Tag Archive: Reflections

Last week the motion for Little Church on the Edge of the Prairie did not meet constitutional muster, and per the bylaws of LCEP’s constitution, it remains an ELCA congregation.

But the congregational meeting had barely concluded before the pastors were murmuring about their new plans to take the congregation from the ELCA.

So much for moving forward in the name of unity or healing.

Instead we get a passive aggressive letter from the council president and pastors. On the surface it seems like an olive branch type of letter. But look a little closer and it sends a different message. On one hand it acknowledges that there has been a lot of pain and turmoil and that a lot of people–myself included–want to move forward in healing. But then in the very next sentence it says, but we still have important decisions to make.

Uh, wasn’t that decided last week with, you know, a vote mandated by the constitution of LCEP? What more mental gymnastics need to be performed? Vote until they get the supermajority they have decided is entitled to them?

And it spells out how not to give money to the ELCA, that the congregation is still dual-rostered with the LCMC. Oh, and if you are planning to leave, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, but before you go.

We ask that you continue your financial support of LCEP. If you are concerned that your giving not go to ELCA causes, make your check out to LCEP and write “miscellaneous” in the memo line and your giving will be applied solely to LCEP. If you desire that a portion of your giving be sent to the ELCA, please write two checks. Place your support in for LCEP in the offering and send the ELCA portion directly to the XYZ Area Synod.

Okay, so they’ll take my money as long as they don’t have to actively send it to the ELCA despite the fact that we are an ELCA congregation. Is the leadership saying that they will refuse anything in the offering plate that isn’t directly written out to them? Maybe they are sick of my weekly check to an ELCA charity of choice–Lutheran World Relief, ELCA Disaster Relief Fund, the Ben Larson memorial fund at Wartburg Seminary in Iowa…

In other words, LCEP, is ELCA in name alone. The pastors still want to leave the ELCA and there will still be no money passed on to the synod or ELCA.

Maybe their newest strategy is just to get kicked out the ELCA. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there is a shoved-through petition to start the voting process all over again.

Fortunately, our bishop and the assistant to the bishop have stepped up to fill the void of pastoral care, even if it is from a distance at time as they may not officially come to the congregation unless they are invites. So sometimes pastor care is in the form of emails of encouragement.

In a recent email with the Assistant to the Bishop, she gave a good assignment. The first was Ephesians 4 as this was the excerpt from the Bible that has been stuck in her mind since this process that began. It can be summed up in Unity in the body of Christ. The entire chapter is insightful, but verses 11-16 really hit home.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Without love and unity in Him, we are nothing but individuals bobbing in the proverbial ocean alone. Being one body in Christ isn’t about paying the church mortgage. It’s about supporting one another.

The other reading assignment she gave me grew out of my sense of frustration when I felt like this was a futile up-hill battle. At times I feel like it still is when it seems like the vote meant nothing to the leadership. Psalms 13 is a great psalm to ground yourself it what is important.

1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

This process is long from over. Yes it would have been easier had the measure passed and LCEP ended its affiliation. It would have been a clean break with an opportunity to start over this week. But that’s not the way the vote went. We have hard work to heal wounds, to pray for and with people we have disagreed with, to respect each others’ bound consciences.

To just be…

While Valparaiso University is not affiliated with any one Lutheran denomination, it has long had a very strong (and German) LCMS presence. Every presiding pastor of the Chapel of the Resurrection had been a Missouri Synod ordained minister including the beloved Rev. OP Kretzmann who was the president of the university while my mother was a student here in the Sixties, who through his 28 years of service to the school still remains one of the major influences at Valparaiso.

Until Darlene Grega.

In 1997 the university officially changed its policy to allow not only Non-Missouri Synod Lutheran clergy to serve in the Chapel but it finally opened its doors for female pastors to serve both in the Chapel but at the level of University Pastor. Needless to say, I had been one of many alumnae that cheered loudly when this was announced.

Rev. Grega was the first–and only–woman to serve as a University Pastor. Needless to say, Grega broke down many barriers and the proverbial glass ceiling of the Chapel had finally been broken!

Former university president Rev. Dr. Alan Harre, himself an LCMS pastor led the way to create an endowment fund to pave the way for an ELCA pastor to serve at Valparaiso.

On November 2, 2008 Rev. Grega became that pastor that so many alumnae had dreamed of.

From her biography at the Chapel of the Resurrections website:

Pastor Darlene Grega is the mentor for Fellowship House and the Residential Ministers (a.k.a. Piece Core). She leads the planning for the Chapel’s discernment retreats and has an abiding commitment to the spiritual needs of international students on our campus having worked, before ordination in 2006, over 20 years primarily with international students. She loves reconnecting at VU with the international community and offering them hospitality and helping others learn from them. A Valpo grad herself, she remembers the spiritual formation she received here and looks forward to being a new face in a crowd that is welcoming and committed to walking with you during your tenure here. By the way, you will also find her walking her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Muffin, around campus, and keeping up with her son Nathan, a senior at the college of William and Mary who is studying neuroscience.

And in another first, this past Sunday, she was the first female pastor to ever preside over the Easter Sunday celebrations and worship in the Chapel. ask any alumni, nothing can be compared to Valpo’s Easter worship!

Yet sometime this week, Pastor Darlene Grega died. The Porter County Coronor’s Office has ruled her death a suicide.

Valparaiso President Mark Heckler has issued this statement:

Pastor Grega was a beloved member of the Valparaiso University family, and we mourn the loss of someone who cared so deeply for the members of this community. Our sympathy and prayers are with Pastor Grega’s son, Nathan, her extended family and her many friends here at Valpo and beyond.

Pastor Grega has been a friend to many, and generously served our campus community since joining our chapel staff less than two years ago. In particular she provided significant counsel and support to women on our campus and built relationships with our international students to help them feel welcomed here.

It is obvious that Pastor Grega was a loved and valued part of the Valparaiso family. She provided to pastoral care to many, and was also a resource for the GLBT students on campus.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson has issued the following statement regarding her passing:

Darlene’s call to serve as the first ELCA pastor on the staff of the Chapel of the Resurrection has been the occasion for renewing and deepening our relationships with the University and its extended family of alumni and friends.

We have rejoiced in the strength of her service as university pastor with students, faculty and staff — a ministry marked by her distinctive gifts of warm hospitality, gregarious compassion for the suffering and tenderhearted, and tenacious advocacy for those who have often been kept at the margins of Christian community and public life.

Although the news of her death comes as a deep shock and disappointment, we entrust her to the mercy of God shown in Jesus Christ and share with you our hope in the promise of Christ’s Resurrection.

Pastor Grega was not a University Pastor when I was a student at Valpo back in the early Nineties yet I join the rest of the Valparaiso Community and mourn her passing. It always tragic when someone feels so hopeless that the only solution they see to end their own pain and suffering is to take their own life. Mental illness is an unforgiving bedfellow and can strike anyone regardless of age, gender or station in life. I mourn her passing as a fellow alumna, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the campus that has lost a dynamic and compassionate leader.

OP Kretzmann led Valparaiso during the height of the Atomic Age and nudged the school toward the Twenty-first Century. In moments like this, his voice still rings true:

If we are to survive the Atomic Age, we must have something to live by, to live on, and to live for. We must stand aside from the world’s conspiracy of fear and hate and grasp once more the great monosyllables of life: faith, hope and love. Men must live by these if they live at all under the crushing weight of history.

Reflections on Good Friday

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”     Mark 15:33-34 (NIV)

Today goes by many names. In Greek liturgy it is called he hagia kai megale paraskeue. The Romance languages give it a more reverent name Holy Friday while the Germans refer to it as Sorrowful Friday Charfreitag.

A 1983 article in the highly prestigious science journal Nature used a combination of the biblical and Julian calendars as well as knowledge of the moon phases and lunar eclipses to calculate that the original Good Friday likely occurred on April 3, 33 AD/CE.

Altars were stripped bare or covered in black last night.   Services are solemn and darkened. The LCMS congregation where I grew up had a Tenebrae service where one by one, the candles are extinguished and the sanctuary is filled with darkness. The service was stark, and at the end of the readings, the Bible is slammed shut to signify the moment of death. My undergraduate university Valparaiso has a similarly somber service where the Christus Rex was draped in black. The deafening silence in the Chapel of the Resurrection for quiet contemplation was always such a stark contrast to the cacophony of voices of students, family, faculty and community after the joyous celebrations of the chapel’s Easter Celebration.

Good Friday is a quiet time to mourn the death of Christ and the perceived absence of God through this weekend. He was silent as Christ died, and even his own son felt abandoned.

But even with the stark and stripped imagery, God has never left us. The Easter Vigil that many churches will observe tomorrow night will be a time to renew baptismal promises. A candle will be lit to remind us that we are not alone.

During this time of reflection, I think the perfect symmetry to the passage above from Mark is Psalm 46:10:

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

I cannot read ancient Hebrew, but if you look at the Hebrew linguistics of the edict Be Still, a better translation may be Cause yourselves to let go or Let yourselves become weak. In other words: surrender.

So, yes, surrender and trust that regardless of how dark today–or life for that matter–may feel that the candle of faith still burns this weekend, that though Christ was crucified, died and was buried, he is still very much with us. Trust yourself to let go and know that there is someone to catch you.

An author, whose name complete escapes me right now, took Psalm 46:10 and created this:

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know

Be still


Not a bad way to approach this weekend.