From The Pastor’s Desk

Pastor Jen Hoffman                       Email:


As the season changes from summer to fall, we at St. Stephen continue to be busy
getting ready for all that fall usually brings: Rally Sunday and the start of Sunday School
and confirmation, blessing of the quilts and packing them up for shipment, organizing
our God’s Work our Hands event and the Community Dinner, getting people signed up
for Lay School, and organizing a few new events like Fellowship and Feedback in the
Park. The Council and various committees have been engaging in planning for the day
we will worship in person, putting materials and volunteers in place, as well as addressing
the regular business of the church. Even in a time of pandemic, staff meetings are being
held, funerals and weddings are taking place, pastoral care visits are being done, and efforts to address the
needs of those who find themselves in difficult times are happening along with our regular worship services.
Committees and church groups have been given the tools to meet through Zoom as often as they’d like, and the
Saturday morning Men’s Bible Study is swinging into gear. We are doing what we can to make our services
accessible to as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, and hope this newsletter will help to
update you on all of this activity. We, the church, are continuing our mission and ministry.
I know that these are frustrating times. That many of you would like us to be fully open at St. Stephen and
“get back to normal”. But we are faced with finding a new normal, and I pray we can faithfully find our way
forward together. Each year, as the Council and I gather for our retreat somewhere out in the community,
I always ask, “If our building burned down, who would we be?” The answer has always been, “We would still be
St. Stephen; we would still be the church,” and we are. Our dependency on a building has perhaps clouded that
for us, and now we are feeling it. We are so used to doing almost everything within the walls of our building at
512 McClellan, that maybe we feel lost in trying to continue what we have always done there in other places.
Our doors will open again, and we will return to our building, but I hope you are taking this time to explore what
ministry means outside of those walls. Because it isn’t the walls that define us. It is our relationship with God.
WE are God’s children. WE are the church. You may remember that little ditty that went, “The church is not a
building. The church is not a steeple. The church is not a resting place, the church is the people.” Yes, our
building is important. It is one of the thin spaces where we meet God and experience God’s presence in a very
real way. But it isn’t the only thin place, nor is it the only place we encounter God. Our time away from our
building is providing us with an opportunity to seek out these other ways and places that we encounter God and
to lean into our identity as children of God that accompanies us wherever we go (or stay).
This week, I have been in conversation with our Worship and Music Committee who are looking into the
possibility of having worship in one of our city’s parks. As soon as we choose the date, we will communicate it
with you! I will also be streaming the last service of September from church so I can bless the quilts and allow
you to see them laid out on the pews. And be on the lookout for some special music from some of our littlest
members on Rally Sunday! It has certainly taken a lot of extra work to continue with worship and mission in the
ways we have been since March, but we (the staff, the council, and I) have faith that God will continue to sustain
us now and in the days ahead as we do our best to care for each other.

Pastor Jen