Church News

Welcoming New Staff

Gloria Dei is such a vibrant church and place of worship for its community, it’s staff reflects this. We are so excited to welcome three new staff members to our unique, experienced, and awesome team. Say “hello” next time you see them!


Allison Passon

Communications Director

Favorite Fruit: Pineapple

Secret Talent: I remain calm folding a fitted sheet.

Favorite motivational quote: Fix your ponytail and try again.


Jonette Knock

Children’s Programming Coordinator

Favorite Fruit: Honey Crisp Apples

Secret Talent: my goofy laugh

Favorite Motivational Quote: You don’t hope yourself to a goal; you decide, believe, behave like it’s yours, then earn it.


Nicolle Osterhout

Digital Arts Specialist

Favorite Fruit: Watermelon

Secret Talent: I am really good at braiding hair.

Favorite Motivational Quote: You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. -Maya Angelou

Pastor Charles Announces His Retirement After 13 Years of Impactful Ministry

With grateful hearts we announce that after years of powerful ministry and leadership at Gloria Dei, Pastor Charles Ortloff will be retiring in September 2019.

Pastor Charles Ortloff

Pastor Charles Ortloff

Pastor Charles became our Senior Pastor 13 years ago and has led our staff in partnership to create so many impactful ministries, helped to shape our vision casting model, energized our research and development, fostered our Welcome Statement process, and created an environment for the staff that looks ahead to the possibilities of the future church in all that we do. Specifically, Charles has been instrumental in the creation of Water’s Edge worship on Wednesday nights, and the development of the focus on Contemplative Practices ministry in partnership with Julie Stevens.

Charles loves this place and has mixed emotions about his retirement, “With mixed emotions, I announce my retirement in September. It is difficult to say goodbye. At every level, congregational members, council, and staff, you have blessed my ministry,  providing support, encouragement, and friendship. On behalf of my wife and I, thank you. I don’t know what the future brings, but I know the time is right to move on to my next calling which includes time with Karen and family, some travel, and spending time with my cello.”

We’re so thankful for Charles and what he’s brought to our community and staff at Gloria Dei.  In the next several months, there will be more to say about the next steps in the process by the council but in the meantime, let’s celebrate the amazing legacy Charles will leave. A retirement celebration will be planned for the Fall, details for that will be released in the coming months. Please pray for Charles and his family as he enters this new season of life.

You can read Charles’ farewell letter here.

Snow Emergency - Parking Guidelines for Gloria Dei

The city of Rochester has declared a snow emergency in advance of this weekend’s anticipated winter storm. You can help by abiding by the following parking guidelines when visiting Gloria Dei for the next several days:

“Effective at 12:00 p.m. on March 9, and ending at 12:00 p.m. on March 14. Vehicles cannot be parked on the even side of the street on even numbered days, and the odd side of the street on odd numbered days, between 4:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., for the duration of the snow emergency”
— City of Rochester

Be safe, everyone!

Take the Lent Mindfulness Challenge

Lent Mindfulness Challenge

Wed, March 6 - Wed, April 17, daily

Lent is historically a time when people might choose something to “give up”, like chocolate or sweets, watching TV, or excessive use of social media. Instead, what if you used this very special season to add a new habit of meditating and connecting with God each day?

Join Director of Contemplative Practices, Julie Stevens, and sign up with others for a 43 day challenge to meditate every day. Daily recordings of introductory and closing thoughts serving as prompts for timed silence will guide you through Lent. The daily time commitment will gradually grow throughout the challenge as your daily habit becomes more grounded -- beginning with just a few minutes, and ending at under 15 minutes.

Annual Meeting - Year in Review Report

Annual Meeting - Year in Review Report

You are invited to the Annual Meeting on Sunday, January 27th at 10am in the Sanctuary. We will hear form our council president, Amy Conners and will vote on the approval of the church budget and for new council members. Join us to learn about the impact our ministry has made this past year!

Music at Gloria Dei: Finding New Language to Experience our Faith

Music at Gloria Dei: Finding New Language to Experience our Faith

Chris Roberts,  EpicOneEpic Worship Leader

Chris Roberts,
EpicOneEpic Worship Leader

I’ve been at Gloria Dei for just over six years and I’m always amazed at how unique this community is. Lots of things catch my attention, but toward the top of the list are a real sense of welcome, and our creativity and willingness to explore our faith together in new ways.

I’ve been thankful to take part in a variety of roles and projects here, but my strongest passion is in music. I’ve led the worship team at EpicOneEight since it began, and I recently started leading music for Water’s Edge. I was also able to help curate new liturgical music this fall for The Table. I love this role because of the opportunity to be creative and work with other amazing musicians, but also because I believe our songs have a big impact on how we understand our faith.

In some ways I think about music itself as having two basic parts - the actual sound and the lyrics. Both of these can convey an idea, thought, or emotion on their own, but used in combination they’re a powerful force.

Each worship gathering at Gloria Dei has its own sort of identity and calls out for a specific energy in its music. For me, that energy has little to do with style or age (though those components are important, often surprising, and help shape the sound).


Even though a song like “Breathe” is only a handful of years old, something about its piano intro and reflective tone carries a depth that ties The Table to generations of faithful people. But the banjo-driven “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” a la Sufjan Stevens, helps a familiar, traditional hymn feel like it was made for a group to sing with each other in a circle around a fire.

When it comes to the lyrics of our music, I like to think first about what words, language, and symbols mean, especially the ones that go along with our ideas of “church.”

Reza Aslan, author and religious scholar, once wrote, “religion... is the language we use to express faith. It is a language made up of symbols and metaphors that allows people to express to each other (and to themselves) what is, almost by definition, inexpressible.”

Paul Tillich argued that religious language must be understood symbolically. Sufi mystics describe this language as “a signpost to God.” My point? Words are hard, complicated, inefficient things.

And while it’s no secret that our world is changing, so is the collective understanding of faith and religion. We have a long history of words, stories, and songs that we can use to communicate our experience of faith. But the challenge is that we have such a wide variety of life experiences and perspectives that sometimes we use the same words and mean something different. And sometimes the words that we have internalized - or learned to say in a certain situation from those around us - aren’t really our own words. Or at least they aren’t the words that we mean to say, they’re just the ones that we have.


When we say “everything happens for a reason”, are we saying that’s the only way “God’s plan” would work out? Or do we really mean, “I’m so sorry that this is happening. But I know that you’re strong, you have a great community around you, and you can make it through this. You might even learn or experience something that will be helpful in the future.”

Sometimes we mean the latter, but we don’t know the words.

So when I think about the songs we sing, I’m looking for music that will help us open things up and add to how we understand and describe our faith experience. In curating music for worship, the exciting part for me is that there are so many places where people are telling our story (and sometimes they don’t even know it)!

When I hear Mavis Staples sing “I wanna get it through to you, you're not alone,” I can’t help but be reminded of the way God is with us through each other. So let’s sing that together.

When we sing Ben Grace’s take on “For Everyone Born,” I hear a bold affirmation of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. This might be a small way our congregation can continue to live out our welcome statement.

When I hear John K. Samson tell the story of an oak tree that existed “long before” a number of cultural events in his hometown of Winnipeg, it reminds me of the long history of people trying to sort out this God stuff.

When we sing, we probably don’t all believe every word, or on any given day our own experience might mean we can’t sing. But we still do it together. It’s one of the ways we continue to remind each other about the God who is the essence and center of our community.

You can listen to a spotify playlist that inspires Chris as he selects music for Gloria Dei Worship.