I’m Pastor Chris Mietlowski (he, him, his), spouse to Linda, father to 4, grandfather to 3, and walker to 2 dogs.
“Jesus Christ is the light of the world; the light no darkness can overcome.” Jesus’ promise to this fractured world is “to make all things new.” This holy hope has been the driving force of my faith and vocation.
I was called 11-1/2 years ago to a congregation in NYC. They once had a legacy of effective ministry but struggled for years with a steady decline in worship attendance and finances. I was able to help cast a vision with a renewed focus on Word and Sacrament, together with prayerful intention, and courageous risk-taking, which caused this congregation to experience a radical transformation in mission and purpose; for God indeed does make all things new.
Energizing the community with hope-filled enthusiasm we shifted from top-down leadership into shared, collegial leadership. Many talented lay members were invited and empowered to take on greater roles and responsibility in proclamation and service. Three deacons were set apart. Millennials and Generation Z are attracted to this congregation and have a strong, vital presence including our Council president who is 26 years old. This has become a diverse, vibrant, joyful, and passionate faith community.
The demographics of the neighborhood shifted so dramatically that a long-term ministry serving seniors was closed with dignity and grace so we could launch a new preschool that has become a more credible outreach into our changing neighborhood; with full enrollment, generous scholarships, revenue generated for the congregation, and most important of all, meeting the critical needs of our neighbors.
Such dramatic change naturally caused upset, fear, grief, loss, and anxiety for many. Effective pastoral care was essential. Walking with, listening to, and encouraging the faith community helped to keep us moving forward as we ventured into new ministry directions, along with remembering that Jesus our Lord, promises to “be with us always…” and “makes all things new.”
I’ve treasured opportunities to teach “Growing in Faith” (diakonia) for many years in various locations with adults who are eager to learn and grow. Many times, as students dig deeper into scripture and traditions, their long-held beliefs are challenged. Those vulnerable moments of incredible transformation require thoughtful, gentle pastoral care. It’s exciting to see these disciples light up, to see the Holy Spirit stir and strengthen them for service and proclamation in new ways they did not anticipate.
For over 10 years, I served as assistant director of Pinecrest Lutheran Leadership School, a powerful, lively youth ministry in our Synod. The most tender experiences were the one-on-one conversations I had with students who sought me out to share their immense burdens and heartaches about all kinds of difficulties at home, at school, with friends, and within themselves. I shared the promises of Jesus with them, for them, and through the gift of koinonia (sacred community) like Pinecrest. We prayed together and I saw healing and hope blossom in them.
The Lutheran Church was birthed out of a university system and education still is important and vital. Out of deep love for Lutheran education, I served on the board of the Evangelical Lutheran Education Association. This national organization provides resources and leadership support for Lutheran schools across the country. This ministry, like so many, is facing significant changes and challenges in these difficult days. My role as chaplain of the board was to offer devotions, prayers, and encouragement to fortify and strengthen the board and staff for the path forward with hope.