Hope Lutheran Church in Palm Desert has always embraced all who enter its doors. Like a loving and doting grandparent, it holds parishioners in its arms and the door is always open. The more the merrier.
It was no surprise to learn that in November Hope Lutheran began, for the first time, an 11 a.m. worship service on Sunday and brought in Gerald Sharon and Rick Bailard to lead the service. The pair was released from Southwest Church in Indian Wells because they refused to sign statement papers from Southwest that would exclude anyone from the LGBTQ community from participating in leadership, even from membership, according to the Rev. Derek Fossey, senior pastor at Hope Lutheran Church.
Sharon was previously second in charge to Rick Warren at Saddleback in Orange County, the largest church in North America.
“Part of the reason I pursued bringing them to Hope was to make a statement that all people are welcomed and wanted by Christ,” Fossey said.
Fossey said he also believes that Lutheran churches across the globe need to be addressing the way they offer worship. It’s no secret that churches that worship in a traditional liturgical model, which likely make up a majority of Lutheran congregations, are declining.
Hope Lutheran, located at 45900 Portola Ave., offers three traditional services – one on Saturday night and two on Sunday morning. The contemporary service is held in the newly-constructed Hope Center.
“What makes our story unique is that Hope’s traditional services continue to grow,” Fossey said. “However, we recognize that, statistically, at some point there will be a far smaller group of people that understand, appreciate, and feel comfortable worshiping in this traditional model.”
Fossey said he hopes that was his church has done can be a model for congregations across the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
“I see far too often churches that try to transition their style of worship have a difficult time doing so, or they try to blend their service styles which I don’t believe works effectively,” Fossey said. “By doing what we are doing with our New Hope Worship we are introducing what it means to be Lutheran to a whole new broad group of people.”
It’s like family. It loves unconditionally. The more the merrier.