Thursday, September 20, 2018

Time for Change

With the beginning of the fall season comes news on several fronts at St. Mark.  First, I’m pleased to report that our new Per Mar security system will be installed in early October.  Construction of the new canopy at the south entrance of the church building will begin by the end of this month, giving us much-needed shelter and visibility as our primary entrance.  Due to the timing of this construction project, the sealing and striping of the parking lot will wait until spring.  We are grateful for the funding of these three projects through our new loan from the ELCA Mission Investment Fund. 

Second, I want to provide an update on Naomi’s current condition. She has been receiving outstanding care at Anam Glen in Rockford since December of last year.  I can’t say enough good things about the excellent, compassionate care she receives from them.  Naomi is now receiving electro convulsive therapy treatments on a weekly basis, which help keep her calm and less restless.  Yet, she continues to decline due to the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s disease.

In light of her diminishing health, the determination has been made to place her under the additional care of Northern Illinois Hospice, who will provide a supplementary level of care to Naomi as she remains at Anam Glen.  This decision was reached in consultation with the staff at Anam Glen and with the three local hospice providers we consulted in the process of selecting a hospice provider to assist Naomi in the coming months.  As you may know, candidates are eligible to receive hospice care once they are assessed to have six months or less to live. While I have no clear sense of how long Naomi has left to live, I believe the rate of her decline merits this welcome assistance.  I will provide you with more updates on Naomi as her condition changes.  We continue to cherish your prayerful support.

As we move into the season of autumn, I am grateful for the comprehensive ministry of St. Mark and for our vital mission to faithfully serve this community and beyond.

Walking this journey of faith with you,
Pastor Mark Hagen

Thursday, September 6, 2018

You Are The Church

I have been thinking a lot lately about the Church and my place within it. I capitalize “Church” here because I mean the whole Christian community throughout time and space. God’s mission through the Church existed before me, and it will handily go on without me. In a way, that can be a source of relief. It takes the pressure off. On the other hand, such a grand scale can make folks like you and me feel wholly insignificant.

In Isaiah 44:24, the prophet writes, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who by myself spread out the earth.” The creator of all things bright and beautiful, of wild plants and pulsing planets, claims you among all the amazements of creation. You, who woke up this morning with weary joints and stiff hope, you are known and loved by Almighty God. In God’s eyes you are significant. In God’s heart you are precious. God doesn’t need you in the way you might need a plumber or a car mechanic. Instead, God desires for you join in what God is doing and use your one, precious life for the sake of Christ-like love.

It is normal to worry about the future and your place in it. Folks come up to me often and wonder about where the church is heading. I am often asked specifically about where our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is heading. Maybe a prominent member of ours recently made headlines for saying something controversial. Or maybe there is discomfort about our ever-changing culture. It’s in these moments of sincere concern that we need to be reminded that the ELCA is not some governing authority that hovers above our faith. It is you and me and all people who call congregations like St. Mark home. Your faithful witness to God’s amazing love is the fertile soil in which the church sprouts and grows. Without you, there is no ELCA. With you and the gifts God has given you, the church can share God’s love all the more.

I am so excited for what we, the Christian community at St. Mark, are able to do because we all come together with our valuable uniqueness to be the body of Christ in our corner of the world. As we approach Rally Sunday on September 9th, as well as the Ministry Fair on September 16th, let us celebrate all that God has given us in our community, and let us continue to welcome all of God’s people to join us in our worship and work together. 

Pastor Chad McKenna

Looking Back

Dear St. Mark friends, 2019 is a year I will never forget.   On January 13 of last year, my second granddaughter, Madlyn Olivia Hagen,...