What happened in your part of the synod this weekend? Where did you see God on the move?
As a synod staff person, I was blessed to witness – or know about – some amazing things that took place in our synod this past weekend – and they are all stories worth sharing. I hope you will share your experiences here – in the comment box below – of where you saw God on the move in your area of the synod recently.
THURSDAY: SECRETARY LUNCHEON - The long weekend started on Thursday when the secretaries serving on the Northeastern PA Synod staff invited secretaries from the Northern Lehigh, Lehigh and Bethlehem/Easton Mission districts to have lunch at the Lutheran Center – the new site for the synod office. Almost 4o secretaries visited the center and had an opportunity to share with one another, meet and talk with Bishop Sam Zeiser and get a tour of the building. Future lunches are being planned to include secretaries from other mission districts in our synod. Here are some pictures of this event (click on photo for larger view):
FRIDAY: BISHOP MARK HANSON AND IONE HANSON VISIT THE LUTHERAN CENTER OF THE NORTHEASTERN PA SYNOD - Since several of the synod staff are fans of Downton Abbey, there were a few jokes made about the arrival of the ELCA bishop and his wife. Should we line up like the servants of Downton Abbey and practice our curtseying or bows? Of course not! But, it was a real treat to be able to host Bishop Hanson and Ione at the Lutheran Center. We shared a typical Pennsylvania Dutch fajita meal with them – complete with black beans and Spanish rice, homemade salsa and more.
After sharing a meal together, the bishop met with the synod’s executive staff and listened attentively as each of the staff talked about the work for which he or she is responsible. In each case, Bishop Hanson asked questions of the staff person and provided some of his own reflections. Bishop Hanson projects a sense of hope for the future of the church, whatever form it may take. Here are some photos from our time with the bishop.
Later that afternoon, most of the seven bishops from our region gathered at the Lutheran Center to meet with Bishop Hanson. All day our office was abuzz with activity.
SATURDAY MORNING IN EMMAUS: “BACK TO BASICS” – On Saturday morning, the Faith Formation Resource Team of our synod planned a “Back to Basics” event at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Emmaus. Pastor Greg Frey led the morning session, “The Bible: From Papyrus to iPad.” In the afternoon, Associates in Ministry Leesa Wimmer and Marlane Druckenmiller led a session on “Lutheran Basics.” Twenty people from around the synod participated in the event.
SATURDAY MORNING AT THE LUTHERAN CENTER: THE REGION 7 BISHOPS’ CONSULTATION ON INNOVATIVE MINISTRIES - Meanwhile, in another part of the synod (at the Lutheran Center), there was another gathering of people. This gathering included seven (mostly young pastors) people engaged in innovative ministries. The region 7 bishops were present along with some of their staff and Regional Coordinator Pastor Peggy Wuertele.
This is what I observed: God is on the move! If you have any doubt, just follow the links below to learn about the ministries in which these folks are involved.
When twenty-six year old Pastor Ben McKelahan thought about the kinds of things that young adults (people his age) like to do, games (all kinds) and art came to mind. On his blog, “Art Incarnate: In Search of Embodied Imagination,” Ben has this to say about himself: “I am a Lutheran pastor trying to use collaborative art and social participation games to create loving relationships in Brooklyn (or wherever I’m invited to do so).” Check out his blog to see the kinds of things he’s been doing. While we were together, Ben engaged us all in a game of “Bashing Bibles” (which isn’t as bad as it sounds!) Here are some photos from that game:
To learn the purpose of this activity, read Pastor McKelahan’s story, “High-Velocity Bibles and Magnetic Poetry” in his blog.
Pastor Josh Graber is serving in the New England Synod. He is a mission developer working specifically with young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.This ministry is learning and leadership based, focusing on vocation and discipleship in a changing culture and church. It is for single young adults in transition who self-identify a desire for the experience. They live together in the same community and are led by a salaried facilitator or couple who are assisted by local volunteers (retirees, for instance). Pastor Graber is presently working on the new website for this venture. It’s called, “The Living-Learning Project: Collaborating for Young Adult Communities.“
Another innovative ministry is “dinner church.” Emily Scott, a candidate for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America began this ministry in Brooklyn. She states in her biography on St. Lydia’s website that she “wants to create a place where God and God’s people sit down and have dinner.” When people arrive for church on Sunday night, everyone gets a name tag and then pitches in to help make the meal or to help set the table. Then they all participate in a sacred meal which includes scripture reading, proclamation of the world, poetry readings, and prayers among other things. Emily shared with us that there are three pillars to the worship: 1) sharing the meal and the work to prepare for it, 2) telling the gospel stories and personal stories and 3) seeing where these stories intersect and work together. Emily has her own blog where she posts most of her sermons called “Sit and Eat.”
Pastor Scott Lingenfelter was invited to share the story of New Life Lutheran Church in New Tripoli. The focus of New Life’s ministry is on discipleship. Members follow six essential practices: (1) daily prayer, (2) daily Bible reading, (3) weekly worship, (4) proportionate giving, (5) serving, and (6) inviting. They share in three ways. First, through their love for children and families. Second, through a variety of musical expressions (the congregation has EIGHT different musical groups!). Finally, through serving the neighbor. Serving the neighbor started by ministering literally to their own neighbors. As their understanding of “neighbor” grew, so did their service – from local neighbors, to Philadelphia, to Mississippi and finally globally. At New Life, people are responding to their call to discipleship.
Imagine sitting in a Starbucks for weeks on end as a way to meet people and start a church. That’s what Pastor Mark Huber did! A couple years ago, Mark was called by the New England Synod to start a new ministry in Marshfield, Massachusetts. He began by hanging out at the local Starbucks, talking about ways to love God and each other. In twelve months he had twelve interested people (including one family). They met on the family’s house deck for worship. This small band of believers decided they needed to DO something, and so they sponsored a World Hunger booth in the community to raise awareness of hunger in the world. Soon after, Mark met Marshfield’s Methodist pastor who was asked to revitalize the ministry in his own congregation. It wasn’t working. The two men ended up completely gutting the Methodist church building and starting over. The twelve members worked with Mark to ask the question, “What does it mean to be church in this old, established community?” They decided to use the gutted building to create sacred space and they wanted to respond to what God was already doing in the town. Through educating Marshfield residents about world hunger, they gathered 600 people in the open sanctuary to package food last November. The worshiping community is now up to 30 folks. They meet and worship on Sunday nights at 4:04 PM. (You read that correctly!) The name of this sacred space is Sanctuary. Read more about Mark’s ministry in the local paper.
Pastor Ignaki Unzaga is from Chile and has been called to serve as pastor at an historic church, St. John, Passaic. He is effectively ministering to the Latino population in the community. What once was a German immigrant congregation is now a Latino immigrant congregation. What the Germans experienced because of their immigrant status in the late 1800s is not unlike what the Latino immigrants in Passaic are experiencing today.There is a hunger to belong. There is a need for resources. Poverty abounds. Pastor Unzaga finds that preaching from the catechism is helpful for his members. Being a place of hope where families can gather is important given the brokenness in their lives and community. Showing God’s love by helping members access the resources and tools they need for survival is important to the ministry of St. John, Passaic.
Pastor Lamont Wells serves at Reformation Lutheran Church. Radio ministry is the exciting ministry that is engaging many members of that congregation. The name of the radio program is, “A Positive Message for Powerful Living.” It airs on WURD900. The radio program is a call in show and people call in, hungry to find out what it means to be a Lutheran. Pastor Wells is able to provide a little catechetical instruction. People are concerned about the social issues and want to know what the church is doing about it. This radio program provides a much needed format to do address issues related to faith and real life.
I am thankful to have been invited to hear the amazing stories of hope from these folks. As our understanding of what “church/worship” means changes, I know that God is moving through some innovative ways to speak and work through people. It may be a challenging time to be the church, but it is an equally exciting time.
SATURDAY NIGHT: FAMILY FARM APPRECIATION CELEBRATION – March 17 marked the 12th anniversary of the synod-sponsored “Family Farm Appreciation Celebration.” Supportive organizations and friends of farmers gathered together with farmers and their families to show their appreciation for the difficult and necessary work they do. The meal and dance is free for farmers and their families. Close to 900 people showed up for the celebration – and as you can see from the photos below, everyone appeared to have a good time! If you know a farmer, be sure to express your appreciation for how farmers work the land God has given us to cultivate food for our daily bread.
SUNDAY: 43 SEMINARIANS AND A FLOCK OF BISHOPS - Sunday was a busy day again at the Lutheran Center in that 43 senior seminarians gathered there to meet with the seven bishops in our region. The bishops and some of their staff interviewed the seminarians to help determine where they might be placed for a call.
SUNDAY: LUTHERAN YOUTH FELLOWSHIP BOARD MEETING – While the seminarians met with the bishops about a dozen Lutheran Youth Fellowship Board members gathered at Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Schuylkill Haven for their bi-monthly meeting. During their time together, they reflected on “grace,” played a game, shared a meal, and did some major planning for the LYF Assembly. Get the word out to the young people in your congregation to attend the assembly this year at Muhlenberg College, June 22-24.
LYF President, Phil, leads the meeting
And THESE are ways and places that I saw God on the move this weekend. I hope that you will take time to share in the comment box below a place or places where you saw God moving in your neck of the woods!
GOD IS GOOD all the time! ALL THE TIME God is good!