What is God Calling Us To Do – in THIS Neighborhood, at THIS moment in time….

Sunday, Oct 2 – Who Are We? and Who is our Neighbor Reports – after worship

In July, we asked you to faithfully give us your answers to a Vitality Survey. We have received the results and are in the process of putting together a report to the congregation after worship on Sunday, October 2, including information from Sharing our Stories and demographic data, defining “Who we were?” and “Who we are?”. Our report will go into some of the values, strengths, and commonalities we saw in both the Trinity and Good Shepherd congregations, as a combined congregation, and what we do well and what we are hungering for now.

During July and August, we also spent a lot of time talking with our neighbors – teachers and the principal at Townsend, local business owners, neighbors on our block, EPiC partners, and other Sherman Park community partners. In September we will spend time compiling those to answer “Who is our neighbor?” – what the strengths of this neighborhood are, where change and growth are needed and hungered for, and some challenges for us as to how can we walk with our neighbors. A report on this second section of our task will follow closely or be included in the “Who are we” report.

Oct 9 (Part 1)  and Oct 16 (Part 2)- “Being Church Today” – after worship

Which brings us to our last task – “What is God calling us to do – in this neighborhood at this moment in time?” You have been reading the Book of Acts – the birth of the early Christian church, and we have heard some great thoughts, revelations, and ideas from you. In October, during worship, in conversation opportunities, and take home learning, the Transition Team wants to unpack with you what being Church in the 21st century involves. We invite you to stay after worship for two presentations on “Being Church Today” on Sunday October 9 and October 16.

October 21 and 22 – What is God calling us to do Retreat

At the end of our learning and reporting presentations, we invite you to gather with us for a two day retreat where we will brainstorm together “What is God calling us to do – – in this neighborhood at this moment in time?” Our retreat (within our GST building) is planned for Friday, October 21 from 7-9 pm and Saturday October 22 from 9:00am -3:30pm.

Walking the walk with you, and planting seeds along the way,

GST Transition Team,

Joy Harshberger, Mary Hix, Henry Kranendonk, Vi Hawkins, Kathy Myles, Bev Stribling, Lisa Quinn, and Pastor Wendy Wirth-Brock


A Few Words from Pastor Wendy

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I debated this month whether to give you a column that inspires you for the beginning of the church program year’s activities (including those of the Transition Team – see that newsletter column), or one that comforts you in the face of the tragic violence and ongoing tension in the congregation’s neighborhood of Sherman Park. The church’s work continues, no matter what happens. But the trauma of the violence in our neighborhood is very real. I know that for me, personally, I felt shock and grief not just once, but in waves, especially in the first week after the violence occurred.

So I am mindful of your need to process what happened. I encourage you to talk with me and your fellow Christians, for conversation can be a means into healing and faithful responses. I am grateful for those who met after worship the Sunday when tensions were still high, to begin reflecting on possible responses this congregation might make. I am grateful for the Council’s reflection on that group’s work. And I am grateful for those who could attend the Greater Milwaukee Synod’s initial meeting for people to talk together about this neighborhood trauma. We need to keep on talking and praying together, within the Church, and with others outside the congregation, so that greater trust and understanding can emerge from our dialogue.

To date, our responses have focused on efforts to learn what our congregations and community agencies are doing, so that we can see where GST might participate and contribute. While we are a small congregation, we can nevertheless contribute to community dialogue and actions. As the Council learns and shares what might be possible, please prayerfully consider participating.

Please also consider participating, if you aren’t already, in either our existing partnership to support Townsend School’s staff, children, and families, or in God’s Garden. At Townsend, you can tutor; you can contribute materials and time for the school events that GST helps organize and underwrite. In God’s Garden, you can harvest food while you cultivate relationships with Townsend schoolchildren and GST’s neighbors who also volunteer or who just stop by to see what’s happening.

Please also do not underestimate the power and direction that God can give when we worship together. Keep on gathering with the congregation on Sunday. If you’ve taken a “break” from worship, consider coming back.   Please also commit to continuing your participation in Transition Team events, of which there will be many this September and October. The Transition Team will be presenting their findings about our first two missional questions and offering educational forums on what it means to be Church in the 21st Century. They also will be offering a missional retreat to which all people are invited.

Finally, remember that GST’s other ministries continue, so that we can continue being Church. I thank you in advance for your continued service. I also invite those less-involved to ask questions and find a way to be involved. Contact your Council.

Contact me. But don’t sit on the sidelines. We are better together. When Jesus promises to be with us always, after all, he’s addressing “y’all”– the community of Christ. Isn’t that good news comforting – and inspiring?

See you at church!


Vitality Survey

Who Were We LogoSunday, July 17 during worship

Sunday, July 24 after worship


What is the Survey?  The Congregational Vitality Survey is a way to tell how vital our congregation is in three areas: our congregation’s connections to God,  connections to each other, and connections to the world. The survey invites individuals to answer questions about the congregation or themselves.  Each area is then computer-scored on a scale from 1­ to 5.

How long does it take?  It usually takes 10 to ­15 minutes to complete the survey.

How will the survey information be shared?  Once we finish the survey, the completed forms will be sent to the Social Research Lab at the University of Northern Colorado.  Their Social Research Lab will complete a data analysis for us that will be shared in the form of a report.  In other words, your input is anonymous.

The Transition Team will use this data in their report to the congregation – giving us valuable information to answer the question “What is next for GST?”

What will we do with the survey information? After receiving the report other congregations have used the information in a number of ways, including:  

  • Identifying areas of strength and struggle
  • Choosing an area of ministry to focus upon
  • Understanding the interaction between spiritual growth and congregational conflict so that both can be improved
  • Initiating a time of intentional discernment about next steps
  • Finding commonalities and differences among congregations working to partner in new ways

Where did the Vitality Survey come from? 
This survey was created out of the ELCA’s Living into the Future Together (LIFT) initiative. It’s part of an ongoing research project being conducted by the ELCA’s Congregational and Synodical Mission unit, in collaboration with the Research and Evaluation department. The research seeks to understand the critical factors affecting congregational vitality.


We look forward to taking this survey with you and  seeing the results.

Transition Team – Joy, Mary, Vi, Henry, Kathy, Lisa, and Beverly

Sermons through Transition

Pastor Wendy’s weekly sermons touch on what we are being called to do as a church. You can find all of the 2016 sermons on the Sermon Link. Here are some excerpts from this summer’s sermons:


Jesus Community of Compassion: July 10, 2016   excerpt:

“… For if you look closely at that story of the Samaritan, it’s more than a little scary. For one thing, Jesus makes clear that Christian faith isn’t just about rattling off the catechism and creeds on Sunday and then forgetting them. Yes, knowing the Bible’s stories, the 10 commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Creeds are basic. Christian faith has a content. Yet, that content doesn’t mean much if it’s not put into practice 24/7, 365. The scribe who questions Jesus is highly-educated. But he’s not very good at practicing his faith.

So we have to ask what the practice of compassion asks of us in the times in which we live. What does Samaritan-like compassion require, when three more black men are dead at the hands of police, one of them in Wauwatosa? What does compassion require, when five white police men are gunned down by a black military veteran using military sniper techniques? Does compassion require that we light another candle and hold another vigil and then pass on by?

Well, after years of black men being murdered and multiple mass murders and now police being gunned down, I’m candled out and vigiled out, and TV commentaried out. I’m tired of expressing tearful outrage and lowering flags to half-mast and then seeing everything go back to bloody business as usual. At some point, candles and vigils and outrage without any other action become just another form of walking on by. I would bet that the priest and the Levite commended that mugged man’s soul to God as they hustled out of there. What does the practice of Christian compassion demand these days? It demands that we not look away – from the dead, or from each other. It demands that we begin having serious, difficult conversations together about race, class, and religion – and by religion, I don’t mean the Christianity vs. Islam controversy.

I mean the worship of the God of Jesus versus the worship of guns – because some in our beautiful country don’t just use guns, they worship them. It might be argued that everyone in our violence-saturated culture genuflects to the holy trinity of Smith, Wesson, and the NRA. We need to have serious engagement to have transformative action. No, I don’t know the answers that would come from such conversations. As a white, middle-class woman, I don’t even know the questions. Like the scribe whom Jesus teaches, I need others to speak the truth in love to me. I need to listen more than talk. I need to learn, and in learning, I need to repent. Compassion requires me to change, and you to change.

But we must have these conversations –…”


Take and Eat Evenagelism – July 3, 2016 – excerpt:

“…But Luke makes wonderfully clear that Jesus’ instructions to his disciples are very different. The good news for us today is that Jesus sends us out to practice what I call “take and eat” evangelism. “Take and eat” evangelism begins, not with a fumigation of the bugs in others, but with a greeting of peace.

The harmony of a world without conflict, and lives without trouble was rare in the ancient world. So to wish people peace was to offer them a blessing. Since people then believed that the gods bestowed peace, offering peace conveyed that you wanted them to have God’s blessing. In greeting people with the word of peace, Jesus’ disciples would approach people with an attitude of human and divine acceptance and blessing.

If we follow Jesus’ counsel, then we also approach others with acceptance for they who are, and an attitude that wishes them well. We approach others – whether they’re co-workers or fellow shoppers or our neighbors – as we would want to be treated. We’ve all met people who make us feel like it’s OK to be who we are. Jesus says that our manner should announce to people, “I think you’re someone God loves – and I’d like to know you better.”

In other words, we first approach people as potential friends. And, we approach them on their turf…

… So Jesus tells his evangelists to do what our teen-aged youth do so well – hang out and eat together – and so begin to get to know one another. So we evangelists talk about our families and jobs. We talk about our joys and hopes. We don’t talk at – we talk with. We spend time together, in order to discover and appreciate the other.

And when you hang out with others, Jesus says, your relationship may lead to healing…”

Sharing Our Stories

Wednesday, June 15th, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 25th, 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

“I love to tell the story; ‘twill be my theme in glory /

To tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.”

Who Were We LogoThat beloved old hymn tells us that every congregation shares the God-given mission of telling the story of Jesus and his love. But each congregation carries out that mission through its unique gifts, values and history.

So as GST rethinks telling the story of Jesus and his love in the future, we want to take time to understand how GST has told the Gospel story in its past. We want to appreciate who we’ve been, in order to decide what from our past we want to carry forward. We also want to understand what we’ve been, in order to decide what we want to release, so that GST can tell the story of Jesus for a new day.

The Transition Team invites the entire congregation to participate in Sharing Our Stories – a two-hour event where we’ll reflect on the congregation’s history, gifts and values through the sharing of stories.

  • When is it? There are two sessions: one on June 15th, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.; and another on June 25th, from 9:00 – a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Choose one to attend.
  • How do I participate? Show up at GST! Plan to have fun!
  • Do I need to RSVP? The Team would appreciate knowing how many will attend.

Thanks for being part of GST’s telling the story!


ACTS Bible Study June – August 2016

The ACTS Bible Study is a summer-long conversation aboutWhat God GST to do Logo the Book of Acts that will reacquaint us with how the Spirit inspired the early Church to be Jesus’ people. Our summer study will help guide our fall discern-ment of what God wants GST to do.

Here’s how it works:

  • Choose 2 or 3 people to meet with weekly, wherever you wish, whenever you wish. Meet on a Monday morning or a Thursday evening. Meet at home or at the beach. Your group chooses the time and place that’s convenient for you.
  • Sign up your group on the sign-up chart in the narthex (gathering space). Pick up a bookmark that lists the chapters and discussion questions for each week.
  • Beginning the week of June 5th, read and discuss the assigned chapters for that week – usually two chapters per week. After you’ve discussed the reading, pray together for God’s Spirit to work in your lives and in GST.
  • Mark your progress on the chart in the narthex. If you miss a week, make up the chap-ters the next week. Grace abounds!

At the end of the summer, we’ll have a celebration at church to complete our Acts reading.

Download your bookmark with reading list and questions here: ACTS bookmark

Ordinary Time – Pastor Wendy

Time. The Churchs name for the season after Pentecost isnt exactly exciting. Ordinary Time sounds just like….ordinary time. Everyday life. Getting up, eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, going to work, taking care of family, spending time with friends, praying, studying Scripture, serving, going to bed. Nothing too exciting, right?

But I think the name of this season is extraordinary – because it points out that faith is lived in the daily rounds of life. Faith isnt something beyond life. Instead, faith in Christ, led by the Spirit, enables us to live daily life with hope, joy, and purpose. Just as Jesus incarnated the life of God in his flesh-and-blood daily living, so we also incarnate the life of Christ in our everyday, ordinary life. Every moment is holy; every moment has the possibility to bear Christ into the world.

I know, youre thinking – bearing Christ when Im brushing my teeth? But why not? Buddhists stress living life mindfully – that is, living each moment with an awareness of its uniqueness and its participation in the eternal life beyond us. So, yes, you can be mindful of Christ, even when youre brushing your teeth! For when we cultivate that attitude of living every moment within Christs care and orbit, it becomes our way of life.

The readings for Sunday worship from now until Advent will emphasize this daily living in the Spirit of Christ as Jesus lived every day in the Spirit. Ordinary Time is therefore sometimes called the time of the Church – a time in worship when we learn, as Church, what it means for us to follow Jesus as his disciples. We learn about who Jesus is and how we lived. But in learning about him, we also learn about ourselves – our identity as disciples, and our practice of discipleship. We learn how our life stories are shaped by his story,

through the powerful leading of the Spirit.

So celebrate Ordinary Time. Celebrate living every moment as an opportunity to be the presence of Jesus in the world. Please also take some time to read the Transition Team column in this month’s newsletter. Along with the Acts Bible Study, the Team will be inviting you to explore your stories within the story of Jesus through an event in June called Sharing Our Stories. While the event will help us learn who we are as the church here, in order to discern Gods direction for service, it also will remind us that following Jesus is a practice that happens in ordinary, everyday time. So please make time to attend one of the two opportunities to participate in Sharing Our Stories.

