Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Greetings to you as we experience the longer days of daylight and warmer temperatures. As we begin this month of June together, let me reflect on an event in May. On the weekend of May 17-19 I had the privilege to return to West Salem, Illinois to join in the celebration of West Salem Moravian’s 175th anniversary. I believe it is the first time that I am aware of that a congregation invited all of its former pastors to gather on the same weekend. If it has happened before I was not aware of it. The amazing thing is that all of the former pastors who are still alive were able to be there except for one who no longer travels longer distances. It was a very good weekend. On Saturday afternoon there was a meet and greet of all of the former pastors and spouses who were able to be there. It was good to see some of my colleagues that I had not seen in quite a while. Then, on Saturday evening there was a typical Moravian Lovefeast on the town square, which was open to the entire community. There were several former members of the church who had since moved away who came back for the Lovefeast. There also were some community people who were there to support the Moravians.
On Sunday there was an anniversary worship service where 7 pastors and one pastor’s spouse took part in the service. Before the worship service on Sunday morning I attended one of the adult Sunday school classes and there was a time for sharing of our memories in West Salem. This was an opportunity for lay members to thank former pastors or to tease them a bit with funny stories. It was also a time for the pastors to share some of our memories of our time in West Salem. I had served in West Salem from August of 1993 until January of 2000. When we left West Salem my children were in middle school and elementary school. Today all of my children have graduated college and some have post college degrees.
I have many fond memories of West Salem. It was a great place to raise young children but I have since moved on and so have many others. Sometimes that feels good and sometimes that feels painful. I was struck by many of the people that I was close to when I was there that have moved on to eternal life. I was saddened by some tragic deaths that have taken place recently there which took people I would have guessed that I would still be seeing.
I guess what I am trying to say is that things change in 19 years and that is a good thing. But, sometimes change is also difficult or painful. My children who were middle school aged or younger when we left West Salem have grown up to be fine adults and I am proud of them. I would be disappointed if they were still acting like middle-school children. I was pleased to hear how many of the folks I knew as children at West Salem were now doing wonderful things.
I also have come to realize that God gives us what we need when we need it and places us where we need to be when we need to be there. As I reflect on the pastorates of myself and my colleagues who have served at West Salem each of them brought a different gift to that congregation. Each of them helped to write a chapter in the history of West Salem Moravian. And if they all were to be honest I think they would say that there were some struggles but there were also some very good times.
And so life continues to change and evolve sometimes for the better and sometimes to make us stronger. Sometimes even churches have to change to minister in the present age but one thing does not change. Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Serving Christ with you
Pastor Bruce J. Nelson