As I read headlines about our ELCA and some of the reactions to our churchwide assembly votes, it has caused me to reflect on who we are as communities of faith, and to what degree we need to be in agreement to move forward with the mission of Christ.  Also, I am looking to my bookshelf and find myself re-reading some of my favorite works.  These personal “classics” bring reassurance at times when I need guidance. 

Very few of my personal classics are spiritual giants or famous names (except for that one called the Bible), but this I am offering a piece of a little-known book of reflections on ministry called, “The Art of Pastoring:  Contemplative Reflections.”  Written by William C. Martin (1994:  CTS Press, Decatur, GA),  and now out of print–but worth tracking down.  In his little book, Martin gives several reflections for Christian ministry on a variety of topics.  Here is the one entitled,

Thought 69 – Opposition

If someone opposes your plans

do not think that you have an enemy.

You will have an enemy

only if you make him so in your heart.

Wait and see.

Perhaps your opponent is an angel

sent from God

to show you more subtle

and deeper aspects of the Word.


Let your so-called opponent

show his true intention.

If he is truly in opposition to you,

your waiting and patience

and lack of attack

will give you the victory

that redeems you both.


And then Martin’s observations:

My opponent is not my enemy.  S/he is a gift from God to help me refine my spirit.  What opposition are you facing right now?  Wonderful!



Confirmation Class of 2009

Mentoring 2009

Mentoring 2009

On Sunday, October 25, 2009, 15 young men and women affirmed their baptismal vows.  Congratulations to–and heartfelt prayers for–each one.

Here are a couple of pictures of our Confirmation Class, with their Mentors.  Thanks for being such a great group!  Your lively spirits will be missed!

The Lighter Side of Mentoring 2009

The Lighter Side of Mentoring 2009

Current & Proposed Ministry Policies Now Online

You can find the ELCA guidelines for Vision and Expectations for Rostered Leaders, as well as the WORKING DRAFT of PROPOSED CHANGES to them, here.  I encourage you to read the original documents as well as the proposed changes, which are at the bottom of the page link. 

NOTE:  You can view the documents easily by clicking the link, though you may need to download the free software Adobe in order to read the pdfs.

I will also put a link to this in the blogroll, with the title:  “ELCA Proposed Policy Changes.”

Hey! We’ve Been Noticed!

42-15977462In tracking back some of the hits we’ve received to our blog recently, I found out that we have been featured on a site called “Pretty Good Lutherans.”  [Aww, shucks.  Tiny curtsey.  And thanks for noticing our little corner of ministry in that big, big world of cyberspace.]

I am intrigued by this site.  The stated mission is, “An independent news site of veteran religion reporter Susan Hogan.”  From what I’ve seen, it’s living up to its name, with some pretty good stuff.  Check it out!

Are We Serious?

This devotion was written with the Gospel reading for this Sunday, October 18, 2009 in mind: Mark 10:35-45, which can be found here.

A couple of weeks ago a group of ELCA Lutherans met in Indiana to discuss their reactions to the church assembly decisions about rostered leaders in same-sex relationships. They call themselves the Lutheran CORE—and they have existed for the past few years, giving witness to their opposition to various issues within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

As a church, we are in a gray area right now—the voters have voted, but no policy changes have been enacted. And as the CORE discussed their fears and concerns, voiced their opinions and even cracked jokes at the expense of those who led the August assembly, these individuals—good and sincere people of faith–began to make plans that include, perhaps, leaving the fellowship of the ELCA. In this meeting, one person sat. The ELCA’s Director for Congregational Mission, former Bishop Steve Bouman. I’ve met Pastor Bouman, and in fact he will soon be speaking to our regional theological conference next month.

Pastor Bouman was not permitted to speak at the CORE meeting in Indiana, but he did write an open letter to the group of those contemplating leaving. And in the letter, he spoke of mission. Not just a mission to disagree, or a mission of righteous anger, not a mission to complain, or a mission to chide—but a mission beyond the disagreement. Are you serious about mission? he asked. If that is done separately or together in this church we call the ELCA—no one yet knows. But Bouman’s question struck me—are you serious about mission? For regardless of one’s opinions on the assembly decisions, are we serious about the mission Jesus calls us to—calls us ALL to—to be servants? Do we proclaim that the crucifixion of Jesus ransomed not just those of like mind, but the masses, who happen to be sinners, every one?

microscopic view-red blood cells

microscopic view-red blood cells

When someone takes issue with something in the church—and it can be anything or everything, for there are plenty of faults in any church, local and national. When someone takes issue with something in the church, watch what happens next. After the “But it is not so among you” (Mark 10:43), what is there? Is there a call to life, forgiveness, and humble service? For you can be certain that is where Jesus is. And our identity, which we labor so long to secure, which we may arrange and re-arrange in denominations and local congregations, our identity always centers in this truth: captive to sin, but now, redeemed. Ransomed. And set free by the blood of Jesus Christ.

On a mission to serve, not be served. To offer, not lord over. To love, not belittle. To be mature in faith, grounded in an identity that was not earned, but given in sacrificial blood. Thanks be to such a God!

Lord God, as we face questions of the day, give us confidence in your promises, and humility in our demeanor. Amen.

Meet Our New Senior Pastor & Family

An excerpt from our October 2009 Newsletter column, for all you readers in cyberspace who may not get the paper edition!prcharlieleonard

1.  Welcome, Pastor Charlie & Cindy.  Tell us a little bit about yourselves–where you grew up, your career paths, your family life.
Cindy grew up in a parsonage, born in Osceola, Nebraska and then moved with her family to Wakefield, Nebraska when she was two.  She went through high school there as a very active young person.  She went to Gustavus Adolphus College to become a Registered Nurse and continues a wonderful career as an RN. Cindy has worked in Lincoln, NE, Macomb, IL, Lexington NE, York, NE, Menomonie, WI, and Montevideo, MN.  She has experience in many areas of nursing ranging from surgical care to Director of Nursing positions. 

I (Charlie) grew on a farm outside Wakefield, NE and also was an active young person in school.  Cindy and I were good friends in high school but never dated until later.  I went to college at the University of Nebraska earning degrees in Education, Agriculture and business.  I have worked in the agricultural, finance, and food industries.  Some of my employers during my first 24 years of career life were White Motor Co., John Deere of York, Piper Jaffray & Hopwood.  I spent 13 years in my own business until near the end of my studies at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

Our families are very important to us.  Our two children, Karin and Christopher, live in the twin cities, we so enjoy spending time with them.  We have siblings living in Alexandria, MN, St. Peter, MN, Rochester, MN, Stanton, NE, Edwards, CO, Little Rock, AR, and Houston, TX.  Our mothers live in Alexandria, MN and Wayne, NE.  Travelling to see family is important for us.

2.  Tell us what you are most looking forward to as you begin your life in Blooming Prairie?

We are looking forward to getting to know the good people of First Lutheran Church and Blooming  Prairie.  I (Charlie) am very eager to get to know the staff of First Lutheran Church and begin our working relationship.  Together we have recognized the importance of the schools in Blooming Prairie and look forward to being with the youth and their families at school activities.  
3.  What excites you most about ministry and your work as a pastor in the ELCA?
What excites me most about ministry is how faith works in and through the Christian community, especially how it enables, empowers and brings courage to hurting and fearful people in need of peace and healing.  I am excited to be an ELCA pastor, maybe even especially in these times.  The ELCA has been very bold in its faith to lean forward into social issues (that are sometimes controversial) because of our charge to “love one another.”  The ELCA continually creates an environment for meaningful Christian education/dialog, evangelism, and mission to the world.   I love the ELCA’s recent adoption of the theme “God’s Work, Our Hands,” as we are the hands of feet of Christ until he comes again.
4.  What are your hopes and dreams for our congregational partnership together?
My hopes and dreams for our partnership with First Lutheran are that mutual respect and Christ’s love prevail as we work together to further God’s emerging kingdom.
5.  What do you like to do for fun?  Any hobbies or special interests?
We enjoy time spent with our children at home playing games, or going to activities with them.  We also love making our home wherever we live.  Landscaping, building, and plants are hobbies we both enjoy.  A good football or basketball game, a show, or play is great entertainment, sometimes traveling to see one in person.  We also have a family lake cabin that is a wonderful family gathering place in the summertime.

6.  Anything else you’d like to add?
We are eager to move in to our townhome in Blooming Prairie.

What Must I Do?

This Sunday, October 11, 2009, the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, we will be reading a tragic story about a rich young man.  You can find the text here.


Kneeling before Jesus, earnestly trying to find the magic secret for eternal life…Jesus looks upon the young man and loves him.  Loves him so much that he tells that rich young man the truth.  The truth that life does not begin or end with possessions.  Nor with obedient external morality.  Rather, life begins and ends with a radical trust in the Creator.  The young man is shocked, and goes away grieving.

And we never knew if that rich young man followed through with Jesus’ calling or not.

With mortals [salvation] is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.  Amen.

One Year Later

We have been using this weblog for approximately 13 months.  (Though it was designed in July 2008, there were no actual posts until September).  So in that time frame–and as of this writing–5,025 of you have looked us up, found our site by accident, or otherwise become readers of the First Lutheran of Blooming Prairie Blog.

I want to thank you sincerely for your readership this past year.  Because of you, this blog has become a place to follow local news and mission opportunities; follow local people in their joys and struggles;  and to consider God’s work in our weekly devotions.   

I mean–who would have thought that we could find a way to provide information to those who Google search42-15660639 “Blooming Prairie” and “Lutefisk Dinner”?!?!?  Truly, God works in mysterious ways.

I also want to take a moment to offfer you the invitation to have this site become more interactive by leaving a comment.  You needn’t give your full name to offer a comment, and wordpress (our hosting domain) is vigilant about privacy (one of the reasons I chose them as our hosting domain in the first place).

So again, with gratitude in my heart for your readership, I wish our blog a belated Happy Birthday.  I can hardly wait to see how we change and grow in our second year.

Peace to each one in the Spirit of Jesus Christ,