The stores are now full of red valentines, but in December folks in Lancaster, Pa., were seeing stacks of red when St. Peter Lutheran Church added Evangelical Lutheran Worship to the list of items people could donate for Christmas. Congregational leaders hoped to raise enough to purchase 260 of the necessary 460 ELWs for the sanctuary, but the response was overwhelming—enough for all 460. Donations are still rolling in, so there just may be enough hymnals for the chapel and choir room as well. This display in the narthex included a tree adorned with miniature ELWs bearing the names of the donors.
• In December, St. James Lutheran Church
, Forreston, Ill., was featured in an hour-long TV Christmas feature of AgriBusiness Today
, a nationally syndicated program. St. James “was chosen as a rural congregation that represents the ever-changing face of rural America and for its contributions to the communities it serves,” said Amy Current, director of public communications, Wartburg Seminary
, Dubuque, Iowa. The show included interviews with Karen A. Capel, pastor of St. James
, and Beth Nelson Chase, St. James
’ director of music and Wartburg
’s vice president for mission support, as well as music of the church’s youth and senior choirs and bell choir.
• Pastors and students get a clinical approach to parish ministry at the new Gloria Dei Academy at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
, Hampton, Va. The church and its leaders “should have something to say to help heal the brokenness of our lives” with the clinical method of learning through theological education, said Edwin R. Kopp, director. Gloria Dei
committed $600,000 over three years to train pastors and seminarians to build the congregation, care for its people and create a pool of pastors who would continue a legacy of pastoral care ministry for people from cradle to grave. The program has 25-hour modules focusing on worship, education and pastoral care. It can be used for continuing education, clinical pastoral education units or advanced degrees.
• When Charlie Morrison, a member of St. Michael Lutheran Church
, Cogan Station, Pa., realized that he didn’t have the physical strength anymore to care for the pony that he would have liked to buy, he bought two goats in Africa. He shared that story at Sunday school and suggested collecting a few dollars to buy a pig or a goat for God’s Global Barnyard
, an ELCA World Hunger Appeal
project. The idea fell on fertile ground in the small rural congregation located on a hill above the Village of Quiggleville. Congregation and community members donated more than a few dollars—they bought 19 goats, eight pigs and 255 chickens—helping to provide families with food, funds and fertilizer to break the cycle of poverty.
• Members of First English Lutheran Church
, Wapakoneta, Ohio, celebrated their 150th anniversary throughout the past year. As part of the celebration, on All Saints’ Day worshipers were handed a ribbon to wear—even if just visiting. The ribbons acknowledged how many years they’d been members (0-5, 6-10, etc.), including quite a few who’d been members more than 50 years. “It was a fun way to honor everyone including the ribbon that said ‘friends of First English Lutheran Church,’ ” said Steven L. Nelson, pastor of First English
• Two small congregations in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia are busy getting a gift policy in place to handle bequests—and for good reason. Trinity Lutheran Church
, Stephens City, and Reformation Lutheran Church, New Market, recently became recipients of the bulk of the $4 million estate of Virginia Stickley Estep, a 100-year-old member of Trinity
. Most of Estep’s family farm of about 120 acres, located on both sides of Interstate Highway 81 near an interchange, was sold for future development to Lowe’s
, a home improvement company. Estep left $2.6 million to Trinity
and $1.4 million to Reformation, where she and her late husband once worshiped. They had no children and she was the last member of her family. Estep lived alone in her later years and church members and friends came in to assist her. She was “extremely faithful, a grand supporter of ministries of the congregation,” said George Sims, who directs planned giving for the Virginia Synod
and knew her for 20 years. Estep “was a great witness in her faith and faithfulness,” said Elizabeth A. Yates, pastor of Trinity
. Jeffrey R. Sonafelt, pastor of Reformation, said her gift “will benefit her congregation and around the world.”
• Eric C. Shafer, a pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
, Lansdale, Pa., will preach his Ash Wednesday sermon from Jerusalem this year (Feb. 6). Shafer hopes to post his sermon on Google Video
will project the sermon at its three Ash Wednesday services. “I talked the folks here into adding the 7 a.m. service this year and thought it only fair that I still preach, even though I’ll be out of the country,” joked Shafer, who is accompanying Claire S. Burkat, bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod
, on her first Holy Land visit. There will be a link from the congregation’s Web site
on Ash Wednesday, and Shafer will blog throughout his Feb. 1-7 visit from Jerusalem. (Read Shafer's blog.
• The Association of Lutheran Older Adults
, Baltimore, was awarded a $50,000 grant designed to generate thousands more in financial gifts to the organization. The grant will fund “Celebrate and Serve Forever,” ALOA
’s new emphasis on stewardship through deferred gifts. The grant will provide materials and facilitators for workshops on stewardship and planned giving to be offered as part of all of ALOA
’s programming in 2008 and 2009. The grant is one of 62 awarded by the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation
as part of its $4 million Charitable Gifting Initiative