Our Savior's Lutheran Church South Hadley, MA

South Hadley Church to host "Oasis" for Food and Spiritual Talk

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in South Hadley, MA will launch "Oasis," the first in a series of community meal and conversation programs in its reception hall this Wednesday, from 6:30 P.M.-8:30 P.M.

Members of the Church, as well as the non-practicing and spiritually seeking alike, are welcome to come for food, refreshments, and spirited theological discussion.

The intention of the event is "to show that God is relevant in today's world," said Daniel Steininger, Head of Evangelism and the Oasis Committee for Our Savior's Lutheran Church.

"We are all searching for meaning and purpose in our lives," said Steininger. "We want to offer what helps us."

The pilot dinner will feature a short “Super Soul” video from the Oprah Winfrey Network, “Where Science and Spirituality Meet,” about seeing God through the eyes of an astronomer.

This will lead into open discussion questions about the topic.

This event will give people permission to ask questions, to express doubts and fears, and at the same time encounter God's presence within the gathered community,” said Debbie Brown, President of the Congregation's Council and former Chairperson for Worship.

The inspiration for “Oasis,” according to Brown, came from a weekly worship service in “St. Lydia's, a Lutheran/Episcopal congregation in New York. 

Each week, St. Lydia's gathers much like the early church did. Each week, they gather in worship in the context of a shared meal.

We began to use a similar format for our midweek services during Advent (the weeks preceding Christmas) and Lent (the weeks preceding Easter). Over time, people began commenting that it would be neat to continue to offer mid week services at least once a month. The idea began to take a life of its own after that!”

There will also be an optional offering of communion for all who attend.

[T]he context for this is a church, not a classroom, so nobody will be surprised if some of us have a  particular perspective,” said Pr. Eva Steege, interim minister for Our Savior's Lutheran Church.

Even with this said, Brown notes that "[t]he Lutheran church has a long history of working with churches of many denominations . . .

"The unique message that the Lutheran Church brings is that no matter where we are, God comes to us, forgives us, and loves us unconditionally . . ."

One challenge the Church Committee has faced with organizing this event is spreading its Good News without making visitors feel pressured to accept it.

"I think at times we get too preachy,” says Marty Benander, another member of the “Oasis” committee. “We want rather to communicate a sense of sitting on the other side of the fence and understanding other points of view.

There are also people who might call themselves “anonymous Christians,” a term coined by Jesuit Theologian Karl Rahner, whose actions are very Christian-like, but do not attend a Christian Church.

My husband and I have talked,” continued Marty, “at length, to folks who strongly resist participating in anything as official as a 'church' gathering. They have a deep sense of spirituality, but also say they have found too much hypocrisy, wrong-doing, and 'un-grace' in traditional church settings. Because I know them well, I believe they would make wonderful Christians, little though they know it.”

An important thing to emphasize, according to Pr. Steege, is that Lutheranism allows people to agree to disagree.

[O]ne of the great strengths and attractions of Lutheranism," continued Pr. Steege, “is that beyond a basic theology of grace, all questions and conversations and investigations are open and a variety of opinions is welcome. There is plenty of room to grow for all of us."

In the Bible, it talks about new wine skins,” said Steininger. “I infer this is talking about not being stiff or dried out but to remain pliable. God’s love for us is constant; we just need a new fresh way of sharing that message.”

Topics for future “Oasis” meetings may include, according to Steininger, “aging, sexuality, climate change, addictions, roller coasters.”

Let's hope the next topic is roller coasters.