• The Youth & Family Institute, Bloomington, Minn., is searching for a new executive director. Dick Hardel, an ELCA pastor who has served as either executive director or director of vision and creative ministry since 1994, will in June begin serving as the institute’s director of wellness ministry. This will allow him to “utilize his talents and passion,” states an institute press release.
• After corresponding with and supporting Esupat Songoyo at the Maasae Girls Lutheran Secondary School for four years, three members of the Naomi Circle from Peace Lutheran Church, Silvana, Wash., were able to attend her graduation last fall. Debra Compton, Patti Vroman and Margaret Ames made the trip to Monduli, Tanzania. “The achievement of success and joy that radiated from the 35 graduates was one of the most grace-filled moments I have ever been a part of,” Compton said in the Northwest Washington Synod’s December newsletter.
• Bradley Schmeling, 44, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Atlanta, faced a disciplinary hearing Jan. 19 on whether he may remain on the ELCA roster because of his committed relationship with another man. ELCA guidelines ban sexually active gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people from serving as ordained ministers. At presstime, the 12-person committee, which includes clergy, lay people and two members chosen by Schmeling, had not announced its decision, which could include suspending or removing him from the roster.
• Students at Waldorf College, Forest City, Iowa, celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a “Day On, Not a Day Off.” More than 250 volunteers, including community members, packaged food for the hungry. Working in shifts, they weighed rice, soy protein, dried vegetable mix and vitamins, and sealed them in plastic bags that were packed in boxes to be shipped to Tanzania. They worked with Kids Against Hunger, an organization that distributes food in communities worldwide where hunger and starvation are rampant. The goal was to package 20,000 meals, but by the end of the day they’d finished more than 40,000. Richard A. Hanson, college president, called it “one of the proudest days I have had while here at Waldorf.”
• The Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation awarded 75 grants totaling $4,838,960 through its Charitable Gifting Initiative program—approximately half to congregations, schools, camps and other ELCA agencies. ELCA organizations received 36 grants totaling $2,247,883; another nine organizations supported by two or more Lutheran church bodies, including the ELCA, received grants totaling $766,000. See grant recipients.
• Lutheran Church of Hope, West Des Moines, Iowa, hosted an area job fair in January. The church’s Hope@Work Ministry sponsored the event, which featured 20 employers and job placement agencies from the Des Moines area. Mitch Matthews, former co-facilitator of Hope@Work, led a seminar, “Waiting on God,” that addressed the frustrations of waiting for work. The Hope@Work group meets Monday evenings to support those who are unemployed, underemployed or who desire career changes.
• The funeral for internationally known filmmaker Helen Hill, 36, was held at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Columbia, S.C., in January. Hill, with lifelong ties to the Lutheran church, was the victim of a random shooting in her New Orleans home on Jan. 4. Her husband Paul Gailiunas, a Canadian physician, was wounded, but their 2-year-old son, Francis, was not injured. Hill’s great-great-grandfather helped found St. Paul, and Hill was confirmed there. Hill and Gailiunas were devoted to peacemaking and humanitarian efforts, including Doctors Without Borders. Gailiunas has dedicated his career to treating the poor, and Hill offered filmmaking workshops at a local coffee shop. She also helped her husband run Food Not Bombs, a group that hands out food to the needy.
• Thirty-two tennis players contributed to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal last fall when Bruce Meyer, an interim pastor in the New England Synod, and his family hosted a mixed doubles/round robin tournament called “Serving To End World Hunger” at the Midcoast Recreation Center in Rockport, Maine. The players—aged 17 to over 70—said they were grateful to play for a cause rather than competition. Nativity Lutheran Church in Rockland added a matching gift.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers