Thursday, October 22, 2020

Confirmation Sunday

It’s that time of year again, where a number of our teenagers move into a new chapter in their faith journey. This Sunday, October 25th, nine students will affirm their faith during worship. These nine spent the past two years in our confirmation program, attending retreats, gathering on Wednesday nights, and forming friendships in our congregation. Each of them is unique, and each understands their faith in different ways. As many Christians traditionally do, they have all selected a verse from the Bible that speaks to them at this moment in their lives. Whether you know them or not, I am sure you will get a small sense of who they are based on the scripture they have chosen. Take some time to read these verses, and join me in both celebrating and praying for these young people of faith.

Reagan Egler

Proverbs 3:6

In all your ways acknowledge the Lord, and God will make straight your paths.


Darby Fee

1 Timothy 4:12 

Let no one look down on you because of your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.


Ashley Ferry

2 Timothy 3:14-15

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.


Zachery Hinrichs

Romans 5:3-5

We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.


Emma James 

Psalms 139:14

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works that I know very well.


Sara Koshi

James 1:2-4

Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.


Connor Schroeder

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Emily Sluis

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the right way.

 The peace of Jesus Christ be with you,

 Pastor Chad McKenna

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Remembering Dorothy

Today, Pastor Chuck Olson shares his experience caring for a St. Mark member who sadly died this summer. Pastor Chuck serves as our visitation pastor, and this past week the staff recognized his four years of ministry to our homebound members. If you or a member of your family are unable to leave home and in need of pastoral care, he is more than eager to connect with you either over the phone or in person. He always has his communion kit with him, should you be in need of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. If you are not homebound but in need of pastoral care, Pastor Robert and I are also available to meet with anyone who asks. We can also provide communion, especially if you have been unable to join us for worship on Sunday mornings. 

You can call the church office at (815) 398-3557 to schedule an appointment with any of us pastors.

-Pastor Chad McKenna

When I became St. Mark’s Pastor for Pastoral Care in October of 2016, one of the first homebound people I met was Dorothy Brommerich. 

As I called on her at her home, the first thing I noticed was her oxygenator, and yards of oxygen tubing throughout her home. My heart went out to her, and at every visit her health, and especially her breathing, were on my mind. 

Along the way I visited her when she was hospitalized. I saw her at East Bank for rehab. And I learned about her life. 

Dorothy joined St. Mark in 1972 when she married Ernie. She was a pioneer and remembered much about those days. She went to work at Noble’s Grocery, there on Jefferson St, for more than thirty years. She remembered how her co-worker would lock the doors if someone were accused of shoplifting, locking them in. Dorothy would shake her head – Why would you want to be locked up with a shoplifter? And at every visit Dorothy would ask for – and cherish – the sacrament of communion. Sharing in it together was so beautifully sacred. 

At the end, her health declined quickly. Her Florida daughter Diane stayed with her. Her sons Brian, Tom and Mike united in caring for her. In her final moments, we gathered around her bed, one in prayer, one in love for Dorothy. 

Now she is no longer locked in by her health. She is freed to praise God and the Lamb for eternity. I thank God for the privilege of knowing and loving Dorothy Brommerich. 

In Peace,

Pastor Chuck Olson  

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Music During COVID Season

Hello fellow members of St. Mark. Bob Rub here. I wanted to write something about how we are doing music during this pandemic time. I can tell that some are confused about it. Folks show up on Sunday and hear the organ, but there I am standing on the stage outside…. what is going on?

Truly the pandemic has changed everything and music is no exception. When we were having only online services, I did a lot of work recording and editing music. For hymns, I would record myself playing St. Mark’s pipe organ with a Zoom mp3 recorder. Then, I would email the mp3 recording to different members of the choir each week, asking if they would be willing to record their voice singing the hymns to the organ and send the recording of their voice back to me (this can be done on most cell phones). Typically, I had 3 or 4 singers each week sending me separate voice tracks. I then included vocals of my own and lined them all up on my computer using Audacity, a freeware recording program. It took some time, but I was pretty happy with the congregational sound that resulted. The special music was done the same way, with soloists, instrumentalists and accompaniment. Often, I created an arrangement myself just for the Sunday.

The Praise Band did much of the same to contribute a song each week, when services were online only. Both Chris Semmelroth and Dennis Clark put in many hours to record instrumental accompaniments, email them to singers, and then line up the vocals. It is a lot of work.

Now that we are having live services in the parking lot, editing responsibilities are less demanding, but I still record a hymn, a prelude or postlude (so it is me on the organ), arrange special music and play instrumentally with the Praise Band. As for choir and handbells, I am holding limited, socially distanced, and masked rehearsals. About 7 ringers from the bell choir have been meeting each week for rehearsal. The intention is to deliver a bell music recording at least one Sunday a month. There are more ringers in our group, but no one is pressured to meet if they feel uncomfortable about meeting. In fact, if people have compromised immunity for any reason, they are encouraged not to come. The same goes for choir.

Voices of St. Mark just began meeting on September 23. The men meet for 45 minutes (7-7:45 p.m.) each Wednesday in the Sanctuary, masked and distanced. Then the women meet similarly for 45 minutes (7:45-8:30 p.m.). When we have an anthem ready, I record the men, then women (separately) during their rehearsal time. Those who would rather record their part from home are sent the accompaniment recording and they send their vocal track to me by email. Then, I line them up using the computer. The plan is to rehearse and record about 2 anthems a month.

Finally, because we cannot have a Christmas Concert this year, I am working with Pastor Chad on planning a podcast recording to be available for viewing sometime in mid-December. The plan is to include choir, handbells, soloists, piano/organ duets, instrumentalists, and more. My (probable) theme will be “With God All Things Are Possible.” It is fitting in these times when Covid limits us. It is also a good Christmas theme, because the phrase “with God all things are possible” was spoken by Gabriel when he visited Mary to tell her she would have a son. The phrase is also applicable to each of us every day, especially now. Sometimes we don’t know what to do, but we can trust that with God all things are possible. Thank you for indulging my explanations. I always look forward to working with the wonderful volunteers and musicians at St. Mark. May God continue to bless all of our ministries.

Robert Rub

Thursday, September 24, 2020

A Hopeful Future

When this congregation called me to be an Associate Pastor in 2015, I thought that nothing could top the feeling of joy and gratitude I felt in that moment. You all proved me wrong on August 30th. I am so incredibly humbled and honored to be able to lead this wonderful congregation as your new Senior Pastor. It’s a privilege I couldn’t have imagined five years ago. And yet, I have embraced this with all my trust in God’s grace.

I have a lot of hopes for St. Mark Lutheran Church. I always have. Some of those hopes are things I can have some control over, but the vast majority are up to you as you decide how you want to live into the gospel which frees us all. My most immediate hope is that we can make it through to the other side of this pandemic with confidence, unity, and good health. I am so grateful for a church council that has been wise and considerate as we navigate the unknown. When we do return to the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, normal will have a new meaning, and it will be up to all of us to adjust to that new world and find comfort once again through in-person worship.

A quick word on that. The council and I decided on Tuesday night to extend our drive-in worship services through November 1st. On November 8th, our plan is to return inside for services at 8:00am, 9:30am, and 11:00am. We will need to have capacity limits according to state and county guidelines, but the 9:30 service will be streamed live on YouTube. More details will be coming shortly, and as with everything else in our lives this year, this plan is subject to change.

In the long run, I hope that St. Mark continues to engage with the community around us, both in our neighborhood and in our city. It says a lot that your pastors have rarely needed to be hands-on with outreach ministries because so many of you are quick to share the love of God through service to our neighbors. My greatest hope is that St. Mark continues to be a congregation known for its generosity to the community, as more and more members find ways to share God’s unshakable love in a turbulent world.

In a similar way, I hope that the abundance of land in our care might be transformed into a welcoming and inspiring outdoor refuge for our community. This has been a hope that a good number of you have had since long before my time. For many people, the promise of God’s love is most evident in God’s wonderful creation. We have a tremendous opportunity to use what God has given us to provide a blessed corner of that creation for both our members and our neighbors.

I hope that St. Mark continues to grow as a place where families and children can feel welcome and vital to our life together. I have heard countless stories about the good that our preschool did to foster this sort of atmosphere. With that era in the past, we continue to find new ways to be a church that shows God’s grace to the youngest among us. I am grateful that we have staff and volunteers who have the passion and skill to do this well.

Lastly, I hope that this pandemic has taught each of us that we can be the church wherever we go, and that neither distance nor time can keep God’s love away. I hope you remain curious and eager in your faith, whether you are at a pub or your own backyard. I hope that the promise of resurrection might sustain you in good days and bad. And I hope that God will continue to unite us as the Body of Christ made evident in the people of St. Mark Lutheran Church.

With confidence in the work of the Spirit,

Pastor Chad McKenna

Thursday, September 17, 2020

God's Relentless Pursuit for Workers in the Kingdom

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who when out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. - Matthew 20.1

The Men’s Bible study resumed this week with a study of Matthew chapter 20. The chapter opens with this familiar parable of the laborers in the vineyard. We often remember it for its punch at the end when the workers are paid in reverse order of when they were hired and all are given the usual daily wage. It was the wage agreed upon by those early morning workers for a day’s work and the payment given for even the eleventh-hour workers so that they would have sufficiency to meet their needs. It’s a parable of justice and grace.

However, I don’t think we often pay close enough attention to the behavior of the landowner in this parable. This landowner goes out early seeking workers for his vineyard. This is to be expected. But then this landowner keeps going every few hours in search of more laborers for his vineyard. At nine and noon, three and five the landowner goes out again and again hiring workers.

If I put on my business hat for a moment, I have to wonder if this landowner is incredibly bad at knowing how many people to hire for the work that needs to be done. But human resource management is not the problem for this landowner.

The landowner is relentlessly in search of workers to go out into the vineyard. There is plenty of work to be done and the landowner will always have room for more workers who will each receive the wage they cannot earn.

Can you believe it? It is simply never too late in the day for this landowner to go out seeking more workers. Even at the eleventh-hour workers are being sent out into the vineyard.

Perhaps there have been times in our lives when God’s grace has found us at the eleventh-hour, surprising, unexpected, and abundant.

The good news for us is God’s continued pursuit for workers in God’s own vineyard. The surprise is in the payments which all turn out to be the same, sure. But also, in our God who spends the whole day getting laborers for the vineyard and giving us along with all the workers in the vineyard the joy of work in the kingdom of God.

Together we as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are known at the “God’s Work. Our Hands.” church. All our hands are needed in the vineyard of God’s kingdom. God has called you to this work and through you is calling others to join in tending this vineyard.

God is never done seeking out new workers. Our joy is in the labor for we have already received the grace we cannot earn.


Pastor Robert Franek

Interim Associate Pastor

Friday, September 4, 2020

We are the Body of Christ

Today’s article is adapted from Pastor Chad’s sermon on August 30th.

On Sunday, we celebrated communion together for the first time since March 8th. Like everything these days, it was anything but normal. Who would have known, when we reluctantly closed the building six months ago, that the world would change so drastically?

When we celebrate communion right, it should do two things. First, this meal of bread and wine grants us that forgiveness which God has already given. It is more than mere food or a simple reminder. It is Christ, fully present, given for you. You may have noticed that on Sunday one of the elements was missing. To be frank, CDC guidelines and other factors kept all of us from partaking in the wine. While the Lutheran Church has always advocated for the availability of both the bread and wine, God's mercy is still fully present when you can only have one part. The benefit is not restricted by our own human limitations. We can trust in God's power to be fully present in the bread or wine alone.  When allergies or dietary restrictions or the logistics of a drive-in worship service during an ongoing pandemic keep us from sharing in one part of the meal, God still feeds us. It may not be ideal. I know that for many of us it was quite strange to only share in the wafer. And yet, Christ is still present giving life and salvation to us all.

