About a year ago, I left Springfield and Prince of Peace and moved south to beautiful Hilton Head, SC. I’m living in a lovely community, but as with any smaller town, especially one whose economy relies on tourism, golf, and the beach, it has its shortcomings. I love it here, especially the winter and its lack of snow, but I must admit that I miss my Prince of Peace family.
I took my time finding a new church. There aren’t many Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) churches in South Carolina; the online LCMS directory lists fewer than 25 in the whole state. My local congregation, Island Lutheran, is much smaller than what I was used to at Prince of Peace. The combined attendance at both Sunday morning services is about the same as Prince of Peace’s Saturday evening service attendance alone. Most of the members are retirees, like myself. Like I said, I took my time, mostly because I was concerned whether a church with so few children could actually survive.
Winter came, and the regular snowbirds arrived, five or six couples who come every winter to escape the harsh winters of Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. They became a part of the family for the four months they are here. They participate in small groups, Sunday school, church socials, and even contribute to our church budget. Island Lutheran is a second home to them, and we sadly said goodbye just before Easter. Most will be back next winter, unless they have moved into some form of assisted living or just can’t make the drive anymore. Perhaps some will pass on in the coming year. I’m sure others will replace them.
Like Prince of Peace, Island Lutheran is very community minded. Did I say something about a lack of children? Doesn’t matter—we sponsor a community Vacation Bible School that reaches out to the Gullah population and is well attended every year. Our membership also includes a number of Chinese teachers, all recent baptisms, all with their own stories to tell. In January, we welcomed two of them through the waters of adult baptism…an amazing Sunday.
I’m finding that just as I was at Prince of Peace, I am also part of the family of God here at Island Lutheran. This little church is full of amazing, welcoming people. Within weeks of my first visit, I was invited to brunch after church. I quickly felt included.
Pastor Larry keeps us well informed about prayer needs with two to three email blasts per week, even while he was traveling in Israel in January. A few weeks ago, I was an important part of one of those blasts. I had outpatient surgery scheduled and one of the church members offered to take me to Charleston (a two-hour drive) the day before the surgery, spend the night, sit through the surgery, and drive me home. Everything was arranged, until Pastor got a call from my driver. Her housemate had fallen, broken her hip, and was in the emergency room. Needless to say, she could not be in two places at once, so I suddenly had no driver for the next day.
Later that afternoon, I attended a dinner party, along with the pastor, for the group that joined the church in November. I felt guilty asking for a ride again, but Pastor Larry saw it as a good opportunity for his flock to step up to the plate. He was right! By the end of the party, I had a new driver, and everything went as planned.
Do I still miss my Prince of Peace family? You bet! But an equally amazing family has replaced it. A family at a different stage of life, not burdened by the busyness of work or other obligations, and still reaching out to the community and welcoming newcomers like me with the grace and love of God. With no other family nearby, I really appreciate having the family of God around me, wherever I am. A year after moving to a brand-new place, I can sing with confidence the words to this Bill Gaither song:
You will notice we say "brother and sister" 'round here,
It's because we're a family and these are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.
I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God,
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I'm part of the family, The family of God.