By Sarah Gioe
It can feel a little isolated on Staten Island sometimes, a little disconnected from the energy of the other four boroughs. Even the Lutheran parishes there can seem distant, spread out between the North Shore and South Shore.
The Staten Island clergy, who meet weekly for pericope study and support, started talking about how to help the eight congregations come together. Back in 2013, they invited Bishop Rimbo and Pastor Jack Horner, former Director for Evangelical Mission, to help their leaders figure out ways to work together. A conference-wide worship service was one suggestion, and now it’s become an annual event.
As congregants approached the outdoor worship space this year, they were given a small stone to pray their sins onto and then cast into a small pool, remembering their baptism. On each picnic table sat markers, stickers, paper, and ribbons. People were encouraged to trace their hands for the five-finger prayer and write ways in which they followed Jesus on the ribbons, which were tied to a nearby fence. Kids were involved in a painting project. "We really wanted to have the service be as interactive as possible," said Pastor Jennifer Richards, who serves Trinity and Our Saviour. "We brainstormed ways in which we could be very purposeful about making the service engaging, to make sure people are involved."
Nearly 300 people gathered under the expansive pavilion at the Nansen Lodge on June 29 for the second annual picnic worship. Pastor Lamont Wells, our synod’s current Director for Evangelical Mission, preached on the theme ‘Follow Me.’ "No matter how hard ministry may be, there is reward in serving Jesus." The Staten Island clergy shared leadership in the rest of the service and chose music that was enjoyable for the large group to sing.
Knowing that so many brothers and sisters would be gathered, the leaders invited other ministry partners to be part of the day. A diakonia team gave out brochures and encouraged participation. The CEOs of Lutheran Social Services of New York and Eger Health Care were present to talk to people about their work. The local chapter of Thrivent Financial generously covered the cost of lunch for the whole conference. After worship, people lined up for hamburgers and hotdogs while kids happily played in the bouncy castle.
"We heard a number of people, including our own children, say it was great to see such a great crowd," said Sheryl Myrick-Pettersen from St. Paul’s-St. Luke’s. "I found the experience to be energizing."