Leaning into our identity
All this has gotten me thinking. (Uh-oh, watch out…)
It’s one thing to have an identity in the community as a result of your physical presence. That’s a great blessing, and we ought to be grateful for it. But what would it look like for us to lean into that identity, and build upon it? To embrace the place that our neighbors already accord to us in the community, and to strive for it to be not only a passive designation (due to our building) but also an active one (due to God’s work through our people and ministry)?
In other words: what if Trinity Lutheran was known not only for being the heart of Arcadia, but also for having a heart for Arcadia?
(It also occurs to me that, in a sense, our mission is embedded right there in our name: “TLC Arcadia.” We’re here to grow in the love of Christ through Word and Sacrament and to share that love with our neighbors.)
The thing is, to a large extent this already is the case. We’re a church that cares for its neighbors in need. A church that is welcoming to the community. Don’t get me wrong; we’re imperfect, forgiven people, subsisting solely by God’s grace in Jesus (that’s why we need the church, after all). My point is simply that TLC Arcadia is a church with a long history and tradition of seeking to be a blessing and benefit to its home.
To give just a recent example, this summer I brought to our church’s attention a family in Arcadia with extraordinary needs. I challenged us to give generously to help, hoping we might raise a few hundred dollars to provide assistance in some tangible ways.
Y’all raised nearly six thousand dollars in a single weekend. I about fainted when I saw the final number.
Coincidentally, the mom from that family shared this message to her Facebook page last week, talking about our church:
"Back in July when we had our kitchen fire, our well go out, and electrical issues, I put down my guard and asked for help. It was amazing to see God work through people that I didn’t know that well to come and help.
"Even more so a local church that we had never attended stepped up and became the hands and feet of Jesus for us. They helped in so many tangible ways that humbled me to my core. What’s more, they have continued to check in on my family to see if there are ongoing needs that we have.
"This is how the church should be. Brothers and sisters reaching out to those they don’t even know and being the hands and feet of Jesus. It has built my faith and also made me sad realizing that most churches are not like this."
That’s heart for Arcadia. TLC has it.
A practical next step
All of this is mostly me thinking out loud, offering some inchoate thoughts, and I welcome your feedback (or pushback). But let me wrap it up with a practical next step.
This week the Church Council met and had a great conversation, talking about avenues for outreach and opportunities for mercy here in our neighborhood. As part of that conversation we had a fruitful brainstorming session, imagining new ways in which we could further show God's heart for Arcadia.
I’ve thrown together a quick survey with some of the ideas that the Council generated, which range from the simple to the ambitious. Don’t worry, this isn’t an actual vote and you're not committing yourself to anything—it's more just taking a temperature. So if you’ve got two minutes, please fill out the survey here. And add your own ideas!
But the point isn't how we show heart for Arcadia, but that we continue to do it. As we pray each week after Holy Communion, we ask God that through that sacred meal He might strengthen us "in faith toward [Him] and fervent love toward one another." In ways great and small, for 138 years, God has been faithfully present in our fair town in the humble ministry of Trinity Lutheran. May we carry forward that great tradition!