• Two Lutheran agencies are coordinating efforts for Lutheran Disaster Response in the wake of 19 tornadoes that struck Illinois in mid-April. Hardest hit was Utica, a small community of 1,000. Eight people, aged 18 to 81, died when the tavern in which they sought shelter collapsed. Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois and Lutheran Social Services of Illinois were in contact with congregations to assess damages. Nearby Trinity Lutheran Church, Ottawa, Ill., offered hotel rooms and quilts.
• Pentecost will hopefully be quieter at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Jasper (Haysville), Ind., this year. While Wilmer Hallman, pastor, began making announcements last year, the velvet curtain behind the altar started on fire. After two tries at putting out the fire — eventually managed with fire extinguishers — Hallman proceeded to the children's sermon, where he related the story of the tongues of fire. He lit candles on a small cake that soon was ablaze. The children tried to blow them out, but the candles weren't extinguishable. As witness Lora Williams wrote, "Anything that occurred after that was superfluous." Hallman says he has "no intention of sending [the videotaped service] to America's Funniest Home Videos."
• In an April 21 letter to the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod's rostered leaders, Bishop David R. Strobel said hospital blood tests following a car accident last October revealed that he had an alcohol level exceeding the legal limit. No one was injured in the one-car accident, for which Strobel said he continues to be thankful. Strobel waived a hearing before the district judge. He expressed regret, saying he willingly accepts the consequences: a rehabilitation program, community service and suspension of driving privileges for 30 to 60 days. He said he is working with a spiritual director and counselor to deal with the issues that led to his "unhealthy and dangerous behaviors."
• Sabine O'Hara was selected 10th president of Roanoke College, Salem, Va., effective in June. She is the first woman to serve as president of Roanoke and the third female president of an ELCA college. Born in Germany, O'Hara earned a doctorate in environmental economics from the University of Gottingen. Previously she was academic vice president and dean of Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.
• John R. Sebentsfeldt, 48, pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced April 26 to a year in jail and 25 years of supervised probation for molesting a girl in 2002. Former pastor of Bigfork Lutheran, Grand Rapids, Minn., Sebentsfeldt resigned from the ELCA roster and congregation, which he had served since 1991.
• Worshipers at Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church, New Sweden, Maine, observed two minutes of silence April 25 to honor victims of last year's coffee arsenic poisoning (June 2003, page 35). Police have said they believe the incident was the result of "petty church politics and personal grudges," the Associated Press reports.
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