From the Pastor’s Desk

Pastor Jen Hoffman Email:

The seasons are changing all around us. We’ve set the clocks back, dug our heavier coats
out of storage, placed our scarves and mittens and boots where we can easily access
them, and turned our attention to planning the church services that we encounter every
year when the weather turns colder. And yet, our planning has additional challenges this
year. A virus still rages, we are still wearing masks when we step out our doors, our
hospitals are finding themselves strained to capacity and beyond, and worshiping in
person remains something that is discouraged by our larger church leadership and our
ecumenical partners.

HOWEVER, life in the church continues. I am on the planning team preparing for the installation of our new
Bishop-elect Anne Eddison Albright, and I am also planning the going away party for our current Bishop Gerald
Mansholt, as well as continuing on in my role as Director of Lay School that is meeting virtually every month.
The church and the people who make up its body are always changing and growing and moving, and we here at
St. Stephen are changing and moving and adapting, too.

Therefore, I am excited to announce that we will be posting a virtual Thanksgiving Eve service, which will air at
6:30 pm on Wednesday, November 25th. This service is going to be a collaborative effort by the local ELCA
churches and will center on gratitude and thanksgiving when life seems most challenging. Planning for this
service is currently in the works, and I encourage you to mark it on your calendars and join us when we stream
the service on the 25th.

I am also excited to announce that the Council has approved holding four short services IN PERSON on
Christmas Eve. With Covid numbers where they are in this area right now, this is truly an exception to our
meeting criteria. In our discussion, we acknowledged the central importance of this particular High Holy Day in
the lives of our church members when we discussed the decision to meet while also acknowledging that things
would have to be done differently to make this happen. I wanted to give you a heads up about this decision now
as we will be limiting attendance at each service to 25 people plus those who are leading/helping with the
service. In order to organize these services, we will have a way to sign up that will be outlined in our December
newsletter. We will not begin taking reservations before December 1st, so please be patient! I will be providing
much more detail in that December Deacon’s Spirit.

In the meantime, I am praying for you and I hope you will do the same for me. Physical, spiritual, and emotional
needs have not ceased in the last seven months. The work of the church has continued despite the challenges
presented to us, and I want to thank everyone who has been working so hard to continue that work. Thank you
not only for your offerings to St. Stephen so we can continue to support our staff and our ministries, but also for
your donations to the Good Neighbor Fund, for your willingness to reach out and help local organizations like
Open Door and The Neighbors’ Place, and for sending cards and letters to each other to provide moments of
joy. I continue to hold in prayer those of you struggling with Covid, or cancer, or depression (you know who you
are), and I thank God every day for the opportunity to live through these days with you, people of St. Stephen.
I know it hasn’t been easy, but we are tough and resilient and we will make it through this.

And as always, I give thanks for the strength and life found in Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit
that continues to work in and through us. We couldn’t ask for better leadership than the one who has brought us
forgiveness of sins and grace that knows no bounds.

Pastor Jen