New Growth at Glendale

New Growth at Glendale

Covid-19 began new growth in Glendale. Literally.

St. John’s Lutheran Church, led by Pastor Matt Stanek, was financially secure before the pandemic hit, so it did not have the fear some of the other churches had that Covid-19 would cause the demise of the congregation. As a result, congregational members used their energy to see how they could grow as well as what they could grow.

The people of St. John’s realized that ministry was about making connections and meeting real, physical needs. With that in mind, they grew their ministry through morning and evening online prayer services, thereby making real, daily connections through prayer and music. To that they added a ministry with daily check-in calls to members, which often included walking around the neighborhood and having safely distanced, outdoor conversations on the front lawns of the members and other neighborhood people. Finally, they grew their ministry with the beginning of an urban, neighborhood farm where Pastor Stanek along with congregation members could tend to the daily growth of fruits and vegetables, while making daily connections with the people in the neighborhood who passed by on the street.

Pastor Stanek, in speaking about this new garden ministry, said, “Church can sometimes be investing time and investing energy, and we don’t always see the payoff. Here, in this garden, we literally see it growing before our eyes. People like gardening, especially since it a community outreach.” The plan for those fruits and vegetables is to make them available for t

he community after harvest as a free farmer’s market. “The pandemic showed us that people deal with food insecurity,” Pastor Stanek explained. “People are also still unsure about going out. Here, we can pick something off the vine, and offer them something to eat.” Because it is outside, the neighbors feel better about coming by.

When they come by, they stop and talk. “The farm has allowed me to be in one place greeting foot traffic while they pass the property,” Pastor Stanek states. “I have had a lot of good conversations with people. The results of this garden are physical, as well as emotional. We, as the church, can be all things for all people. This has really energized the congregation because it has reminded us in ministry that we don’t always see the pay-off right away.”

Pastor Stanek believes that God has reminded him to focus on what he calls the long game. “Whether it’s the pandemic or anything else, when we are talking about churches and congregations, if we are looking at them to extend and double their lives, it is the long game that will do it.” And ultimately, whether it’s congregations or vegetables, it’s God who does the growing.

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