Dear Friends through Christ:
In the letter sent out last month, I tried to update what’s happening at Peace Lutheran Church during this hot corona summer. Since not everyone has email, I will post these ministries again:
· In Season Ministry is happy worshiping in Peace Place. They are delightful and take good care of our facility.
· Still working on leasing the space next to the food pantry—getting close.
· Food pantry is a well-oiled machine. Thank you Lori and others.
· Trying to get a “community garden” up and running in the fenced section behind the food pantry. Let me know if you want to contribute.
· Will be painting the entire complex ourselves when the weather cools. Should be pretty. Which reminds me to remind you, if you adopted a plot, please make sure it is cared for. Don’t want to report anyone to the adoption agency. PS—Remember your garden plot can double for a burial plot. Just dump the ashes and place a memorial. We’re going to be with Jesus anyway. Save some money. (Ya’ll don’t know if I’m kidding)
· Hopefully around Thanksgiving, we will host the following: “Friendship Tea, Fall Bazaar and a Brunch to thank all who worked the front lines during Covid-19.”
· Plans were also in place to host “Shepherd Center” in the fall, but probably will be pushed to early next year. Shepherd Center is a learning opportunity for our seniors. Quilting, German, Computer, Religion are just a sampling of class offered by qualified instructors for a fee just to cover cost. I think it’s only $10.00.
· Most of the groups using our facilities are back. For how long is another issue!
· Meeting with commercial realtors and examining our options regarding the sale of property. Palm Bay is growing. I will share more in our September letter when there is more to share.
· Plan on having a new screen and projector for the sanctuary sometime in September.
· Still researching our affiliation with the LCMC. Let’s just say, this one will take some time and effort.
I believe it is vital to keep all saints and sinners informed about the ministries and the needs of Christ’s Church, especially during these trying times, so allow me to update the progress. I apologize in advance for the length of the letter, but the work of the Church is important.
· Our space next to the food pantry has been leased to Kingdom Life in Christ Apostolic Ministries, run by Pastor Ed Gardner. Pastor Ed will also host a small worship service in the Fellowship Hall each Sunday at 1PM.
· Need remains high at Food Pantry, but a local resident currently has been donating 100’s of gallons of milk almost weekly.
· Community garden now has 21 boxes (5x10) built. They are filled with top soil and should be planted with okra, collard greens and butternut squash by the time you read this letter, or shortly thereafter.
· Painting the interior of the sanctuary should also be taking place as you read this letter. (Work done by family members)
· Don’t really know for sure what is in store for “Friendship Tea, Fall Bazaar, Brunch or Shepherd Center. This stupid Covid-19 makes it hard to plan firm dates, but we are discussing possibilities.
· The new screen and projector will cost about $3000, but being able to see the words is an important element of worship. Should have installed by October or November. Funds sort of took a hit by replacing our fellowship hall air conditioner a few weeks ago, with a cost of $4500.
· And finally, I briefly mentioned the option of selling a portion of Peace Lutheran property in the last letter. I mention how I would speak more about this in our September letter. Well it’s September, so let’s talk.
The Greek word “ekklesia,” eventually came to mean Church in English. Church is simply a group of people gathered who claim to be Christian, who claim to follow Jesus. Church is the Body of Christ—made up of flawed human pieces and parts. Church has nothing to do with any physical structure.
Early Christianity started in individual homes, usually in secret. Later, as the word of Jesus grew, Christianity became the legal religion of the Roman Empire. In a short time, home churches became too small and therefore new places, or what we now call churches were built. Churches were built so that anyone in the surrounding community could attend. These communities/churches would gather on Sunday morning to hear stories about Jesus and listen to scripture readings. They sang songs of praise, prayed for the church, the world and all in need. They became family working together, giving back their first fruits, combining their gifts and helping those around them.
Church is not an address, but the body of Christ, a group of unaffiliated people growing together as a community and becoming the family of God, working together offering spiritual and physical assistance to those around us. However, we all know what happens when humans take the lead, instead of allowing God to be in control—the physical structure of the church becomes more important than the spiritual aspects of serving Jesus. Through the years, this type of competition arose of whose church was bigger and more beautiful to attract the masses. Of course, any worship center, or church has to be safe and functional. Today, the church must also be well-kept and visually appealing. Sort of funny, seeing that the earliest Christians met in the catacombs reserved for the dead.
By the time of Martin Luther in the early 1500’s, Saint Peter’s Cathedral was in the process of being built in Rome. (My wife claims it is one of the most beautiful churches she has seen) To raise money for this grand endeavor the Roman Catholic Church offered forgiveness of sin, release from purgatory for loved ones, and even a promise of eternal life, simply through pieces of paper called indulgences. Indulgences became the spark for the Reformation. During this time, Luther wrote extensively about the nature of the Church—the spiritual aspect—the body of Christ and the family of God.
Luther wrote very little about the physical structure of the church, other than reverence for the house of God. However, he wrote a great deal about the Priesthood of all Believers, where everybody has an equally important task. The church again becomes a gathering of fellow believers and searchers, with all kinds of people thrown into the mix, sometimes resulting in a dysfunctional family—ever seen one of these? Luther also taught that when a church reached a community of a few hundred believers, it was time to start another community/congregation/church. Luther understood the challenge of staying family working for a common goal.
I share a brief history of church because Peace Lutheran has been blessed with seven separate physical structures located on almost 18 acres of land—10 of those areas we will never use. Even if Peace grew to worship 250-300, we would still have plenty of room to grow with half of the property. Simply put, Peace does not need all the land.
I understand Peace has visited and revisited the options of what to do with this blessing. Talks of selling the entire location and starting up a brand new structure, in a more desirable area, to possibly building an assisted living facility that Peace Lutheran would still own. Even talked about what we are talking about again, selling a portion.
Peace Lutheran is in this location for a reason, with tons of potential to make a difference in lives of our family members and our community. No reason to go anywhere. We can serve right here on Port Malabar Blvd. I also feel strongly that the church’s purpose lies in Word and Sacrament, and is risky for the church to dabble in matters, such as schools and nursing homes, where we are not suited for or created to run.
So, what does Peace do with the 5-10 acres of unused land and why?
“Your current leadership is unanimously recommending that Peace Lutheran Church list 5-10 acres of unused property with a reputable local commercial realtor.”
That’s the simple version.
And I will let you in on a little secret, in most all churches throughout the world, this decision would have already been made! I would be writing to inform you of that decision. Seriously! Popes, Councils, Cardinals and Priests decide the workings of the Catholic Church from top to bottom. The “Non-Denominational, Evangelical Christian, Pentecostal, Baptist—you name it—Their important decisions always, and I do mean always, are made by either a dynamic leader, a board of appointed people (sometimes for life), or at minimum all decisions are made by an elected council, with the pastor at the helm. (Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Reformed) But no. No, not in the Lutheran Tradition! You, the priesthood of all believers, the sometimes dysfunctional family, you make the decisions affecting the direction of Christ’s Church—Peace Lutheran Church. Not a Pope/Board/Council or Pastor. You! Hopefully, my rambling makes you feel a little better about your Lutheran Church!
Our proposal of selling 5-10 acres of unused land has a few unknowns, like how much land, for how many dollars, what will be built, how will the funds be used? Truthfully, we do not as of yet, have all the answers to these and many more questions. These unknowns will stay hidden unless we at least list the property and at least see what happens.
The council has researched the past and done the necessary legwork of meeting with various so-called experts in the field to make this proposal. The goal is that the sale of 5-10 acres may generate at least $400,000 to $600,000 income, depending on how much of the land is needed and for what use. We recommend leaving our options open regarding the sale of the parsonage, because the property is currently zoned “institutional,” and the home could be torn down and used as an entrance, or maybe the home sells later. We simply do not know. Right now, this means institutions such as education, health care, nursing homes or assisted living facilities are the most likely organizations to be our new neighbors.
In this situation, not only will Peace still be serving the community, we will help secure this church’s future with funds to help manage and improve the facilities that currently exist. The decision will also give Peace room to dream a little, now with the ability to take advantage of new opportunities that will present themselves, always using the resources wisely, always remembering you have a say so in how it is spent.
For 64 years, I have tried to follow Jesus through the understanding of the Lutheran tradition. If there were another denomination offering a better understanding of church, then that is where I will be, but so far, I haven’t found one. If people only knew that Lutheran theology “says things the way they are in the world,” we also run the church in ways that are unique to other traditions, and this uniqueness sometimes keeps me up at night. Trust me, trying to get even 100 saints and sinners to be church and agree on anything is hard and sometimes messy, and I lose sleep because I never want to lose any family members. Our understanding of the priesthood of all believers as the family of God is a complicated dance, but a beautiful thing when done right. In the near future, when our snowbirds return and we figure out what’s happening with the virus, Peace Lutheran will call a congregational meeting to move forward with this proposal. Let’s try our best do it right, with the help of God’s Spirit: taking our dancing lessons from Jesus.
Once again, I apologize for the long letter, but certain things about Church are worth spending the time and effort because the reward is eternal.
In Christian Love,
Pastor David Trexler