News from First: September 2020

First Evangelical Lutheran Church — Rock Island September 2020
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
1600 20th St
Rock Island, IL 61201
Rev. Chris Lee, Pastor

Psalm 137:1-6
Lament over the Destruction of Jerusalem
1 By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows[a] there
we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How could we sing the L+,-’s song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.


It has depressed and saddened me to my core these many months that we have not been able to safely meet in person, in our sanctuary, to worship together. Central to our theology, our understanding of God, and how Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other faiths have both connected to and expressed our faith, has been gathering for communal worship. For Christians in particular, sharing in fellowship at the table, embracing community in prayer, welcoming members at the font, speaking our faith in the creed, spoken responses, communal confession, and the Lord’s Prayer and other centuries old practices have been so central to our understanding of worship and faith life that what we have now seems to be nothing more than a ghost of worship past.

Even so, we take seriously our God-given responsibility to care for the “least of these”. In this time and place, our faithful response to an unseen, unheard, unrecognized enemy, must be abundantly cautious, without crossing the line to “fearful”. Paul reassures us in Romans that we need have no fear of anything of this world. That is not the same thing as willful ignorance or feigned naiveté. I choose to rely on those women and men smarter than myself to guide me in how best to combat this pandemic. Certainly, there are as many opinions on coronavirus and how best to address this situation as there are individuals in a room. This pandemic, for us who have long worshiped in enclosed spaces, tight-knit communities, certainly feels like a “foreign land” from where I stand. This is strange new territory for all of us. “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

That is one of the many challenges before us. And this challenge, like every challenge that has been met by generations before us, can and must be met in faith. God guides us as we seek to worship without community singing or recitation. We seek to serve without our usual events and avenues to engage with the community. We seek to honor God in a world rocked by disease, racially distinct injustice, an awakening to environmental destruction, and an increasingly dysfunctional US political circus.
Thankfully, we are not the first to be given an opportunity to show Christ to the world in a time of profound distress. Literally, millions of the faithful have, throughout time, shown the light of Christ into a world seemingly succumbing to darkness. We are the latest in a long line of faithful witnesses to the power of God in faithful people. That, by the power of Christ, we will not let the darkness overwhelm the children of God.

We continue to sing, pray, praise, serve, worship and love in Christ’s name. No, it’s like we would have imagined it. No, it’s certainly now how we would prefer. But we are equipped by God to do what God would have us do, for the sake of the world.

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Chris Lee

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Worship Schedule for September and October, 2020
The council met through a mix of in person and online attendance on August 18 in the Parish House. One of the topics of discussion was when/where/how to proceed with worship in the coming
months. We decided to offer the following opportunities for worshiping together.
September 6, 20; October 4, 18, 25 Outdoor worship under the oaks, like the first Sunday in August. You are encouraged to bring your own chair. Seating will be available on part of our circle drive for those with difficulty walking. Physical distancing and appropriate mask wearing are expected. If you have not been with someone prior to this service, please maintain your physical distance of at least 6 feet. When we share the peace, you are encouraged to use an alternative, non-contact means of sharing. When we sing, you are encouraged to sing with a mask on or hum if you choose to not wear a mask. We will celebrate communion together the 1st and 3rd Sundays. Additionally, we will celebrate communion on October 25 as we celebrate Reformation Sunday. While it is important that we make efforts to gather in person to share in worship and community,
it is equally important that we a) keep one another safe, and b) help one another feel safe.
Sept 13, 27; October 11 Worship will be provided through Facebook, email and website.
For November and following, council will decide as new information and guidelines become available. If weather does not cooperate and rain does not allow us to worship under the oaks, in person worship will be canceled and will be provided online.

