Close up shot of digital video camera lens with details

Behind the Camera


Christ is risen!

As I sit and write this it is Day 36 of our exile; that is the number of days since the schools were closed and Immanuel followed suit by suspending in-person activities. So, it has now been more than a month since the heady days when we could have more than 100 people in the same room and hug and shake hands with reckless abandon!

In those 36 days we have held 10 Services, usually with only a handful of people in the Sanctuary and only me in front of the camera. I have joked that if this keeps up much longer I’ll be asking for someone to do hair and makeup (especially hair). I also beseech you all to remember that the camera adds 15 pounds (allegedly).

But the real purpose of this note is to thank the many of you who are working Behind the Camera to keep up the good work of Immanuel Lutheran Church & School. (And, yes, I am going to attempt a list. There is a risk in that, of course, that I will forget to mention somebody: that is certainly not my intention.) With the following people I have continued to have a good deal of contact over the past 36 days:

Jonathan Anderson, our primary Videographer (and my wife, Jennifer, who has run the camera once); our Musicians: Linda Dzuris, Linda Nichols and Dave Pugh; the Congregation/Choir assembled for our recorded Services: Paul Wagenknecht, Dave Houghton and Jean Kleis; the Altar Guild (I have seen Carol Stowell, Pam Nelson, Ruth Lukemire and Jim Nelson).

Anna Wyss has produced videos and the Sunday School staff continues instruction; the Communications Team has kept us connected with the weekly email Digest and updates; Kristal Kemppainen has come in many times to count Offerings; Jan Taylor has kept the Office open and functioning.

The Teachers and Staff of Immanuel Lutheran School have kept instruction flowing to the more than 120 children enrolled in our School; a team of Dan & Bev Thelen, Rick Danielson, Dana Emberton and Jennifer VanOsdol have been working diligently to expedite the availability of online giving; and the Elders (especially Dr. Brandon Wyss) and Paul Mabrey have been meeting regularly to adapt congregational life to our current circumstances and help keep tabs on all of you.

And then there is you, the ones I haven’t mentioned. You continue to give generously to support Immanuel’s ministries and operations; you are sending encouraging emails and texts about our online Services; you are keeping in touch with and serving fellow Immanuel members, family members, neighbors and friends; and all while some of you have added homeschooling to your vocations!

I mentioned in my Maundy Thursday sermon that there are lessons to be learned while we are in this exile. To what I mentioned that night I will add this: we are learning to be Christ for others and to see Christ in others.

The body of Christ in exile is the body of Christ in each of its members, a royal priesthood of believers. As Martin Luther put it, we are to be Christ for one another and our neighbor, particularly our neighbor in need. And in our neighbor, we will also find Christ there to be served.

Jesus said: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me….Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35 36, 40)

Immanuel Lutheran Church & School may be a bit scattered these days, but is still alive and well! I hope to see you all again soon, in the same place and at the same time!

Pastor VanOsdol


Parish Administrator Job Opening

Immanuel Lutheran Church & School in the Five Forks area of Simpsonville, SC is seeking applicants for a Parish Administrator. Current weekly attendance is between 150 and 200 and trending upwards. An integral part of our ministry is a pre-school with an enrollment of 120. The Parish Administrator reports directly to the Pastor and congregational president. We seek candidates committed to our mission, “Immanuel, God With Us, serving our neighbor and one another with His love and forgivenessâ€. See the “I’m New†tab for more information about our congregation.

Basic responsibilities:

  • Determine the overall clerical requirements of the church office, the Pastor, and any church committees, and assure that these needs are met.
  • Schedule and coordinate with various personnel.
  • Encourage volunteerism by making direct requests to members and assure that all volunteers have appropriate assignments, training, and support.
  • Supervise and regularly evaluate all paid administrative and custodial personnel.
  • Assure that the church computer and information systems are up to date at all times.
  • Serve as a liaison to external social services.
  • Attend Council and School Board meetings.
  • Manage facility usage.
  • Work with the Trustees to assure a high level of housekeeping, grounds maintenance, and custodial services.
  • Assure timely publication of general advertising and marketing materials for the church.
  • Maintain a collegial relationship with the School personnel and families in order to promote the mission and vision of Immanuel Lutheran Church and School.
  • Candidate must be able to fulfill their responsibilities in accordance with the basic values and teachings of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod


  • A minimum of five years of experience in a management position with same or similar responsibilities, including supervisory responsibility.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills and interpersonal skills.
  • Strong financial management and organizational skills.
  • Proficient in appropriate clerical and financial software tools.
  • Experience managing and working with volunteers.
  • Education beyond high school (or commensurate life experience) with a bachelor’s degree preferred.
  • A devotional and prayer life that is an example to those with whom he/she interacts.

