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No Hats in Church

Hey!  It’s me again!  In case you missed my first set of ramblings, let me give you a brief introduction.  I am a lifelong Lutheran in my mid-thirties.  When I think of my life and all the stages thus far, this church has most certainly raised me and been part of each one.  I have been involved with the church within the congregational, synodical, and churchwide expressions.  I love this church, for better or for worse, but I have found myself asking more and more often, why the heck am I still here? 

I’ve decided it’s because I’ve seen the absolute best of what the church can be.  I’ve experienced these moments of radical love and welcome.  These are moments, however brief, where heaven breaks through and is present among us.  These moments hold me tight, they wrap me in this warm embrace of hope, and show me God’s Kingdom come here on earth.  I truly believe they’re happening more than we realize, but so often we let the frustration over another budget conversation or a change in the liturgy or God forbid we change the candles or flowers on the altar take priority over being the church. 

I’m here to share with you the bright moments.  I’m here to remind you (and myself) why we’re still here.  I’m here to share with you the joy and all the best of the church being the church.

That seems like a good synopsis of my first blog.  If you’d like to read it in its entiretly, check it out here.

The plan for my ramblings is to share stories from across the Synod, but as I’m gathering those, I’d love to share a few of these stories from my own life.  My first is about why hats are ALWAYS welcome in church!

After college, I served for a year through the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission Program (YAGM).  When I returned, I recruited for YAGM for three months, and upon completion of this I was hired as the Children, Youth, and Family Ministries Director at a congregation in the Columbia area.  Honestly, I was hesitant about this choice.  I really thought I wanted to find another program to send me to another country for a year or two.  I’m pretty sure if you had asked my parents at that point they likely thought their youngest child would be a professional nomad, exploring the world and experiencing different cultures.  Well, turns out that wasn’t the next step.

Now, no congregation is perfect, but my nearly six years living life with that community was such a gift.  Yes there were times where it felt like council was harping on the wrong details or people were upset about a change in the liturgical setting, but it was also filled with the church being the church in the most beautiful and profound ways and one of those has to do with hats.

A dearly loved member of the congregation, Ms. Diane had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was reciving treatments.  These treatments, as often happens, caused her to lose her hair.  Honestly, I never asked her, but I think no matter how upbeat and optimistic you are, which she most certainly was, this has to be a difficult sight to see.  Ms. Diane didn’t let this slow her down though, she still showed up when she was feeling well, adorned with beautiful hats or berets to keep her head warm.

One Sunday in Advent Ms. Diane was on the schedule to be communion assistant with one of her best friends, Ms. Marie.  In this congregation the communion assitants wear a white robe, process in with the worship leaders, and sit at the front of the sanctuary.  Ms. Diane came to worship with a beautiful white knit hat, but what was so special was she wasn’t the only one.

Ms. Diane and Ms. Marie processed into worship in these beautiful matching white knit hats to serve together.  Later that day, Ms. Diane posted a picture of the two of them on Facebook with the caption, “Best friends serving as Communion Assistants!! Thanks Marie for making this so special for me.”  Ms. Diane went on to explain in the comments of the picture, “To those who are not Lutheran, berets are not customarily worn when serving as a communion assistant. Mine was worn because chemo has taken my hair. Marie’s was worn out of love, support and true sisterhood. I’m so blessed to be a child of God and a part of the most loving and supportive family ever! Thanks be to God!”

This seemingly small act was, “Perhaps one of the most beautiful, compassionate, caring acts I’ve seen in worship. This is the best of what it means to be God’s family,” commented Reverend Gary Loadholdt, pastor of the congregation.

This was a beautiful moment of God’s Kingdom come here on earth.  This was a moment where these two women modeled in a sincere and, for me, life-changing way what it means to be God’s hands and feet, to walk with one another, to live a life of accompaniment, to be present with each other, and to be Christ to one another.

Yeah, it’s true.  Sometimes we have our head down and we get hung up on the budget in council meetings or spend too much time discussing whether we should use paper plates or real plates, but also, if we stop for a second and look up, we can see these beautiful moments where the Spirit is present in an undeniable way, and we can feel the warmth of God’s love radiating from others and embracing us. These are the moments where I’m reminded why I’m still here.

I’m a millennial. I’m a lifelong Lutheran. I get it, more often than not it seems the church disappoints us, but I wanted to share with you one of the reasons why I’m still here and maybe it will be a good reminder for you as well.

Blessings abound!

Deacon Sarah Bowers

*If you have a story from your experience or your congregation where you feel it was one of these light was breaking through moments, let me know! I’d love to be able to share it! Email me at

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