• After a rock band's pyrotechnics turned a Rhode Island nightclub into an inferno Feb. 20 that killed 98 patrons and injured 187, Lutherans offered help to family members and the community. "This is our neighborhood," said Susanne Dantone, administrative assistant of Emanuel Lutheran Church, West Warwick, a block from the club. "We've all lost either close friends or our neighbors, and some members lost relatives." Emanuel hosted a memorial and healing service. Lutheran and other local pastors also cared for victims' families, who waited days while authorities identified the remains. "The one thing that touched me the most was all the families caring for each other," said Dana Izzo, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Warwick. "People have asked how you cope with such tragedy. You cope by finding a way to help. And that is what so many people have done."
• Five "lost boys from Sudan" welcomed by Oak Grove Lutheran High School, Fargo, N.D., last fall say they're not lost at all. While in a refugee camp, missionaries gave them new names--Emmanuel, Samuel, Abraham, Elijah and Jacob--and birth dates since this information was not known. The boys say they aren't lost because they've been found and redeemed by God, who knows their real names. The missionaries told the boys that education would become their parents. In most cases, parents of Sudan's lost boys and girls are dead or permanently separated from their children (May 2001, page 38). Missionaries told them a good education would make their parents proud and be a springboard to the future.
• The Augsburg Nursing Center, based at Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, since 1993, celebrated its 10th anniversary in January. It is a collaboration of Central; Augsburg College, Minneapolis; and the Urban Communities Association of Minneapolis. The center offers members and homeless people advice, blood pressure readings, and everyday supplies such as socks and toothbrushes.
• Concordia Cemetery, a nonprofit organization in Chicago founded by six Lutheran congregations, wants to give back to the community. It announced its Grave Donation program, which gives each Chicago-area municipality two graves for victims of crimes or tragedies or to those who cannot afford plots.
• In February, "A Pastoral Statement of Conviction and Concern" bearing 1,513 signatures was sent to ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson and the Studies on Sexuality Task Force. It expresses reservation about continued involvement with the ELCA should the 2005 Churchwide Assembly approve same-sex unions and ordination of noncelibate gays and lesbians (January, page 58). It was started at the "Conference on Christian Sexuality" last fall at Ruskin Heights Lutheran Church, Kansas City, Mo., and was posted on three Web sites. "The response has been astonishing," said organizer Russ Saltzman, pastor of Ruskin Heights and editor of Forum Letter. "It reveals that a possible change in the church's teaching on sexuality is a very unsettled and unsettling matter for the ELCA grass roots and beyond." The signatures represent individuals, congregations and church councils from every state except Alaska, as well as from other countries, he said.
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