What Signs of God’s Goodness Have You Seen?

When one of our former Presiding Bishops, Mark Hanson, was a parish pastor one of the first questions he’d ask with the congregation council was, “What signs of God’s goodness have you seen recently?”  I like that question because I think one of the important tasks the church has is to see what God is doing in the world.

I thought I’d share a little bit of where I have seen and hope to see God’s presence.

-A group of people that come to the church every Friday afternoon to assemble the bulletins.  Their work is an important ministry that often goes unrecognized.  But their ministry ensures that everyone who walks through the doors is welcomed to Zion.
-Pastor Dave, Vicar Emily, and I had a chance to spend several days together learning with other Lutheran leaders throughout Texas in New Braunfels.  While we miss being with you all, these times away are very important times for us to learn and grow as leaders in the church.
-I think of the baptism we had at 11:00 this pastor Sunday and the baptisms we will have this Sunday at 9:30 and 11:00.  I love being able to welcome people into Christ’s mission.
-I’m looking forward to hearing about the people that head to St. PJ’s home tomorrow to fix some of their bicycles.  There’s a lot of good happening at St. PJ’s and I’m proud that several groups have come together for this project.
-Three other groups that are meeting tomorrow morning.  Our men’s prayer breakfast, the prayer team, and our quilters all meet tomorrow morning.  Prayer is essential to our life together and I’m glad we’ll have two groups of people praying for our church and God’s world.  The quilters are faithfully making quilts for Lutheran World Relief.
-Meanwhile our drama ministry is hard at work for our Spring show.  I’m glad that we can share some of God’s goodness and beauty through the arts.  I rejoice that people who are a part of Zion and aren’t members of any church are here using their God-given gifts.
-Sunday we’ll hear from President Rick Barger of Trinity Lutheran Seminary.  Zion has been an internship site for 5 different interns from Trinity Seminary and is doing an important ministry for the wider church in helping to train its newest pastors.
-We’ll also be thinking about mission this Sunday in our Sunday school class. Vicar Emily put together a great series of classes to think about what it means to be God’s people in mission.
-Speaking of being God’s people in mission, we’ll be doing a lot of ministry feeding people over the next few days. Sunday you’re asked to bring at least a $1 and a canned good for the Souper Bowl Caring. All the money collected will go to Taking it To the Streets, a ministry that works with the homeless in our community. All the canned goods will go to Christian Assistance Ministry.
-We’ll be feeding people at Fisher House at Lackland AFB this Tuesday. If you’ve not been, you should!
-We’ll also be feeding homeless people in San Antonio this Friday through Taking it to the Streets. If you’ve not been, you should go as well…

Lots of signs of God’s goodness. It makes me thankful to be one of your pastors!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Russell

Well Begun

In the words of the inimitable Mary Poppins, “Well begun is half done.” Our Connect * Give * Grow campaign has, indeed, been well-begun! During the active part of the campaign itself, we met or exceeded all expectations for involvement in activities and pledges. And now, at just six months into a 3-year commitment, contributions are at 38% of the amount pledged. Well begun, Zion!

The Building Team, too, has begun well. Together with our architects, Alamo Architects, and their engineers, the Team researched numerous solutions and chose to upgrade our septic system. Alamo then facilitated the process to chose a contractor who will help us assess the feasibility and costs to construct those buildings we hope to include in the first phase of our campus upgrade. Alamo’s team has considered multiple options to meet the our first phase and the Team chose those solutions which seemed to best fit Zion. Soon, the Team will be meeting with the contractor, GW Mitchell, to determine costs for this phase.

Meanwhile, the Council has formed a Finance Committee that’s tasked with investigating funding sources. The amount already given toward our pledges will help them to arrange favorable financing!

Zion, we’re truly making amazing progress! Just one year ago, we were embarking on this journey and today we’re well on our way to a campus that better meets our mission. So now what? How do we continue what has been begun so well?

First, please keep the teams from Alamo Architects, GW Mitchell General Contractors, the Building Team, and the Connect * Give * Grow Team, our staff and Council members in your prayers. Second, please continue your faithful giving toward your Connect * Give * Grow commitment and to Zion’s general fund. As we look forward to Zion’s exciting future, it’s important that our church is able to meet all all today’s needs as we reach in love to our community. Third, please watch for updates from the Building Team and our Connect * Give * Grow Continuation Committee. Your faithful support and active involvement are key to Zion’s success!

-Chris Jones

Website, Part 2 (By the Numbers)

Hi again, everyone…

I thought I’d include a little bit more about our website and how it’s being used. Like many websites, we have programs that help us track how people are using it.  Having this information greatly helps us as we maintain this website.  So – without delay, here is a little bit about our website by the numbers…

-In December 2014 we had 3,770 people that viewed zionsa.org. In January we’ve had almost 2,200 people visit our site.
-The most commonly clicked page from our homepage is the “Location and Service Times” button.
-The second most common clicked page from our homepages is the “Newsletter” button.
-In the last 30 days, 58 people have clicked the “In Need of Help?” link.
-595 people wanted to find out more information about Advent and Christmas at Zion.
-Yesterday (1/22/2015), 16 people found us through search engines, 9 found us through Facebook, and 2 found us through the yellowpages.com.
-In the last 30 days, 215 people have clicked on our online calendar, 44 people have gone from our website to our YouTube channel, and 6 people clicked from our website to our online donation vendor.

