• Saron (Ashland, Wis.) and Christ (Aptos, Calif.) Lutheran churches received the ELCA 2006 Disability Ministries Accessibility Award. Saron garnered the recognition for a congregation with more than 300 members; Christ was in the less than 300-member category. Saron approved a $500,000 construction project to improve accessibility without soliciting a major donor. The church has had direct wheelchair access to the building for four years and scattered wheelchair seating in the sanctuary. Circle of Grace, Saron’s alternate worship service, offers a meal and fellowship for people with chronic mental illness and their families, an invitation that extends to the community. Christ removed all architectural barriers and expanded and remodeled for wheelchair and walker accessibility. Other building attributes include movable pew chairs for wheelchair seating, no steps to the communion rail, a ramp to the lower level and a hearing-aid sound system. Each congregation received a $1,000 grant from the ELCA Mission Investment Fund and the National Organization on Disability. Honorable mentions went to Gloria Dei, Garland, Texas; Beckville, Litchfield, Minn.; Our Redeemer, Scotia, N.Y.; and Augustana, Grand Forks, N.D.
• The Parsippany [N.J.] Rescue and Recovery unit and St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Parsippany, have something in common—they both want to help. So they aided each other when the church held a coffeehouse fundraiser for the rescue unit. It was also an advertisement for the church and outreach to the community. The event included a silent auction and live music by the band Gabriel’s Hold, whose song “Little Chill” played on the ABC Family show Three Moons Over Milford. Nearly $3,000 was raised. Parishioner Kurt Gahan said choosing the rescue unit as a beneficiary was random but the right choice. “They were kind of left scratching their heads and saying, ‘Why us?’ And we said, ‘We’re supporting you because you support others.’ ”
• Stedman Graham, author, educator and entrepreneur, is the featured speaker when the Peers Encouraging Peers Program of Upper Darby, Pa., celebrates its 10th anniversary in February. PEPP is an after-school program run by Christ Lutheran Community Outreach Corporation of Upper Darby that provides a safe place for more than 70 young people of all backgrounds and beliefs.
• When Flavia Skilbred arrived from Brooklyn, N.Y., to serve as pastor of First English Lutheran Church, Lockport, N.Y., her daughter wondered why she’d brought her nearly to the Canadian border: “Why did you take me to the middle of nowhere? When I get my degree I’m outta here.” Skilbred said: “I told her (the Niagara region) will grow on you and since then, she’s changed her mind. She’s not going anywhere now, but she is going to need a job.” Skilbred told her story to a packed sanctuary when members of 15 churches gathered to learn more about the faith-based organization Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope, reported the Tonawanda News. Local politicians pledged their support for efforts to require all contractors working on publicly funded projects in Niagara County to have a workforce made up of at least 30 percent county residents. Skilbred believes the hiring goals are critical to the county’s future: “With it, we can stop the migration of our children to find employment and reverse it.”
• St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, joined with the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre and El Mercado Central, a local Latino-owned business group, in presenting the Nativity story Dec. 15-17. The traditionally Swedish congregation continues to reach out to the Latino population in south Minneapolis—this year by helping stage “La Posada,” the traditional Mexican and Central American Christmas procession in which the faithful walk with Mary and Joseph as they seek Posada (shelter) for the baby Jesus. The Heart of the Beast Theater used puppetry and street theater to present the bilingual Nativity, and the procession ended with a fiesta in the church fellowship hall.
• Hundreds of Lutherans waved, smiled and carried signs on Dec. 21 to greet legislators and the governor at Connecticut’s state offices in Hartford. The demonstrators gathered to show support for the people of Darfur, Sudan. Knute Ogren, director of family ministry at Emanuel Lutheran Church, Hartford, and Tim Oslovitch, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Vernon, called for the demonstration. “We remember today those who have suffered. But we insist on justice,” said Margaret G. Payne, bishop of the New England Synod, amid speeches and prayers.
© 2015 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers