A different kind of homeless problem arose when West Denmark Lutheran Church, Luck, Wis., replaced the parish hall roof last winter. The project destroyed the habitat of 1,000 brown bats. Fortunately the bats go south for the winter, so members had time to remedy the situation. They built 10 bat houses and hung them around the church grounds. Keith Rediske, pastor of West Denmark, said the project taught about stewardship, caring for God's creation and environmental awareness. Since bats eat up to 600 bugs an hour, they provide natural pest control that is a blessing for humans — especially during mosquito season.
Followers of Martin Luther reveled in John Knox's culture — at least for a day — as the wail of the pipes filled St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Ellsworth, Maine, and the Scottish delicacy haggis was presented under crossed swords to diners. That was how St. Andrew members celebrated the 240th birthday of Robert Burns, the beloved Scottish poet. On Jan. 24, the West Eden Highlanders, a drum and bagpipe corps, feasted with more than 150 guests at their third annual fund-raiser. Jack Maxim, pastor of St. Andrew, led the revelers in singing Burns' most famous verse, Auld Lang Syne, but skipped the traditional toast of Scotch whisky. A Sunday school project provided a wonderful Easter banner for Trinity Lutheran Church, Hawkeye, Iowa. Before Lent, each class designed and decorated an "alleluia square." On the first Sunday in Lent, the squares were displayed and then symbolically "buried" in a box under the altar. Then the church's quilters secretly pieced the squares together, framing each with bright blue fabric. On Easter Sunday, the squares had "resurrected" in an enormous banner hanging in the sanctuary. To attract newcomers, 16 congregations in the Appleton Conference of the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin held an "Invite a Friend Sunday." The conference solicited coverage from the media and provided buttons, planning guides, instructions for a prayer vigil, a skit and newspaper advertisements. The churches were urged to promote and plan the event as it best fit them. The planning and publicity paid off: 100 visitors came to check out Lutheran churches. An event that was truly shaky from the start, the "Jell-O Jubilee" at Calvary Lutheran Church, Federal Way, Wash., turned into a solid success. The congregation's "Care Connection" sponsored the event, which included dinner and singing. The highlight was the contest for the most creative gelatin concoctions. Five young men and women from Peace Lutheran, College Station, Texas, were commissioned as peer ministers in the church's "Order of the Towel." The ministers are high school and college students who take a 15-week discipleship training course and serve in a church or campus ministry. They are Geoff Paulson, Rachel Ward, Jenny Langan, Kristin Medvedev and Heath Abel. Answering its call to be a downtown congregation and reach out to city dwellers in its midst, Zion Lutheran Church, Muscatine, Iowa, hosted a block party. It sent out more than 1,000 invitations in English and Spanish to residents asking them to come for food and fun. "The party shows our neighbors that we are glad to be where we are, that we want to know who our neighbors are, that we want their children to have fun and that we want to be an important part of the neighborhood," said Karla Griffen, pastor of Zion. To help women who are struggling with issues of abuse and trauma, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, San Pedro, Calif., began a support group where hurt can be transformed into healing. Margaret Gallego was inspired to start the group after she read the From Victim to Victor by Yvonne Martinez. "I hadn't realized how important forgiveness was," she said.