See you in worship – and at the Transition Team June event! See you in Ordinary Time!


May Notes from Pastor Wendy

What comes after the joy of Easter? Power and mission. For the seven weeks we have been joyfully celebrating the good news that Jesus is risen. We have been reflecting on some of the many ways that the good news of Easter affects our lives by assuring us that every end in God’s hands can be a transformative new beginning.

And now, the Easter season will end with the Day of Pentecost – a day that crowns the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with the pouring out of the Spirit of resurrection life on God’s people. The Spirit first given on Pentecost fills Jesus’ followers with the power that creates faith in God’s gracious love for us; that provides direction and guidance for our lives; and that provides the energy, creativity, perseverance and courage necessary to do what God’s Spirit asks.

The intensity and force of that Spirit is described as violent wind and tongues of fire. This is no gentle spring breeze that ruffles our hair but leaves us unmoved! It is a titanic force capable of moving everything – including us – to be God’s people in the world. Why is emphasizing the Spirit’s forcefulness important? Because we so often suffer from inertia and paralysis. We’re afraid, so we don’t do what God asks. Or we’re just so comfortable that we’d rather stay put. So God’s Spirit is a mighty Spirit that disturbs us, rattles us, sweeps us away, sets us on fire. We need such a mighty Spirit to set us in motion, and to keep us moving, once we’re in motion.

It’s not unusual in congregations to forget that God intends us to be going someplace and to be up and doing in Jesus’ name. While Christian faith requires times of stillness and silence in order to hear God’s voice, we listen for God’s voice so that we can get up and live as God directs. And God directs us to believe that we can do more than we think we can. We can take on big, hairy tasks in Jesus’ name, because of the Holy Spirit. Those tasks may begin small, like the mustard seed of Jesus’ parable. Nonetheless, those mustard-seed beginnings can become amazing irruptions of the Spirit that love and bless others in transformative ways.

The Transition Team has been getting acquainted and being trained in their work. In not too much time, they will be planning events and asking the congregation to participate. Working from the power of the Spirit, they will ask the congregation to get up and move in Spirit-led ways. The temptation will be to stay comfortable or to be afraid. So we are called to remember that the Spirit can and will get us moving – for the Spirit has important work for this congregation to do. Where that Spirit will lead is still unknown. But the call to move under the Spirit’s direction and power is clear. Now is the time to be filled with the Spirit, and then to move and serve as the Spirit gives GST ability to serve.

Thank in you advance for your willingness to follow the Transition Team’s leadership and participate in the events they will plan. Your willingness to respond will demonstrate your Easter faith. Jesus is risen! May his resurrecting Spirit of love move GST in powerful ways!

Easter Greetings

Reflection verses for the month:
“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said.” –Matthew 28:5- 6

“He is risen!! He is risen indeed!! Alleluia!”

Easter is my FAVORITE time in the church year. It’s better than Christmas. Yes, you read that right. I enjoy Christmas. But I love Easter–because it’s the fulfillment of the promise of Christmas, the fulfillment of allhuman hope, and God’s hopes for us. The news that Jesus is risen tells us that death and sin have been defeated. Both may still plague us, but the decisive battle against them has been won in Jesus’resurrection from the grave. Therefore, God’s love has won. God’s will for life, has won. God’s will for the eternal union of God with the world, has won. Because of Easter, the very structure of reality has been changed.Everything is different. Amazing, astounding news.

The challenge, of course, is to believe that impossible good news. We celebrate Easter for seven weeks in the church because great news deserves such a prolonged celebration. But we also celebrate for seven weeks, because we need to have that news unpacked for us, and reinforced within us. Like the first disciples huddled behind locked doors after the women have announced Jesus’ resurrection, we have to live into this good news. The old habits of fear and self-defense die hard. Doubts and second-guessing are easier than believing the women’s “idle tale”. But if it is true…well, how we do live differently? What changes in the way we treat people, in the way we spend our money and time? How does the bodily resurrection change the way we care for our bodies? We spend seven weeks pondering the infinite new world that resurrection opens. So after the Alleluias of Easter morning have faded, please plan to attend worship each of the next six Sundays. We’ll still be singing glorious Easter music, after all, and shouting Alleluia. And we’ll be reflecting together on some of the ways that Easter affects our lives. We’ll ponder how Easter emboldens the church to be church. We’ll reflect on how Easter encourages disciples to heal and serve. We’ll reflect on how Easter even opens the mouths of shy Lutherans and Presbyterians to shout the good news–because the good news is too good not to be shared.

Jesus is risen!! He is risen indeed!! Alleluia! Plan on being part of the celebration during the seven weeks of Easter!