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Pastor's Message

January 2021

posted Dec 23, 2020, 11:26 AM by Unknown user

             Beloved in Christ, probably all of us are ready to move on to a new year after 2020.  Between the Covid pandemic, the illnesses, deaths, restrictions and shut downs, the killing of Black Americans by bad-apple police officers, the unemployment, the politics and disinformation, the fires and storms, I think nearly everyone is ready to turn the page on 2020.  The year 2021 looks more promising eventually, as vaccines get distributed. But we also know that we will have to keep wearing face masks and physically distancing for a while.  Hopefully, by late spring or summer things will start to return to normal.

            2020 has been a rough year all around.  But the Church, and particularly our church, First Lutheran in Ellensburg, is surviving thanks to your generous offerings and good stewardship of your time and talents.  One good thing the epidemic has forced us to do is to get our worship services online, first through zoom (Thank you Chuck Boss!) and now via YouTube (Thank you Doug Fessler!) Our Savior Jesus is with us through all the changes and chances of this earthly life.  And our eternal life is never in question, thanks to his death and resurrection.

            Speaking of changes, Christine Rice, our super capable office administrator told me on December 8th that she is taking a full time position for Kittitas County.  I instantly felt a sense of both panic and loss.  Christine has been with FLC for 13 years now and I have come to rely on her for many, many things.  A good office administrator really is a pastor and congregation’s right arm.  We have been lucky to have Christine with us for so many years.  We will miss her friendly good cheer, competence, efficiency and computer skills.  It will be hard to find someone as excellent and friendly as Christine.  We wish her all the best in her new position. Christine will be will us through early January, so stop by and say “Thanks for everything.”

            But I am very excited to start working with Julie Anna Boss as our new Youth & Family Director.  First Lutheran is combining the Ministry Associate position (Carla Bergman’s job) and Youth Director position into one.  Julie Anna feels a strong calling to work with children, youth and families in our congregation.  Thanks be to God!

    “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

     For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

     Fall on your knees. O hear the angel voices.

     O night divine, O night when Christ was born.

     O night, O holy night, O night divine!”     


             May the love of Jesus our Savior Emmanuel bring peace, hope and love in this new year,


Pastor Dennis   


December 2020

posted Nov 25, 2020, 10:17 AM by Unknown user

             It may be a rather different Christmas this year, due to the Covid epidemic, but we still celebrate the advent, the coming, of our Savior Jesus Christ.  The first Sunday of the Advent season is Nov 29th, and always sneaks up on us when it is Thanksgiving weekend.  We do plan on having Holden Evening Prayer at 7 pm on Wed’s Dec 2, 9 and 16.  Come as you are to these informal half hour services. And we will have Christmas Eve candlelight service at 7:30 pm.

            I always like to talk about the 3 advents, the 3 comings of our Savior Jesus. There is of course his first coming among us, soft and sweet, as a new-born human baby.  The Incarnation, the enfleshment, of the Son of God is a miracle to behold.  That Almighty God, the Creator of the entire Universe, would love and care for us enough to become one of us in fragile human flesh, is indeed marvelous news for us.

            The second advent, the second coming of Jesus is just that: Christ’s second coming as Savior and Righteous Judge of all at the end of time.  As Christians we have no idea when this will happen, so we keep on living lives of hope and faithfulness as we await the completion of God’s kingdom, God’s reign of peace, love and justice on earth. During the first part of the Advent season, our Sunday Gospel readings focus on Jesus’s second coming as we are urged to watch, wait and prepare.  And we hear the voice of John the Baptist calling us to repentance and to “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

            The third advent is the way in which our Savior Jesus is constantly with us as Immanuel: God-with-us.  We are comforted and encouraged to know that Jesus is with us through his Holy Spirit and Holy Word, Bread & Wine, the water of baptism, and Christian community.  We are also challenged to see Jesus in the faces of our neighbors in need.  Jesus says that as often as we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and imprisoned, “You did it to me.” Matt 25.

            I couldn’t help thinking this year that waiting for Jesus is a bit like waiting for a vaccine in the midst of this epidemic.  Good news is coming eventually, but it will take a while.  We are greatly encouraged recently by news of promising vaccines.  But we also know that distribution of this vaccine will take quite a while and that infection rates are increasing this winter.  So we need to keep living responsibly and respectfully of other people by wearing masks, socially distancing  and washing our hands.  We are all experiencing “mask fatigue” by now, but we need to keep on loving our neighbors by wearing a face covering.  It baffles me that some states still do not have a mask mandate.

