The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



Bethel New Life, a community development organization started by Bethel Lutheran Church, Chicago, was honored in 2002 by Families Count: The National Honors program. The unrestricted $500,000 award recognizes the group's commitment to strengthening families through housing development, job education, a cultural art center and other programs. Bethel New Life began in 1979 to improve the quality of life in Chicago's West Garfield Park neighborhood. From an initial investment of $9,500, it now has a $10 million annual budget, 340 employees and about 300 volunteers.

Redeemer Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, has had a close relationship with Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem, for more than a decade. In April members sent a letter of support to Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas; President Bush; members of Congress; the Israeli government; the ELCA; and Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine). The letter abhorred the violence, condemned the targeting of religious facilities and thanked those who work for peace. It says: "We urge our U.S. political leaders to join in recognizing that there can be no peace until the humiliation and colonial domination of one people by another have ended permanently. ... We join with you in the resurrection hope that a new day of salaam/shalom is about to dawn, for you and for all who live in the land called holy. May it be so very soon."

Grace Lutheran Church, La Grange, Ill., endowed the Bernard, Fischer, Westberg Distinguished Professorship at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. It's the first ELCA congregation to endow a $1 million chair. The project honors George P. Bernard, former pastor of Grace; Granger E. Westberg, who wrote Good Grief and founded the worldwide parish nurse program; and Robert H. Fischer, retired LSTC professor of church history. Fischer is a member of Grace, as were Bernard and Westberg before their deaths.

Christ Lutheran Church, York, Pa., raised $16,000 for two Lutheran hospitals in Tanzania. The congregation is paired with Itete Lutheran Hospital in the Konde Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania through a "companions in Christ" program. Members also sent money to Matema, another hospital in the diocese. The money will enable the hospitals to build fences to improve sanitary conditions and secure hospital grounds, supplies and families from intruders and wild animals.

• More than 1,700 Lutheran congregations and groups raised $429,900 in January's Souper Bowl of Caring, the annual faith-based event dedicated to fighting hunger. Lutherans also gathered nearly 50,000 nonperishable food items for local pantries. This nationwide, interdenominational effort asks worshipers to donate $1 as they leave worship Super Bowl Sunday or to donate canned goods. Congregations choose where to send the donations. ELCA participants often choose the World Hunger Appeal and Domestic Disaster Response. The 2002 national total was $2.95 million.

• Lutheran recruits can now find a church home at Fort Jackson, S.C., the largest Army basic training facility in the United States. A Lutheran service is held each Sunday morning using the Lutheran Book of Worship and incorporating a weekly blessing for recruits leaving on assignments. Attendance at the services has grown from only a few to more than 50.

• On April 21, members of St. John Lutheran Church, Sterling, Neb., voted 108-22, with 2 abstentions, to withdraw from the ELCA. “We’re very disappointed that the people of St. John … have decided to walk away from the mission and ministry that we have shared for 107 years,” said Bishop David L. deFreese, Nebraska Synod. “We believe this whole process was one in which we were not included in the conversations until decisions had already been made.” St. John’s leaders began by withholding mission support. St. John will continue its membership in Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, formed in 2001 by WordAlone, an organization critical of the ELCA’s ecumenical agreement with the Episcopal Church and a perceived liberal trend related to sexuality issues.

• The Metropolitan Chicago Synod received a $65,000 grant in February from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. The grant will supplement a synod loan fund that provides money to congregations for energy-saving building upgrades and for educational outreach focused on energy conservation.

• When the parsonage of Faith Lutheran Church, Miller, Iowa, needed a new roof before last winter set in, the budget lacked the funds to pay for repairs. But this wasn’t an obstacle for 12 members who were ready to help. Ranging in age from mid-20s to early 80s, the men took to the roof on a Friday in October and laid almost 2,000 feet of roof in seven hours.

• Twenty-seven young people and three adults from churches in the Upper Susquehanna Synod experienced life as German Lutherans for two weeks last fall when they visited their companion synod in the Lutheran Church of Bavaria. The visit included home stays with German families and a trip to a German camp, activities that echoed the Bavarian youths’ 1999 visit to Pennsylvania.


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