•In the 1950s scores of young men and women moved to Southern California in search of better jobs--and perhaps better weather. A small group at Our Savior Lutheran Church, Los Angeles, formed a Young Marrieds Group in 1958, at one time boasting 33 couples. Last fall, the group held its fifth reunion. Special guests included Myrus L. Knutson, pastor, and his wife Helen, whose home was the site of the group's first meeting, and James A. Bergquist, the pastor who served as its adviser, and his wife, Lorrie. The group claims to only have had three divorces and four deaths among the original couples. When the Young Marrieds began there were three children. At this reunion they counted 110 descendants--children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren--among the 13 couples attending.
• More than 1,400 Lutheran congregations reported raising $413,000 for hunger-fighting organizations on Souper Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2. About 8,700 young groups and organizations nationwide raised more $3 million that day. The Souper Bowl of Caring is held each year on Super Bowl Sunday, giving thousands of organizations the opportunity to collect food and money for hunger causes of their choice.
• Youth at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Frostburg, Md., normally observe Souper Bowl Sunday with a soup luncheon to raise funds for local food ministries. This year, however, was different. An early morning fire broke out two blocks from the church, with fire companies from up to 40 miles away responding. Still, by 8:15 a.m. people were arriving for worship, having negotiated something of an obstacle course, says Mike Tamorria, pastor. "Early on we decided to share our soup with the emergency people--who were already coming in to use our washroom facilities and look for coffee," he said. "I told the fire chief that he could send in firefighters any time after 11 for soup." Despite the roadblocks, worship attendance was higher than usual and there was enough soup for the congregation and fire and emergency personnel.
• Lillian Armbrust turns 94 this month, and she'll probably celebrate by singing with her group, the MorningSong contemporary worship team at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Speedway, Ind. She joined the group five years ago because, she says, "it was another chance to sing" and she "liked the upbeat songs and music." Armbrust doesn't come to the group with a lack of experience. A charter member of St. Andrew (1942), she was its first pianist and organist. She's also been in the choral and handbell choirs. Although Armbrust isn't a great fan of the drums and loud guitars, she "isn't against them either, " citing Scripture that clearly says God's people used different instruments "to make joyful noises to the Lord."
• Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ was a study opportunity for a number of congregations around the country. Peace Lutheran Church, Wayland, Mass., is holding worship services in the Jewish synagogue next door during building renovations. The two congregations held a forum to discuss the movie. St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran, Pittsburgh (Brookline), joined local churches in renting a theater for a Saturday morning showing. And Grace Lutheran Church, Woodstock, Ill., held a sold-out preview on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the movie opened, in a theater that holds 408 people. Prayer and conversation followed at the church. Anne Bergren, a parishioner and the communication director for the Northern Illinois Synod, says viewing the movie together was a good way to enter Lent. Worship attendance at both Lenten services and on Sundays increased. Extra chairs had to be set up on Ash Wednesday, similar to Christmas and Easter.
• Agora, an outreach ministry of the Minneapolis Area Synod, now provides a radio ministry to the growing immigrant population of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn. The initial series, on KLBB-AM, targets the area's 15,000 Ethiopians who speak Amharic, their country's national language. Half-hour Sunday evening broadcasts began in January with news from Ethiopia, information about living in the Twin Cities, music and inspirational messages. Agora is Greek for marketplace.
• They call themselves the "Quiet Quilters," but Beth Grossman says, "I don't know why, because we really are not." The group at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Plymouth, Ind., has made more than 4,000 baby quilts in the last 10 years, mostly for AIDS and drug-addicted children throughout the world. Gladys Hlavacek, 84, told a local newspaper that children who are old enough can pick their own quilts. Sometimes the quilts are eventually used as a shroud for burial. The quilts are not only used for warmth, but are often the only possession an individual may have.
• Changing Church Forum Initiatives, Burnsville, Minn., received a $380,000 grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans for a pilot evangelism program. It uses coaching to train and guide pastors and other leaders to transform their congregations into growing, evangelism-infused churches. David Stark, a staff member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, will direct the program.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers