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.

Fire House Event for First Responders

Our annual “Gods Work Our Hands” service event is quickly approaching! This year,(as most of you know),in recognition of the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks of 9/11/2001 we will be honoring our first responders, ie: fire fighters,  rescue squad& EMT’s, Police officers etc, with a free spaghetti dinner on Friday, September 9th from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Chatham Fire House!  The menu will be: spaghetti, meatballs, salad, bread & butter, & dessert. We are looking for members to setup, serve, & clean-up.We are also looking for a variety of desserts to offer. If you can provide help &/or a dessert please let me know! We are planning on approx. 150 dinners!
Also please spread the word to any first responders you know & invite them to attend! There is an event on our Facebook page for this as well that you can share!  Also don’t forget to wear your yellow “Gods work our Hands” T-shirt to the event!

During this week’s heat, I hardly had the energy to do more than lay around in air conditioned spaces, but I wanted to move more, so I went to Target, just to walk someplace cool. Being easily distracted (and, really, Target is one of those stores I can’t just walk out of with a list), I spent some time in the music section watching the big screens with music videos, and the phrase “ain’t no man that can save me, there ain’t no man that can enslave me” caught my ear. So after watching a bit of the video, I latched onto the new Avett Brothers album “True Sadness” and have been listening to it on repeat for awhile. Beautiful imagery and some well-expressed truth in that album. I find myself wanting to make the song “Ain’t No Man” my theme song for awhile.notes

(“There ain’t nobody here who can cause me pain or raise my fear ‘cause I got only love to share.”)

Do you have a theme song for certain times of your life? Songs you go to when you’re celebrating or grieving or need to take some space apart to breathe after a hectic time? We have so much art available to express ourselves and communicate with one another, and the spirit of connecting with each other, building bridges, celebrating the beautiful diversity of the world without being afraid of it, is not limited to religion, or even to geography anymore. How do you connect with your own feelings and find ways to connect with others?

Some of my colleagues have written litanies for sharing that openness the Avett Brothers talk about, speaking truth to power about what power there is in open acceptance and love of God’s whole good creation (including one’s self as much as one’s neighbor). In repeated phrases, my colleague Rev. Emily led prayer at Churchwide Assembly this week:

“Our lives are holy. Our dancing is holy. Our protest is holy. Our grief is holy. Our rage is holy. Our emotions are holy. Our community is holy. Our experiences are holy. Our wisdom is holy. Our gender presentations are holy. Our bodies are holy. Our sex is holy. Our love is holy. You are holy. We are holy.” (This litany is online, too, at

Because if ‘there ain’t nobody here who can cause me pain or raise my fear ‘cause I got only love to share,’ then we are free to love ourselves and one another without the anxieties about being deemed ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ It’s the freedom we find in Jesus, too, that forgiveness of all without distinction, that gift of grace which claims us each and all as beloved as we are. As we are, we are holy. Created in the Image of God, who called the creation very good at the beginning, we don’t have to worry about proving ourselves worthy or making ourselves acceptable.

So, yeah, that’s my jam today. What’s your song today?

Pastor Nelson

New Orleans Churchwide Assembly

While I was waiting for my first call, I was able to take some vacation time from Target and travel to Philadelphia for the Churchwide Assembly where Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was elected Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. It was amazing to be there, and though I spent most of my time behind the scenes ironing albs (those white robes worship leaders wear) and telling Bishops how to put them on for each Eucharist we celebrated, I made sure to be in the room when Bishop Eaton was elected. It was pretty major, really exciting, and an unexpected moment of history making. The theme that year was “Behold, I am Making All Things New.”

This year, in less than a week, almost a thousand voting members of the ELCA – and that’s not counting volunteers – will gather in New Orleans for another Churchwide Assembly. When our parish gathers on the Sunday of the Christmas pageant, we amass about eighty folks – imagine over a thousand gathered for worship, from all across the country! Representing 3.7 million of us, these voting members, chosen at each of our 65 synodical assemblies, will share in worship, Bible study, and voting on some pretty big topics, including those memorialized at our local assemblies. We will be making big decisions on public issues that have been discussed at every level of this denomination, from sustainable energy to repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery to redefining the Lay roster (as a roster, it’s the Word and Service ministry, whereas the Ordained roster are Word and Sacrament).


Since there are so many of us across so many backgrounds and such a big geography, it can be hard to remember how diverse we really are, culturally and economically and politically, and yet we are still one church together. A big part of this year’s assembly will also include preparations to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the kick-off of God’s Reformation of the church through Martin Luther. This work is ongoing, as God is always doing a new thing. Liberal or Conservative or off the charts completely, all are welcomed and valued in these ministries of the Holy Spirit wherever we may live and serve.

In the week ahead, please pray for our 2016 Churchwide Assembly voting members:

Bishop John Macholz, Rev. Lee Miller III,  Mr. Rick Mollenkopf Grill, Mr. Jim Osborne, Rev. Krista Mendoza, Ms. Sharon Hamilton, Rev. Pamela Hoh, Mr. Sohail Akhtar, Mr. Thomas Madden, Rev. Gail Wolling, Mr. Tom Henry, Mrs. Patsy Glista (Associate In Ministry – one of those lay rosters that we’ll be voting about), Mrs. Mary Schwartz, Mr. Ryan Potocki, and Ms. Meredith Cavanagh.  And remember how connected we are across the miles as we gather next week to pray and worship and speak together!

Pastor Nelson