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Our Congregations Up North!

On November 13 and 14, 2021, Communications and Connections Coordinator Catherine Slabaugh had the privilege of visiting three of our congregations up north, and we mean way up north! Catherine spent time with Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Weaverville, CA, St. James Lutheran Church in Redding, CA, and worshipped on Sunday with our northernmost congregation in the synod, Mt. Zion Lutheran Church in Yreka, CA! Here's a peek into her trip.

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Weaverville, CA

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church sits in the quaint town of Weaverville, California, about an hour West of Redding and deep into the forest. Many people know Weaverville as it sits along Hwy - 299 and connects towns along Interstate - 5 to the California coast. Or perhaps they've heard about Weaverville in regards to the recent Monument Fire that swept through the Trinity National Forest this past August. After spending a few hours sitting down over coffee and delicious homemade pastries, I learned that this tight-knit, resilient community is so much more.

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is led by Pastor Brad Keyser-Boswell and the supportive community of lay-folk who call this congregation home. The small blue building sits at the entrance into town and upon stepping foot inside, you'll be taken through the church's rich history. The building, originally the bingo hall in town, is filled with artwork and hand-crafted structures that have become an integral part of the space. The town of Weaverville is filled with local artists, and the congregation is no exception. Hand-painted pieces portraying different scripture, altars carved from old slabs of wood, and colorful stained glass displays decorate the walls of the sanctuary.

The people of Holy Trinity call themselves family. Before COVID, Sunday Worship Services were not complete until lunch had been served and enjoyed by all in attendance. In fact, as one of their first community meals together in nearly 2 years, they'll be spending Thanksgiving Dinner at the church, enjoying a meal and each others company.

The community is also eager to find new ways to welcome folk to their congregation, and they're always looking to shake things up! During our time together, we brainstormed different ways they may be present in the community, ways they can welcome the community in to their beautiful space, and how they may continue to challenge each other theologically. I won't spoil any of their ideas, but if your congregation is asking the same questions, these fine folk may be wonderful thought partners!

The congregation is especially mindful of their large outdoor space! When taking the back steps outside from the sanctuary, you are greeted with a large grass field full of opportunities! They've hosted bonfires in the Christmas Season, outdoor worship services, and many other events - and are discerning ways this space may be a gift to the greater Weaverville community.

As a congregation whose closest ELCA church is an hour away, they are always looking for different folk to brainstorm with, learn from, and share ideas. If you are looking to learn more about this congregation or get connected to partner with them from afar (or nearby!), I encourage you to reach out to

St. James Lutheran Church

Redding, CA

St. James Lutheran Church sits along Interstate - 5 in the bustling city of Redding, CA, about 3 hours north of Sacramento. This congregation is 1 of 85 churches in the Redding area and welcomed their Pastor Bob Swartz to the church just a few years back. In his first year serving St. James, the area was hit with the massive Carr Fire that shook the greater community. This experience allowed Pastor Swartz and his family to immediately connect with and become a part of the Redding community, with his wife, Katie Swartz, connecting with Lutheran Disaster Response and serving with other local faith-based organizations in responding to the fire. From that point forward, Redding was home.

St. James Lutheran is a community who has seen a multitude of change over the last couple of years, and passionately accept it as growth in the right direction. They have spent this past year focusing on connecting the congregation in an intergenerational sense, trying new programs and events that welcome all kinds of folks to the table. In the season of COVID, they continue to adapt and just in the last month or so, have launched a new streaming service for their worship services! 4 cameras located throughout the sanctuary and a team of tech leaders bring church to many congregants joining worship from home.

I intentionally visited St. James on Saturday, November 13th as they hosted the SPSYC Day of Service for their area! We spent a bit of our time together putting together personal care kits for Lutheran World Relief. You can read all about the synod-wide service project in our recent blog post, here.

Like their friends in Weaverville, part of St. James's property includes a large grass field with an overwhelming amount of possibility. The congregation is discerning how this space may best serve their community and the greater Redding community, and may have a few exciting announcements in the coming months around this. We can't wait to see where this goes!

St. James is also deeply connected as a community. Just last week, hand-painted artwork depicting different biblical stories, done by a high school congregant, were hung along the walls of the sanctuary. Their narthex is also home to "A Rainbow of God's Faithfulness" where the community lifts up and celebrates things folk are grateful for in this season.

The congregation is currently looking to dive deeper into their use of Social Media and how they can connect and communicate with their community. If you find yourself up north, or are looking to connect with St. James, I invite you to check out their website here. They would love to welcome you to worship, walk you around their beautiful outdoor space, and dream about all things church with you!

Mt. Zion Lutheran Church

Yreka, CA

Mt. Zion Lutheran Church serves proudly as our northernmost congregation in the Synod, located along Interstate - 5 just 30 miles from the Oregon-California border. Pastor Lori Keyser-Boswell has faithfully led this congregation for over 20 years and is always looking for ways to adapt and welcome folk into their community. In fact, the Sunday I worshipped with them, 3 new congregants were interested in learning more about becoming official members of the congregation!

I joined them for worship on Sunday morning and was charmed by the beautiful stained glass, warm welcome from congregants, and traditional liturgy the congregation participated in. This small but mighty congregation is nestled deep in the town of Yreka, just across the street from a local park and Little League fields! They are known throughout the community as they house many anonymous support groups and provide an annual Thanksgiving Dinner for individuals in need.

After the service, the congregation and I gathered downstairs in their fellowship hall for a soup lunch (homemade by Pastor Lori) and conversation. They shared with me their deep history and the challenges they face being so distant from other ELCA Churches, and we explored new and unique ways they can welcome folk into their congregation.

I encourage you to worship with Mt. Zion Lutheran Church if you are ever in town, or stop by to say hello when driving through! The congregation would love to connect with other congregations in our Synod who are dreaming about ways to engage younger people, wondering how their space could be shared with others in the community, and how to connect intentionally and deeply with diverse individuals. Email to connect!

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