First Responders’ Dinner 2017

Free Spaghetti Dinner
For First Responders and Their Families

Friday, Sept. 8
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Chatham Fire House
10 Hoffman Street

Enjoy salad, bread, spaghetti, meatballs and homemade desserts on us!
Hosted by Christ Our Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Christ Our Emmanuel Lutheran Church’s free dinner for first responders and their families is held in support of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s “God’s Work. Our Hands.” program.



‘Welcome.’ It’s a word we use often in relation to the church. “All are welcome.” “You are welcome here.” Those of our congregations carrying the label of ‘Reconciling in Christ’ (RiC) have crafted conversations and statements specifically about their welcome to the LGBTQ community.

Why is this word so important? Does it mean what we think it means?

I would think that I’d be welcome at my family Thanksgiving table, for example, but if my alcoholic uncle were there talking about how angry he is that ‘the gays’ are getting ‘special treatment’ because they’re allowed to get married and adopt children, and isn’t that destroying the fabric of American culture, then I’m most certainly NOT welcome, even if he insists that he loves me as his brother’s gay child. Even if he says he loves me ‘even though’ I’m gay, that it’s a lifestyle I ‘didn’t choose,’ implying that nobody in their right mind would choose such a hard life, that is NOT welcome. Nobody wants to be welcomed ‘even though’ they are who they are. It’s not welcome to love somebody despite what they bring to the table. How would you feel if you were promised welcome but couldn’t bring up the things in your life which made you most proud or happy or feel most alive, because they might make somebody uncomfortable? Who wants that?

To welcome somebody means to see them (though I know that’s ableist language, yet many of the blind people I know have much more insight than some of the ‘fully sighted’ do). It means to be curious, to ask questions, to validate someone’s experience even when it does not match my own. It means to fight for justice and liberation for all. Imagine telling women they were welcome in worship as long as they kept quiet and sat in the back and didn’t have a vote or voice in church policy? Or maybe you can hear that more clearly if, instead of women, it was men of retirement age who were denied a voice and vote. How would anyone in that position feel welcomed to be a part of the church?

After worship one Sunday in February, a local police officer came into our sanctuary, our safe space, to tell us how to protect ourselves from terrorism, how to keep an eye out for potential threats to our safety, how to put together an escape plan. Three handouts on suspicious behavior were given to us so we would know what to look and listen for. We had just finished worship, having stumbled through our first try at the “Jesus Rocks” liturgy, which was fun and ridiculous as we sort of sang karaoke and obviously needed practice, but the first thing on this list of suspicious behaviors was that the person didn’t know how to follow along with the worship service. On that Sunday, we all fell into the category of ‘suspicious person,’ because we were learning something new together! What kind of welcome would it be if we expected perfection from everyone in the space and considered them a threat if they didn’t follow along without hesitation? Oh, and did I mention the list said a person of interest merely had to ‘seem’ like they weren’t from our religion or denomination? In a primarily white congregation in a primarily white area, that sounds pretty easily turned into a racist comment, because who in Chatham would expect a person of color to be a lifelong Lutheran? So every visitor, every potential new member, every person seeking hope and refuge in our sanctuary, who hadn’t been there before, is no longer welcomed, but seen as a potential threat, a probable terrorist.

This fear of the ‘other’ is going to kill us all. Innovation, curiosity, community building, liberty and justice, will fly out the window, leaving fear and suspicion in their wake, if we do not stand up against this automatic assumption of guilt and threat, if we do not make our welcome clear and intentional. This is why we need to be specific. Not that we just welcome people who look different, just as long as they learn to assimilate to our culture, just for Sunday morning, just so long as they don’t ask us to care about the policies and practices that impact their lives and livelihoods, but that we invite that difference in all its fullness to impact the way we are together and the way we interact with the world around us.

Otherwise we will die. The world will go on turning, people will still find meaning in their lives, and we will become so irrelevant that the church will fade into dust and disappear. But maybe that’s what needs to happen. Maybe we have forgotten what open and welcoming community really looks like, how welcome is practiced, and this day and age is the perfect time to see through the eyes of our secular neighbors, motivated more by love than by fear, more by hope than by hate. Maybe ‘they’ don’t need to come to ‘us’ for salvation, but we need to escape our religious boxes to find life outside our walls and outside our culture, so that we can stop being so afraid of those who look, dress, walk, talk, behave, think, and vote differently than what we have been taught is the norm. Maybe we need to remember what it feels like to be the outsider. Yes, it takes faith to step outside of our comfort zones. That’s why I’m leaving, because I was unconsciously raised to be afraid of the outside world, including being afraid of parts of myself that didn’t fit the ‘norm.’  Even being raised in the ELCA, knowing the culture and the liturgy since I was a small child, anything not ‘typical’ was met with suspicion, even in the community that called itself a family. See the comment above about Thanksgiving dinner, right? We expect so much same-ness from one another if we belong to the same faith, but we can’t simply assimilate into a single flavor even within the same community. Nor should we.

