The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



• A “friendly” contest to help stock local pantries in southern Illinois resulted in more than two tons of food donated by members from eight Lutheran congregations. Epiphany Lutheran Church of All Saints, Carbondale, Ill., came in first place with 1,071 pounds of food donated, and St. Luke Lutheran Church, Campbell Hill, Ill., came in second with 931 pounds. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, which sponsored the event, contributed $500 worth of food.

Lutheran Disaster Response received more than $4,200 from Rock Fest for Hurricane Relief, a benefit concert coordinated by Holy Cross (Toms River, N.J.) and St. Thomas (Brick, N.J.) Lutheran churches. More than 400 people attended the Nov. 12 event at Holy Cross, which included 15 area bands. Nick Pole, a member of St. Thomas who is in a band, and Joe Ombres, assistant youth director of Holy Cross, developed the idea. They coordinated the event with Ombres’ mother, Beverly, who said the fundraiser became “personal” after her son volunteered for three weeks at Christus Victor Lutheran Church, Ocean Springs, Miss., an LDR disaster response center.

Jacob Lutheran Church, Masontown, Pa., made a $10,000 donation for relief after hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast. “People are displaced. People are in need,” said Todd Kornahrens, pastor. “As Christians we wanted to do something to shine a light on this dark situation.” Members also donated $10,000 toward relief after a tsunami struck Southeast Asia in December 2004. Both donations came from its savings, a “rainy day” fund the congregation has used for 40 years funded partly by selling lumber on its 120 acres of property. Since the congregation gave the first $10,000 in January 2005, the savings account added $23,000. “We ended up with more than double our donation,” Kornahrens said. “God has blessed us.”

• Naoki Asano, pastor of Hiyoshi Lutheran Church, Yokohama, Japan, is serving an 11-month missionary assignment with the South Carolina Synod. Asano was commissioned at St. John Lutheran, Charleston, S.C., the same congregation from which James A.B. Scherer—a Lutheran pastor and missionary—was commissioned before his 1892 arrival in Japan. The Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church marks its origins with Scherer’s arrival. Since that time it has maintained a relationship with the South Carolina Synod, which sent a delegation to Japan in 2003 for the centennial of the Kumamoto Lutheran Church.

St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Monona, Wis., raised $9,000 for Augusta Victoria Hospital, Jerusalem, through an art show and silent auction called “O-Live, O-Live” (olive). Through the congregation’s “Soup for School” groups, parish-ioners contributed scholarship money for 14 Palestinian students attending Lutheran schools in the West Bank. The activities are part of its Middle East ministry, which includes congregational trips to Palestine and Israel, educational events, films, guests from Palestine, and monthly peace vigils in which congregation and community members participate.

St. John Lutheran Church and Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, both Baltimore, are building a $3.1 million arts and community center in the city’s Pimlico section, a neighborhood known for drug trafficking, poverty and gang violence. The Pimlico Road Arts and Community Center will provide programs for after-school arts, infants and toddlers, and skill-training. The ecumenical partnership also includes a joint Lutheran-Episcopal intern from the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.), who will work on program and ministry development for the center.

Christ the King Lutheran Church, Phoenix, collected cash and pledges of $54,000 toward a $100,000 project that will bring pure water from Mount Meru to the villages of Seela and Sing’isi in the Arumeru District of Arusha, Tanzania. Christ the King pledged to pay for storage materials, piping and communal taps. Work on the base storage has begun and engineering is finished, with residents doing much of the labor.

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, installed Luisa Cabello Hansel and Patrick Cabello Hansel as pastor/developers to reach out to the growing Latino population in south Minneapolis. “Our longstanding goal has been that of being as inclusive as possible of the people living in our community,” says Ron K. Johnson, pastor of Holy Trinity.

Advent Lutheran Church, West Chester, Pa., and Episcopal Church of the Advent, Kennet Square, Pa., joined to ordain John Patrick Seyler for outreach to the Latino population in Chester County, Pa. Seyler will be based at and involved in the congregational life of Advent, occasionally leading worship, preaching and teaching. Chester County Commissioner Andrew Dinniman, who attended the ordination service, said most Latinos who move to the area are Roman Catholic or Pentecostal Protestants. But this mission is another force to assist in integration of the community, he said, adding, “The church is reaching out, and churches that reach out are the ones that people join.”

