. Mark will not be keeping track of our members’ vaccination status. If you are unsure, consider it an act of compassion to leave space for others, especially families with young children.

All of our guidelines will stay in place until we enter Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan. As soon as that happens, things like registration, waivers, temperature checks, and social distancing will be a thing of the past. However, The governor has indicated that masks will still be necessary for some time after we begin Phase 5, and we will continue to follow the mask mandate until it is lifted.

On June 6th, our 11:00am outdoor worship service will be moving from the parking lot to the lawn! Bring your chairs and blankets, find a spot in the shade, and join us for a more intimate style of worship. There will still be an FM transmission for those who wish to remain in their vehicles. Also on this day, we will welcome the return of coffee and donuts between services. When the weather is nice, Fellowship Hour will be hosted outside, under the canopy by the cafe. When it rains, we will be in the Fellowship Hall. Occasionally at this hour, we will also have learning opportunities for adults and children alike. Stay tuned for more news about adult forums, bible studies, and VBS registration events!

Even after we enter Phase 5, many folks may still be hesitant to jump back in to group activities, especially indoors. For the sake of everyone’s comfort, the 11:00am service will remain outside at least through the month of July. When there is rain, we will move under the canopy to worship in the parking lot, just as we have been. In extreme weather, the 11:00am service will be moved to the Fellowship Hall. 

I am so thrilled to be able to expand our worship even more, and I cannot wait to see you all in person this summer!

Peace,

Pastor Chad 



Thursday, April 8, 2021

More Opportunities to Worship

April 7, 2021

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Our worship this Easter Sunday was so full of life and celebration. The trumpets, the sunshine, and the crowd all added to the beauty of that holy day. In fact, our worship all week lifted my spirits in a way I didn’t realize I needed. I pray the same is true for you. We are so close to the end of this pandemic! With that hope, I am excited to announce more opportunities for worship.

As you may know, our plan is to continue worshipping outside at 9:30am through the month of April. Starting in May, for the first time in over a year, we will have more than one worship service on Sunday mornings. You will recognize these services well. The morning will begin in the sanctuary with a traditional service, which will be live-streamed. A second service will meet in the parking lot and will continue to feature the same blend of traditional and contemporary music we have come to know this year.

For the time being, registration and capacity limits are still only needed when we worship inside. When inclement weather forces us to cancel an outside service, we will let you know the night before via email, the website, and our smartphone app.

If there is anything we have learned this year, it is that pandemic worship makes plenty of work for everyone. With an expanded Sunday morning, we will need many more volunteers, including more ushers, more lectors, more musicians, and more folks working the sound and video rooms. We need your help! If you have ever wanted to step into any of these roles, now is the time. Simply send an email to receptionist@stmarklc.com to get started.

Pandemic worship also takes time. When we worship outside, our band members need two extra hours just to make it all happen. Indoor worship takes extra time, too. And as we learned on Easter, we need more than 30 minutes to reset the parking lot between services. For these reasons, here is our new Sunday schedule, beginning May 2nd:

9:00am - Traditional Worship in the Sanctuary

11:00am - Blended Worship in the Parking Lot 

Our last Sunday with a single, 9:30am service will be April 25th. That is the day we will also celebrate our 60th anniversary in worship, and it’s fitting that we will all be together outside. So you know, more celebration is planned for this fall, when we hope to be able to be together without restrictions. I am so looking forward to more opportunities to worship with you, and for the post-pandemic freedom that is coming soon!

Peace,

Pastor Chad McKenna



Thursday, March 11, 2021

It's Been a Year

A year ago, we all experienced one of the most chaotic and upending weeks of our lives. On March 8th, we had a full Sunday morning. It was the second Sunday in Lent. We had begun to be more careful about cleanliness, with jugs of hand sanitizer prominently placed around the building. The choir’s anthem that day was “There is a Balm in Gilead,” a spiritual full of the hope we would need in the weeks and months to come.

We didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last time we gathered like that. The cancelations escalated by the hour, and by the end of the week our congregation joined countless others across the country in pressing pause on all activities, including worship. What started out as a brief precaution became a year full of change, heartache, and isolation. It has also lead to a year full of creativity and hope. We are a resilient people, after all.

Our worship together has seen many forms this past year, and I imagine we will go through a few more changes as we inch closer to full indoor, in-person Sunday mornings. 

I am excited to announce that on Palm Sunday, March 28th, we will return to the parking lot for outdoor worship at 9:30 a.m. Though many of you would much rather worship in the serenity of the sanctuary, being outside allows us to gather in greater numbers. We will continue to have weekly worship outside at 9:30 a.m. through the month of April. Because Easter tends to be a busy day, we will have a second service at 11:00 a.m. on that morning only. Both Easter services will look and sound the same, and all outdoor services will be streamed online.