If we are truly to learn welcome, we must get used to being uncomfortable, to being challenged and frustrated, to being loved even when we’re not liked, and to practice our commitments to justice and resurrection even when we don’t feel like it. If we don’t act on our faith in a God who created our diversity and values each culture and person equally, then our claim to be a welcoming church is only a marketing tool, and that’s something that can be felt as soon as you walk through the door.


Pastor Nelson

A letter from the pastor

To: The people of Christ our Emmanuel Lutheran Church

Dear colleagues in ministry:

What a run we have had. When I signed on for this three-year contract close to three years ago, I had no idea how quickly time would fly. We have tried some new things together, shared some time-honored and well-loved traditions, learned new hymns, attended synod assemblies, initiated a part of the community discussion on heroin, fed many of our neighbors through the food bank and various dinners, watched our children grow and ask multitudes of questions, and now my time as your pastor has come to a close.

As I said at my first annual meeting with you, this parish is a good first call parish, and that in itself is a calling for a community to take very seriously. I know you want someone who will be stable and constant and there for many long years to come, but the day for the institution to be sustainable after the old models is quickly drawing to a close. We are now part of a new, creative, exciting, and surely also stressful venture, coming together with seven other congregations to form a wider parish for the sake of ministry in our local area.

This tri-county process will push our understanding of what it means to be God’s people in this time and place, and I think it will be an invaluable learning experience for everyone involved, certainly offering many opportunities for new insight into who we are and what our faith means and how that translates into the rest of our living.

I will not be putting my name forward for this tri-county parish, though I do so not out of negative thoughts on the process as much as for believing my call lies in a different direction. Two full-time pastors, a seminary intern, and the deacons who have been raised up by area churches, will be sought after and called to the new parish, as far as the conversation currently in place has imagined. What the ongoing process will look like, none of us knows for sure. But we move forward together with God in this new thing, always seeking to better understand ourselves, our faith, and the world God is creating both through us and with us.

That being said, my final Sunday as your called pastor will be February 12th. As the process of learning to share ministers with other congregations continues moving forward, I think Christ our Emmanuel will continue to serve as an example of how to be flexible and cooperative.

Thank you for sharing your ministry with me these three years.
Pastor Andrew Nelson

TCLP – Dec 6, 2016 meeting

Tri-County Lutheran Parish Strategy
Meeting Held December 6, 2016 @ 6:15pm (Trinity, Castleton)
[A team was formed during tonight’s meeting to work on the Mission Statement.]

[“Calling everyone to a new creation, Christ has reconciled us with each other, joining us in mutual trust, and recreating us as his messenger of God’s love, sharing Christ’s new creation, beginning to end.”]

Pr. David Preisinger, Assistant to the Bishop
Harry Avery, Facilitator
Pr. Jim Slater, Emanuel and St. Luke’s
Pr. Lauretta Dietrich
Pr. Andrew Nelson, Christ Our Emmanuel
Pr. Jim Hulihan, Trinity & St. Stephen’s
Phyllis Keeler, deacon @ Emanuel-St. John’s
Duane Keeler, Emanuel
Chuck Albertson, Emanuel
Jo-Ann Lugert, Emanuel-St. John’s
Richard Fitzpatrick, Emanuel-St. John’s
Kirk Dixon, Emanuel-St. John’s
Karen Schubert, Zion
Cathleen Peter, Trinity
Alice Senrick, St. Stephen’s
Charles Senrick, St. Stephen’s
Karla Tyson, St. Paul’s
Karen McIntyre, St. Luke’s
Karen Lasher, St. Luke’s
Chuck Race, St. Luke’s
Patty Bervy, Christ Our Emmanuel
Janet Phillips, Christ Our Emmanuel

Pr. Dave led the group in prayer.

Tax ID / Financial Responsibilities:

Pr. Dave read an email he received from the Jeff Human, Attorney for the Upstate New York Synod. He said the TCLP would not incorporate, but yes, the congregation using their Tax ID would have financial responsibility.  To eliminate sole responsibility, the covenant (that every congregation in the TCLP must sign) will have a clause holding each congregation financially responsible.  Additionally, in the event of Holy Closure, a percentage or fixed amount (to be determined) must be turned over the TCLP.  That money would keep the TCLP stable for at least a year while adjustments are worked through.  See the Covenant handed out by the Governance Team.

