Category Archives: St. Patrick’s Day

Help Wanted!

volunteerThis month is a busy month for our ministry.  Here in St. Louis, we are preparing for Purim (our Purim party is March 10), St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, and in the midst of that I am traveling to Nebraska, Illinois and Colorado for Passover Seders and other presentations.  We are also planning and preparing for our Seder on Palm Sunday, April 9, where we usually have about 120 guests!  In addition, and fortunately I have nothing to do with it but to help advertise it,  there will be Purim parties and Passover Seders in our branches too!  Spring in Jewish ministry!

All of this activity is a blessing and affords us many opportunities to share the Gospel.  Just this morning a woman was reading our “bulletin board” outside our building and knocked on the door asking if we sold any Judaica.  Her granddaughter was having her naming ceremony (what would be a bris if the child were male), and she was looking for a pair of silver candlesticks to give to the baby.  Unfortunately, we don’t have much Judaica in stock at the building but we had a nice conversation.  (We actually tried to have a Judaica shop several years ago, but I just couldn’t get enough help!)

That is the challenge of being such a ministry with our focus.  There is so much we could do if we just had more help.  I have a volunteer ministry assistant to help with paperwork and stuff in the office, but she has had to spend much more time on her own business (she does have to eat, after all), and volunteers are few and far between.  As you may have noted from the newsletter, I am looking for volunteers in churches that I have visited to help as ministry advocates.  And we can always use help in St. Louis, Orlando, Atlanta, Detroit, Boca Raton and Sarasota!

One of our challenges here in St. Louis has been that we did not have many children, so we did not have much in the way of children’s ministry.  It is also hard to attract children if you don’t have children’s ministries.  It is a catch-22!  Praise God, that He has lifted up a volunteer for us in this area who has a lot of training in children and family ministry.  This month, our ministry has called Andrew Bolin to serve as our Family Life Minister.  He graduated from Concordia University in Ann Arbor and has served a couple of congregations.. Andrew is now a financial consultant with Thrivent, and he and his family, Rachel, Moriah and Gus are members of our congregation.  We are so thankful, to Andrew and his family, and to you who continue to sustain us with your gifts and prayers.



“How can God know?”–Ps. 73:11

12871472_776424932490172_5789234763924058942_nThe outreach season is in high gear as the weather starts to warm up.  Starting with our annual St. Patrick’s Day outreach, we have begun our regular outreach opportunities at the University City Loop, and I am so grateful for the help that our new outreach minister is giving me.

I have already introduced him to you through the newsletter, but I’ll repeat myself now…Rev. Brian Earl was a student of mine many years ago and worked as a volunteer with our ministry under our then evangelist, Rev. Brad Aldrich.  He served a parish for six years, and now has moved back to St. Louis and is serving as a chaplain with the Veterans Administration.  He has transferred to our congregation, and we have voted to call him as our Associate Pastor and Outreach Minister for our local branch here in St. Louis.  He serves, as all of us do, bi-vocationally, raising his support through his work at the V.A.  He has a wonderful wife, Christa, and they are a true blessing to our ministry.  He has already made the connections necessary with our regular volunteers and has had many substantive conversations about Jesus with people that he meets here in Dogtown and up in U. City.  Toward the end of this month we will have a booth in Forest Park for St. Louis’ Earth Day celebration.  Perhaps you’d be interested in volunteering?

Along with the connections that Brian is making, the rest of us keep doing what we do.  Because St. Patrick’s Day was a Thursday, Brian couldn’t be here, but we had 20 volunteers helping us out that day, one of whom was the pastor of a church in Illinois, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, that I met doing a Passover Seder in his congregation.  He, his son, and two of his elders came over on St. Pat’s and worked the day with us.  It is really important to have volunteers, especially on St. Pat’s, because I have to work my “civic duties” as I help pipe the parade that day.  But the place was in good hands, and one of the stories from that day will be in our next newsletter.  But I had an interesting conversation with a man who is just starting to warm up to the name of Jesus and the Christian faith.  He has begun to read his bible, and of course, that reading has lead to many questions that he continues to come to me with.  The most recent of his questions was “Where did Cain get his wife?”

A common objection by people who refuse to believe the creation account in Scripture, Bill is not asking to deny the faith, but legitimately wonders and needed an answer.  What was so fun about this particular question is that I had addressed this with my home-school students, because of the movie “Inherit the Wind” where the question was posed, and we (24 of us, including students, friends, parents and siblings) all schlepped out to Cincinnati for an overnight field trip to the Creation Museum.  They just happened to have a little booklet entitled “Where did Cain get his wife?”  I picked some of them up, and had one for Bill, as well as for others.  We had a great conversation.  I just love it when God anticipates my needs like that!  He is so good.

(By the way, I am taking applications now for next year so if you would like more information about home-schooling or Classical Conversations, give me a call–(314) 645-4456.)

St. Patrick’s Day in Dogtown!

shapeimage_2-1This article was written 6 years ago!  Not much has changed since then, other than the condos across the street are full, Latitude’s is gone, but we’ve got Red Shack Tacos and Burritos coming in this month (yea!), and Jim from Seamus’ has gone on to be with Joe… .  But it is still fun and tomorrow, we’ve got some volunteers from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Greenville, IL coming to help.  Please pray for a great day playing St. Patrick, and sharing the gospel with the Irish!

When I first moved to the little village of Dogtown in the early 90’s, I remember remarking that it was like living in Mayberry, but in the city.  We had Emmett’s Fix-it Shop (Lehman’s Hardware, a hundred-year-old store with rickety wooden floors and shelves packed with things everyone needed), we had Floyd’s Barber Shop (though our barber used considerably more colorful language than Floyd did), and we had our own grocer (Gewinner’s) which was better than Art Crowley’s, because they had a great deli, with BBQ twice a week.  Our drug store was run by a Jewish guy named Gene, and though he wasn’t as cute as Ellie Walker, he had a great store.  We even had a police sub-station here with a beat cop.  And while he didn’t strut down the street like Barney Fife (with that great Barney theme music), we all felt safe.

Since then, Ellie’s pharmacy is gone (Gene retired to Chicago), Emmett’s and Floyd’s have been torn down and replaced by a behemoth condo complex with ground floor retail stores. (They must be too expensive, but I’d sure like to see a hardware store move in there!)  Fortunately, “Floyd’s” daughter re-opened the barbershop across the street, and Roger’s place is still a great place for the ladies to get their hair done at Headstrong (Roger is a believer, and a friend of our ministry).  But, the grocer is gone, and that building remains vacant too.  (If someone from Schnuck’s is reading this…what a great place for a little market!)  The city took away our sub-station and beat cop, and somehow the Mayberry-esque quality of Dogtown is somewhat diminished.

But, Dogtown has another side.  Just like a little Irish village, Dogtown is anchored by a big Catholic church and an Irish pub.  (Seamus McDaniel’s is run by Jim & Sue, also believers,and also friends of our ministry…I hope you’ll visit them too.)  Dogtown has a decidely Irish feel, though is pretty multi-cultural, with many Jewish people and an interesting Jewish history (the Jewish orphan home and the original site of the Jewish hospital was in Dogtown).  droppedImageWe also are still known for a number of really good restaurants, the latest of which is Latitude 26, a good Tex-Mex place.  And, while Mayberry had their Founders’ Day celebration, Dogtown celebrates St.Patrick’s Day with quite a parade and a street party.  But St. Patrick’s Day in Dogtown doesn’t look anything like Mayberry!