So there’s a little bit about the numbers at Zion… Have a great weekend and see you in worship on Sunday!!

Websites

I grew up in South Carolina, where a lot of old houses had beautiful front porches.  Those front porches were visiting places where people could visit and get to know others.  It is a place of hospitality.  I look at our website as a kind of front porch.

Back this fall we introduced this new website.  But like any project, it doesn’t happen overnight.  There are a lot of steps that went into this.

Our work started with a local company called Visage Collaborative.  They are a gifted group of people here in San Antonio that have worked very diligently with us in thinking through the many details that go into a putting together a website.

Who? –
In one of our first conversations, they wanted to know who our audience was for this website.  Since we think a website is a place for hospitality, we went into the process thinking about this question – if I knew nothing about Zion, what sorts of things would I want to know? Some church websites are aimed at “insiders,” people already at the church. But we see this as a way to tell what God is doing through Zion to those that don’t know who we are.

We want people who come to zionsa.org to know that this is God’s church and that they are welcome here.

At the same time, we realize that those already connected with Zion will use this website. We figure that will happen when people look for things like the church calendar, newsletters online, or want to make an online contribution. We started this blog as a way to get information out to the congregation. We will also continue to use our Facebook page, Constant Contact, and other ways we already communicate.

Visual –
We also realized that we live in a very visual culture. It was very important that we have good pictures that helped to tell our story. In our old website, we had a lot of good text that helped to tell the story, but with this one we’ve been trying to use more pictures to help tell the story.

So we looked at all the recent pictures people gave us and we had at the church. We wanted to make sure it was a good representation of the congregation – young, middle-aged, old, male, female, etc… Our goal was to have a good variety of people represented.

Easy to Navigate –
Many websites have homepages that are easy to navigate. Two of the world’s most popular websites, Google and Apple, are examples of this. Being massive corporations, they have many layers to their websites, but if you look at their homepages, they are very simple. Other websites try to have lots of content on their homepages. We chose to be simpler on our homepage.

We also thought about three ways we could help users navigate the website. The labels we used were “Who We Are,” “What We Do,” and “Get Involved.” Each category is related to each other but have some differences. In addition, we added a section on our website called “In Need of Help?” that tells people about our excellent Stephen Ministers, offers prayer, and gives a listing of local agencies we partner with.

Technical stuff –
There’s a lot of technical stuff that goes into websites. Lots. It’s not as simple as sitting down to your computer and typing up a document on a word processor. We spent hours working on some important technical details around our Internet and email providers. For instance, we had a problem over the last year with our email addresses with some Internet companies. We worked hard in resolving that and have fixed it.

So – that’s a brief glimpse into what we did to get to where we are!

Day by Day

Here’s the prayer of the day for Sunday.  See if you recognize any of the words…

“Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,
for the countless blessings and benefits you give.
May we know you more clearly, love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly, day by day praising you,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen”

Perhaps you thought of our fall theatre production, Godspell, which had this song in it.  It’s at this point that you might wonder if the worship planners have fallen off the deep end?

While the prayer is a song from the famous drama Godspell, the original source of the song comes from the medieval church.  Richard of Chichester, a thirteenth-century bishop of Chichester, England, and a reformer of the church wrote this famous prayer.  This Sunday’s Bible readings focus on our answer to God’s call.  We hear about that with the story of Samuel and Eli, as St. Paul talks about glorifying God with our bodies, and finally as the disciples hear an invitation to “come and see.”  So as we gather this weekend to hear God’s Word and share in the Lord’s Supper, think about the ways in which you can know, love, and follow God.

Thanks!

First of all, welcome to our blog!  We plan on updating you on things that are going on at Zion by using this blog on an occasional basis.

Now onto the main reason for writing this blog – Thanks!

The Advent and Christmas seasons are two of the busiest seasons of the church year. While many people talk about how busy pastors and church staff are during this time of the year, we know that we couldn’t do what we do without you. We give God thanks for the many ways you gave of your time and energy to make Advent and Christmas at Zion so meaningful. Specifically, we want to lift up:

-The altar guild. They are unsung heroes that work diligently on a weekly basis to help set the Lord’s Table.
-Our ushers, who stood at the ready to welcome friend and stranger through the church’s doors.
-Communion assistants, acolytes, torch bearers, book bearers, and other worship assistants that provided leadership in worship.
-Those who helped to decorate our sanctuary for Advent and Christmas.
-The many musical ensembles of Zion helped us see God’s glory through the gift of music.
-The people that came out the Saturday after Christmas Day to cook and serve the homeless in our community with Taking it to the Streets were a sign of God’s love to the least of God’s family.
-The people who provided gifts for children at our partner congregation in El Cenizo, TX and St. P-J’s home here in San Antonio provided Christmas cheer.
-Our Stephen Ministers who were present for the Hope and Healing Service offered a tangible sign of God’s promise.
-The many ways you showed God’s love to us through your presence.
-Your generous gifts to the pastors and staff at Christmas.

We are a blessed Church and give God thanks for what is to come in 2015!

Yours in Christ,

Pastors Schulte and Peek

Welcome to Zion Lutheran Church’s Blog Site

Here you will find ongoing discussions and sharing of information. We welcome your comments and ideas. Think of this as two-way communication between ourselves and you. Thank you for sharing,

Pastor Dave Schulte and Pastor Russell Peek