Call Process: There was prior discussion as to how a candidate may be called.  Harry Avery brought attention to the model constitution, which contains the following required section (2016 version):

[* Required provisions when congregation is part of a parish]

*C20.01. This congregation may unite in partnership with one or more other congregations recognized by the synod named in *C6.01. to form a parish.  Except as provided in *C20.02. and *C20.03., a written agreement, developed in consultation with the synod and approved by the voting members of each congregation participating in the parish, shall specify the powers and responsibilities that have been delegated to the Parish Council.  The Parish Agreement shall identify which congregation of the parish issues calls on behalf of the member congregations or shall establish a process for identifying which congregation issues calls on behalf of the member congregations.

Simply put, every congregation must approve the candidate in order for them to be called.

Intern for 2017: Pr. Dave has submitted the application.  The intern is all set up, but must the TCLP must be ready for them by June 1, 2017.

Mission Statement: It is important for every congregation in the TCLP to have a Mission Statement.  After a show of hands, only Emanuel-St. John’s needs to develop one.

The TCLP must also develop a Mission Statement.  Karen Schubert has volunteered to lead a team to work on that.  Once developed, each congregation must approve it at their annual meeting.

The first meeting of the Mission Statement Team will be January 18, 2017 at 1:00pm.  It will be held at Zion, Athens.  Anyone interested can contact Karen at

MSP (Mission Site Profile): There was a short general discussion about who and how it will be filled out for the parish.  The MSP is now a writeable PDF, and copies of it will be available for familiarization at the next strategy meeting.

LGBT issues: Congregations involved in the strategy talks should be discussing all issues related to LGBT community: calling a pastor from the LGBT list, gay marriage, being an RIC congregation, etc.

Pr. Andrew suggested that if all congregations do not support someone who believes in gay marriage, then the TCLP should not call someone who is from the LGBT list.

Team: This committee is in the process of being formed.  It is preferred that it be comprised of the treasurer from each congregation.

Governance Team  They need utility costs for parsonages.

Handed out an updated draft covenant, with the follow discussion points.

MISSION STATEMENT – The last sentence in the second paragraph, “Upon commencement of this covenant, each congregation commits to a five year period of participation.”

PARISH BOARD – The last sentence of the first paragraph, “Indemnity agreements from all participating congregations must be submitted to the congregation whose Employer Identification Number (EIN) is being used.”

WORSHIP SERVICES – “Internship Committee: support and evaluation of the intern”

CALL COMMITTEE – “7) To contribute to a successful call, 6 of the 8 congregations must vote to approve, and 75% out of the collective voting tally in favor must be achieved.  [As pointed out earlier, this is not constitutional.  Each congregation must approve for a successful call.  In addition, synod policy is two-thirds of the vote is needed for a congregation to approve.]

Pastoral Staffing Team
Discussed as part of the Covenant handout.

Resources Team
The work of this team is complete, so it is deactiviated.

Staff Support
Gave two handouts, “Pastoral Staffing” and “Support Staff” for everyone to look through.

Worship Team
Collected the last two questionnaires at the meeting.  The may now schedule a meeting and begin work on a schedule.

Everyone from all the congregations involved in the strategy talks is invited.  It’s a special meeting so anyone with any questions will have a time to ask.

The meeting will be held at St. Luke’s Saturday, March 4, 2017 @ 3:00pm

Thursday, January 19, 2017 to be held at Emanuel, Stuyvesant Falls
Food @ 6:15 / Meeting @ 6:30

FAQs – Tri-County Parish


The following questions and answers are educated possibilities.  The actual answers could change as circumstances dictate.  However, these questions and answers were developed to help answer the concerns of the congregations and their members as they move into this new adventure. There will be other questions that come up in the process.  Planning team members are encouraged to keep the congregations informed and to share the information. Keep in mind that as we take these steps of faith, Jesus walks with us on the journey.


The initial proposal is for 2 full time pastors an intern, and some back up for Sunday mornings from conference supply list which includes retired pastors, ecumenical partners, conference deacons.  Worship schedules will need to be adjusted so that a deacon is not required every Sunday.  Ideally, the need for a deacon would be only one and no more than two times a month.