For more information about Immanuel Lutheran Church and School, explore our website.

To apply, please send a cover letter (two page maximum), resume, and salary expectations to

Review of applications will begin in mid-March.

Poster of so many faces of people looking towards upward

What Do Lutherans Believe?


Have you ever wondered what Lutherans really believe? Or, what does it mean to be “Lutheran?”

What is a Confessional Lutheran? What are the Lutheran Confessions anyway?

What is the Reformation and why is it so important to Lutherans?

How is the Lutheran Church different from American Evangelicalism, the Roman Catholic Church, or Orthodox Church bodies? What is The Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod?

Whether you are new to exploring the Christian faith in the Lutheran tradition or are already a Lutheran, it is good to step back and ask the basic questions. Fortunately, there are answers. You can find a lot of good resources about what Lutherans believe at, on the beliefs page, in the Frequently Asked Questions about the Bible, Doctrine, and Lutheran Confessions. You can even get a good primer on the history of the Reformation at

Once you’ve done all that, there may still be some things you ponder on and question. This is where Pastor Will Weedon comes in. He is formerly the Director of Worship and Chaplain of the International Center of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Pastor Weedon gave Matt Whitman of  YouTube channel The Ten Minute Bible Hour a wonderful and informative introduction to the Lutheran Church at Saint Paul Lutheran Church and School in Hamel, IL where Pr. Weedon serves as Assistant Pastor and Catechist. Pr. Weedon sat for a detailed theological Question & Answer session with Matt, and probably answered some of your questions too. Whether you are new to Lutheran beliefs or have been a life-long Lutheran, you may learn something. Watch and listen:

Part 1:  An Outsider Visits a Lutheran Church

Part 2:  An Outsider Talks With a Lutheran Theologian (What do Lutherans Believe?)

Part 3:  Is Lutheranism the True Catholic Church? (and other stuff with a Lutheran Theologian)

If you want to hear more of Pastor Weedon teaching about Jesus, check out his daily podcast The Word of the Lord Endures Forever on Lutheran Public Radio or at

Matt Whitman shared thoughts about his visit with Andy Bates and Sarah Gulseth during The Coffee Hour on KFUO Radio. Check it out.

Matt demonstrated the best way to learn about Lutherans is to visit a Lutheran church. So, if you are in the greater Greenville-Spartanburg area of South Carolina, please stop by Immanuel Lutheran Church and School in Five Forks, a part of Simpsonville, SC, and visit us. You can get directions here, or just type 2820 Woodruff Road, Simpsonville, SC into your GPS. Be sure to subscribe to Immanuel’s YouTube Channel and Pod With Us Podcast to listen to the latest sermons.

Trust in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ when He says:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Peace be with you.


A cross with the words ministry plan in the background.

Ministry Plan, Again


September brings with it the end of Summer and the beginning of a new school year and resumption of many other things that occupy our church and family calendars most of the year. This Fall at Immanuel, September also signals the beginning of a new chapter of congregational life as we consider a plan for our ministries into the future.

The Ministry Plan is a document I have been working on this Summer that is the product of the first two Steps of our planning process and will be used to guide our decision-making in the future. The Ministry Plan is where our conversations, meetings, prayers and ideas find a tangible result: a list of prioritized goals for Immanuel Lutheran Church & School.

