From the Pastor
My name is Jon Niketh, and I'm coming up on nine years of serving as pastor of what I think is a pretty amazing little congregation in an equally amazing city.
But let's be honest: there are a lot of things you could be doing with your time right now other than looking at a church website. Perhaps you were searching for adorable cat videos and stumbled over here by mistake. I can't tell you how many times I've done that... But since you're here (and you've made it this far) I want to be very clear about one thing:
You are welcome here.
Really and truly, no hidden agendas, no asterisks, no bait and switch. Whoever you are, wherever you are in life, whatever your faith journey looks like or whether you have one at all, you are welcome at First Lutheran Church. No matter where you come from, where you work, what you look like -- or what your family looks like -- you have a place in this family. You are welcome at First Lutheran Church. You, with all your various quirks, gifts, fears, joys, struggles, bad habits, dreams, and everything else that makes up who you are are welcome at First Lutheran Church.
We are a community that gathers around the love and mercy of Jesus. In case you've ever heard differently (and it's pretty likely you have) Jesus' love and mercy are for everyone, and they are for you.
Chances are you already know what love is. Mercy is what happens when we screw up the love part -- which if you're like me, is pretty much every day -- and find that the love is still there. We can't shake it off, no matter how hard we try. And despite the fact that many of us have had some no-so-great experiences with organized religion in the past and can't quite wrap our heads around how this is even possible, we experience that love in Jesus. It's the only reason we exist.
We don't come together week after week to pretend to be people we really aren't. We are definitely not the congregation where everyone wears the fake happy face and acts like they are the perfect family. Who has time (or the stomach) for that? We'd rather be real with each other, and we think God would rather we did too.
If you're looking for a community to give you all the right answers to life's questions and tell you exactly what to believe, then you've probably stopped reading this by now. But if you're looking for a community to embrace you just as you are, to be comfortable with your questions, to celebrate your gifts, to walk with you on your journey, then please consider joining us for our Sunday Eucharist.
The word "Eucharist" (also known as Holy Communion or the Mass) which we celebrate each week really means "thanksgiving." There's a lot to be thankful for: life, love, relationships, honest work, second chances and new beginnings, and of course, our daily bread.
And I can assure you, if you come join us, we will also be thankful for you. We will not simply "tolerate" you as a guest, or force you to be like us before you can belong (which would be hard anyway since we're a motley crew of pretty different people). We'll receive you as the unique gift from God that you are. We'll break bread together. And you will be welcome at First Lutheran Church.
Yours on the journey,
Pr. Jon Niketh
Pr. Jon is a Reconciling Lutheran, a group of clergy and laypeople who publicly witness to and call for a church and world that welcome and include all: people of every age, class, color, ethnic origin; people of all sexual orientations and gender identities; people who are single, married, divorced, separated, blessed or partnered; people who are temporarily-able, disabled, or of differing abilities.
He received the Bachelor of Arts in Theology and the Humanities from Valparaiso University where he was a Christ College Scholar, and the Master of Divinity with Honors from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. He was the recipient of the Atonement Lutheran Church (Asbury Park, NJ) Preaching Award, and a finalist for the David H.C. Read Preacher/Scholar Award from Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church (New York) in 2008. He has received training in conflict mediation through the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center.
He is a regular contributor to the Sundays and Seasons worship planning resource, and other worship and preaching resources published by Augsburg Fortress. He currently serves as Chair of the Worship and Music Team of the New England Synod, and is a member of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. In the community of Lynn, he serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors of Arts After Hours, is a clergy leader in the Essex County Community Organization, and is a regular panelist on the cable television show RUACH: Religious Understanding and Community Harmony. He was called as Pastor of First Lutheran Church in 2008.