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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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April 27, 2009

Connections to the church


My family skipped worship at our home congregation this Sunday and jumped over to Austin's downtown Lutheran church instead.

The reason? It was a chance for the kids to meet ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who was visiting St. Martin's Lutheran as part of the church's 125th anniversary celebration. I had told Janine, Ben and Jillian that Bishop Hanson was sorta-kinda like the President Obama of our denomination, and listening to what he had to say would give them some new insight about the larger church.

The best part of the morning was during Sunday school when Bishop Hanson sat with the children for a Milk & Cookies Feast. He passed around his big gold pectoral cross and asked the kids to put their fingerprints — crumbs and all — upon it. It gave each of them a chance to experience a connection with other children across the country and globe who have done the same thing. But more than that, it also sent a lasting message that their hands through the church would go on to touch others in the world outside of Austin.

Even if Bishop Hanson hadn't been at St. Martin's, visiting a different church was a good thing for the kids. It helped reinforce that there are plenty of other Lutherans outside of our church home at Gethsemane, where about 30 children come together regularly each week. My kids met and played with new friends, and they experienced worship in a place that was simultaneously the same and different. For instance, Ben learned that Lutherans say the Lord's Prayer in more than just one way (the word "debts" rather than "trespasses" started a long conversation on the way back home).

For me, the day was extra special. It was the anniversary of my baptism on April 26, 1970. I was less than six months old at that time, but the day marked the beginning of my own connection to the church — a connection that I've come to appreciate more and more now that I have children of my own.

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