As summer begins to wind down, the days seem to get a little shorter, beach chairs return back to the dusty corner of the garage, pumpkin-flavored everything appears in stores, and the sound of school buses echo throughout our neighborhoods. Yet before we say good-bye to summertime, we want to enjoy one last Saint Luke Story.
This summer, we have enjoyed a series called “Saint Luke Stories” featuring stories of how various members of our community found their way to Saint Luke and why they call it home. Thus far, we have featured stories from Marie & Jennifer, Ian, TJ, the DiSciascio family, and Claire.
Today, we have the privilege of hearing from the Valentine family. Enjoy!
Finding a church that “fits” your whole family can be a challenge. There are so many factors to consider. When the Valentine family relocated to Pennsylvania from New Jersey in the summer of 2011, they were looking for not only a church where they could build friendships and grow in their faith, but a place where they could contribute. One day while they were driving around town, they noticed a church at the corner of Conestoga Road and N Valley Forge. It was Saint Luke Lutheran Church. Having visited multiple churches in the area and not finding the right fit, Philip, Ruth, and their son Andrew decided to give Saint Luke a try and were so glad that they did.
The Valentines recall their first visit with excitement. The church was full. Pastor Sue delivered a meaningful sermon. They felt comfortable in the service. On top of all that, Saint Luke offered something for every member of the family, at every life stage. Ruth shares, “We noticed a lot of kids and Andrew was 7 at that time and we were immediately drawn to the many children’s programs the church had to offer.” Yet, it was not only Andrew that found his place. Over the years, each of the Valentines have found connection, friendship, and meaningful ways to get involved.
From a small elementary child to a now polite and humorous teenager, Andrew has grown up at Saint Luke and has very much been a part of the church community. As a child the kids programs enriched his life, and now as a high school student, he continues to find a place at Saint Luke. He helps out as an Acolyte during worship and participates in 2 Copper Coins, the Spark Student Ministry band. He also serves as a role model for the next generation of young kids growing up at Saint Luke by serving as a VBS volunteer for the past 3 years. While Ruth’s heart swells with motherly gratitude as she shares that “it is great to see Andrew involved in church activities,” Andrew playfully jokes that his mom is also happy that the electric bill is down while he is away from his video games.
Andrew clearly had more than video games on his mind this summer, as he chose to spend a week participating in the Appalachia Service Project. During this trip, students and adults from Saint Luke traveled to Ashland, Kentucky to help make homes safer, warmer, and drier. Along the way, homes are not the only things that are transformed. Andrew describes his moving experience of building relationships with the host families. He explains, “I enjoyed meeting my homeowner and seeing the smile on her face when her home was fixed. I also enjoyed meeting people from other churches at the Center.” For someone who is on the fence about going to ASP, Andrew would encourage them to participate, saying, “It is one of the best things of the summer. You make great relationships and you feel amazing afterwards. It is an amazing week!” He adds that more people should get involved, and you can’t help but laugh as he hilariously adds the caveat, “Just not my parents.”
While his parents may not be invited to join in on the ASP trips just yet, they have found so many ways to be involved at Saint Luke. Ruth has made many great friends and served in the Sunday School program, Stephen Ministry, and the Connectors Team. Phillip greatly enjoys the participating in Men’s Breakfast gatherings. He shares the story of his involvement saying, “When I visited Men’s Breakfast for the first time, the men that I met reminded me of my Dad, who I looked up to. This got me interested in attending more regularly and getting to know more about them.” He found a wonderful community where men can learn from one another and grow together. Today, he helps organize the group, ensuring that more men can experience the same type of welcoming and encouraging community that he found.
Week after week, the Valentines return to Saint Luke, each finding their unique place in the community. Ruth says, “Saint Luke is the perfect fit for our family.” They feel it can be a great fit for others too, regardless of who you are. Ruth goes on to explain, “Saint Luke is a very friendly and open congregation. They are very quick to accept diversity.” It is also a congregation that is always ready to lend a hand without any hesitation. Philip adds that it is “the ability to be open and to welcome all” that makes them most proud to call Saint Luke their church. They hope that more people will discover this warm welcoming community and that Saint Luke will continue to grow in its diversity, as well as incorporate environmental issues, a cause close to their hearts, in its future projects.
The impact that Saint Luke has had and can have is perfectly captured in the closing story that Philip and Ruth shared. In the beginning of the summer, Philip’s nephew and family visited from California. Their family includes two little girls, ages 7 and 3. Together, the whole family attended Sunday service and the girls went to Children’s Church during worship. They had an absolute blast, greatly enjoying their experience! Upon returning home after service, the first thing the girls said to their dad was, “Dad, you need to find a job in Pennsylvania so we can go to the same church as Uncle Philip!” To the Valentines, there is no greater compliment that could be given to Saint Luke.