Wedding Venues

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Terry and I were married January 29, 1966, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin. St. Paul is Terry’s home church. It’s where we met. After our August 15, 1965 engagement, our plans were always focused on getting married at St. Paul. We never considered going anywhere else.

Most of our contemporaries also were married in church, traditionally the home church of the bride. Sometimes that was convenient, presuming both bride and groom lived in the same community or general vicinity. If that was not the case, it became a bit more cumbersome to work out the details long distance, especially with no internet, no email, no cell phones.

In recent times, things have changed. Weddings are now often held not in a church but at a wedding venue. Some are called “destination” weddings and may occur at an exotic location, sometimes requiring international travel and expensive lodging, normally at attendees’ expense. Not everyone who would like to attend can afford to do so. Crowds are often small.

Others are held more locally, often at a venue originally constructed or recently renovated for the purpose of accommodating large public gatherings, weddings, graduations, reunions, etc. Some are elaborately furnished and decorated. Others are fairly basic.

Not all such facilities have space for both the ceremony and the reception. That means the ceremony is frequently held outside. In the elements. In the summer when it’s hot and humid. Or windy and rainy. In the winter when it’s cold and frosty. Not always pleasant for the marital couple. Or for the guests. Sometimes the service is abbreviated as a result. But not always.

Many parish pastors I know tell me the overwhelming majority of the weddings at which they are asked to officiate are held at such a venue. The rationale seems to be that if the reception needs to be held at a place other than the church fellowship hall, it’s inconvenient for guests to come to church for the wedding, only to saddle up again after the ceremony and head to the reception at a different location.

Cost of renting both a sanctuary and a reception hall, providing flowers or other decorations at two places, coordination of details with people at each place, etc., are among the reasons for this growing trend. Permission to consume adult beverages, not always granted at a church facility, is not an insignificant factor in moving the entire operation to a secular venue.

You probably know all these things. I just felt the inclination to articulate them. And to add my non-judgmental observation that I’m thankful Terry and I were married at St. Paul. In a beautiful sanctuary. Before the altar of the Lord. With congregation singing worshipful hymns. With gusto. To organ accompaniment. With church aisle processional and recessional.

Is our marriage more sanctified or successful than that of folks who are married at a five star hotel or a remodeled barn or a repurposed fire hall? Not necessarily. The Lord can be worshiped anytime, anywhere.

And I believe he smiles on people who dedicate their lives to him and promise their faithfulness to each other, no matter where those lifelong commitments are made. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Till death parts us. According to God’s holy will.

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My New Book

Life, Love, Faith, Family: Perspectives from a Veteran Church Leader. That’s the title of my new book now available for pre-order from Concordia Publishing House. Here’s CPH’s description:

The Christian life is often not an easy one. Struggles occur in marriages and vocations. Death cannot be avoided. Natural disasters and illnesses arise unexpectedly.

With pastoral care, a spiritual perspective, and real-life wisdom, Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Kieschnick has written on matters of life and faith for years. This collection combines some of his best writing on a variety of everyday topics, encouraging you to turn to God’s Word, the ultimate source of wisdom, for guidance in navigating the Christian life.

May these brief musings offer you spiritual encouragement and comfort as you experience all that the Christian life encompasses—grief, happiness, tension, contentment, fear, and joy.

The Preface sets the stage in my own words:

For more than half a century, I’ve served in numerous Christian leadership capacities, from developing a mission church starting with nothing to president of a national church body of over two million members. Throughout those years, I’ve met and known many people who experience much joy, meaning, and fulfillment in life and love. Yet, many of these wonderful people have encoun­tered challenges and difficulties along the way, often in the arenas of family and faith.

 Every week, for the past nine years, I’ve written my personal perspectives on these and a variety of other topics. In this little book, I share one hundred of those stories and reflections for your reading enjoyment, emotional encouragement, and spir­itual enrichment.

Late last week I received word from CPH that this book is now available for pre-order. Go to:

https://www.cph.org/p-32843-life-love-faith-family-perspectives-from-a-veteran-church-leader.aspx Copies will begin shipping on August 15.

My first book published by Concordia Publishing House was Waking the Sleeping Giant (CPH, 2010). It’s an honor and privilege to work again with CPH. I pray this new book will be a blessing to those who read it. And if you happen to have your copy with you next time we’re together, I’ll be happy to sign it.

God bless your day!

Ministries and Resources

Church

Before getting into today’s topic I simply must take this opportunity to extend special greetings to Terry’s and my favorite (and only) grandson, Kolby Ryan Keith. This handsome, intelligent, hard-working young man is 24 years of age today. Happy Birthday, dear Kolby! Mimi and I love you more than you’ll ever know. We thank God for bringing you into our lives.

In today’s article I bring to your attention a number of significant ministries and resources:

  • Legacy Deo – Formerly known as Lutheran Foundation of Texas, Legacy Deo’s mission is to inspire giving that impacts life forever. Assistance for individuals, congregations, and organizations with endowments, trusts, gift annuities, donor advised funds, estate planning, and other special giving ideas and insights for faith and family. Website: legacydeo.org
  • Texas District Lutheran Women’s Missionary League – The 40th Biennial Texas District LWML Convention begins today in Waco. For 75 years the national expression of this LCMS auxiliary has provided prayer and financial support for mission activities in the U.S. and around the world. It’s a wonderful organization, worthy of support! Website: lwmltxdist.org
  • Mission of Christ Network – Works with individuals, congregations, entities, and groups to train, send, and support lay workers “To boldly, intentionally and faithfully make known the light, love and peace of Jesus Christ, by word and deed, to those around the world who live in spiritual disbelief, darkness and despair.” Website: missionofchrist.org
  • Pastor 360 – Intensive spiritual, practical, financial, personal leadership coaching for pastors provided by veteran LCMS church leaders named Kieschnick, Knippa, Tucker, Tyburski, Wagner. Helping pastors deal with stress that causes anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation. “Making Life and Ministry Better” Website: pastor360.com
  • MinistryFocus – Founded in 2013 to eliminate systemic barriers to ministry, including often burdensome educational debt of pastors and other called workers. When personal debt distracts called workers from their work, congregations suffer. MinistryFocus can help by providing educational loan repayment assistance. Website: ministryfocus.org
  • Ministry Sabbatical Resources – Created to assist in the planning and promotion of Ministry Sabbaticals, a period of time, usually three months, when ministry leaders and congregations set aside the leader’s normal responsibilities for the purpose of rest and renewal toward sustained excellence in ministry. Website: ministrysabbaticalresources.com

These ministries and resources are brought to your attention as a public service. I am personally connected to and supportive of each and hope you find them interesting and helpful. Your support and involvement are encouraged, as the Lord leads, guides, and directs.

God bless your day!

 

A New Calling

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Today marks the opening session of the 61st Convention of the Texas District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The LCMS is a national church body with approximately two million members. The Texas District is one of 35 LCMS regional judicatories.

Conventions are held in each district every three years, between January and July, with the great majority occurring in June. Texas is one of 25 districts meeting this month.

One very important event at a convention is the election of a president. In a number of districts incumbent presidents are either retiring or have served the maximum number of allowable terms. Such is the case in Texas as Rev. Ken Hennings completes his fourth three year term.

Having served faithfully and with distinction, President Hennings will be replaced by a new district president to be elected this afternoon. Five men have been nominated for this significant office, which is an honor in itself. They serve the church in agreeing to stand for election and to serve if elected.

This scenario brings back memories in my life and ministry. In June 1991 – 27 years ago – my name was on the ballot for Texas District President, along with four other nominees. On the fourth and final ballot I was elected. My life has never been the same since that day.

After serving three full terms and one year of the final term in Texas, I was elected president of our national church body in 2001. Installation in St. Louis was Sept. 8, three days before 9/11. Nine years and two more elections later, I was not elected to a fourth term in 2010.

Encouraging and supporting me every step of the way was my dear wife Terry. She worked long and hard in extending hospitality to the literally thousands of people who were dinner guests in our home those nine years in office. With great joy she also loved and cared for many pastors’ wives, including the 35 women married to district presidents and the five women married to national vice-presidents.

When all this began 27 years ago we were mere kids and had absolutely no idea what life would be like in public office. That would be true of anyone elected to a responsible position of  regional or national leadership, particularly in an ecclesiastical setting.

There have been many joys and blessings, with no small amount of stress and disappointment along the way. The man elected today in Texas, with his wife, will discover those realities.

They will walk together on the often happy and fulfilling but sometimes sad and frustrating journey of service that will be their new calling from the Lord. Whichever nominee and his wife are chosen, Terry and I wish them well and will hold them in our hearts and in our prayers.

Advice to Retired Pastors

Retirement

Today’s article is titled Advice to Retired Pastors and Their Relationship to the New Pastors in Their Former Congregations by Rev. Fred C. Jacobi.

While you and I might not agree totally with these suggestions, they are worthy of consideration. I also understand that some pastors are easier to follow than others and that some succession plans simply don’t work as well as intended. Here we go:

  1. Stay away from the parish at least six months to a year, allowing the new man to “settle in.”
  2. Don’t attend Church Council or Voters Meetings. That’s the reason you retired!
  3. Refer all weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc. to the new pastor. The worst thing that can happen is for him to know you did something behind his back.
  4. If you attend a Bible Class he is conducting, keep a low profile.
  5. Treat him as your Pastor.
  6. Do not criticize him behind his back. You may think you have said something in confidence, but most often he will hear about it. He will obviously have some faults, but so did you!
  7. Do something that advances the ministry. Help with shut-in calls or become a Stephen minister.
  8. Treat him with respect.
  9. Let the vision and new ideas come from him and the church leadership – not from you.
  10. Feel free to help out with leading worship at other churches.
  11. If the new man feels uncomfortable with anything you are doing, back off!
  12. Sit down with him and assess your relationship from time to time.
  13. Allow him to do spiritual advising as much as possible.
  14. Keep him and his family in your prayers.
  15. Remember that each new pastor builds on the work of former pastors. Don’t allow members to extol their favorite pastor to the detriment of others.
  16. Enjoy your former congregation members, but remember they are friends, not your parishioners!
  17. Do everything possible to make the transition a smooth one.
  18. Go along with his new ideas about worship and ministry. Variety is the spice of life.
  19. Don’t talk about the way you used to do things.
  20. Do everything with a humble spirit.

Creativity

creativity

Today’s quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

While those few words could take a thoughtful person in many directions, I’m content with one simple illustration. In recent years the creativity of pastors and people in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has resulted in the origination of numerous parachurch ministries, including:

  • Best Practices for Ministry – “A FREE conference for those who love the local church, the unchurched and the LCMS” – https://www.facebook.com/BestPracticesForMinistry/
  • Pastor 360 – Making life and ministry better for pastors, congregations and families –pastor360.com
  • Mission of Christ Network – Making known the light, love, and peace of Jesus Christ to people around the world – https://missionofchrist.org
  • J2e3 – Jesus to…Everyone. Everywhere. Everyday. – j2e3.com
  • Five Two – Christian entrepreneurs passionate about reaching those who don’t know Jesus – fivetwo.com
  • MinistryFocus – Making student loan debt repayment grants to professional LCMS church workers – ministryfocus.org
  • Dwelling 1:14 – Joining Jesus on His mission – https://dwelling114.org/

There may be other newly created ministries. These are ones with which I am familiar, all begun within the past several years by someone in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Although the one acorn reference in the quote above might not fit exactly with these examples, I thank God for the thousands of people (thousand forests?) whose lives are touched by the creation of these ministries and of additional ministries that will surely follow.

St. Paul wrote: “I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Cor. 9:22-23)

Achievement

leadership

Here’s the quote for today: “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done.” – Cardinal Newman

My way of saying that is: “Leaders always disappoint someone!”

It took me a while to figure that out. In my initial days of leadership I thought it should be possible to please everyone with my achievements. I soon discovered the fallacy of that thought.

If one does nothing, he displeases those who think he should be doing something. If one does something, he displeases those who think he should be doing something else.

Jesus displeased people in the church of his day. Luther displeased people in the church of his day. They both achieved results that even now impact life for time and for eternity!

In our day, Pastors displease people in the church and politicians displease people in the country. It’s not wise for leaders to go out of their way to displease their followers. But displeasure often goes hand in hand with courageous leadership and frequently precedes significant achievement.

So here’s my advice, dear fellow leaders. Put on your big boy britches, buckle up your boots, get on your knees in prayer, exercise your God-given gift of leadership, anticipate disagreement and disappointment from those around you, and achieve much for the world and for the church!