The Immanuel Church Council will get a first look at the Plan at its September meeting. I will have a presentation on it at the September 29 Voters’ Assembly. But here’s a preview:

Our discussions over much of the last year have produced many ideas for evaluating, enhancing and adding to our ministries. These ideas have been grouped into six general themes called
Ministry Targets . The six Ministry Targets are these:

  1. We receive from God to empower our service to others
  2. We equip disciples of Christ to serve others
  3. We care for each other as a family
  4. We welcome the community to our campus
  5. We serve children and young families with God’s love and forgiveness
  6. We enhance and strengthen our ministries

Into these six categories our ideas have been organized, and out of these six categories have come both Staffing Needs (the people resources needed to carry out the Ministry Plan) and Campus Needs (the facilities needed to carry out the Ministry Plan ).

That’s a preview. For more, I invite you to attend the September 29 Voters’ Assembly. And as we get ever closer to taking the next step into our future as a congregation and school, I thank you again for your prayers and faithful presence and stewardship. Please continue to lend your time, talents and treasures to shaping the future of Immanuel Lutheran Church & School!

Pastor VanOsdol

Blog Note: New to Immanuel? Catch up on the entire VisionPath and Ministry Planning process to date, in chronological order, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

A cross with the words ministry plan in the background.

Ministry Plan


Because our Planning Process has one name—and the various Steps in the Process have other names—for the sake of clarity the only name I will use in this update is the Ministry Plan. The Ministry Plan is a document that will be the product of the first two Steps of our Planning Process and will be used to guide our decision-making in the future.

The Ministry Plan is where our conversations, meetings, prayers and ideas find a tangible result: a list of prioritized Goals for Immanuel. I am working on this Plan with Pastor Brath and a few members of the congregation. The Immanuel Church Council viewed the work to-date at its May meeting.

While still a work-in-progress, the Plan is organized into various Goals: Campus, Christian Education, Fellowship, Financial, Human Care, Ministry, Outreach, School, Staffing and Worship. Each Goal has one or more Strategies to accomplish the Goal: these are activities and projects assigned to groups in the congregation. Some of the Strategies are in the future; some are already in process, like exploring Online Giving, Adding a Worship Service, Sunday Hospitality and School Connections. My goal is to have the Ministry Plan ready to present to the Congregation in June.

One Strategy already in process is work on a Master Site Plan for Immanuel Lutheran Church & School, to give us a glimpse of what the Immanuel campus could look like in the future and to determine the best usage of our property and resources. Immanuel’s Campus Team was set up as a subset of the Council to help ensure that a variety of viewpoints are considered as we move forward in this process. This Team consists of:

Dana Emberton, President
Dave Houghton, Vice President
Catherine Benecke, Christian Education
Dan Thelen, Finance
Dick Sunderman, Facilities
Jeff VanUffelen, Immanuel Lutheran School

After several meetings with local firm McMillan Pazdan Smith, the Campus Team has shared the latest with the Council and has invited the Lead Architect for our project to present the Site Plan to the congregation, fielding comments and answering questions. You are invited to be part of this Informational Meeting that will take place following the Divine Service on Sunday, June 2. (No votes will be taken at this meeting.)

The school year is about to end and Summer is set to begin, but there is still plenty going on around Immanuel as we step into our future. Thank you for your prayers and faithful presence and stewardship. Please continue to lend your time, talents and treasures to the shaping the future of Immanuel Lutheran Church & School!

Pastor VanOsdol

Blog Note: New to Immanuel? Catch up on the entire VisionPath and Ministry Planning process to date here, here, here, here, here, and here.

A picture of the miraculous mission logo.

Register Now! VBS 2019 is Miraculous Mission

Vacation Bible School 2019 Miraculous Mission: Jesus Saves The World takes off in Five Forks on Sunday, June 9th and returns from orbit on Thursday, June 13th. Dinner is at 5:30pm and VBS is 6pm to 8pm each day. Your kids (age 3 through 5th grade) will have fun learning about Jesus through games, crafts, songs, and more!

Register now!

See promo video on Immanuel’s VBS page.

A hand pointing to the word ministry mapping.

Planning Process Update


“Immanuel, God With Us, serving our neighbor
and one another with His love and

Here is the latest on the steps taken in our Planning Process during the month of April and what is to come in the month of May:

1) Rev. Billy Brath (LCEF Planning Facilitator) was onsite Tuesday, April 2, to work with us on Step Two (Ministry Mapping) of our Planning Process. More than 40 members of Immanuel’s Church Council and various Boards participated in a Ministry Mapping Workshop; Pastor Brath leading us through a creative process of examining and enhancing some of our ministries. Three groups began work on 3 Goals:

a. Expansion of Worship opportunities (an additional weekly Service and/or expanded worship space)
b. Hospitality (enhancing the Church & School visitor experience through improved traffic flow, signage, fellowship and facilities)
c. Creating ministry opportunities to Immanuel Lutheran School families (strengthening the Church/School connection)

2) After Easter, portions of the same 3 teams will be invited to get together again for further planning toward these Goals. Also after Easter, other Goals will be identified and teams assembled/assigned to address the Goals.

3 ) The Goals identified will become part of a Ministry Plan that will be presented to the congregation. Rev. Brath’s timelime calls for the Ministry Plan to be in place by the end of May.

4) An important piece of the Planning Process puzzle is an evaluation of our current resources, including land and facilities. As the last Master Plan for Immanuel is nearly 20 years old and many changes have come to the Church & School, Five Forks and our Woodruff Road corridor in the last two decades, it is important to have a current update to guide future growth and development. At the March 31 Voters’ Assembly a motion was passed to enlist the services of an outside firm to help us put together an updated Master Plan and resource assessment: a planning document and conceptualization of how Immanuel Lutheran Church & School might exist in the future. The firm of McMillan Pazdan Smith has been retained for this work and Immanuel’s Campus Team (Dana Emberton, Dave Houghton, Dan Thelen, Dick Sunderman, Doug Eggert, Catherine Benecke, Jeff VanUffelen, Pastor) had an initial meeting with this firm during Holy Week.

New to Immanuel? Catch up on the entire VisionPath and Ministry Mapping process to date here, here, here, here, and here.

Pastor VanOsdol

A yard sale with several different types of clothes.

Five Forks Community Yard Sale

April 13, 2019 – 8am to 1pm.

Start your spring cleaning now!

Update: **Don’t let the weather forecast get you down! Sale can be Indoors/ Under-Cover rain or shine!**

Donate items to support Immanuel’s Braille and other ministries and then come see what other treasures are available on the day of the Yard Sale.

Drop off gently-used goods and clothing:

  • Monday, April 8th 9am to 1pm
  • Wednesday, April 10th 6-8pm
  • Thursday and Friday, April 11th and 12th 9am to 1pm
  • Or call Alvine at 704-562-9244 to drop off items by appointment.

Most of all, come by on the day of the sale to fellowship with your community, even if you don’t intend to buy anything. We hope to see you there!

Get Directions.

RSVP on Facebook.

A person holding a camera with the words " time and talent support " written on top of it.

2020 Time and Talents Survey

The Time And Talents Survey is now live!

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ…Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.†(1 Cor 12:12,27)

Christian stewardship is the free and joyous activity of God’s family — the church — in managing life’s resources for His purposes. Immanuel members and friends have diverse gifts that are collectively of great value to our congregation and the community we serve.

What are your God-given gifts? Please take a moment to help us get to know you better by completing a 5-minute survey at the link below. We invite each family member to participate (adults and young adults middle-school-age and older).

Check all areas in which you think you’d enjoy becoming involved as well as those areas where you have some skill that you can share, or areas where you want to learn and grow! We are collecting this information in order to connect Immanuel members with each other through service in current and potential ministries.

[contact-form to=’’ subject=’Time and Talents Survey Question’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Question’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form] 

Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events Presentation


Immanuel is thankful to Captain John Gardner, Ret. for taking the time on Thursday January 31, 2019 to present “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events” as part of Immanuel’s continuing education and effort to maintain Immanuel Lutheran Church and School campus security. If you were unable to attend, both video and audio of the presentation are available.

YouTube video:

Podbean podcast audio:

We ask our Father in heaven, through His Son our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, to preserve Immanuel Lutheran Church and School as a safe place of Christian worship and education, and as a refuge of peace to all who are in need. Amen.

Learn more about the Avoid | Deny | Defendâ„¢ three-step plan for surviving an active shooter event at

If you would like more information about the CRASE course, please visit