• Hope Lutheran Church, Farmington Hills, Mich., helps members jump into a truly giving holiday season by offering an Alternative Christmas Fair. Nonprofit organizations display their gifts or services, including candleholders from the Ronald McDonald House, livestock purchases for people in other countries in honor of loved ones from Heifer Project International, and Beanie Babies from Sweet Dreamzzz. One confirmation group sold blankets and gave the earnings to an agency that was unable to attend. One booth allowed kids to make a craft for themselves and one to give away.
• If trees are a symbol of peace and good will, then it’s fitting that University Lutheran Church and the Islamic Center, neighbors in East Lansing, Mich., planted trees on their shared space in October. “I see this project as a symbol of two faiths living together,” Zubair Ahmad, one of the organizers, told the Lansing State Journal. More than 40 people helped beautify the median between the two buildings. This is only a symbol of an already strong relationship. The congregations share parking lots on Fridays when the Islamic Center is packed for the Muslim holy day and on Sundays when University draws a crowd. They also share programs to promote understanding and invite one another to events. Days after the planting, University member Charlie Downs reported: “Now all the workers and spouses have been invited to an end-of-Ramadan feast.” Downs said he enjoys watching children from the Islamic school play on University’s child-sized replica of Noah’s ark. “It’s one of many stories the two faiths have in common,” he said.
• Jeff Whisenant, vice president for finance and administration of Lutheran World Relief, became the agency’s acting president Nov. 1. Kathryn Wolford, LWR president since 1993, left to serve as president of The McKnight Foundation, aMinnesota-based philanthropic organization. Under her leadership, LWR in 1995 became a founding member of Action by Churches Together International, a coalition of faith-based organizations that responds to disasters. LWR also become a leader among faith-based groups in the fair-trade movement.
• A survey of 1,625 ELCA clergy concluded that gender is the primary factor related to some differences in ministerial practices. ELCA Research and Evaluation conducted the survey in conjunction with the 35th anniversary of the ordination of women. The study’s goal was to discover differences and similarities in the ministerial experiences between rostered men and women. The study discovered that those differences are more pronounced when comparing responses according to the gender and the race/ethnicity of the respondent. Some differences are related more to the age of the respondent or when that person was ordained. Other findings: Slightly more than half of both women and men waited one to four months after completing the ELCA candidacy process before receiving a call from a congregation. White clergy were more likely to receive calls to rural or small-town settings, while clergy of color were more likely to receive calls to large-city settings. Those ordained since 1990 are more apt to receive synod guidelines for salaries. Female clergy, especially women of color, were more likely to be single than their male counterparts.
• St. Michael Lutheran Church, Strasburg, Pa., received for the Amish community messages of condolence following the shootings at the West Nickel Mines [Pa.] Amish School in October. “We were hoping for a good response, but the resulting mail was overwhelming and heart-warming,” Robert R. Wegehoft, pastor, told The Lutheran. “Hundreds of letters, cards and packages arrived from all over the world, and the mail continues.” Letters also arrived for the family of Charles Carl Roberts, who killed five girls and himself in the schoolhouse. “They are hurting and grieving intensely too,” Wegehoft said. The family of two sisters who died went to the Roberts family to offer their forgiveness, Wegehoft said, adding: “A parishioner said it well, ‘The Amish are light years ahead of us in knowing how to deal with tragedy, offering forgiveness and living it out in their lives.’ We always knew our Amish neighbors as kind, gentle, hard-working people who centered their lives around their faith and their families .... They’re a people who take their Christian faith seriously.” The Lutheran Disaster Response Network of the Lower Susquehanna Synod also offered emotional and spiritual support for the community. Two funds were set up—the Nickel Mine’s Children’s Fund and one for the Roberts children.
• Members of Bethesda Lutheran, Springfield, Mass., walked through the charred remains of their builidng on Oct. 23, just a day after the church had been filled with “love and joy,” said member Janet Davies. Authorities said the fire was started by an altar candle and estimate the damage at $500,000. Although the building was insured, Kurt R. Christenson, a pastor of Bethesda, said there is less coverage on items within such as speakers, musical equipment and hymnals.
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