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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Churchscan

â–  At Calumet Lutheran Camp and Conference Center, West Ossipee, N.H., they’re gearing up for the second annual Northeast Lutheran Motorcycle Attack. Last June, Lutheran motorcyclists from five northeastern states gathered for the biker retreat, joining more than 350,000 others in the state that week for the legendary Laconia Motorcycle Rally. Highlights included an outdoor communion service in majestic Evans Notch and the diversity of people, motorcycles, leather and tattoos at the bike rally. This year’s attack will be June 12-15. It will include rides to the Doubling Point Lighthouse and Cribstone Bridge on the coast of Maine and a ride over the Kancamagus Highway, one of America’s most scenic public byways.

â–  After 76 years of ministry, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, North Caldwell, N.J., faced a dreaded decision: whether to close. A once-thriving congregation of approximately 220 now had some 50 members, with a large number of those in convalescent homes. Worship attendance averaged about 14 people. Ten years prior, the congregation rejected a proposal to close. “Now it was time,” said Donna Gallagher, a member for 27 years. “Several charter members had reached their 90th birthdays and then passed away, and it sort of gave us permission to move on and let go.” At an annual meeting the congregation unanimously agreed to close and disperse assets to growing congregations in northern New Jersey that needed a shot in the arm to get through a time of financial need. The New Jersey Synod provided a list of congregations for Holy Trinity leaders and members to visit. Twelve congregations were invited to submit letters explaining their needs and/or impediments to growth. Recipients were St. Andrew, Parsippany; Living Waters, Flemington; and Christ the King, Kendall Park. Holy Trinity is also setting up an endowment fund with the ELCA to assist mission congregations and immigrant congregations.

â–  Twenty-five Willmar, Minn., young people participated in a team-building, confidence-boosting event sponsored by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota designed to improve participants’ independent living skills. When asked if they had ever been homeless, about three-fourths of the participants raised their hands—a handful poured out details of times in their life when they didn’t know where they’d sleep or take their next shower. At any given time, between 20 to 30 youth in west-central Minnesota are homeless or at risk of being homeless. About 500 to 600 kids between the ages of 8 and 17 are homeless at any given time in Minnesota, according to the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, St. Paul, Minn. Liz Christianson, director of youth services for LSS in Willmar, told the West Central Tribune there are any number of reasons for the homelessness rate. Sometimes they’ve been kicked out of the house for poor behavior or they’ve left because of their parents’ behavior, including drug use. Sometimes mental illness plays a role. Often they find refuge at a friend’s home, in a car, at 24-hour stores, in parks or on streets.

â–  Pastors and lay members of congregations in southern Louisiana met with Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson at Christ Lutheran Church, Kenner, La., in February, sharing joys and thanks, concerns and frustrations about the church’s response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Some 40 people told Hanson the recovery work in southern Louisiana—particularly in metropolitan New Orleans—will likely continue for several years. Hanson visited the devastated and abandoned Ninth Ward and three Lutheran congregations that helped coordinate recovery in their neighborhoods: Grace and Bethlehem, both in New Orleans, and Gethsemane, Chalmette, La. Lutherans gave $26 million to relief and recovery work following the 2005 hurricane season. Through 2006, Lutheran Disaster Response expended nearly $17 million for hardship grants, spiritual and emotional care, volunteer coordination, and long-term recovery, rebuilding and case management.

â–  The youngest member of the Sanctuary Singers is 17, the oldest is 77. “This is what saved our little church,” said Nancy Olson, a member of the group from Upper Beaver Creek Lutheran Church, Taylor, Wis. The group made 47 appearances in 2005, 40 appearances last year. Their first CD, The Little Country Church, is sold out—they’re working on their second. “About five years ago things looked very bleak for our little church. We had no pastor, average attendance of fewer than 30 people. ... There was serious discussion of closing the church,” Olson said. “When our new young pastor [Timothy L. Knauff] organized the Sanctuary Singers and set up a contemporary service, attendance more than doubled for that service and improved on the other Sundays as well. ... Income from offerings [at appearances] and CD sales have allowed us to contribute to various community groups and helped us to support our own church when needed. Improved attendance has put our financial situation back on track.”


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November issue

NOVEMBER issue:

The ELCA's aging clergy wave

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