This is my first St. Patrick’s Day since my friend Joe passed away.  (If you want to know more about Joe, read the September, 2009 prayer letter.)  Joe was a force of nature on St. Patrick’s Day.  Joe really disliked the celebration here in Dogtown.  While he liked the parade, and thought it was good for the neighborhood and a nice family event, it was the “drunken street party” afterwards that he so strenuously objected to.  He didn’t like the blocked streets, the public urination, and the obscene amount of trash in the neighborhood that follows the party.

droppedImage_1For myself, while I don’t like some of these same things, I saw this as a good opportunity to share the Gospel with a lot of people.  We hand out Gospel tracts (Joe even handed some out last year!), we give away Bibles, and talk to a lot of people on St. Patrick’s Day.  The craziness is right outside of our door.  So I tried to console Joe with a tired platitude, “It’s only one day, Joe.”  And I guess we should be grateful that it’s not quite as bad as the Mardi Gras parade in Soulard.  (Though one year someone set up a hot-tub with scantily-clad women in the tub.  I’m not sure what they were advertising, but they’ve never been back since.)

I was never sure where St. Patrick’s Day got the reputation for being a drinking holiday.  droppedImage_2I’ve always been interested in St. Patrick, and in Ireland in general.  Part of my family hails from Clan McLeod, and my wife is a Forsyth.  So we each have our own tartan, I’ve got bagpipes (which I can blow into but make no music come forth…does anyone?), and love Celtic music.  There are a lot of famous Irish/Jewish Americans (Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, Michael Landon, Harrison Ford, and Jennifer Connelly to name a few), and two of the most famous Irish Jews are Chaim Herzog,  and Robert Briscoe.  Herzog was the son of the Chief Rabbi of Ireland and became the President of Israel.  Robert Briscoe was the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin and had an important role in the fight for Irish independence.  So having a Jewish ministry in an Irish village always made sense to me! But I am not a big drinker and party animal.  Before I came to faith, St. Patrick’s Day was a good day to go to the pub and have an Irish coffee and sing a ballad or two.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to having a “wee dram” occasionally, and we all know how much Lutherans like their beer.  But the kind of party that St. Patrick’s Day seems to spawn has always been a mystery to me.  But recently, I did run across a legend of St. Patrick that seems to explain this phenomenon.

As the story goes, St. Patrick was once served a whiskey that was far less than full.  St. Patrick then took it upon himself to teach the innkeeper a lesson in generosity.  He told the innkeeper that there was a demon in his cellar that fed off of dishonesty.  If he wanted to get rid of said demon, he must change his ways!

Some time later, St. Patrick returned to find the innkeeper filling the customer’s glasses to overflowing.  He took the innkeeper to the cellar and found the demon weakened and shriveled up from the innkeeper’s generosity.  St. Patrick then banished the demon from the cellar, proclaiming thereafter that everyone should have a drink on his feast day.

Legends being what they are, you can take it or leave it.  But St. Patrick is no legend.  Patrick, a Welshman, was captured by Irish raiders when he was 16 years old, and was made a slave.   6 years later, he escaped, came home, and became a priest.  Following a vision, he returned to Ireland, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with that nation and is responsible for the legacy of faith that Ireland has.

So now I like to share the real story behind St. Patrick’s Day.  I’ve written a couple of gospel tracts that we print in green and hand out by the thousands on St. Patrick’s Day.  And of course, when we are all done, there’s a pint of Guinness waiting!  After all, I like legendary stories as much as the next guy.

Spring Training (no it’s not baseball)

UnknownWith the Spring season behind us, and a moment to breathe before the end of May (my son’s wedding), I thought I’d try to catch you up on things.

Our St. Patrick’s Day outreach was fun, with many good conversations had.  Of course it doesn’t hurt to dress in a kilt, and play the pipes.  People want to talk to you and it’s not hard to steer the conversation to St. Patrick, to spreading the Gospel in Ireland, and to spread the Gospel to them here in Dogtown.  It’s such an easy opportunity to talk to people about Jesus.  And I always have the Jewish people come and ask if we are Irish or Jewish!  That is also a great conversation starter, because often the implication is that the Irish are Christian, and the Jews are not, so how can you be both?  Then I get to tell them that you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus.  By the way, our parade won the Readers’ Choice award for the second year in a row as the best parade in St. Louis.  And our bagpipe band, St. Louis Irish Pipes and Drums, won the award as the best bagpipe band of the parade…and yes, there were more than one.  If you are on Facebook, you can find new Facebook pages, one for St. Louis Irish Pipes and Drums, and one for Congregation Chai v’Shalom.  Come and visit?  I’m never sure what this means but “Like us on Facebook!”

