Peace Be With You

by Rev. Dennis H. Kelly, Interim Pastor

After serving as your Intentional Interim Minister for the past twelve months, the time for me to say “goodbye” has come. My last day in the office will be February 12. My final worship services will be Saturday, February 10, and Sunday, February 11.

When an Intentional Interim Minister begins his, or her, work with a congregation in transition, it is always a journey into the unknown. We quickly try to learn about the congregation’s ministry in the past. We familiarize ourselves with the congregation’s ministry in the present time. And we try to guide a process that will lead members to discern a new vision and strategy for the congregation’s future.

What I have discovered is that Trinity has a long and rich history. Members of the congregation have often shared memories of strong pastoral and lay leadership, excellent music programs, an on-going commitment to serve the community, and a strong partnership with the greater church.

I have also discovered that the present ministry is not what it once was.
A decades-long decline in overall membership, stewardship, and volunteers
has created an atmosphere of anxiety and a sense of uncertainty.

Finally, I have discovered that even in the midst of anxiety and uncertainty, there is still a sense of hope. There is a willingness among Trinity’s leadership and membership to create a viable path into the future.

It has been an honor serving as your Intentional Interim Minister. There certainly has been some challenges along the way. However, the good people I have met, the dedicated leaders I have worked with, as well as, the positive experiences I have had, far outweigh any challenges there may have been. Consistent with the need for clear boundaries following a pastoral transition, I will be following the MCS-ELCA policy The Ethics of Pastoral Transition. After February 12, I will not be available to lead worship, teach Bible Study, make pastoral visits, officiate at baptisms, weddings or funerals, or any other pastoral acts. I have always appreciated when pastors before me have clearly stated these professional boundaries prior to their leaving, and then honored those boundaries after they have left. It is my obligation and privilege to offer the same.

May the Holy Spirit be with you and guide in the days, months and years that are yet to come. Know that you will be in my thoughts and prayers.



I once had the opportunity to go rafting with my family on the New River near
Beckley, West Virginia. For those of you who are unfamiliar with whitewater rafting,
the difficulty of the rapids you face can range from 1 (easy) to 6 (extraordinarily
difficult). This particular trip ranged from 1 to 4 (difficult). When we first arrived at the check-in site, our guides asked us what kind of ride we wanted: “mild or wild?” Mary and Katie said “Mild.” I said “Wild!” I’m not sure why they gave these options, because the truth is that we would all have the same experiences on this trip.

As we started out in gently flowing waters, our guide gave us a tutorial on how we
needed to work together in order to safely navigate the rapids that would soon come.
We were also instructed in what to do if we ever fall out of the raft. Having completed the tutorial, we began to float down the river. Our guide warned us that we needed to be especially aware of Surprise Rock! When we asked our guide to explain what she meant, she said, “It will be a surprise!”

Indeed, it was. Surprise rock is a huge boulder in the middle of the river which is
difficult to see as you approach. The water rushes over and around the rock, creating a huge hole in the water on the other side. We watched two other rafts preceded us. The first group ended up in the river. The second group navigated it successfully. And then it was our turn. We approached the rock, following our guides instructions, paddling hard to hit the intended point head on. Unfortunately, we hit the rapid slightly off center, which caused the raft to fly up and flip over to the right. What followed afterwards seemed like slow-motion chaos. Everything and everyone one in the raft flew out of the raft and into the river. It took us a while to gather back together; and when we finally settled back in, our guide said to us, “That is why it is called Surprise Rock!”

To me, this experience is a metaphor for how we navigate the rapids of life and
ministry as the church that gathers in the name of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we find
ourselves floating along in calm waters. Other times we work furiously to navigate the rapids cause by the surprise rocks of life. We are guided in the Holy Spirit and we have been given instructions through God’s word. However, the key lesson we need to remember is that we are in this together! We can’t survive the Surprise Rocks
of life it we don’t work together. And even if we find ourselves thrown into the chaos, we need to work together in order to pull each other out of the chaos, and back to a place of safety. Then having regrouped, we face the next challenge, together.

