Upon Dr. Sabatelli’s retirement in 2012, Christ Church’s leadership transitioned to its seventh pastor, the Rev. Susan Tjornehoj. Pastor Tjornehoj comes to Christ Church with a rich background of service, starting in Inupiaq (Eskimo) villages on Alaska’s Seward Peninsula. She later moved to northern Minnesota as Pastor of a three-point parish, became an Assistant to the Synod’s Bishop, served as pastor of Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was the ELCA’s first Director of Evangelical Mission.
Her pastoral leadership is a ministry of welcome and hospitality grounded in Christ’s wide love. She preaches as an eyewitness to Christ’s presence in the world and shapes worship that always leaves room for more at God’s table of grace. Pastor Tjornehoj leads, in this critical time, with energy and passion for God’s reconciling work of justice and mercy among the vulnerable and marginalized in the neighborhood and the world.
Under her leadership, a new mission statement was written, recognizing the special role for the congregation in the new century: “As a uniquely metropolitan congregation, the people of Christ Lutheran Church are called to proclaim the Gospel, serve others, and invite all to experience God’s love and saving grace.”
Highlights of Pastor Tjornehoj’s ministry so far have included:
- The church facility continues to be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing long-term shelter and education to 40 homeless women and children. In 2014 alone, the shelter served 115 families with minor children, for a total of almost 250 people. Forty families have moved to permanent housing placements, over the years of the shelter, following job training and securing permanent employment facilitated by the shelter staff.
- Outreach has continued to the surrounding community through neighborhood walks, canvasing to almost 1,000 homes, and community musical programs.
- Twenty-eight areas of service are currently available to members and friends, with additional ones always under development.
- Twenty Eucharistic ministers share communion with many homebound each month.
- “Hafenmusik,” music by the harbor, is in its second season, with appearances of the United States Navy Band Sea Chanters, the Valparaiso University Chorale, and the congregation’s own new musical group, Brassivity, participating in worship services as well as bringing high-quality concerts to the community.
- People are gathering around “The Story,” reading through and studying scripture from beginning to end. Through the Prayer Chain, dedicated members pray daily for individuals and the mission and ministry of Christ Lutheran.
- Teams from Christ Lutheran have traveled with friends and family to El Salvador and Viet Nam. The congregation has supported them with prayer and, together, members have been a part of building seven homes.
- A new website has been constructed and a newly-completed sound system will provide an enhanced experience for in-person worshipers as well as CDs for the homebound, podcasts, and the capacity for livestreaming worship.
- Agreements were made with the developers of the property of the former University of Maryland Medical Center across the plaza that will preserve the congregation’s access to the parking facilities under the plaza.
Construction of a new 350-unit apartment complex, Banner Hill, is beginning in mid-2015, directly across from the church on the other side of the Christ Church Plaza.
To prepare for our new neighbors, the congregation council recently took bold and faith-filled actions which will position Christ Church well for its future witness to “live” our mission statement of proclaiming the Gospel, serving others, and inviting everyone to experience God’s love and saving grace. An inclusive Renewal and Mission Enhancement Task Force has developed a series of recommendations based on the Strategic Mission Plan. Committees are designing strategies; reviewing site engineering reports; and establishing a list of projects, a financial goal, and a time schedule.
Christ Lutheran’s ministry is one of welcome and hospitality grounded in Christ’s wide love, love that has emanated from Christ Church for well over 125 years and will continue as long as God’s people come together in this place.
It has been said that part of the greatness of Christ Church is its amazing ability to hold on to its rich and glorious traditions and history at the same time it is open to change and the future. This wonderfully creative and innovative mix – firmly rooted in the past, optimistically open to the future, and always grounded in the cross – is vitally important.
Christ Lutheran is a special fellowship of caring, Christian people, a place where hundreds respond to God’s Love by giving their time, talents, and treasures on a regular-basis. Christ Church has truly been “blessed to be a blessing.” As the church continues well into its second century of service, the congregation rededicates itself to be a good and faithful steward of the gifts that have been entrusted to it and to go from “strength to strength” in the Lord’s service.