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Memorials received by First since February 2020– Jill Seaholm

In memory of Jeanne Carlson: Music & Worship fund- From Barbara Witt

In memory of Kathy Hall: Christmas food basket fund- From Barbara Witt

In memory of Rodney Anderson: Property fund- From Barbara Witt

In memory of Kenneth Peterson: Property fund- From Barbara Witt

In memory of Betty Westensee:
Music & Worship fund- From Debbie & Mark Bohman, Shirley Cooper, Wanda Esping & Tim Anderson, Richard & Pamela Henning, Carol & Fred Lear, Barbara Witt, Doug Hall, Betty Peterson, Pam Edwards,
Irene Kerr, Alan & Nan Blackwood, Thomas Hannah, Arthur & Stephanie Yonke, Keith Petersen & Patricia Barron, James Teros, Peggy Beane, Dennis & Lois Kelly, and Connie Mohr-Wright

Bell Choir fund- From Mike & Rhonda McCalester

In memory of Marjorie E. Olson:
General Memorial fund- From Susan Meyer, Sue Tubbs, Alice Janssen, Judy & Joann Linn, David & Chris Jagger


A Finance Report for First Evangelical Lutheran Church, RI, as of July 31, 2020
Wanda Esping– Treasurer

Giving for July 2020 Actual Giving Anticipated Giving
Pledged/Anticipated $8,709/ $ 11,005
Pledged/Anticipated Giving for 2020 YTD
$75,029/ $77,035 = 97%

Thank you! Your consistent and faithful giving are appreciated and critically important to our ministry together, especially through these difficult times! Please give as you can. Use Simply Giving, drop off at the Parish House, or mail to the church. Our locked mailbox is checked frequently and deposits are made weekly.
If, at this time, you are interested in signing up for Simply Giving in order to simplify and streamline your offering, please contact Jill Seaholm who will be happy to help you set it up. Also, remember to check any Thrivent accounts you may own for Thrivent Choice dollars to direct to
First Evangelical Lutheran.

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EPIC Grant for Luther College bound Siobhán Dunn
Siobhán Dunn, the daughter of Elizabeth Russell & Chris Dunn, will be attending Luther College this fall, and has a chance for an EPIC Grant.
The EPIC grant from Luther College gives matching funds up to $1000 per year for 8 semesters to students whose congregations help to financially support them. Siobhán considers First Evangelical Lutheran to be her home congregation. Most of her childhood she went to Sunday school, attended
church and Folk Arts, and enjoyed the monthly St. Joe’s Coffeehouse. We were planning to have her graduation party at First Evangelical Lutheran, but the pandemic changed all that. Thank you for all the years of support and encouragement.

Here’s a note from Siobhán:
First Lutheran has been a big part of my development. There I learned to sew, carve, and sing in choir. Many of my favorite memories are linked to First Lutheran and the people I met there. It wasalso where I took voice lessons and played for the Folk Arts Festival. These experiences have given
me the tools to pursue music at Luther College. There I will major in voice and have a percussion scholarship. Music has always been an important part of my life, and I am so grateful for the experiences at First Lutheran, that have not only made it possible for me to go into music, but have made me a better person.

If you want to help with this matching grant, you may donate to First Lutheran and note that it is for Siobhán at Luther College on your donation.

A Prayer for a New School Year
God of Wisdom and Might, be with all learners as they begin a new school year. Bless them and their teachers and staff. Give them strength and grace as their bodies grow; wisdom and knowledge to their minds as they search for understanding; and peace and zeal to their hearts. Ease the fears of many in these difficult times. Generate flexibility and understanding as plans and patterns necessarily change.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

Annual Financial Stewardship is Near
As we come into the fall, we are approaching the time that we prayerfully discuss and plan our ministry budget for the coming year. Obviously, this year is dramatically different than anything we have experienced thus far in the nearly 150 yrs of ministry at First. The council members are working on budgets for their particular areas of relationship: Witness, Worship, Service, Learning, Property, and Finance.
We continue to look for ways to lessen spending and be good stewards of the gifts you give. I ask you, what do we do at First, what ministry do you see that is worth giving your hard-earned money to support? Prayerfully consider how you will 8inancially support the ministry we do together
in these unprecedented times.


Link to the PDF format of the September “News From First”:

Sweet Honey In the Rock singing “Waters of Babylon”

Image credit: September banner: