A preview of my “Pastor Pipho’s Perspective” which will appear in the September 2018 Trinity News – the monthly newsletter of Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester.

“I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:22-23

This summer, demolition began on the Notre Dame de Canadiens Church in downtown Worcester. Once the Mother Church of Worcester’s French-Catholic community, the grand cathedral-sized former church dedicated in 1929 (just 21 years before Trinity’s dedication) will soon be replaced by condos.  Just as Worcester’s French speaking community disappeared, so has its churches.

I don’t know about the ministry that existed within Notre Dame Church before it closed.  Did the priests and congregation try to move the parish beyond its French-Canadian heritage?  Did they make intentional efforts to expand the scope of its ministry outreach to an increasingly diverse Worcester?  Did they, like Paul, try to become all things to all people by intentionally choosing to look like the community around them?

Or, did they persist in a narrow ministry to French-Canadian descendants only?  Did they insist on preserving a French-Canadian culture that was disappearing all around them?  Did they demand that their parish customs, traditions, and perspectives remain those of their ancestors, instead of reflecting those of their neighbors?

I’m not sure and I’m not going to pass judgment.  But what I do believe is this:  we can minister to the ghosts of our past, and in so doing become a ghost.  We can persist in cultures, traditions, and perspectives handed down to us, and in so doing put up barriers between our ministry and our neighbors.

Or, we can take the Apostle Paul’s lead.  In the 9th Chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul shared his missionary approach:  becoming all things to all people. Paul’s insight was that the good news of Christ was, and remains, best shared in relationships.  For the sake of the gospel, and to win hearts and minds for Christ, Paul became like the people he ministered with. To those under the law he became like one under the law, to those outside the law he became like those outside the law.

I believe this is an important insight for us to consider as we look at ministry staffing and plans for the future of Trinity Church.   I believe that by ministering to the neighbors of our present, we create a vibrant future!  I believe that for the sake of Christ, we can learn from the Apostle Paul to become like our neighbors in Worcester.  In turning intentionally towards our community, we can find ways to become more and more like our neighbors for the sake of winning hearts and minds to Christ.

Having changed my normal August vacation so I could be at Trinity for both weeks of the Elm Park Ministries Day Camp, I am convinced that those two weeks shows us what our community looks like.  Our community is black, brown, white, rich, poor, native English speakers, English as second language speakers, born in Worcester, moved to Worcester, born in the U.S., moved to the U.S. as refugees/asylees/immigrants.  This is our community and this is who Trinity Church is called to become for the sake of the Gospel!

That is why I support hiring a full-time Minister of Youth & Family Outreach to complete Trinity’s transition process and fill out the Trinity ministry staff.  I believe this would be a way for the congregation of Trinity Church to make a profound statement that we want to be a church that looks like Worcester, is committed to proclaiming the gospel in Worcester, and is confidently moving into its future ordained by the Holy Spirit.

I believe a Minister of Youth & Family Outreach, with one foot in the ministry of Trinity, and one foot in Worcester, can help us connect with our neighbors in new ways and help us look increasingly like our multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community.  One of the primary ways this person can lead us, is by helping us create relationships with the families of children who attend our Preschool, Elm Park Urban Ministries Day Camp, and Trinity Saturday & Wednesday Basketball programs.  What would it look like to be in intentional relationship with these children and families all year round?

Many years ago the Swedes poured down Belmont Hill to attend First Lutheran Church, the largest of the three predecessor congregations to form Trinity Church.  Trinity looked like those Swedes and ministered well to them.  But Worcester’s Swedish speaking community, like Worcester’s French speaking community, is long gone.  Moving forward, what might it look like for us to think of the day people are pouring over into Trinity from Elm Park?

Paul’s journey was not easy.  He had to endure seemingly relentless hardships, obstacles, and sufferings.  But he was glad to endure these things, willingly enduring them, for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ and proclaiming Jesus Christ throughout the world.  May the Holy Spirit grant us such faith!

May the Holy Spirit grant us the courage to become like our neighbors, to look like our neighbors, in order to win our neighbors to Christ!