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Seattle, recently completed a three-year restoration project, with repairs to the steeple, roof, foundation, front steps and stained-glass windows. The nearly century-old wooden building sits in Seattle’s Cascade neighborhood, an area undergoing rapid change and redevelopment. “We need to look like we’re alive here and open for business,” said member Sally Parker-Henderson. Today the 120-member congregation runs a food bank, community lunch and hygiene program, and live-in recovery program for 15 men. One of those men, now a member of Immanuel, sees the renovation as a rebirth, just as he made the decision to leave life on the streets. “Like anybody who’s been out on the street, we can do together what we can’t do alone,” Benjamin Stiffarm said.

• Jim Ketchum of the Port Huron [Mich.] Times-Herald, wrote about Devin Strong, an ELCA pastor who resigned from a “thriving” congregation near Detroit to start Abundant Life Lutheran Church, Braselton, Ga. “Of all the places in the U.S. to start a new mainline ELCA Lutheran church, he might not have found a tougher one,” the columnist wrote. “Devin Strong is not the kind of guy who thinks small. He has spent his whole life dreaming big and achieving what many so-called experts said no one in his situation could.” Ketchum described how Strong spends most of his time in a wheelchair: “Cerebral palsy has robbed him of the ability to walk without great difficulty but not the ability to think or preach or inspire.” The columnist reports Strong hopes to start small-group meetings soon and have a functioning church by April.

Holy Trinity Lutheran, Rockaway, N.J., was the scene of an interfaith wedding in which Nisha Shah, a Hindu, married Jeff Zoeller, whose family have been members of the church for generations. A Lutheran pastor and Hindu priest conducted the ceremony, and the sacred fire necessary for the Hindu ceremony was accommodated in the church. “Most of the interfaith ceremonies we’ve seen have been held in two different locations and that’s not really what we wanted,” Shah said. “Jeff and I wanted to combine our two ceremonies. Since we were joining our two cultures, we wanted it to be a little more integrated.” 

• John Lemnitzer, pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church, Phoenix, was taken into police custody and cited for trespassing after attempting to walk past armed guards onto Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Ariz. Dressed as a clown as part of “Clowns for Peace and Disarmament,” Lemnitzer was demonstrating for an end to the war in Iraq. “The goal was to make a very powerful statement,” he said. “Sometimes you need to do more to make a statement.”

• Lowell Erdahl, bishop emeritus of the St. Paul Area Synod, and Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, Minnesota’s commissioner of military affairs, participated in a forum on conscientious objection to military service at University Lutheran Church of Hope, Minneapolis. When asked if people should be able to choose which wars they object to, Shellito said no: “If you’re going to object ... separate yourself from the service. Just do it. Just get out. The defense of this country cannot afford to pick and choose.” When asked the same question, Erdahl said yes: “If we have any regard for the historic distinction between justifiable and unjustifiable war, then of course one should have an option of saying, ‘This war is justifiable, this one is not.’ The law ought to provide for selective conscientious objection. ... If we do not find alternatives to violence and to war, the human prospect is grim. ... When we talk about conscientious objection to military service, it’s a question that relates to all of us, not only those who are candidates for enlistment or the draft.”

• Spend half as much as you usually do for Christmas this year, and give the amount you save to refugees in Sudan–a challenge Dan Hallgrimson, pastor, gave members of Grace Lutheran Church, Corvallis, Ore. Lutheran World Relief will use the money raised to help provide shelter, water, sanitation, food and counseling for more than half a million people living in the refugee camps and burned-out villages in Darfur. Parishioner Kathy Farnsworth said, “This really makes you look at your priorities ... and where you can cut expenses, such as: Do I really need a Christmas tree? What about the cost of mailing a lot of Christmas cards? This is a very different concept than what we’re used to—saving money to give to someone else.”

St. Paul Lutheran, Ironton, Ohio, and other area congregations and organizations held their annual Christmas with Dignity Holiday Gift Giveaway program. The one-day event offers toys, games and other gifts for families in need. Last year’s event provided 3,200 gifts to about 675 people. More than 23 percent live below the poverty line in Ironton, an Appalachian city of 11,000 people in Lawrence County. “We have definitely seen the affects of our ministry in the Tri-State area,” says Mike Poole, pastor of St. Paul. “And the numbers of people requesting assistance continues to grow.”


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