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Judi Keippel: A Family’s Stewardship Journey

Over the years we have learned that Stewardship involves time, talent, and treasures …

It was August of 1969 that Bill and I moved into Logan Square.  We had been married for four years and were expecting our first child.  Tim was born in August and our journey began.

We had lived in the area for a couple of years when we learned about a once a week preschool at a nearby church.  We enrolled Tim and found an extended family.  We started attending St. Luke’s.

By the time our second son, Kevin, was born in January of 1976 we knew that we had found the church that we wanted to be connected with.  On March 30, 1976 Kevin was baptized by Pastor Eucker and we officially became members.  And Kevin also went to St. Luke’s preschool.   There is a photo of that preschool class with their teachers, Helen Mamman, Louise Nystrom, and Betty Feilinger.  They cared so deeply and loved all the children.  There are 12 children in that photo and four of them, over 30 years later, are still deeply connected in each other’s lives.

We quickly became involved in the life of St. Luke’s.  Especially when it involved children.  Pastor Eucker asked Bill to be the scouting coordinator for St. Luke’s and I became a Sunday School teacher.  It led to a lifetime of experiences that shaped our lives and our family.

Bill first became involved with a combined youth group from St. Luke’s and Ascension Lutheran Church, from the Lakeview area.  It definitely was an interesting group with their leader Chuck Hadley.  I ultimately also became a leader with this group and somehow became “Mama J” to a whole generation of Chicago street youth who at times terrorized the staff at LOMC where we spent weeklong retreats during the summer.   Some of those same youth, now adults, are still involved in our lives and consider our house their home…

Eventually the group became just the youth from St. Luke’s .  I continued to be the youth group leader, the acolyte trainer, Sunday School Teacher, and Vacation Bible School.   The youth group found an incredibly strong nurturing ally in Pastor Showers who helped them to grow.

Our two boys were always involved in church activities with their friends, some still left over from those preschool days and definitely from the youth group.  The bond that these kids created has been a blessing to watch.  Many of these youth participated in Tim and Kevin’s weddings held at St. Luke’s … Tim married Serenia who was one of the group … their wedding was special because out of the 12 in the wedding party, 10 were part of St. Luke’s family … one of the girls that Kevin grew up with, Annemarie, is Godmother to his son, Logan … and they continue to gather whenever possible … especially for special events – Stephanie and Tony’s renewal of wedding vows … baby showers …  and sometimes still live with us …

Bill and I also were active in other ways at St. Luke’s … we have both served on the council … I have been parliamentarian …  Bill continues to be the scouting coordinator. … we have served (and still serve) on numerous committees … the list goes on.

For almost forty years we have cared deeply about St. Luke’s … and St. Luke’s has cared about us:  giving us a spiritual home where we were welcomed and nurtured … offering friendship and love … and a place where we could learn to be the people God intended us to be …

We have celebrated all that was good about St. Luke’s with joy and pride.  And we have rolled up our sleeves when times became difficult.

In 2002 we were not ready to see St. Luke’s close … it was too much a part of our lives and we knew that there was much more to give…

With others we made the decision to stay open and St. Luke’s went to work to make it happen.  We sold the parsonage next door so that we would have funds available to afford a full-time pastor for at least 3-5 years.  We were convinced that we still had a viable ministry that could serve this community.  The parsonage was sold and we were ready to find the right pastor.

I still remember the day, sitting at the front door reading correspondence that had come in which included a mailing/postcard that came from the Extraordinary Candidate Project (ECP).  The postcard was a picture of a group of gay and lesbian pastors who had the spiritual gifts and talents that they wanted to share and reach out to those who needed them but were denied their calling.  The mailing talked about pastors who were not able to be ordained due to an ELCA policy which stated that a pastor could be gay but was required to sign a statement that they would remain celibate.  It was the first that I had learned about the policy and needless to say did not agree with it.  Neither did the others at St. Luke’s.  So we decided to ignore the policy.   Was it easy … no!  Did we struggle … yes!  Did we make decisions that were controversial … you betcha!   Was it worth it … absolutely!

That’s when we found Pastor Erik who has turned out to be the blessing that we were looking for.  We called Pastor Erik Christensen and on October 16, 2006 he joined a long line of pastors at St. Luke’s.   And in August of 2009 one of my proudest days was to be at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly that voted down that policy and finally pastors were able to take their rightful place in all our churches.

St. Luke’s has grown!  In 2002 we were lucky to have 8-10 people attending our church services.  Today we have 63!  Our new members have brought new life into our beloved 110 year-old church and are taking on leadership roles, proving that there is a valuable ministry here.  And there are children again … they are our present and our future.

Today marks the beginning of our Stewardship Campaign … we have the time … we have the talent … and we have the treasure that has and will continue to help all of us make a difference.  And what we receive in turn is priceless.  Thank you!

Judi Keippel, October 23, 2011

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