             An Advent tradition at FLC which I always enjoy is to sing verses of “Light one candle to watch for Messiah”:  one more verse with each successive Sunday in the Advent Season.  Here are verses 1 and 4.     “Light one candle to watch for Messiah: let the light banish darkness.  He shall bring salvation to Israel, God fulfills the promise.”  “Light four candles to watch for Messiah: let the light banish darkness.

              He is coming, tell the glad tidings.  Let your lights be shining.”


              May Jesus, the light of the world, sustain you in peace, hope, love and joy,

         Pastor Dennis   


November 2020

posted Oct 29, 2020, 8:39 AM by Unknown user

Ch, Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes! As the old song says.

             This COVID epidemic we are living in and through is bringing about unforeseen changes at First Lutheran Church. In short, both our choir director and ministry associate have resigned.

             Realizing that singing together as a choir will not be a safe thing to do for at least a year, Tor Blaisdell has resigned. Also, since both Tor and Gayla teach voice at CWU, they feel like they are already getting plenty of COVID exposure and don’t want to risk more. Be sure and thank Tor for his years directing our church choir and for his marvelous solos. Who knows, a year form now, if conditions improve, we may seek to employ Tor’s very capable choir directing abilities again. Thank you, Tor!

            Carla Bergman, our long time ministry associate is also resigning at the end of 2020. Carla has been on unpaid leave since April (her choice), but realizes she is not comfortable coming back any time soon. Carla has been First Lutheran’s ministry associate for 29 years! We will miss her gentle, caring ways with our kids and ourselves. I miss her as a trusted co-worker in Christ. We would love to have a big Thank you party or dinner in her honor, but we can’t do that in these times. Help me think of a good and safe way to say “Thank you so much!” Carla does plan on continuing, of course, as a beloved member of First Lutheran Church.

            With Carla’s resignation we are planning on combining some of the ministry associate duties with the youth director position. Carla also recommends this. We would then have just one approximately 3/4 time Youth and Family Director. We are still working on a job description, but this person would primarily work with kids of all ages, little ones through high school. If you know of qualified candidates, please send them our way. They would need some education background, a love for children, and a love for Jesus Christ and the church.

            About the only thing happening for young people right now is confirmation classes. I know we are somewhat limited in these COVID times, but we can and need to be doing much more. It is so important to teach and live the Christina faith and love of Jesus among our young ones.

              Life is change. But the constant love of our Savior Jesus is with us through all changes.


Peace in Jesus,  Pastor Dennis


             P.S. Rest assured that I have no plans to leave (unless you are thoroughly sick of me). Christine Rice continues on as our very capable office administrator. And Betty Kramlich will keep on making beautiful music on the organ and piano.


October 2020

posted Sep 28, 2020, 11:18 AM by Unknown user

Baptisms and Confirmations: Two and Two


             This October we will celebrate 2 baptisms and 2 confirmations!  First the baptisms.  On Sunday Oct 11th, Carlotta Foreman will be baptized.  Carlotta is the daughter of Rick & Erin Foreman and was born July 29th.  On Sunday Oct 18th, Lotte Holcomb will be baptized.  Lotte is the daughter of Jess & Jesika Holcomb and was born June 22nd.  Lotte’s proud older siblings are Allorah, Brit and Lillian.  Due to Covid restrictions, these baptisms will happen before or after our 10 am Sunday worship service.  But rest assured that these two little girls will be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and are full members of God’s family and our First Lutheran Church family.  So we say, “Welcome to the family of God, Carlotta and Lotte!”   

            Now, are Carlotta and Lotte already fully formed in their faith relationships with Jesus Christ?  Of course not.  They are still little babies.  Christian faith formation is something which takes years and years.  Truth is, we never (hopefully) stop growing in our relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ.  When parents bring their little ones to the baptismal font, they promise to “live among God’s faithful people, bring them to the word of God and the holy supper, teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the creed and the 10 commandments, place in their hands the holy scriptures and nurture them in faith and prayer, so that their children may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world and work for justice and peace.” (ELW Holy Baptism p 228)

            Whew! That’s a lot!  And the church is here to help parents carry through on these promises.  Worship services, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, youth group and Confirmation classes are ways the church helps kids grow in Christian faith and life.

            Confirmation, or Affirmation of Baptism Sunday will be Oct 25th here at First Lutheran.  Two wonderful young Christian women, Sarah Merten and Aubrey Wells will be affirming their baptisms.  That is, they will be saying “Yes” to their baptisms.  We look forward to hearing their faith statements and seeing them go through the Rite of Confirmation.  Will Sarah and Aubrey then be fully complete in their Christian faith and life?  Again, the answer is no.  We all, hopefully, keep growing in faith and life our whole lives long.  But Confirmation, Affirmation of Baptism, is an important milestone along life’s journey.  The goal of all those confirmation classes is to help lay a solid Christian faith foundation on which young people can build their whole lives long.  So we say, “Good going Sarah and Aubrey! Keep up the good work!”

             Sometimes people ask, “Which is more important: baptism or believing in Jesus?” To which I’m always tempted to answer, “Yes!” or more precisely, “Yes! Both!”  It’s not an “either/or” but a “both/and”. In Mark 16:15-16, our risen Savior Jesus says, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.  The one who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Baptism and belief (faith, trust) are great gifts from God which nurture and sustain us in this life and forever.  Let us live daily in our baptisms with the comfort, confidence and joy of knowing Jesus our Savior!           


Peace, Love, and Joy in Jesus, 


Pastor Dennis


September 2020

posted Aug 27, 2020, 11:55 AM by Unknown user

Dear People of God,


     It’s a strange time to be the church, but we are still the church.  “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” I Corinthians 12:28

    I hope you had some rest and relaxation time this summer.  I give thanks for some vacation time, even if it was partially “stay-cation”.  And let me thank Warren Street and Michael Goerger for preaching while I was away and Christine Rice for keeping the church office going.

    The Hickman’s never left the state, but I did enjoy many hikes in our mountains, a 3 day back pack trip alone and an overnight back pack with Kyle to Spectacle Lake.  I also enjoyed some kayaking with my brother Brian at Lake Kachess and a good 3 day visit with my Mom in Pasco.  I also got some things done around the home front like staining the deck and cleaning the carpets.  Cathy is recovering well from her surgeries.  We were in Spokane several times for those and enjoyed visits with her Mom while there.  Cathy continues physical therapy on her thumb.  Hopefully by Novemberish she will have full use of her hand again.

    We are lucky at First Lutheran that we have been able to have in-person worship all summer.  Many congregations in other communities are not doing so yet.  Most Sundays there are about 20-30 people in the sanctuary and many more worshipping with us through the radio and zoom.  I give special thanks to Jim Stolte and crew for operating the sound system and to Chuck Boss for doing the Zoom part.  Many folks within and outside of our congregation have sent notes of thanks expressing gratitude for us continuing these important outreach methods.

    I’m guessing we will have more folks for in-person worship come September? But I’m not pressuring anyone.  Do what is comfortable for you.  Thank you all for your generous financial support of FLC!  Our sanctuary can hold about 50 people if we are all physically distancing.  Fifty is the limit right now for houses of worship our size anyhow.  Our wonderful music director Betty Kramlich and myself and others have already talked about having an early Sunday service in the fellowship hall if the need arises: say 8:30 or so.  There’s a piano and we can sit at tables.  That way we are using different space than the 10am worship service.  Time will tell if this is needed.

    Meanwhile, life with face masks goes on.  The quilters have been meeting all summer. Gardeners Ida Malde, Bea Fairburn and Doreen Day keep the flower beds beautiful.  Men’s prayer lunches still meet.  The women’s Bible study met through July, took August off and will start up again in September.  My Thursday 9am prayer Bible study group took some weeks off (someone was on vacation), but resumed August 20th.  Confirmation classes will start up again with an information night on Wed. Sept 16.  I think we can meet in person with masks on.  The fellowship hall is big enough so that each student can have his/her own table.  Families, please let me know if you are comfortable with this or not.  Our weekend nutrition program for hungry school kids starts up again soon.  Thanks to Judy Ragland for leading this.

    It’s a strange time we are living in with this epidemic.  We pray for all students and families and educators starting up a difficult school year.  We pray for all who suffer with the virus, all who have lost loved ones, and all who are working hard on vaccines.

    It’s a strange time to be the church, but we are still the church: the body of Christ.


Stay safe everyone.  Christ is with you.                                             


Peace in Jesus, Pastor Dennis


July~August 2020

posted Jul 2, 2020, 9:48 AM by Unknown user

Black Lives Matter:  God is on the side of the oppressed

    Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters.  Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians.” Exodus 3:7-8

    The Lord said this to Moses right after appearing to him in the burning bush. God called Moses to help lead the Israelites out of slavery and bring them to the promised land. God performed all kinds of signs and wonders (plagues) to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go.  But Pharaoh’s heart was hard.  People with great worldly wealth and power and privilege  seldom give that up willingly. 

    As you may know, more than 30 years ago, I did my year of internship at Fordham Lutheran Church in The Bronx, New York City.  The good people of Fordham Lutheran, black, brown and white, welcomed this awkward 25 year old white boy from the Northwest and helped him in his journey to become a pastor. When I hear and say, “Black Lives Matter” I instantly think of wonderful African American Christians like Nat & Naomi Bachelor and their lovely daughter Edith, Jeanette Puryear and her son Walther, Una Richardson, Madgie Johnson and many others.

    Our country is in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement.  We have watched with horror as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others have been killed for no reason by law enforcement.  To be sure, the vast majority of law enforcement personnel are good people with a tough job to do. And we will always need law enforcement to keep us safe. But, we have to admit that there is something wrong with the system and it needs to be fixed. 

    Racism is not confined to a few bad apple police officers but is an evil that exists in our society, and if we are willing to admit it, within ourselves. I pray that the Black Lives Matter movement will finally lead to equality and justice for all people of color in the U.S.  God loves all people, but God is on the side of the oppressed.  In the New Testament, Jesus was always on the side of marginalized or oppressed people.

    When I was in The Bronx, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was speaking one Sunday afternoon at Riverside Church in Manhattan. So, a bunch of us from Fordham Lutheran rode the subway down to hear him.  Now, this was 1987-88 and apartheid (apart—hate) was still the rule in S. Africa.  S. Africa was still ruled by a white and often brutal minority. But there was no anger or hatred in Bishop Tutu’s voice as he preached that day.  His message to the white ruling class in S. Africa was, “You might as well come on over to our side, because we are going to win.  God is on our side and we are going to win, so you might as well join us.” 

    And the good bishop was right.  Apartheid was soon dismantled.  Nelson Mandela became the leader of S. Africa after 27 years in prison. (27 years!).  Bishop Tutu helped lead the Truth and Reconciliation committee to start the country on the road to healing.  Things have improved in S. Africa, but the country still has a long way to go with equality.

            The U.S. still has a long way to go on the road to justice and equality for people of color.  I pray that the Black Lives Matter Movement will be a major step on that road. Yes, God loves all people, but God is on the side of the oppressed. 

    “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  Nelson Mandela         


    Justice and Peace in Jesus,  Pastor Dennis    



June 2020

posted Jun 4, 2020, 10:57 AM by Unknown user

Dear Friends in Christ,


    We so look forward to having in-person worship services again! The governor surprised us all by allowing up to 50 people in houses of worship during Phase 2 of reopening.  So, starting this Sunday, June 7th we can have up to 50 folks in the sanctuary for our 10 am worship service.  We will need to continue practicing safe social distancing (6 feet).  So every other pew will remain vacant in the sanctuary.  We will need to wear face masks.  Love thy neighbor: wear a mask.  I will wear a mask, although take it off while preaching and speaking.  Otherwise it will just sound like mmghmmgh.  The pulpit is quite a ways from the pews and no one sits in the front row anyhow!

    The goal is no-contact worship.  We may prop the front door open, weather permitting.  Ushers will not hand out bulletins.  Bulletins will already be in your pews.  No handshaking.  We pastors think we need to shake everyone’s hand, so remind me if I attempt to shake yours.  Passing the peace can just be a verbal “Peace of the Lord be with you” accompanied by a peace-sign, hand wave, bow….. Offering baskets will be in the back and not passed during worship.  No contact Holy Communion is more challenging, but I think I have a solution.  Stay tuned!

    If you are quite elderly (whatever that means) or you have an underlying health condition, it is better that you continue to worship with us by means of the radio or zoom.  Sorry!  But the last thing we want is for someone to get really sick with the Covid-19 virus as a result of worship.  We won’t be taking temperatures at the door, but if you feel at all ill, please stay home.

    Let me say a sincere thanks to all who help make worship happen during this pandemic.  Jim Stolte—sound operator and offering counter/financial secretary, Chuck Boss—zoom man, Betty & Ralph Kramlich, Tor Blaisdell and Judy Ragland—music:  assisting ministers and scripture readers.  Thanks to Christine Rice for producing worship bulletins, electronic and print, and also paying the church’s bills.  Thanks to Carla and Isak Bergman for extra cleaning.

    Even as our county moves to the next phases, allowing gatherings of more than 50 in worship, (July?  August? September?) we will want to still stay 6 feet apart and wear face masks.  If anyone in the sanctuary ever feels too crowded there is plenty of space in the fellowship hall and  you can still hear the worship service well.  Perhaps, eventually, we will need to add an early Sunday service around 8:15am to safely accommodate everyone.  We have thought of that possibility.  We could have one service in the fellowship hall and one in the sanctuary to keep both spaces clean.

    And if you are worshipping from home, remember we are always on 1240 AM Radio at 10 am.  If you miss a worship service you can always look it up by date on our website The service usually gets uploaded to our website by noon.  We also plan on continuing to do Zoom worship for a while.

    Thank you again everyone for continuing to support your church financially during this epidemic.  Many folks are mailing in their offering, giving electronically, dropping it off Mon-Thurs 9am-noon at the church office, or giving by phone via the Vanco GivePlus app.  We are surviving financially.  Thank You! Praise God!

    May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.       


Pastor Dennis


March 2020

posted Feb 26, 2020, 9:01 AM by Unknown user

Dear People of God,

             During the month of March, we are in the season of Lent.  Lent is 40 days of preparation for the Resurrection of our Savior Jesus.  Lent does not include Sundays, which are always “little Easters: little celebrations of Jesus’ resurrection from death.  Walk back 40 days from Easter, April 12th this year, and you come to Ash Wednesday, Feb 26th. Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “lengthen”.  The daylight hours are lengthening now.  This is good news for your seasonal affective disorder pastor! 

              So, in one sense, Lent can mean spring.  People, well, some people anyhow, do some spring cleaning during Lent.  Just don’t look closely at my office.  They start to do some of those tasks which are just too hard to do in the cold and snow of winter.  I like to say that Lent is spring cleaning for the soul.  Perhaps we need to clean up some of those not-so-great spiritual habits we have acquired since Christmas?  Joel 2:13 is always part of the Old Testament reading for Ash Wed.  I think it is a good verse for the whole season of Lent. “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”  We sometimes sing these words as a gospel verse on Sundays during Lent.

               Prayer, fasting and alms-giving: traditionally these are the 3 disciplines of lent.  Intentionally spending a few more minutes in prayer each day is a great practice for the 40 days.  On Wednesdays at 7 pm during Lent, March 4, 11, 18, 25 and April 1, we do the half-hour Holden Evening Prayer service.  Of course, the prayer services are preceded by soup and bread suppers at 6pm.  Thank you in advance to the ministries for hosting these!  Supping together is not exactly fasting, but it is great fellowship time.  And the soup suppers are intended to be simple meals.  Perhaps the money you save on dinner those nights can be used to “give alms/offerings”.  Wednesday night offerings during Lent will be given to ELCA World Hunger.  ELCA World Hunger does a great job of helping to feed hungry people and lift them out of poverty both in the U.S. and around the world.  Another great way to “give alms” is by giving to our local FISH Food Bank.  As part of our own in-house “Munch Madness” this year we are encouraging folks to bring cans of soup and/or protein items, like tuna, spam, canned ham, beefy mac-n-cheese…..for FISH.

             I admit that I am not great at physically fasting from food.  I have a hard time thinking clearly or functioning well if I am too hungry.  On the other hand, physical fasting can remind us and help us to be in solidarity with the billions of people on our planet who go to bed hungry.

             Isaiah 58:1-12 was one of our Sunday readings on Feb 9th.  The prophet reminds the people that fasting is never just a me-and-God thing, but always involves our neighbors in need. God says, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly: your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” Isaiah 58:6-7.

            Prayer, fasting and giving alms are good ways to deepen our walk with our Savior Jesus.  During Lent we follow our Savior Jesus to his cross and grave and finally, at Easter, his glorious resurrection.     



Blessings during this season of Lent,  Pastor Dennis



February 2020

posted Jan 29, 2020, 11:25 AM by Unknown user

Dear people of God,

           During the month of February we are in the season of Epiphany, at least until we get to Ash Wednesday on Feb 26.  Epiphany is the season of light: light in the midst of winter darkness.  The daylight hours are getting longer now, but there is still so much darkness in our world.  I am greatly disturbed by the rise of anti-Semitism, racism, white supremacy, xenophobia and hate crimes in our country and world.  To combat the creeping in of these sins, I would encourage all of us to read authors from different cultures and, whenever possible, listen to and make friends with people whose life experiences are different from our own.

            I am remembering a wonderful class I had the last semester of my senior year at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.  By that time most of us were finishing up our core requirements for graduation and needed a few more elective credits.  Prof. Jim Limburg offered a 2 hour class one evening a week on the works of the great Jewish author Elie Wiesel.  Every week, the 7 or 8 of us in the class read a book by Elie Wiesel and wrote a short paper.  Then, during class we sat around Prof. Limburg’s fireplace, read our papers and discussed the book.  We started with Wiesel’s classic and disturbing little book, “Night.”  “Night” is Elie Wiesel’s autobiographical account of being in a Nazi death camp as a youth during WWII.  In my humble opinion, “Night”, should be required reading for everyone.  I don’t see how anyone could be a holocaust denier after reading “Night.”  Other works by Wiesel which we read for the class include, “A Beggar in Jerusalem” and “The Town Beyond the Wall.”

            February is also Black History Month.  We give thanks for the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and many others.  I think of African American friends I knew at Fordham Lutheran Church in New York City. Half a lifetime ago, I did my year of internship at Fordham Lutheran in The Bronx and rode the subways everywhere.  I remember Nat & Naomi Baxter and their daughter Edith, Madgie Johnson, Una Richardson, Jeannette Puryear and her son Walter.  At that time the little congregation was about equal parts black, white and Latino.  When we passed the peace of the Lord during worship, everyone got up and gave everyone else a hug.  Some of the older black women gave me a motherly or grandmotherly kiss on the cheek or on the lips.  Looking back, I think they felt a little sorry for this skinny 25 year old white boy from Washington State who looked like he was 19 or 20.  They were welcoming me and accepting me.

            Recently I read “Dear Church”: a good and disturbing book by Lenny Duncan.  Lenny Duncan is an African American pastor at an ELCA congregation in Brooklyn, NY.  The full title of the book is “Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S.”  I commend it for your reading.  The book shows the ways we white folks unknowingly participate in racism.   Did you know the ELCA is the whitest denomination in the U.S.?  I didn’t.  I knew we were largely white, but not the whitest.  When the ELCA first formed in 1989, we had a goal of becoming at least 10% persons of color in 30 years.  But we are still stuck at about 3% in 2020.  It all goes back to the way Lutheran immigrants mostly settled in the northern parts of the U.S.  But for all of our inclusive statements, ecumenism and friendliness, people of color still mostly stay away from ELCA churches.  I don’t have any answers other than to read the works of people of color and listen and befriend and invite whenever possible.  I know that is easier said than done in Eastern Washington.  At least we have a good university which provides some opportunities.

            We do know that our Savior Jesus, by his cross and resurrection, came to break down all artificial barriers of race, class or nation.  Fully living that out as disciples of Jesus in this world is very



 In Christ,  Pastor Dennis


January 2020

posted Dec 26, 2019, 12:52 PM by Unknown user

Happy New Year Dear People of God!

            2020: It feels strange to write the year 2020.  I remember back in the year 2000, how odd it felt to write that date at the dawn of a new millennium.  And now it feels strange, especially when I write this in December, to write the year 2020.

            But one thing we can say for sure is that our God is with us in all times and in all places.  Immanuel, “God with us”, dared to be born as a helpless human baby.  Our God chooses to forgive all human sin through the humiliating weakness of the cross of Jesus.  And our God chooses to give us new and everlasting life through the triumph of Jesus’ resurrection over death.  The Incarnation of Jesus, his enfleshment, is completed in his life, death, resurrection and in his ongoing presence in our lives through the baptismal gift of the Holy Spirit. 

            For the secular world, Christmas ended on Dec 25th, except for the returned gifts of course and after Christmas sales.  But Christians celebrate Jesus’ birthday, the miracle of God becoming human for us, for a full 12 days (just like the song says).  On January 6th the season of Epiphany, which means revelation or manifestation, begins with the visitation of the wise men to Jesus.  But even then we are thinking about offering our gifts to Jesus and worshipping him.

            A little choir anthem we used to sing at First Lutheran in Baker City, Oregon kept running through my head.  It’s based on a poem

written by the tremendous black writer, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader Howard Thurman and is entitled,     “The work of Christmas”

            When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,

            When the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock,

            The work of Christmas begins:  To find the lost, to heal the


            To feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations,

            To bring peace among all, to make music in the heart.


May the life changing good news of Jesus, Immanuel, give you peace, hope, joy and love in 2020.  And may the Holy Spirit work through us all to carry on the work of Christmas.


Pastor Dennis


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