Wednesday night, April 29, the four congregations that make up Cross Roads Lutheran Parish—Faith in Mitchell, St. Luke in Nora Springs, Rock Creek and St. John in Osage, worked together to welcome singer/songwriter Rachel Kurtz at a “Concert in the Country” at Rock Creek.
The concert came about because Cross Roads Diaconal Minister Elayne Werges saw a post on Facebook from Rachel that she would be in the area and was looking for places to perform. There was some concern about how many people would turn out for a concert in a little open country church like Rock Creek, but the house was packed with youth groups coming from as far away as Immanuel Lutheran in Cresco and Redeemer in Waverly.
Rachel has performed at the past five ELCA Youth Gatherings so it was a good pre-gathering event for youth. Pastor Mark Anderson, Assistant to the Bishop, had an opportunity to speak about this summer’s gathering and why our witness is so important to Detroit.
The folks at Crossroads were all very excited to have Rachel come. “It’s awesome!” exclaimed Elayne Werges in her usual enthusiastic fashion. “It is so exciting,” commented Karen Brandau, St. Luke member, “I heard her on the web and she’s excellent!”
“Rachel was wonderful…engaging, humorous and offering beautiful music,” noted Bishop Steven Ullestad, who also attended.
Jeri Janos, an exchange student from our Companion Synod -Hungary, also enjoyed the concert. He was introduced to an Iowa favorite, “Walking Tacos” which were served with hot dogs and bars before the concert. “I love all American food,” he remarked.
What is remarkable about this event is the history of the four congregations who make up the newly formed parish that put this on. One of the congregations lost their ministry partner following 2009. One had a pastor who tried to lead them out of the ELCA. They stayed but lost membership. The other two had challenges unique to their situation. So, they took two years to study, pray, talk and listen. They formed a new vibrant, vital parish with the strength and creativity to host a Rachel Kurtz concert at one of their congregations, the one that is so remote that the GPS could not find it.
Rachel had a little trouble finding the church. “My GPS took me to a cemetery. But then I looked up and saw a steeple and just followed that to get here.”
“The parish hosted graciously and people from miles around came…packing the sanctuary, balcony and choir loft. We clapped, sang and danced. My guess is the dancing was a first for the sanctuary of this Norwegian congregation,” Bishop Ullestad observed.
“Concert in the Country” was an example of what can happen when congregations come together to form geo-parishes for the sake of mission, rather than just survival.
This event is also an illustration of what the Northeastern Iowa Synod strives for in its own mission. “We don’t come up with what we think congregations should do and impose it on them. We support and encourage what they are doing.” This was not a “Synod” Concert. It was all Crossroads Parish, under the leadership of Pastor David Werges and Diaconal Minister Elayne Werges that made this happen.
“Mission starts at the grassroots,” explains Bishop Ullestad. “It all happened because these remarkable people had the courage to stay in the ELCA and the faith to reach for a bold, new future. They are witnesses. I am grateful and inspired.”