Tuesday, October 11, 2016
It’s already been two months since I have been at Hanover Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. As far as I know, it’s the only Hanover Lutheran Church out there. I dare you to prove me wrong. The people who first planted the congregation in Cape Girardeau was from the German lands in 1846. They had arrived in America several years before the leaders who organized the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod had arrived.
When I first arrived at Hanover, there was lots of splashing. After my first day Sunday worship I was welcomed with a water party and potluck. There was a giant waterslide, water guns, and water balloons. There was plenty of food to go around. It all tasted great. The people are great as well. It’s like one big family of three hundred people here. Many of them have known each other since they were born.
So what goes on at Hanover? On a Sunday morning, two worship services are held. Guess what time the first service starts? 7:45 in the morning. The folks in California generally don’t arrive at church before 9:00 in the morning. The second service starts at 10 in the morning. An hour before that service we have Sunday School. For the adult Bible study in the Book of Isaiah. Over forty people attend this Bible study to carefully understand the words God was speaking through Isaiah and who what he speaking to and how does his words make an impact on our life today. They have been examining Isaiah for over four years. Will they be finished with the book of Isaiah before the end of my vicarage? The Lord only knows.
What is Vicar Sylvan Finger doing? He is working alongside Pastor Tony. He’s learning the ways of Hanover by following in the footsteps Pastor Tony. Concordia Seminary has helped me much in preparing me for the job, but every church has their own twist as to carrying out the order of worship. What I enjoy about serving at Hanover is that their church of three hundred people provide a variety of areas that I am able to minister to the people. The visitations of the elderly, and those in the hospital, teaching confirmation, a variety of Bible studies. Another thing that is awesome about the people of Hanover is that the people know that Jesus loves them and that their salvation is valid through Jesus alone. What is awesome about the pastor is that he also ensures that the people of Hanover are loved and are playing well together.
The month of September is a time for the fairs for Cape and Perry Counties. At the big South East County fair I saw pigs. The pigs were represented by youth through the programs FFA and 4-H. Three of the teenagers from Hanover showed off their pigs at the fair. They each had two pigs. Because pigs enjoy being covered in dirt to cool off, I helped clean the pigs for their presentation. A day was spent transporting and settling in the pigs. The next day was for presenting and judging the pigs. The last day was for auctioning the pigs. I couldn’t tell much about what made a pig look and perform better. I did notice that as for auctioning the pigs, the name of the family selling the pig mattered most, then matter the pigs presented by a cute cowgirl, then the quality of the pig. Interesting.
As for the East Perry County Fair, two main attractions were the parade and jumping mule contest. The parade was a solid hour long full of floats, cars, tractors, bands, and firetrucks. Lots of candy was given out. People were leaving with plastic bags full of candy. The Town of Altenburg, where the fair is held, has a population of only about three hundred people. The town was a happening that weekend as hundreds more showed up that weekend. Also the mules showed off their jumping skills, especially when the fence height was under forty inches. Anything over that the mules struggled with jumping. So instead of their jumping skills, they showed off their stubbornness in their resisting to jump. With a good commentator, you got yourself some easy and good entertainment.
As enjoyable and entertaining this letter has been, I hope you see a seminary student who is developing his talents through the Church of Hanover and the culture of its residing community. Where ever you go people need to be ministered to.
At my home congregation, I’m used to working with surprises. Now that I am serving the church full time, I’m surprised how many surprises come through the church doors each morning. Sometimes it’s a wonder anything gets done within the church. Yet, isn’t life messy? Isn’t life full of surprises? The point I’m trying to make is that it’s okay. Life is messy. No matter how many goals you set for yourself, there will always be interruptions in your life, many of which you have no control over. But that’s okay because ministry is about letting people know that even in the midst of chaos, God is still present and God still loves them. God still has a plan of salvation for them, and that is something you can always count on no matter how much a struggle a particular day has been.
Thank you for supporting me through this journey of a seminarian. May my service be done for the glory of God alone.
Vicar Sylvan Finger