Life Inside, Life Outside

Life Inside, Life Outside

Since planted in 2008 in the fertile soil of the former Redeemer Lutheran Church, The Life Lutheran Church in Old Westbury has been growing into a healthy family of faith-filled believers, deeply rooted in Christ, who are ready, willing, and able to preach, teach, and spread the Gospel to all who would have ears to hear.

Holding true to The Life’s original vision statement, Pr. Justin Vetrano has made it his mission to recognize the gifts of members and then explore ways these gifts can be used in the service of Jesus Christ. Combining this vision and Pr. Vetrano’s mantra, “How many people can I possibly involve in a worship service?”, has resulted in increased active participants engaged in all facets of the church and its many outreach programs.

Member Deacon Larry Rath says, “The Life Church also lives beyond its calling to preach the Gospel of Jesus’ love; it lives it! We have a strong connection with the community we serve. One example that comes to mind is the collecting of food, clothes, and infant supplies for the surrounding community. It seems like every time the food bin empties and is delivered to LSS (Lutheran Social Services), it’s filled again! ”

Dcn. Rath adds, “One thing that I noticed about The Life is how quickly it has learned to adapt to its community’s needs and to its environment. This was no more evident than during the pandemic.”

Just prior to the onslaught of the pandemic, discussions had begun regarding the planting of a new church as well as having to add an additional Sunday Worship service to accommodate their growing congregation. These plans had to be set aside for a time as The Life pivoted to attend all matters concerning the spread of COVID.

Teams of technology experts worked diligently to provide high quality live stream worship services in hopes of making viewers feel as if they were in the actual sacristy. For six months, Pastor Vetrano led nightly compline services along with his wife, Neina, reading the Word and their daughters, Sydney and Cassie, leading the music as members watched from the safety of their homes.

Realizing some members lived alone and were now isolated due to the virus, teams were set up to keep in contact with every member throughout the pandemic shut down. Many hours were spent creating an informational database that included necessary contact information which was then broken down into categories based on member needs. These needs would be brought back to the church and addressed as they were able.

During the warmer months, The Life hosted Friday outdoor movie nights. These events took place with socially-distant seating and encouraged people to bring their own food. These fun-filled evenings provided much needed fellowship and camaraderie during a time of loneliness and isolation.

One of the many great ideas that bloomed during the pandemic was the creation and distribution of Lenten Worship boxes. Each of these boxes contained a booklet filled with the bulletins of each of the upcoming Lent services, candles, a frame to hold a special picture associated with each week of Lent, and burlap bags containing special items specifically chosen for each week’s worship service. Congregants were able to assemble and distribute 250 boxes to their members and some of the members of their local community. Pr. Vetrano says, “It was a large investment of time and money, but the investment was well worth it.” These boxes were so well received that The Life distributed boxes for Advent and Christmas too!

What was the result of this hard work? The Life didn’t just survive the pandemic, it thrived!

Pr. Vetrano’s commitment to recognizing people’s potential has also resulted in the healthy cultivation of future pastors, vicars, and deacons. Currently The Life has five commissioned deacons, two newly ordained pastors, and two vicars-in-training. These dedicated church workers assist with the many different aspects of The Life’s worship services, Bible studies, men’s and women’s ministries, worship and music teams, and so on.

Dcn. Larry Rath said, “Another example is the wonderful and vibrant ESL program (English as a Second Language) run at The Life. I am personally involved in community endeavor. Prior to the pandemic this program ran Saturday’s throughout the school year and it has managed to help educate multiple Hispanic immigrants for many years. It is now run over Zoom, and well attended. We hope to be back in class live in the fall.”

The Life’s outreach programs include: ESL and GED (high school equivalency) classes for Spanish-speaking students; working with the Interfaith Nutrition Network; hosting vacation Bible school — the list goes on and on!

In addition to church services and ministries, The Life runs a half- or full-day childcare program meeting the great needs of working parents of their surrounding communities. The NYS licensed and accredited program offers full and half day classes to children ranging from 2-4 years of age.

Under the blessing of God and through the continued diligent work of its members, The Life continues to grow, even throughout the experience of a pandemic! The members of The Life continue to be intentional in their missional work, resulting in a greater proclamation of the Gospel.

When Pr. Vetrano was asked for his final comments and his thoughts for the future plans of The Life, he replied, “We look forward to continuing to carry out our mission of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ and welcoming everyone back into the church building for worship. We also remain hopeful that we can plant another church in the future.” He added, “I am very grateful and so very blessed. I can’t imagine a better call on my life than the one that God has given me now.”

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