While leaving worship at Salem Lutheran in Bridgeport CT today, I said to Pastor Marjo Anderson, "you know this worship just makes me smile." I should have added, "big time!"
The worship was such a fine blend of tradition, without feeling musty and stiff, combined with great music that invited people to sing and praise with a genuine heart.
What a joy. Let me tell you about my day.
In five hours, Pastor Marjo Anderson put me to work, beginning with an 8:15 worship service, followed by an Adult Forum, a 10:30 worship, Blessing of the Bikes, BBQ on the lawn and food packing event. I guess she figured, she should get her moneys worth. What a great day. Check out the photos below by Rich Lansing. By the way, every congregation needs a photographer in the 21st century.
This strikes me as a congregation that is transforming its culture toward Joy, Mission and radical Welcome. During our adult forum, which was extremely well attended by a wide range of people, I was asked about my time as a Pastor at St. Andrew. (I realized that hardly anyone asks me this question). My answer focused on "the culture of a church trumps everything." I now notice the culture of a congregation more than I look at its mission statement or worship style or programs. Salem is in the midst of an exciting culture shift, and I really like the direction they are going. They exude JOY - in worship, in conversation, with children. They asked a lot of questions around mission, and not so much from the typical, "how can we get more members?", but “how can we serve.” There is a difference and I can't tell you how important the difference is - it matters a lot. They practice welcome. Example, a gentleman in his 80s dressed in a full suit and tie walked up to the table where the bikers were eating lunch, and told them how pleased he was that they came for the event. Then another man from the congregation sat down and ate at their table. That doesn't happen everywhere.
Salem Lutheran is getting it. They are making the pivot toward being a 21st century congregation. I left the parking lot and headed home with a smile, BIG TIME! Oh, and they flip the traditional paradigm in staffing. They are lead by a female Senior Pastor, a female ELCA rostered leader, and the church secretary is a man.