Both pastors and the intern will be pastors to the people of the congregation.  Individuals may find that they are more connected to one of these people than the other.  That is okay and for personal needs you could call on that specific person.  However, the team is the pastor for the parish.  That means all the pastors and the intern are available to all the congregations in the parish.  All three of them will be present on Sunday mornings rotating around so that all the congregations have contact with all the pastoral staff.  This is NOT the same as when a congregation is in transition and you have a different person every Sunday because they will be getting to know you all on a personal basis.  Unlike during a transition when a pastor is in and out and may not be back for a month or more, the variety you will have will be among 3 people but the same three.  Larger congregations in the ELCA have staff of 2, 3, even 5 pastors who rotate worship leadership on Sundays.  It is helpful to think of yourselves as one large congregation scattered in a number of places served by a staff of 2 pastors and an intern.


All of the pastoral staff does the pastoral care.  Who does it where will be determined by the staff.  There are a number of possibilities for how that would be done.  For example,

  1. One of the staff may have special gifts and do most of the visitation.
  2. They may work out a rotation that for one month one of the pastors takes care of all the visitation and the next month the another person will take on the responsibility.
  3. Divide up the responsibility using geography one person taking care of all folks in the west, another all in the north etc.
  4. Lay people will also be doing pastoral care. Stephen Ministries could be a program of the parish.

The current proposal is that there will be a parish treasurer and parish account that will be used to pay all staff and their benefits.  The account will be financed by money that comes from each congregation on a regular basis (amounts to be determined by a formula developed by the planning team).  Conversation with a lawyer is taking place to find out if we have to set up a new federal identification number for the parish or if we can use the existing ID number of one of the 8 congregations.  Decisions will need to be made about twice a month or every two weeks.


The cost is based on the age of the pastor, the number of years of experience, the size of his/her family.  Synod minimums will be used to determine the actual numbers.


Any pastor who takes a call to serve in the parish will have to live in one of the parsonages.  The value of the parsonage is figured into the compensation package using IRS rules for the value of the parsonage.  Congregations providing the parsonages will use that value as part of the dollars they contribute to the total compensation of the staff.  The congregation will, however, be responsible for the care and upkeep of the parsonage no help from the parish.  (If a major repair is necessary help could be solicited from the other congregations in the parish).  Congregations can chose to rent the parsonage out to someone other than the pastor.  Again, any income from the rental goes to congregation that owns the house not the parish.


The parish needs to make this determination.  The pastoral staff should be sensitive to the costs and do their best to keep them at a minimum without sacrificing on pastoral care.  A suggestion for how to cover the costs would be to take the monthly total and divide among the 8 congregations using the same percentages that are used to determine how much each congregation pays toward staffing costs.


Not sure that this is true. Larger congregations have more people and thus more individuals to be cared for and require more time.  For the parish to work the congregations as a whole have to see themselves as part of a whole.  All the people in the parish are part of one entity.  They are fellow members and the ministry that each congregation does is the ministry of the whole group, not just the geographical area.  Thank of yourself as one a community.  That means, for example, that the Tri-County Lutheran Parish will technically be the largest congregation (parish) in the conference.  Your combined worship attendance will be more than any other congregation or parish in the conference.


Supervision of the intern is usually done by one of the local pastors.  An intern committee made up of people from the parish would also have to be established.  Supervisors are required to have at least 3 years’ experience and have to make some time commitments to get training, attend meetings and meet regularly with the intern.  For the immediate future, 2017, if the parish comes to be Pastor Dave Preisinger and/or Greg Tennermann will be the supervisors.


The concern about getting an intern is legitimate.  However, we have to go forward with the assurance that the application will be made and the likely hood of getting an intern is pretty good.  If there is no intern available the parish could look to calling a part time pastor or a retired pastor willing to serve part time.  Currently, when a pastor leaves or retires from a congregation temporary coverage is found from others in the area.  The same would be true if there was no intern, temporary arrangements would be made.


Here are 3 possible suggestions.  The second and third one will need to be checked with the constitution people and lawyers to be sure that it can be done, and all 8 congregations would need to approve the process before it took place and commit to accepting the results.

  1. Each congregation will have a congregational meeting to call each pastoral candidate. If there is a clergy couple the couple as a unit would need to be approved. Approval from every congregation would be required for the person to be called.
  2. A variation of “a” would be that 6 of the 8 congregations would need to approve the candidate.
  3. Each candidate is approved by the entire cluster. Meaning that the total vote from all 8 congregations would be combined and the combined total would require 2/3 approval.


Christmas Eve Sermon

Christmas Eve 2016
Luke 2:1-20
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own town to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid for see -I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.



Betty passed away last week in the middle of the night after suffering a heart attack. She was supposed to come home from Whittier, but Betty had other plans and went to her heavenly home.

She celebrated her 90th birthday July 29th, this was her goal!
Funeral today from Wenk Funeral home @ 11am with burial following in the Ghent Union  Cemetery.
          Betty was a great lady and we were all honored to know her.