The Cerro Grande forest fire during May scorched Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Los Alamos, N.M., and came within 4 feet of the parsonage. But it didn't claim the buildings. Twelve families in the 630-member congregation lost their homes in the fire, which necessitated the evacuation of Los Alamos. "It was clearly the saddest and most frightening time of my life," said Ed Thomas, pastor of Bethlehem, who said the church will focus on helping the community cope with the stress and get back to normal. "There is an incredibly strong spirit of community here and we will support each other," he said. Junior- and high-school youth from Grace Lutheran Church, Lincoln, Neb., took part in a 30-hour fast to raise funds for the Gathering Place, a soup kitchen where they serve monthly. With matching funds from Aid Association for Lutherans, the youth raised more than $1,000. More than 900 alumni and friends of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, donated $1 million to create an endowed chair in honor of Russell R. Rulon, professor of biology. Rulon, who is retiring, learned of the endowment at the start of a two-day celebration honoring his teaching career. The Lutheran Home of Southbury (Conn.) will be permanently exempt from property tax as the result of a bill passed unanimously in both houses of the Connecticut Legislature. The bill resolved a three-year dispute between the home and Southbury Town Assessor Joseph Ferraro, who sought to assess the 82-year-old nursing home for taxes. Legislators filed the bill on behalf of Lutheran Social Services of New England, the nonprofit parent agency of the home. Holy Trinity Lutheran, St. Simon's Episcopal and New Hope Christian Center, all of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., cooperated to bring biblical times alive for a three-church vacation Bible school program last July. Children from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade were grouped into 12 "tribes" reminiscent of the 12 tribes of Israel and participated in a simulation of life in A.D. 27-28. Pupils dressed in costume and created arts and crafts projects, learned songs and traditional Jewish dances, and played games at 12 activity tents. The churches will again combine their VBS programs this summer. Lutheran schools affiliated with both the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the ELCA must "resolve their dual status" or lose their LCMS affiliation if a LCMS synodical task-force recommendation is adopted. The Task Force on Recognized Service Organizations will make its recommendation in a report to next year's LCMS convention. It would set a July 2006 deadline for school associations to decide upon their affiliation. The task-force report may be downloaded as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file at www.lcms.org/president/statements.asp. J. Paul Rajashekar received the Luther D. Reed Endowed Chair at The Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia. Rajashekar is professor of systematic theology and acting dean at the seminary, where he has served on the faculty since 1991. The namesake of the Luther D. Reed Endowed Chair was a former president of the seminary and an authority on liturgy and worship. Dozens of members participated in "Carpool Sunday" at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Davenport, Iowa, in April. The church established the Sunday to urge members to be better environmental stewards. The congregation provided a map and pins before the event so members could locate other parishioners in their neighborhoods for their car pools.