About a dozen anti-gay protesters heckled worshipers and called their pastor the Antichrist as they arrived for Sunday services at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Denver, for several weeks. "It was pretty ugly," said Stephen Swanson, pastor of St. Paul. The protesters showed up the Sunday after the church — which has long welcomed and supported gays and lesbians — hosted an event following a "Rally Against Hate" at the nearby State Capitol. "I went outside and said, `Can we talk?' They said, `There's nothing to talk about. You're an abomination.' " Far from dividing the congregation, the protests have confirmed to St. Paul members that it is doing the right thing, Swanson says. "It just made it very clear that the hatred does exist and we can't pretend otherwise," he said.
The promised comforter in John's Gospel refers to the Spirit. But the promised comforter in Bethlehem Lutheran, Royal, Iowa, is the handmade blanket given to the church's graduating high school seniors. "Wrapped in God's Love" is inscribed on every comforter as a reminder that they are never alone on life's journey. Opening for a scant four hours one Saturday a month, the thrift shop of St. John Lutheran Church, Passaic, N.J., has nonetheless raised $24,662 for the community in seven years of operation. The shop provides low-cost clothes, housewares, baby items, toys and other goods to members of the community. Lutherans were there to help when Pope John Paul II conducted mass at St. Louis' Trans World Dome for more than 100,000 Roman Catholics in January. Thirteen members of Lutheran Church of the Atonement, Florissant, Mo., donned volunteer uniforms — purple shirts with yellow vests — to assist with food service. Organizers said they were the only Lutherans among scores of volunteers. When public schools in Portland, Ore., planned an "in-service day" instead of classes, Lutheran congregations provided safe, healthy, affordable care for elementary-age children. Central, Augustana and Portsmouth Trinity Lutheran churches held "School's Out ... Come On In," a daylong slate of fun and learning activities for a token fee. Aid Association for Lutherans helped with funding. With the donation of every aluminum can, St. John Lutheran Church, Jersey City, N.J., is slowly and steadily building up its fund to make the church more accessible to people with limited mobility. The can drive also reminds the congregation about recycling and the need to use the earth's resources wisely, reports Deborah Stelzle, stewardship chair. Six Southwestern Minnesota Synod congregations and a non-Lutheran church gathered for a joint education and worship weekend focusing on Revelation and featuring Walter F. Taylor, New Testament professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio. The Lutheran churches were Faith and First, Morris; Kongsvinger and St. John, Donnelly; Our Savior, Chokio; and Trinity, Alberta. They were joined by Federated Church of Morris, a United Church of Christ/United Methodist Church. To get into the spirit of Global Mission Sunday, lectors at St. John Lutheran Church, Winter Park, Fla., read lessons in Thai and Portuguese, the children sang in Swahili, and the pastor greeted all in Japanese. In the narthex, Bibles in many languages, objects from other lands and blankets for Lutheran World Relief were displayed — as were piggy banks to highlight the congregation's support for the Lutheran World Federation's "Pigs for Haiti" project. Helping the community deal with life and death issues, the health ministry team of Lutheran Church of the Ascension, Northfield, Ill., brought in experts in social and medical issues for a three-hour seminar. "Life and Death — the Faith Connection: Preparing to Die, Prepared to Live" focused on learning to talk about death, preparing for death as a way to improve quality of life and other matters.