Church #24. Meet Jeff Mikyska. He is the solo pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, Illinois. With average worship attendance of 130 people on a given Sunday, Holy Trinity seeks to “Proclaim Christ’s love through witness and service.” It’s those words “through witness and service” that has gotten Holy Trinity outside the walls of their church building. Mikyska says, “It’s not about the numbers. It’s about role modeling God’s love and being the face of God’s story.”
Like many urban churches, Holy Trinity, a mainly Caucasian community, finds itself now in a transitioning neighborhood that is predominately Latino. Mikyska says, “Holy Trinity’s presence in the neighborhood is not to be like the Borg from Star Trek.” They have no desire to get people into the pews to assimilate them. In fact, quite the opposite since many neighbors already belong to a church.
What Holy Trinity deeply desires is to know their neighbors. Being visible in the neighborhood, calling people by name and listening to their concerns is at the heart of what it means to witness and serve.
In the summer, they provide lunches for kids in the neighborhoods and youth events of ice cream and games. There is also a community garden; Holy Trinity goes door to door to share its bounty. And they absolutely love hosting Pokemon Go participants!
During the school year, there is tutoring on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Year round there are boxes outside filled with books and/or hats and gloves for children to come by and take.
Throughout the summer a cooler sits outside the front door every day filled with bottles of water for the taking by neighborhood children, those just passing by, and even the mail carrier! They have offered parent classes and skills training, and held outdoor events for Halloween. This Thanksgiving, there will be an interfaith worship service held in cooperation with the Jewish synagogue across the street to discuss God’s love for the world. Holy Trinity opens its doors to the community on Friday nights for a soup kettle meal and once a month on Sunday morning for hot pancakes. There is nothing like hot food to bring a community together!
Holy Trinity even reaches out to the community through their worship services, paying weekly to have their services broadcast live on radio throughout northern Illinois. Mikyska noted, “I walked into a nursing home for a visit last year, and a lady in a wheelchair peaked out of her room to say, ‘I know that voice!’ It made me feel good to know that we are going to people wherever they are, even if some of them can no longer ever come to us.”
Mikyska added, “Again, it’s not about the numbers. It’s about our calling to reach out to our neighbors and community. We are called to really get to know each other.” It may sound like a simple idea, but it is not shallow.
Getting to know your neighbor takes a deep commitment to the community. It means getting up out of the pew and taking a risk. It means hard work and time investments. It means listening.
Holy Trinity plans to do just that. Soon they will be hosting a neighborhood get together. Their plan is to ask their neighbors, “What are the needs of this neighborhood?” and “How does Holy Trinity fit into those needs moving forward.”
Why does it matter that we get to know our neighbors? Mikyska asked the congregation and the church council that same question. He asked them to describe the ministries at Holy Trinity by using a Bible verse. Once collected, there were 25 verses in all. He then had the people pick their top 3, and then from that their top verse. Matthew 18:20 is the verse that was chosen:
Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Mikyska sums it up best: “Our purpose in meeting people, no matter how big or small the group, Holy Trinity knows that Jesus Christ is there.”
For more information on this story, please contact Jeff Mikyska at firstname.lastname@example.org.