Here’s the tricky part. April showers may put a damper on our worship. We will endure the rain if it comes; however, a weather advisory or potential heavy downpour will force us to cancel. If that occurs, we will notify you on Saturday night via email, our website, and Facebook. In the event that outdoor worship is canceled, we will live-stream from the sanctuary. During this time, you can still sign up for a spot in the sanctuary, but please know that sanctuary reservations will only go into effect if outdoor worship is canceled. 

I should mention our Holy Week services. On Maundy Thursday, we will have two in-person services, at 12:00 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. On Good Friday, we will have one in-person service at 12:00 p.m. and a pre-recorded cantata available to watch any time after 5:00 p.m. The noon services on both days will be live-streamed and available to watch at any time after the service has begun. To attend the in-person services, please make a reservation through the church office or sign up at this link.

I am more hopeful than ever that we are nearing the end of this pandemic. Yet, even though we may see land on the horizon, we still have a long way to sail. Many of us, myself included, will not be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for quite some time. As we continue this journey, I pray that we stay safe, healthy, and connected.

Peace,

Pastor Chad



 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

All the Stories Are All Our Stories

When I came home from work on February 1st, the first day of Black History Month, I found a package at my front door. I didn’t place any recent orders and was not expecting anything, so it was a surprise.

Upon opening the box, with some anticipatory excitement, I saw that this was a gift from a dear friend. It was the book Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African American, 1619-2019, edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain. I had read about this book and watched some book promotional interviews with Dr. Kendi so was eager to check it out when it published. Now, here it was on my table on the day of its publication.

The book it divided into ten sections each covering a forty year span of time with a different author writing a brief essay on something significant during each five year period. Each section then concludes with a poem summarizing the themes of that era.

Eighty authors and ten poets then comprise the writing of this volume. And as Dr. Kendi explained in one of his interviews, so much of history is written from the perspective of one man. One man simply cannot tell the story of such a diverse people. The essayists in Four Hundred Souls represent a diverse array of professions, geography, and perspectives. They give us a new way of telling the story of our past.

Last weekend I read the first section in Four Hundred Souls. I grieved the past did not know and was never taught in school. I was glad to learn about these first forty years of African American history, notably starting one year before the famed 1620 and the Mayflower with instead 1619 and the White Lion.

I look forward to reading the rest of Four Hundred Souls for its storytelling of so much that has not been told in our singular voice his-story history. It is refreshing to read from a choir of voices gathered for this collective.

I hope and pray that this Black History month is the beginning of a renewal that continues forever and ever. We need to put aside calendrical tokenism and embrace the truth that Black history, indigenous history, and all the rest are undeniably and inextricably American history. We cannot talk about the Mayflower without first confronting the awful truth of the White Lion. And so on from there.

A recent meme I saw on Facebook reads: White supremacy won’t die until white people see it as a white issue they need to solve rather than a Black issue they need to empathize with.

For too long too many have seen white supremacy as limited to the KKK, Jim Crow, and the awful events that happened in Charlottesville in 2017. But white supremacy is much more subtle than these overt expressions. It is not telling the story of the White Lion in schools when I was a kid. It is seeing white as the norm and everything else as different, an other. It is a system of policies and a caste structure that is the air we breathe, the water we swim in, and the culture we absorb from the youngest of ages.

Dr. Kendi concludes his introduction to Four Hundred Souls: “I don’t know how the community has survived—and at time thrived—as much as is has been deprived for four hundred years. The history of Black America has been almost spiritual. Striving to survive death that is racism. Living through death like spirits. Forging a soulful history. A history full of souls. A soul for each year of history. Four Hundred Souls.

As people of faith we are bound up and together by the waters of baptism that unite us across every form of division that we construct by God whose face is manifest in every person we meet.

Kendi and Blain have given us a template in Four Hundred Souls for a new way of telling the stories of the past with a choir of voices that we may know them anew today. May we hear them as part of our collective and shared past and not as something set apart for a special month. May this soulful history help us recognize and dismantle the white supremacy that has persisted for four hundred years too long.

Peace,

Pastor Robert 



Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Worship Update - 1/29/21

Dear St. Mark friends,

Recently, our region entered back into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, which allows us to gather in groups of up to 50 people. Because of this, I am excited to announce that limited in-person worship will resume next month. We will start small and expand our efforts as needed.

