Editor’s note: The State of Faith series is supported by a grant from the Homewood Rotary Foundation.
Five years ago, Amy Wiegert moved with her family to Homewood, as she took on her new role as senior pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, 18645 Dixie Highway in Homewood. With more than 20 years of experience as a pastor, Wiegert said she is most worried about the loneliness and isolation people are experiencing.
The church connects to its members through a 9:30 a.m. Sunday service that is also live-streamed, Bible study and parent support groups, and performs outreach to the community at large. As church leadership works to form a new strategic plan, Wiegert discussed their vision for the future.
Will you describe what Sunday service is like at Faith Lutheran?
Every Sunday looks a little different depending on what the music is that week. We’re always singing songs and praying prayers. We always have Holy Communion in each service. Everyone is welcome to participate in everything we do.
We had a series of guest speakers earlier this spring. Local nonprofits came in to discuss their needs. The congregation appreciated that, especially to feel connected to the community post-pandemic.
One thing we talk about as a congregation is, how can we give ourselves away? We keep experimenting with that notion. How can we share what we have?
We heard from Respond Now, which hosts one of the local food pantries. They were nervous because their shelves were getting empty.
We put a call out, and collected 150 boxes of cereal. This is our community. We want to make sure everyone can eat.
As you work to deepen your connections to the community, you said one concern is how to be more vocal without “turning people off.” Why is that important?
I think because a lot of folks have a negative connotation of what church is, or what Christians are, especially in the United States. Part of the challenge for all people of faith, no matter how you worship, is to ask folks to try again.
So many people have been turned away or turned off, or have this understanding – and rightly so – that they won’t be welcome in many places because of how they look or who they love.
One of my challenges every day is to show them, there’s another way. There are people who don’t act that way, people who do love you.
If there’s not a diverse group of people in the room, we’re all missing out.
We have to keep updating ourselves and keep trying. Where are folks at right now? What are the community’s needs? What needs are we not meeting, faithfully, spiritually and physically?
What kind of groups are available to church members?
We offer a Wednesday afternoon regular Bible study. We often have working groups that come together to work on certain projects.
On Sunday morning, we’ve got other groups that meet within membership. The kids get together for Sunday school, and then later on high school kids meet.
We have a parenting group. Those are all folks who are actively parenting school-age kids. They get together for prayer and support. They offer advice to each other. Sometimes they just nod and say, “Me, too.”
It sounds like the church is a place fostering many personal connections.
I was really struck by the U.S. Surgeon General’s report released recently that his new concern is the epidemic of loneliness in our nation. Faith communities can be a place where folks can connect in deep, meaningful ways. There are not a lot of other spaces in the community like that.
It’s also a place where our young people can be as they (focus on) their mental health coming out of the pandemic, and what they’ve lost. Church is a place where they can come to just be. It’s not a sports team. No one’s asking them to try harder or take a test. They can just be.
You’re the first female senior pastor at Faith Lutheran in Homewood. What has that experience been like?
Every church I’ve been before this one, I’ve been the first. Folks don’t know what to expect. Women in general lead differently than men, and I think that has a lot of advantages. I think I’m more collaborative. I’m going to seek out what folks are thinking and learn a lot before big decisions get made.
What’s your favorite part of the church service?
When the whole congregation is singing together and you realize you’re just a piece of the whole. Every person who’s there is important to what’s taking place.
What’s coming up for the church?
Council and leadership are currently looking to put together strategic plans for one to five years. Part of that includes finding out, how do we share our space here with folks in the community? We’re looking forward to being at the farmers market, to do giveaways and meet some folks.