This morning I was at St. Paul Lutheran Church of Phillipsburg, just outside of Brenahm, south on Texas 36, across the Washington County line in Austin County.

St. Paul’s is an old congregation founded in 1890, just south of Brenham on Highway 36, over the Washington County line. In Austin County. St. Pauls is led by Pastor Robert Sorenson. Pastor Sorenson and his wife Joy also manage 85 head of cattle.

There were about 42 in worship today. Brennan has about a dozen ELCA congregations. Some of these congregations are trying to figure out how to make things work economically. With the cost of healthcare going up, and the cost of everything going up its more and more expensive to maintain a congregation with less than 100 in worship. This congregation is nestled behind the trees, so how do you get your name out there? People are moving into Brennan area. The schools are growing. The fastest-growing church is the Cowboy Church, with 400 worship every Sunday. Of course if you add the worship attendance of the 12 congregations together you have a mega church, but when you’re sitting in worship with 40 people, it doesn’t always feel that way. So the challenge is how to benefit from the intimacy of the small church, and at the same time benefit from the economies of scale, and leverage our presence. I have some ideas about that for later…

Worship was festive, and Pastor Sorenson lead enthusiastically, with a strong public presence. The organ at St. Paul’s is a Visser. Mr. Visser lives in Houston. His wife Marcia Seale is the organist at holy comforter in Kingwood, and chair of the synod’s worship team. Ironically I had an ordination this afternoon (on which I’ll comment in a later post) at Salem Lutheran Church in Houston, which also has a Visser pipe organ.

A neighbor at St. Paul’s makes wine from the grapes that grow a few feet from the building:

Pastor Sorenson has been a key leader in helping manage the hay lift from Nebraska farmers to Brenham area ranchers. The generosity has been overwhelming, so much so that 60 Minutes is interested. They’ve been interviewing some of the recipients of the hay lift, and are talking about doing a special on it in January .

After worship we had an Advent potluck after dinner . Lots of really good food. Sausage, and none of it store-bought. Brisket, ham, casseroles and desserts. Not going to lose weight this week.

I met with some of the church leaders following the meal, and we brainstormed ways to revitalize the congregation’s ministry. They are kind and dedicated leaders, who are willing to go to the wall for the Gospel. Along the wall of the fellowship hall are photos of former confirmation classes dating back to 1900. I’ll include some photos in my next post.