The Passover Seder season saw me in Chicago, Central Illinois, and of course St. Louis.  Our congregation’s Seder hosted 104 people, several of whom are Jewish, and a lot of children who wouldn’t really dance with me to “Pharaoh, Pharaoh.”  I guess that’s OK, cuz I’m gettin’ too old for that!  Well, we’ll see.

One of the traditions of Passover has become deflecting comments from well-meaning Lutherans who don’t believe that Christians should celebrate Passover.  I say “well-meaning” as I try to put the best construction on it, but it is frustrating to continue to have to defend the Seder as a great opportunity to grow in our faith, and share our faith with others.  I just don’t see why they don’t get it.  One of the great blessings of the season for me was a last-minute invitation to a woman whom I met and found out was Jewish and a holocaust survivor.  She had been rounded up and imprisoned in a concentration camp when she was 8 years old.  Having survived the holocaust, she made it to the U.S., and has lived here ever since.  Her confusion was not so much that I am Jewish and am a Christian, but that I could be a Lutheran pastor.  She came and we went through the Seder and she enjoyed it, had good questions about Jesus, and wants to get together later.  So please pray for her.  We’ll call her Elisheva (Elizabeth) and hope that in her older age, the angel of the Lord would come to her with the gift of faith as we bask in the glory of the resurrection.  Christ is Risen.  Alleluia!

P.S. Go Cards! (OK, so maybe it’s about baseball a little!)

A Dogtown St. Pat’s Day, already!

ImageLuck ‘o the Irish to ye! Our home has flag poles on it that sport our U.S. Flag and a seasonal banner. Today I got to switch out our February banner for the St. Patrick’s banner that we fly in March. I bought some corned beef the other day and this Friday our movie night is “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.” This is the time of year to get excited about St. Patrick’s Day.

As you know, our congregation sits right where “the St. Patrick’s Day Parade” of St. Louis happens. This year it’s on a Saturday, and thousands of people will be on the street right in front of our church. (You can see pictures of the craziness in our photo section.  Of course, we will be out there sharing the gospel and the true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day. I’m planning on sporting a full kilt this year as I hand out the tracts, bibles, pretzels and soda, and I know of one other in our congregation who is going to be exploring the breezier aspects of his Irishness in a kilt!

It’s funny that the greeting is often “Luck ‘o the Irish to ye!” If you’ve ever studied the history of the Irish people, you know that their luck is not something that you want. It is a history of poverty, disease, and bloodshed. (If you’d like to study their history in a “novel” way – pun intended- I would turn you to Leon Uris’ Trinity trilogy.) The only thing that sustained the Irish in their long history of violence is their faith in Jesus, that was brought to them by a former slave who escaped and came back to share the gospel in the 600s. The “luck” that they have is their long history of faith. Such luck we should all have!

On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. We have a sign in our window with the little-known facts of the Jews in Ireland, who have been there since around 1079. The Jews and the Irish have a lot in common. Leon Uris, a Jewish-American writer, embraces those similarities in his many books about Ireland and Israel and I would commend any of them to you for a good read. But the similarities fall short when it comes to faith. The Jews have been sustained by a promise, a promise that was realized in Ys’hua, Jesus, and a promise that they have (so far) rejected. But the sad fact is that the Irish, while having received the promise realized so long ago, have since often taken that for granted, and the true message of St. Patrick is lost in parades and drinking games. This is the time of year to share the truth. The only answer for our worldly troubles is Jesus. Download the St. Patrick’s Day tracts off of the earlier blog and share them with everyone who is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Shalom and Go mbeannai Dia duit (May God bless you!).