Starting on February 7th, our 9:30am live service will be able to host up to 40 worshippers in the congregation. We will have pre-registration and assigned seats for those who are registered. We will also continue to follow the small group guidelines we have had since July, which call for signing a waiver, wearing a mask, and staying six feet away from others. If there is enough demand, additional Sunday services will be added in March.

Lent is just around the corner, and we will also be able to have in-person mid-week services. One Ash Wednesday service will be held in the Sanctuary at noon on February 17th. Just like Sundays, it will be live-streamed on our YouTube channel, and a recording will be available for at-home participation any time afterward.

The following Wednesday, the first of our five mid-week services will be held in the Fellowship Hall at 6:45pm, and a recording will be made available the following morning. During these services of Lenten reflection, we will consider Five Miraculous Moments in the Gospel of Mark, a series of stories that we wouldn’t otherwise hear on Sunday mornings this year. These will be prayerful, spoken-word services.

Registration for all worship services in February will be available through the St. Mark website, www.stmarklc.com, beginning on Monday, February 1st.

Finally, whatever our indoor worship is looking like this spring, plan on having festive, outdoor, drive-in worship on Palm Sunday (3/28), Easter Sunday (4/4), and St. Mark Sunday (4/25)! St. Mark Sunday, by the way, will be a celebration of our 60th anniversary as a congregation.

 As has been the case all along, these plans are subject to change. This pandemic has kept us all on our toes, and we will keep you notified if cancelations occur, and when more worship opportunities become available. I cannot wait to step ever so gently back into worship together with you in the next few months. Stay safe, stay connected, and stay hopeful!

Peace,

Pastor Chad McKenna 



Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Year of St. Mark

During worship a few Sundays ago, I announced a theme we will be leaning into in 2021. Those of you who have been around a long time may know that this is a milestone year for St. Mark Lutheran Church. Our congregation will be 60 years old in April. You could call this our diamond anniversary. By total chance, the lectionary just so happens to be focused on the Gospel of Mark this year. With a major anniversary and a focus on our namesake, what more reason do we need to declare 2021 to be The Year of St. Mark?

Each of our four gospels has its own unique voice in approaching the good news of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Mark is the oldest and shortest, and it was most likely intended to be performed in its entirety by a storyteller. There is no birth narrative, as it begins with Jesus’ baptism by John. Jesus is framed as one who follows up his teachings by acting on them. 

We will spend time this year studying this namesake gospel of ours to see what we might learn about ourselves. How might the Gospel of St. Mark inform who we are, and who God is calling us to be?

For decades we have used the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of readings used by the majority of the world’s mainline churches. One of the quirks of this lectionary is that there are many portions of scripture that aren’t used, due to time constraints and relevance. Though Mark’s Gospel is the shortest, there are whole sections that rarely, if ever, are read aloud in worship. Some stories we hear in other years from the perspective of Matthew and Luke. Other verses are trimmed out completely. This year, though, every verse of our namesake gospel will be read at least once, either on Sunday mornings or during Wednesdays in Lent.

In addition, Bible studies are encouraged to spend time in The Gospel of Mark this year. We will have a number of events and other group study opportunities, especially as pandemic restrictions fade. On April 25th, the official Feast Day of St. Mark, we will celebrate our 60th anniversary and look forward to what the future holds for St. Mark Lutheran Church. While this theme won’t run through every single thing we do this year, much of our ministry together will be influenced by it. I, for one, am eager to celebrate 60 wonderful years, even as we focus our vision toward the future.

Peace, 

Pastor Chad McKenna



Thursday, January 7, 2021

A Farewell and a Greeting

Happy New Year!

I am so thankful for the many people who helped our congregation this past year, whether with a single act or continuous service. I have always been impressed by the work our staff does, and 2020 was no exception. 

On December 30th, our staff bid farewell to Karen Osolin, who worked at the front desk since May, 2019. Before that, she spent some time in our finance office. Karen has been an active member for years, and she has already started volunteering again. In her work she interacted with many of you, and I am sure you would agree that it was a joy to have her on our staff. 

As we say goodbye to Karen, we now welcome Sharon Erickson to the St. Mark staff. Sharon is also a member, and is a member of the Voices of St. Mark. She has served on council in recent years. She and our other receptionist, Jamie Mundy, will be the first people you see when you come in the building during the day, and the first voices you hear when you call. The two of them will also coordinate Sunday volunteers and assist our office manager, Jill Davenport, as needed. It is a true blessing to be able to work along such caring and dedicated people. Please join me in thanking Karen for her years of service, and in welcoming Sharon to this new and vital role!

Peace,

Pastor Chad 



Our Worship Continues to Grow!

Last month, I wrote about a major change in our worship schedule, with the addition of a second service and a return to worship indoors that...