This year, Rev. Michael Tanney of St. Johns Lutheran Church in St. Louis led Pentecost worship services in the midst of two baptisms and twenty-seven confirmations. Every individual confirmed and baptized came from a close-knit Nepalese Christian community that was worshipping nearby. Many people in this group were already Christian, having become Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Baptist or another denomination back in Nepal. However, they were worshipping together and needed a space. They approached Rev. Tanney, who connected them with Eagle College Prep. The school and the congregation have a partnership for Christ-centered community outreach.
Some of the parents started sending their kids to Compass, a before and after school program. As the relationship grew, some of the parents wanted to know more about the LCMS and what Rev. Tanney’s church stood for. So, he taught the catechism to the adults, with the help of translators. In February of 2018, he confirmed two pastors of the group, in what they’ve coined their “pre-Seminary training.”
They were also attending events and ESL courses hosted by St. Johns. Eventually many of them became members of St. Johns, at which point they moved their worship from the school to the church. In addition to weekly worship, the group would meet for fellowship and meals Saturday evenings, convening in a very crowded living room. Rev. Tanney would often give a message, which amounted to teaching the catechism to the larger group.
The elders of St. Johns now reflect a diversity that is far greater than the congregation at large, something Rev. Tanney sees as quite a positive mix of perspectives. He is working on assisting some of the new members of the church to enroll in the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology (EIIT) at Concordia Seminary St. Louis. These programs focus on theologically sound ministry to specific ethnic communities and an alternative to the M.Div. degree that prepares men for ordination in the LCMS.