Staff post

Staff Update: Sandy Richter

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:1-5, 10-14

Over the years, I keep coming back to this passage and it’s synoptic twin in Luke 19, marveling and wondering at the connection between owning our childlikeness and receiving the gift of the kingdom of God. I find this reality both irresistible and unbelievable at the same time. While I feel myself drawn in to the simplicity of entering the kingdom as a child, it also seems audacious, impossible, and goes against every success-driven instinct within me. And then I wonder at myself. Is it hard to believe because it seems too easy, or is it that chlidlike faith actually seems like a bridge too far? Is it possible that rather than esteeming childlikeness I have, as the passage suggests, despised it instead?

Yesterday, Pray As You Go (a lectionary-based lectio divina podcast) reflecting on this passage, posed this question:

Jesus insists that God our loving Father wants no [little] one to be lost. Our world is full of ‘little ones’ – people who count for nothing, who are routinely ignored.  We also carry a child inside ourselves – the vulnerable person within. What is Jesus telling us about the way we treat fragility when we meet it?

When I heard that last question it struck me plainly how easy it is for me to despise childlikeness, fragility, especially in myself, rather than to see it as the gift Jesus claims it to be. Fragility, vulnerability, are scary. If I’m honest, I’m ashamed of those places that feel weak, powerless, unsure. But the passage made me wonder, what is Jesus’ invitation in those vulnerable places?

St. Thérèse of Liseux, who lived her short life in late 1800s northern France, described her own complicated relationship with childlike faith. On the one hand, she desperately desired to please God and to experience communion with him. At the same time, she felt her own weakness keenly, and wondered how she could even aspire to the great spiritual heights she so desired. The revelation she received from the Lord, and from that point sought to pass on to others, she described thusly:

...the elevator that would lift me up to Heaven is your arms, O Jesus! To reach perfection, I do not need to grow up. On the contrary, I need to stay little, to become more and more little. O my God, you have surpassed my expectations and I wish to sing of your mercies.

Rather than despise her weakness and limitations, Thérèse found encouragement to be reconciled to her childlikeness as that which would move her towards God and his gracious love. She found this freeing realization:

What pleases him is to see that I love my littleness and my poverty, it is the blind hope that I have in his mercy...That is my only treasure.

The image of the shepherd searching long and tirelessly for the one lost sheep comes to mind here. The Shepherd, does not despise the sheep’s waywardness, shows no signs of exasperation as he begins his search, but diligently seeks the lost sheep, sights set on the joy and happiness that will result when he finds that lost sheep and brings her home. Indeed, Jesus says, our Father in heaven is not willing that any lost sheep, lost child, would perish, but instead that each one should enter his heavenly kingdom, carried in the strong arms of the Great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20).

I wonder if you have ever found yourself despising your own fragility.

I wonder what might happen if we admit that we are lost, and allow ourselves to be found.

Little children, lost sheep… the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. What might it mean for us to receive this great grace today?

Quotes from St. Thérèse taken from Jacques Philippe, The Way of Trust and Love, p. 10 and 64.


Sandy Richter, Savior’s Pastor of Adult Formation, grew up in the Church of God, but gravitated toward 'higher church' settings in college, making her way to the ACNA and Church of the Savior in 2013. Sandy and her husband love the liturgy and tradition they have found in Anglicanism, and the warmth and depth of spirituality at Savior.

Sandy Richter, Savior’s Pastor of Adult Formation, grew up in the Church of God, but gravitated toward 'higher church' settings in college, making her way to the ACNA and Church of the Savior in 2013. Sandy and her husband love the liturgy and tradition they have found in Anglicanism, and the warmth and depth of spirituality at Savior.

 
 

Youth Ministry Update

Thrift Shop Prom

Thrift Shop Prom

This summer has been fun and eventful for our youth group. We haven’t been meeting weekly, but we’ve gathered several times to enjoy one another’s company and the freedom of summer. We kicked the summer off—and welcomed our new sixth graders—with a Thrift Shop Prom. For this event, students were asked to find a colorful and creative costume at a thrift shop. We then proceeded to play games and dance the night away! We had a lot of fun, and the students took their outfits seriously. They looked great!

Our second event of the summer was our All Nighter. We began the evening with dinner at Portillo’s and entertainment at the Sycamore Speedway. We watched lots of races, and they concluded the evening’s festivities with a demolition derby. We returned to All Souls for prayer at midnight, 3am, and 6am. Between times of communal prayer, we played games and watched a movie. It was crazy, but once again, we had a lot of fun being together. In July, we gathered to have pizza and play board games, and next week, we’re gathering to play more games (not the board kind) and eat more pizza (we’d love to see our students there! July 24, 6-9pm, at PHCC).

Some students from our youth group are headed for a mission trip in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood in early August. Josiah Hsu is still selling prayer cards! Please pray for all our students that they will have a good and safe experience and that they encounter the presence of God in the people they meet.

In my role as Youth Coordinator this year, it’s been my main goal to identify and begin to develop a unique identity for Savior’s youth ministry. I’ve spent most of my time getting to know our students and their families, adding more organization to our ministry, and developing communication and visibility for the youth ministry. Our youth ministry is growing, and we want our ministry for students and families to connect to and sync with everything we do at Savior. Our students are not the future of the church, they are an important part of the church right now, and we want to encourage them as much as we can as they grow and mature in faith. God began a good work in our youth ministry long before me, and as I prepare to pass this role back to Mary (and whoever comes after me), I am confident that God will continue to be faithful to our students and their leaders.

Andrew and I have spent the summer brainstorming new ideas for youth group in the fall, choosing new curriculum for our Saturday evening Youth Worship meeting, and dreaming about what the future of youth ministry at Savior could be. We’re hoping to spend more time in the coming ministry year helping students practice spiritual disciplines, developing a communal rule of life, and continuing to teach our students how to love Jesus with their heads, hearts, and hands. We’re also hoping to recruit a few new leaders from Savior to lead our students, so if you sense that God is calling you to a new season of serving our students, please, let Mary or me know (I promise that we only stay up all night one night a year).

Finally, as we look toward the new ministry year, I will be sad to be missing it. It’s been an honor and a joy to serve the junior high and high school students, and their families, of Church of the Savior (and All Souls). My husband, Dawson, and I will be moving to Columbus, Ohio, at the beginning of August so that Dawson can begin working on his PhD in Sociology at Ohio State University. We have absolutely loved our time at Savior, and we will miss you all greatly. Thank you so much for welcoming us enthusiastically and trusting me readily to minister to your teenagers. I know that God has a wonderful plan for the youth at Savior, and I anticipate that this ministry will continue to grow and flourish.


Ellen works at Savior as the Youth Coordinator. She is also an Editor of Bibles & Reference at Tyndale House Publishers; she has worked there since 2014. She has worked and volunteered in a variety of youth ministries over the past decade and she began attending Savior in 2017.

Ellen works at Savior as the Youth Coordinator. She is also an Editor of Bibles & Reference at Tyndale House Publishers; she has worked there since 2014. She has worked and volunteered in a variety of youth ministries over the past decade and she began attending Savior in 2017.

 
 

Staff Update: Father Kevin

If you’ve listened to a few of my sermons, then you know I’m a huge fan of fine coffee and the Chicago Cubs. A third passion—hobby?—of mine doesn’t get mentioned in my sermons, but I love helping other people preach. I know, how much of a hobby can that be, given that preaching is part of my work? (We Enneagram 3s never quite know how to take time off.)

Still, as much as I love to preach, I find even more joy coaching others, especially at this season of my life. I believe that anyone can learn to preach, and that most churches are filled with people who have teaching gifts that are waiting to be developed and released. Church of the Savior is living proof of this.

Last year and this year, I’ve devoted my study week to training Anglican rectors in preaching seminars. Over the years, I’ve also contributed to a preaching podcast (Monday Morning Preacher), website (PreachingToday.com), and encyclopedia (The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching).

I give myself to this, because I believe good preaching changes lives. (If you’re wondering, I define “good” as biblical, clear, prayerful, applied, and passionate.) Preaching builds churches, instills faith, gives courage, opens a vision of heaven, exalts Christ. As I do my cardio workout each day, I often listen to sermons by other preachers, because those fill my soul.

Our Anglican tradition has been blessed with outstanding preachers, from George Whitefield to John Stott to Rennis Ponniah to Tish Harrison Warren. Our tradition, which focuses on Word and Sacrament, remains healthy wherever those are balanced, where the Word is as substantial as the Bread and Wine of the Holy Table.

So on I go, this skinny preaching geek, hoping to leave behind a next generation of people who will preach their heart out.


Kevin Miller was editor and vice-president at Christianity Today for 26 years and then associate rector at Church of the Resurrection for 5 years. He has been the rector at Savior since January 2017, and is also the co-founder of PreachingToday.com and CTPastors.com.

Kevin Miller was editor and vice-president at Christianity Today for 26 years and then associate rector at Church of the Resurrection for 5 years. He has been the rector at Savior since January 2017, and is also the co-founder of PreachingToday.com and CTPastors.com.

 
 

Be My Neighbor: Ministry and Mr. Rogers

Often, when I meet a person and they ask me what I do, I tell them that I am the Pastor of Family Ministries at an Anglican church, which usually leads to the question, “What exactly does that mean?” and until recently I struggled to put into a few words what it is that I do. 

Recently I watched the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor about the life and work of Fred Rogers, or Mr. Rogers as most of us know him. I did not grow up in the United States, so my exposure to his television show was limited to the times we came to visit family. I remember really liking his program and loved seeing him come in, take off his coat and shoes and put on a sweater and tennis shoes. There was something so comforting about that routine. I loved the trolley, the puppets and the guests he had on his show. I don’t remember too many details about the content itself, but when I remember the show, I feel a sense of peace and happiness.

Now as an adult, and after watching the documentary, my appreciation for Mr. Rogers has grown. He truly was an advocate for children and a great resource and support for parents. He wasn’t afraid to talk about any topic with children, and he had a beautiful way of helping children navigate the uncertainties of life.  However, as I watched the documentary I was struck by the fact that he was not only that way with children, he was the same person with anyone he met. He had a gift for helping people feel safe and loved. 

As I think about my own job of Pastor of Family Ministries, I hope to be someone that helps all people feel safe and loved, but particularly children, youth and their parents. My hope is that as families come to church, they feel seen and heard. My prayer is that as parents navigate the joys and stresses of parenting, they know that they are not alone, but that a community is journeying with them. I hope that as children encounter God’s word, they have the freedom to ask questions and to wonder; and as our youth discover who God has created them to be, they feel encouraged to serve in different areas and they find adults willing to come along side them. My deepest desire is that when families come to Church of the Savior, they feel welcomed and know that they are safe and loved. 

So, next time someone asks me, “What exactly does it mean to be the Pastor of Family Ministries?” I think I will say, “It’s a little bit like being Mr. Rogers at my church.”


Mary Gonzalez is our Pastor of Family Ministries and has worked at Savior since its beginning in 2004.

Mary Gonzalez is our Pastor of Family Ministries and has worked at Savior since its beginning in 2004.

 
 

When I Became Passionate about Leadership

When people talk with me, it does not take long for them to realize I feel passionate about leadership. They often ask me, “When did you first realize you had leadership gifts?”

In high school I was part of an Explorer Scout group led by Coach Brown, a basketball coach who loved young people. He started this group for youth who wanted something to do on the weekend besides drink and do drugs.

I watched as Coach Brown took a bunch of adolescents and built a strong group. He raised up student leaders to lead the group. I happened to be one of them. I had never had someone see me as a leader before. 

I learned from Coach Brown that both boys and girls could lead. This group was a co-ed scouting group – one of the first – and both boys and girls served on the leadership council. That pioneering vision helped keep me going over the years. I was so excited two years ago when I was ordained as a priest, and I love to serve alongside other men and women leaders at Savior.

I also learned that a leader needs to know the gifts of other leaders and put them in positions where they can succeed. Coach Brown saw my administration and put me in charge of a dinner banquet for 250 people. When I look back know, I wonder, “What was he thinking?!” But Coach knew I could do it, and when I did, it built my confidence.

From those early experiences, I became hungry to learn how to grow in my leadership. I spent years attending the Global Leadership Summit and meeting with leadership coaches. For several years I met with a group of women executive pastors. I constantly read leadership books – right now, Becoming by Michelle Obama and Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

I believe that if we do not have healthy leaders, we will not have healthy churches and organizations. That is why I dedicate my life now to coaching leaders, through my practice (StrengthenYourLeadership.com) and as leader of Church of the Savior’s staff. I love our staff meetings, and I am blessed as I meet with them individually and watch their leadership grow. We have an amazing staff at Savior! I would not want to spend my life doing anything else.


Savior’s Associate Rector, Karen Miller, led the counseling center for Evangelical Child and Family Agency for 9 years; coached church planters with the Greenhouse Movement for 3 years; and served as executive pastor at Church of the Resurrection for 14 years. She founded and leads a leadership-coaching practice,    Strengthen Your Leadership   .

Savior’s Associate Rector, Karen Miller, led the counseling center for Evangelical Child and Family Agency for 9 years; coached church planters with the Greenhouse Movement for 3 years; and served as executive pastor at Church of the Resurrection for 14 years. She founded and leads a leadership-coaching practice, Strengthen Your Leadership.