The second thing this meal does is to unify us as the Body of Christ. This is a meal we share together, after all. If it were simply about personal devotion, you could host a one-serving communion feast whenever you wanted. I suppose Christ’s mercy would still be present even then, but you shouldn’t have to pull this meal out of your own pantry. It shouldn’t be you who has to pick up a bottle of wine at the store or add a loaf of bread to your next grocery delivery, just to receive God’s mercy in this meal. This is a feast, with an open invitation for all to come and be fed.

When communion is brought to folks who are bound to their home or hospital bed, it is an extension of the meal we share together on Sunday morning. We can always do a better job to ensure that meal is, in fact, extended to those who need it. If you would like one of us pastors to bring the feast to you in these strange times, please let us know.

Communion done right is forgiveness freely and equally distributed. It unites us in our common need and sustains us with our common food. As the Apostle Paul says, we “are the Body of Christ and individually members of it.” We are fed so that we might feed others. We are forgiven so that we might bring forgiveness and salvation to a world in desperate need of Christ’s healing love. That is why we gather for communion as often as we can. I pray that this pandemic continues to cease, so that we have more and more opportunity to share this meal in health and grace.


Pastor Chad McKenna   



Friday, August 21, 2020

New Worship Service Coming Soon!

I have a feeling that it is going to be a while until we return to a steady, comfortable rhythm of worship. The kind of worship where you know what to expect, and where little changes from week to week or year to year. Whether you love ritual and tradition or not, when the patterns of a worship service are embedded in your bones, and you know with confidence what will happen next, you can relax into a much more spiritual experience.  Think about how our online services felt to you back at the end of March. I would bet that you experience them differently now that they seem somewhat normal. And though they cannot compare to the in-person worship you know and love, I would hope that if you have continued to tune in week to week, the experience has become more meaningful to you in some manner.

That is all about to change, though. Starting on August 30th, our Sunday morning worship experience is going to go through another change. Like many congregations around the country, we will begin having drive-in outdoor worship services where we can gather in person, sing at a distance, and share in communion. We plan on having this be our Sunday morning practice, rain or shine, through at least the end of September. For now, we will be taking a break from Wednesday night services. Due to the nature of the pandemic, it is difficult to say what form our worship will take once the temperatures begin to drop.

The outdoor service, which will be at 9:30am, will take place in the parking lot. There will be enough space beside each vehicle so that you can bring lawn chairs and sit next to your car if you prefer. We will have a short-range FM broadcast so that you can hear the service through your car stereo or a portable radio. 

I should mention that for safety reasons our Mulford Road entrance will be closed during these services. When you arrive, you will want to enter via the Featherstone Road entrance. At the end, you can leave either the same way you entered or through the adjoining OSF parking lot. Ushers will guide you to where you need to go. To complete the St. Mark experience, as you drive away there will even be some familiar faces handing out bags of donut holes to each car.

If you are away or unable to go out in public, the service will be live streamed to our YouTube channel. Later in the day it will be available for you to watch again and again, just like our other worship videos.

I am so eager to be able to worship in person with you all again! As I have said before, the council’s primary goal continues to be the safety of our members and guests. We have worked hard to make sure our new outdoor worship will indeed be a safe and meaningful experience for you all. We had originally planned on starting this practice on Rally Sunday, but we feel confident that we can begin even earlier. If it proves popular, a second service time may be added, so please continue to read the Memos and check the app to be as up to date as possible. I cannot wait to see you on August 30th!

 Peace,                                                                                                                                   Pastor Chad McKenna

Confirmation Sunday

It’s that time of year again, where a number of our teenagers move into a new chapter in their faith journey. This Sunday, October 25th, nin...