From the pastor…
Most of us are familiar with the story of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lockport. It all started with an immigrant community who wanted to worship in their native language and who held a deep hunger for the Gospel of God’s grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.
That German-speaking community absorbed new immigrants like a sponge. But they were changing. It took about forty years, but the time came when they shifted from an immigrant culture to an American culture. They adopted the English language, they began to marry outside their heritage, and became just like the people who lived around them. Except, that is, for their determination to stay focused on their confession of faith, God’s means of grace, and the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel.
A few of us may have a direct ancestral lineage that connects us to them. Most of us don’t. But we still share that focus on faith that brings us together. Different people – same determination; different language – same confession of faith. That’s what makes us who we are.
The question for us, now in our 150th year as a faith community in Lockport, is “How are we going to keep this community vibrant into the future?” Our congregation once perpetuated itself by “natural growth.” Children grew up, married and had children of their own. Baptisms, confirmations, and more weddings were in their future. Church pews were filled by extended family groups, with grandparents, cousins and new in-laws blending together. But, over recent decades those family ties have stretched to the point of disappearing. I would dare say there’s not one native-speaker of German to be found among us.
And that’s okay! As it turns out, the real fabric of our community isn’t language anymore. We don’t represent a single ethnic heritage. We’re not nearly the family groups that we used to be. Our common denominator (and our real purpose for being) is that same confession of faith that Trinity has treasured since our beginning. And that can be held by people of all races, ethnicities, and economic levels. We are the people of God who confess salvation by the free grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Not long ago I met an African-American woman who inquired if our church accepted people of all backgrounds. My answer was, “Yes, absolutely!” We talked a little bit and she expressed an interest in coming to worship here someday. She didn’t know much about the Lutheran Church, but I realized she was looking for a style of worship that was liturgical and reverent. And I thought, “Wow, you’ve come to the right place!” I hope we see her again, soon.
We are the only LC-MS church in the city of Lockport. There are others who carry Lockport addresses, but they’re out in the towns. We’re easily accessible from the entire city of Lockport. We have a sound theology that brings out the sweetness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and who doesn’t need that?
It’s tempting to define our congregation by our history and to dismiss ourselves as a relic of the past. But this faith we confess is as relevant today as it was when those first immigrants joined together around it. The immigrants we’re looking for today are the pilgrims who journey through this world, knowing we have a Promised Land in heaven, where Jesus reigns in glory.
Let’s dedicate ourselves in this new year to imagining beyond our current vision. We have something that applies to all people in Lockport. We have the treasure of the Gospel to bring to a waiting community. Let’s serve them with it!
In Christ, who calls all people to Himself,