Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church

Cole Camp, Missouri
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Guiding theological question: How can we make space to listen for God’s calling in our lives?

Guiding Scripture passage: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. ~Philippians 2: 5-8

Signs of change:

We truly have been hearing people in our congregation use the language of call in their everyday conversations. They aren’t afraid to use the terms and really do bring some fresh insight to the table. Additionally, we have been hearing more and more people talk openly about grief and death. Some members have said that their spouse has finally been willing to do some end of life planning thanks to our conversations. Finally, the Internship has encouraged more intentional intergenerational conversations to happen, primarily about vocation, which has also encouraged new relationships to develop within the congregation.

Year 2 Activities

  • The Gathering: Our 6th annual day-long faith formation event for adults. This year’s speaker and theme will address grief and lament head on.
  • Art Retreat: An artist and co-founder of “A Sanctified Art” will lead us in a weekend-long, cross-generational creative art retreat.
  • Ministry of Graceful Endings: A continuation from Year 1, we want to continue our informational programs and support ministries that deal with grief, death, and how we prepare to die – knowing that God not only calls us in our life, but also in our death.
  • Retreats/Internship: The theme of this year for us is “Emptied: Making Space to Listen.” We want to literally make space for people to get away, retreat, and make space to better hear God. However, in the age of the pandemic, group retreats may not happen. If that is the case we will shift gears to follow up on the Vocational Exploration Internship for youth we did in Year 1 with engaging new youth or following up with last year’s youth.

Year 1 Learnings

  • We all have multiple calls that change across the span of life. We often saw light bulbs turn on as people would say, “I guess that time of my life was part of my calling.”
  • Vocation is not just your career, but is something rooted first and foremost in our identity as children of God.
  • Listening is at the heart of our calls – listening to God, listening to one another, and listening to the community.

Resources Developed by Saint Paul's

  • Youth internship — Five youth from the congregation participated in a month-long Vocational Exploration Internship with Pastor Kim Knowle-Zeller in summer 2020. Resources developed include: a list of questions posed to youth and other members; a video of a youth participant offering a “TED Talk” on calling during Sunday worship; a blog post from another youth participant on what she learned during the internship; a testimony from a parishioner who met with the youth during their internship; 
  • Videos on grief — Pastor Kim created a series of four short videos on grief, specifically how to care for the grieving, what (not) to say, and ways we can continue to show up for our friends. You can find them here, here, here, and here on the church’s Facebook page.  
  • The Gathering — a day of faith formation, inspiration, and sharing on calling. Find out more in the advertisement brochure
  • Lenten preaching on calling — Pastor Stephen Zeller preaches about calling not just being about what we do, but also about who we are during a Lenten service. Pastor Kim preaches about our shared calling to tell people about Jesus. 
  • Living Lutheran column — Pastor Kim shares the reminder that we’re all called in her reflection for Living Lutheran. 
  • Heavenly Desserts — a monthly series around the topics of grief and dying and how we prepare for death. Conversations center on heaven and what it means that God not only calls us to life, but also calls us to death.
  • Social media posts — Saint Paul’s has an active Facebook page that includes regular reflections on calling, including a post at the beginning of the pandemic, a series of “Day in the Life” posts sharing the callings of  different parishioners, and a check-in during a busy day. 

Recommended Prayer & Study Resources

  • Called to Life Bible Study paired with a Lenten midweek worship service that focused on call stories of various biblical characters.
  • 4-week sermon series: Called to Be; Called to Do; Called to Live; Called to Reaffirm
  • Every committee begins with the same prayer, found on the Vibrant Faith website: Gracious God, help us to see how you call each of us to your work in this world. Open our eyes to see how you have created us, uniquely and wonderfully, to be part of your bigger picture. Help us to be open to answering your call. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
  • Hymn: “We are Called”, Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal (ELW) #720
  • Dessert First, J. Dana Trent (book) – We’ve purchased and made available these books to members of the congregation. Our adult Sunday school class is reading through it together, and the author is joining us via skype to share her stories and answer questions. The book has opened conversations around death and grief – and what God’s call is in all of that – and how to live a life worth living.
  • We have also invited community members to come and share their expertise (i.e. former community health nurse, hospice chaplain, lawyer, etc..), which has been a reminder to our group to utilize their gifts and learning.

Congregation Story

Share one story that illustrates your congregation living out your mission.

Picture church members of varying ages and backgrounds sitting together twice a week throughout the summer. They’re each doing their part—cutting paper, pleating paper, and fluffing paper—to make fluffed flowers for the upcoming parade float. As they gather around the table, they talk about their families and work. They share their joys and struggles. They engage in faithful conversation. This work happens each year in preparation for the town fair.

For three days in September, everyone comes together to celebrate life in the country. From livestock presentations to collections and produce judging, the community members share their lives with one another. During the parades each night, the grand fluffed-flower floats tell the story of the churches and people of the town. In addition to creating a float for the parade, Saint Paul’s sets up a fair stand and sells burgers and pie for three days. Members of all ages work shifts in the fair stand. People come from all over the surrounding areas and grab a bite to eat, discussing how their year is not complete without a meal at the Fair.

It may seem like the fair is just a fair, that the fluffing of flowers is no more than putting a float together and that the burgers are just burgers. If you ask anyone around here about their town and their church, they’ll tell you about the Cole Camp Fair and they will tell you about community. They will speak of how beautiful it is to gather with friends made over the years in this community and how meaningful it is to work together building a float, cooking burgers, and serving. Even in the middle of a community fair, God’s message is present through the design of the floats, messages during the parade, and the love and service of the congregation.

Saint Paul’s mission statement is: “Being transformed by God’s grace to love and serve.” We live out this mission each fall at the fair by loving and serving one another in the community, and by being present. We live out our mission by doing the work of lifting up one another and their gifts. We live out our mission by doing the work of God, by the grace of God in our town, not just for the three days of the fair but in all that we say and do.