The Lutheran Home for Children is the incarnation of the Waisenheimat Zum Kinderfreund (Orphans’ Home of the Children’s Friend) of 1904-1945, which gave birth to what would become Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey.
St. Paul Lutheran Church, about a mile from Ellis Island in Jersey City, N.J., includes 10 descendants of its founding German families, as well as members from India, the Philippines, the Caribbean, Guyana, Colombia, Ghana and Iceland.
The relationship between the two neighbors makes sense, said Beth Gebhart, executive director of fund development and the LSMNJ Foundation. “Churches and LSMNJ go hand-in-hand. By partnering and sharing resources, we can reach more people,” she added.
There is a daily, quiet connection between this diverse congregation and the home. Children work in the community garden. On occasion, children and staff worship at St. Paul. There can be limited interaction between the children and parishioners as long as staff is present.
How did the children’s home come to be housed in the parsonage? In the ’70s and ’80s, the area around the church saw a surge in homelessness, as well as crime due to drug addiction. There were frequent late-night knocks on the pastor’s door by people asking for food or a place to sleep. Eventually the parsonage was moved blocks away so the pastor’s family could have some peace.
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© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers