The people of two small congregations in Augusta County are still smiling after 17 people were baptized in April, a group made up of both children and adults.
The joy was evident in Rev. Rod Ronneberg's voice as he was recalling the occasion.
"If you would have told me that this was going to happen when I got here in the summer of 2014, I would have said, 'that's a nice dream.'"
It looks like that dream became a reality last month. Rev. Rod Ronneberg serves Faith Lutheran Church in Staunton and St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Churchville on a part time basis. His idea was to come to Virginia to retire but it looks like God (and the Bishop) had other plans for him.
Both of the churches are small so when Pastor Rod came on board he said that he felt like a mission developer and wanted to begin exploring different ways to reach the community. After discovering that some of the church members could no longer come to Sunday morning worship because they were required to work during the weekends, he decided to try to have a Wednesday evening Eucharist service.
"Sometimes in our traditional setting it is hard to think outside the box," he said. "The mid-week Eucharist is addressing people who aren't able to come to church on Sunday. We get caught up on the holiness of Saturday and Sunday but a day is holy anytime the word is preached and the sacraments are administered."
As a result of the Wednesday service, there were nine baptisms at Faith Lutheran. On April 3rd the two congregations who share Rev. Rod Ronneberg had a joint service where members from both Faith and St. Peter's gathered to celebrate. The morning gave the members from St. Peters a good vision of what the following week would look like as they looked forward to the eight baptisms on their own church calendar.
"People inside the congregation have been encouraging people to come," Pastor Ronneberg said. "Everybody is beginning to see what happens when the whole congregation embraces the mission."
Both churches are living into the great commission in Matthew 28 where Jesus calls his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
"Both days were filled with joy and happiness and it has continued, as the realization has set in that there is new life in both congregations through baptism and as they sense the purpose of what they are doing as worshiping congregations who are reaching out."
Now that both congregations are growing, Pastor Ronneberg is beginning to explore Christian education options. Many of those who were baptized began their involvement with Faith through the Wednesday service because they have to work during the weekends. This takes Sunday School off the table as a viable option for many.
As the context of the community has changed it looks like these congregations are changing the way they sow their seeds of faith--and the harvest speaks for itself.
As Rev. Rod Ronneberg said,"Sometimes when you take a little chance for the sake of the mission, you will probably be surprised at how it turns out."