The past year has been a challenging year in many ways. Yet, I am delighted in discovering how resilient you are and how willing you are to face the challenges and
work together to overcome them. I am extremely grateful for staff and congregational members who have been willing to embrace a vision for the future and who are working together to make that vision a reality.

A Christmas Memory

by Dennis Kelly, Interim Pastor
Approximately 175 miles west-southwest of Chicago there is a small town called Andover, IL. Its total population is less than 600 people. There is nothing much to distinguish Andover from any other small town in the farmlands of Illinois with one exception. There is a small chapel located there that is rich in Swedish history and tradition. It is known as the Jenny Lind chapel.
The chapel was built in 1851 for a congregation that was founded the previous year by Pastor Lars Paul Ebsjorn. It served as a worship center for the Swedish community that still desired to maintain connections with the Church of Sweden. The chapel was named after a famous Swedish opera singer who donated $1,500 to aid in its construction, even though she had never visited Andover and never saw the chapel.
I became aware of this chapel while attending Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, some 32 miles north of Andover. Augustana College and Seminary were also founded by Pastor Lars Ebsjorn. Like the Jenny Linn Chapel, the history of Augustana College is part of the greater story of the Swedish Lutheran Community in the 1800’s.
Every year in early December, busloads of students, faculty, and staff members from Augustana College take a pilgrimage to Andover for a service of Christmas lessons and carols. Upon arrival, we would gather in the fellowship hall of the “new” church building located across the street. That building was completed in 1870! We would then take a candlelit procession along a path to the chapel. Standing shoulder to shoulder inside the unheated chapel, we would listen to and share our favorited stories and songs of Advent and Christmas. It was a mystical experience for me because I could feel the presence of all of the saints who had preciously gathered in that place to sing some of the same songs and share the same old stories. After the service was over we return to the fellowship hall of the new church to warm up with a warm non – alcoholic beverage before returning to campus.
My experiences of celebrating Christmas at the Jenny Lind chapel are some of my most precious memories. Its simplicity is what I appreciated the most. It was a diverse assortment of friends and strangers coming together on a cold dark night to hear and celebrate the story the Birth of Christ. No matter what was going on in my life before or after this Andover pilgrimage, I would find a sense of peace. It is the same peace that is promised to us in the words of the angels in the Christmas Narrative from the Gospel of Luke: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace and good will among the people.”
What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?
Peace be with you all during this Season of Advent and Christmas!


As a child, I always enjoyed this time of year. After ten weeks of summer fun, our focus would turn towards the start of the school year. Rarely did school start before Labor Day.

One of the most important things we did to prepare for school was to take a trip to the local Sears Roebuck store to purchase new clothes and school supplies. Somehow, it always seemed as if we had outgrown clothes worn the previous year. So, that meant picking up a couple of pair of pants, a few shirts, and a new pair of shoes.

I remember those first days of school. There was the excitement of walking into your new classroom and meeting your new teacher. I still have sensory memories of the sights, sounds, and even the smells of the first day of school. These memories include the decorations on the walls of the classroom and the laughter of children. And who can forget the smell of a new jar of paste or freshly mimeographed paper?

September also brings a sense of newness to our church life as well. In many congregations, Christian education programs are not offered during the summer. September ushers in a new Sunday School year, the start of the new Confirmation program, and the resumption of adult bible studies. September is as good a time as any to seek opportunities to grow in faith and discipleship. And I am excited to be leading the Wednesday morning Bible Study class this year!

I assure you that God’s spirit is alive in this place, even during a time of transition. I see the Holy Spirit in the midst of Trinity when:

  • Young parents bring their children to Trinity to be baptized;
  • Children and youth gather for intentional learning experiences as part of Sunday School and the Confirmation Program;
  • Your leaders are willing to make challenging decisions during this time of transition
  • Members are generous in their giving in order to support the ministry and mission of this congregation; and
  • Youth and adult gather together to serve meals to others from our community.

Indeed, the Spirit is alive at Trinity! Let us embrace the God who is doing a new thing in this time and place!

Pastor Dennis Kelly


Pastor Mark Wiberg

Dear Friends,


It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the Rev. Mark Wiberg peacefully passed away this morning, August 30th. While we mourn his loss, we take comfort in knowing that he is now in the presence and protection of our Heavenly Father.

