• When parishioners from New Song Lutheran Church, Henderson, Nev., approached Wisconsin painter Marlon Banks about creating a mural to hang behind their altar, he was intrigued. Banks’ art reflects the African storytelling tradition he learned from his grandmother. Years earlier when New Song member Bradley Enerson lived in Wisconsin, he had met Banks. Enerson’s goal was a mural that combined the earth’s creation with the creation of music, but he couldn’t find a local artist who shared his vision. When Enerson brought his rough sketch to Banks in Wisconsin, he agreed to do it. The 5-by-14-foot mural reads like a story, beginning with chaos on the left; light, color and creation in the center; and ending with people of various races playing music and singing. The mural was dedicated in June at the 3-year-old Las Vegas-area congregation, which moved into its building a year ago. David Poling-Goldenne, one of the pastors, said New Song is also making plans for a performing arts academy that will provide music, voice, dance and drama lessons for children and adults in the community.
• In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, John Muthyala, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Westbrook, Maine, wrote a song called “Katrina.” With the help of his congregation he also recorded it. In September the song debuted during a concert at First Lutheran Church, Portland. Money raised from sales of the $10 CD and the live performance went to help Lutheran congregations from southern and central Maine make a third trip to Louisiana to assist with rebuilding efforts. Muthyala, an English professor at the University of Southern Maine, Portland, was born in India and for several years played with bands. This is his first recording. His goal is to keep the issues raised in the Katrina aftermath alive. “Charity and voluntary work can only go so far,” he told the Portland Press Herald. “We need to raise the question—how shall we create the structures of justice that perpetuate the good will we are trying to get at with charity? There is much more to this.”
• Grace (New Orleans) and Gethsemane (Chalmette, La.) Lutheran churches celebrated the rededication of their buildings on Sept. 2 at the close of a week of community activities marking the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated both sanctuaries. Leon Philpot, synodically authorized minister of Grace, called them “the two most damaged ELCA churches in the hurricane.” Michael W. Rinehart, bishop of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, told the congregations that Sunday: “You have given, in your despair, three important gifts to the rest of us in the church: hospitality ... unity ... generosity. They may say you live in a bowl, but you are a city set upon the hill.”
• The Reformation musical at Christ Lutheran Church, Wyoming, Mich., has become so popular that this year it was moved to the local high school auditorium. Christ’s minister of music, Gary Sironen, is the composer. The musical was first presented in 2000 as a concert of songs written to portray events in the life of Martin Luther. More songs were added, along with costumes and set. By 2005 it was a two-and-a-half hour musical pop/opera, performed annually over a three-day period in late October and using more than 30 parishioners and community actors.
• The ELCA raised $820,263 as part of the 2007 “Souper Bowl of Caring”—an annual effort among faith groups to raise money to fight hunger. In most cases, youth collect money in soup kettles as parishioners leave church on Super Bowl Sunday. Some ELCA congregations contributed their donations to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and local Lutheran social ministry organizations. As of September, 14,500 faith groups have raised more than $8.2 million this year. Souper Bowl of Caring information for the Feb. 3, 2008, event was included in the World Hunger resource packet mailed to every congregation in October.
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