Welcome to Advent Lutheran Church
What We Do
Holy Communion every Sunday at 10am
Pastor Speaks on 50 years of Ministry
Shortly before I was ordained, on May 26, 1968, one of my favorite Professors gave some advice to the graduating class. He said, “It is not necessary that you be successful, only that you are faithful.” For a long time I didn’t understand those remarks. I though our job was to build bigger and wealthier churches. I though we had been trained to do things even better than the previous generation, and so to cause the church to take on new ventures. I thought the achievement of “success” was a critical reason for all those classes, readings, field work, and lessons.
50 years later I understand exactly what Dr. Heineken meant by that. Even though he was an old man by my 1968 judgment (he was probably the age then that I am today) he could see the future. The age where numerical and financial growth marked “success” for a pastor or a congregation, was over by 1968. The time when a aging Pastor’s life was marked by how he spearheaded a new pipe organ installation or steeple construction at one church, and a new gymnasium venture at another church, and how he brought in 100 new members to yet another church, was, in 1968, in the past. These should never have been criterion for judging ministry, a congregation, or a pastor in the first place.
One of the insights of our founder, Pastor Martin Luther, was that the goal of the church is not to amass wealth and power, not to force people to faith, not to threaten them with eternal damnation - but, to proclaim the Word and administer the Sacraments.
The word of God given to us through Jesus Christ is the Gospel of Grace. Simply put, God loves you - God loves us all - not because of what we do, or say, or even believe, or think, or achieve, but because of his Son’s death on the cross and glorious resurrection on Easter. Thanks to Pastor Ogilvie who preached that Gospel message so boldly and emotionally from the pulpit on Sunday.
On May 26 1968 I was Ordained to a ministry of Word and Sacrament. As the world goes I don’t think I have been very successful - but I have tried always to be faithful to our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to administer Baptism and Holy Communion in regular, public ways, so as to make clear to people the loving presence of God.
At the service and dinner in Honor of my 50th Anniversary many people got up and spoke well of me - so much so that I wish I could meet the person of which they spoke. But the kindest things they, especially our Spiritual Son Pastor Kevin Ogilvie, said were that I tried my best to be faithful.
When I first came to Advent, in March of 1970 (48 years ago) I was told by Synod officials that they had great hopes for Advent under my leadership: growth and eventual financial independence. The area they said would soon be a new Levittown, with houses, malls, development - and even a bridge to Connecticut. They offered to help support us for three years, but knew in that time we would be way up on our own feet. The same time they sent me to Advent, they opened a mission in Wading River, so powerful was their faith, if not in God, at least in success.
Well, Advent has not experience great growth and financial progress. But we are here - the Gospel is, and has been proclaimed and the Sacraments administered for lo these 48 years. We have tried, as a congregation, as a team, to be faithful. What has been done has been done as a team, not by me alone. What we have done has been by God working through the Holy Spirit. We shall let God decide if we have been successful.
In 1974 the Synod, shortly after it abandoned and closed the mission in Wading River, said our time was up and they would no longer support us with $3,000 a year towards our $15,000 budget. That same year the People of Advent offered special pledges of $3,600 to make up for that loss. We’ve never become wealthy, but we have always been faithful and god has always been there.
The age of rapidly growing suburbias, the age of wealthy city churches with tall spires and fancy pipe organs is over. Every church struggles. But we continue to be called by God to be faithful to the Good News or reconciliation with God, of peace, and of hope. As the church did under Luther, and through all ages, we will change and adapt by the power of the Spirit to do what needs to be done for the sake of the Gospel, not human visions called “success”.
I am grateful to God that you, the People of God at Advent, and all my family and friends and ecumenical comrades, who met together last Sunday, have stood together all these years in faithful proclamation of God’s Word.