On Saturday, April 30, 2022, Redeemer hosted the inimitable Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, the former head pastor at the well-known Greenwich Village church, Judson Memorial, and the founder of Bricks and Mortals. Joining Pastor Tobias and several council members were representatives from Redeemer Lutheran in Kingston, St. Andrews Episcopal in New Paltz, and others. Donna’s visit was a capstone of the Lenten book study that focused on Dr. Schaper’s book, Remove the Pews: Spiritual Possibilities for Sacred Spaces and infused energy into Redeemer’s mission-focused ambition to engage the community more fully through the intentional use of God’s house and grounds.
One can gain a glimpse into who Pastor Schaper is by listening to a “Here’s the Thing” podcast interview in which she was interviewed by actor Alec Baldwin.
Attendees were inspired by Donna’s blunt and refreshing approach to the phenomenon of dying church congregations across the country and how they (and we) might strategically tap into the needs of our community to create a symbiotic self-preserving sustainability. Admittedly, Donna identified the topic as a big conversation. Accordingly, Redeemer’s church council is poised to explore the many ideas discussed in the workshop and begin to move the proverbial needle forward in our community outreach. For example, Donna emphasized the importance of recognizing that the sacred and the secular and intertwined and not binary. She suggested that we name this in our by-laws and make intentional space for secular use. Might we rebrand ourselves as, “Redeemer Lutheran Church and Spiritual Life Center,” so as to build the infrastructure for community secular purposes and then establish a “Friends of Redeemer” 501(c)(3) that basically supports secular programming? Increased use of our church building also may demand increased staffing needs, according to Donna. This might take the form of a “spiritual entrepreneur” who might serve in the role of church sexton who would open and close and clean the space for community use in exchange for housing.
The workshop was well-received by all who attended and left us with much food for thought. If you would like to hear more, reach out to a council member or Pastor Tobias. Expect to hear more in the near future as your church council facilitates action through the Holy Spirit in realizing our mission focus and actively engaging the greater community.