I have been in touch with the family and we are likely to have Pastor Mark’s memorial service on Saturday, September 16th – 10:30 am. Bishop Miller will be with be with us to offer the sermon. Plans will be finalized tomorrow morning.

In His Peace,

Pastor Dennis Kelly


“Rest Eternal grant him O Lord, and Let Light Perpetual Shine Upon Him.’



Every summer, my family tries to grow a vegetable garden on raised bedMiracle_Grows in our backyard. Our favorite items to grow in the garden are cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers, and string beans. And while it looks like it shouldn’t be too difficult a task to grow these items, it does take hard work.

Those of you who grow your own gardens understand what to do (or not to do) when growing vegetables. You have to have the right soil conditions, a certain amount of sun and shade, plant the seeds at a depth that is optimal for growth, making sure that what you have planted does not get crowded out by weeds, and keeping the produce away from animals that like to eat these vegetables as much as you do! Then, if you are successful at all of these tasks, you will be able to harvest your yield and enjoy the feast you have created.

In the 13th and 14th chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus uses the imagery of gardening in order to teach his followers what it means to experience the Kingdom of God as disciples of Jesus Christ. Based on these passages, there will be a four-part sermon series called Miracle Grow: Planting the Seeds of Faith and Possibility. The themes for each weekend will be as follows:

July 15 & 16 PLANT THE SEEDS Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

July 22 & 23 PULL THE WEEDS Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (Guest Preacher)

July 29 & 30 WATCH IT GROW Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

August 5 & 6 ENJOY THE FEAST Matthew 14:13-21

Thanks be to God, the Creator of All that Exists!

Pastor Dennis Kelly

Why interim ministry?

The most frequent questions I receive as an Intentional Interim Minister usually start with the word “why?” Why do we need an Interim Minister? Why do you want to be an Interim Minister?

Intentional Interim Ministry has developed out of the experience of congregations in certain situations struggling during an interim period or beyond. One situation is when a pastor, like Pastor Schelter, has served a congregation for a significant period of time. Another situation is when there is congregational conflict due to unresolved issues or to clergy misconduct. Our role is to serve as “temporary shepherds” leading the congregation to calmer waters and helping it to resolve issues of the past and turn the attention to a healthy future.

Interim Ministers are trained specialists who have the following goals for an interim period:

  • Maintain the viability of the church
  • Resolve feelings of grief
  • Reinforce the ministry of the laity
  • Clarify the mission of the church
  • Deal with special needs of the congregation
  • Emphasize fellowship and reconciliation
  • Strengthen denominational ties
  • Increase the potential for a successful ministry by the next called pastor

This kind of interim work takes time. But when the congregation commits itself to this process, the end result, more often than not, is renewed vitality and vision. It allows the congregation to then call a pastor whose skills and abilities can help build upon that vitality and lead the congregation into the fulfillment of its vision.

So why do I choose to be an Intentional Interim Minister? I did not start out as an Interim. I have served four congregations as a regularly called pastor, and I enjoyed that work. However, I constantly found myself taking congregations through significant transitions without realizing that was what was taking place. When I realized that this was what I was doing, I developed a sense that serving congregations in transition was my specific call. So, I decided to seek additional training to allow me to pursue this call. Trinity is now my third call as an Interim Pastor.

I see my ministry as one of accompaniment. I accompany a congregation through its time of transition. As part of that accompaniment I work with congregation leaders and other members to develop a strategic plan for the interim time. I am not here to tell you who you are or what you should be. I am here to help you build upon what you already are and have been and then to discern what it is that God is calling you to be.

Serving as an Interim Minister is often bittersweet. The sweet is seeing the excitement of a congregation that is transformed. The bitter (or not so sweet) comes in knowing that an Interim Minister does not establish the depth of relationships that often comes with a regular call.

So, as I enter into my third month of serving as your Interim, I can say that I am glad to be here, and I look forward to accompanying the members of Trinity in this journey.

Yours in Christ,
Dennis Kelly, Interim Pastor