Recently I was on the road, traveling to Deforest, Wisconsin (via Milwaukee) then to West Salem, Illinois (via St. Louis). It was a long trip with connecting flights in Atlanta and Detroit. Frankly, the flying part was for the birds, but the visits and work with Christian Faith Moravian Church in Deforest and West Salem Moravian Church are very exciting.
While the churches are very different, wonderful pastors serve them: Kurt Leibenow at Christian Faith and Jason Andersen at West Salem.
Some of the differences include location: Christian Faith is in a growing suburban area while West Salem is in the middle of rural farm country, with oil wells dotting the landscape. Both are old congregations (Christian Faith was founded in 1885 and West Salem in 1844, merging with a German-speaking congregation in 1915), but Christian Faith emerged from the movement west by folks from what is now the Northern Province, while West Salem has it roots in Salem, North Carolina via Hope, Indiana. Lastly, when it comes to baseball, one congregation cheers for the Brewers and the other the Cardinals.
My purpose in visiting both congregations was the same: they want help managing their invested funds and are considering a planned giving program to encourage their members to include the church in their estate plans.
While in some respects these visits are routine, what makes them rewarding are the people I meet and the areas I see. In both cases, the boards are made up of terrific and caring people who clearly enjoy each other and love their church. They are also committed to their service and work. Sure, each church faces its share of issues, but I couldn’t help but feel they want to move forward and do good things.
If we can help both churches better manage their investments through the Moravian Common Fund, what they have can go to support more ministry. And, if through a unique planned giving program more members are inspired to leave a bequest to their church, then the church will be able to strengthen and grow its vital and active ministries.
Lastly, while at West Salem I spent time walking around the graveyard. The old section reminded me of God’s Acre in Winston-Salem; the headstones are square and rest on the ground, and many of the last names were ones I recalled seeing in Winston. What was most interesting was that not only were men and women buried in their own sections, the German and English-speaking members were separated. I suppose this occurred because the congregations were separate when they began. It was fascinating.
I expect more visits in the months ahead as Christian Faith and West Salem move forward. As I said at the start, while flying today is for the birds, the work and people are worth it.