Packing Light

July 20th, 2017

By Emilie Bouvier

Yesterday evening in the waning heat of the day, I pulled through bundles of now-finally-clean-laundry to set aside assembled outfits. I quickly dug out my international outlet converter I haven’t used in five years, a couple books for the plane, my hiking boots from the back of the closet, and then stopped. I suddenly noticed how little was in my piles. I had only packed the basics.

Yet my deeper curiosity is about the stirring unrest in Luther’s day.

I’ll confess, I haven’t been preparing well for this Reformation 500 trip to Germany next week. I know the deep significance of this opportunity to be present in such historic, sacred places at such a pivotal moment in time – but it didn’t feel real until now.

I’m packing light because I don’t know what to expect. (What was the weather going to be like?) Rather than meticulously preparing (as I know I have a propensity to do), I’m stepping lightly into the holy moments that I know I can’t fully anticipate.

 

ADMITTEDLY, MY THOUGHTS have been scattered and filled with big wonderings this week. I don’t know if it’s the national debate on healthcare under a Trump administration, the upcoming rally in Nebraska reminding me that the Keystone fight is not over, or the painful layers of the Justine Damond shooting. Likely it’s a combination of all those things that feel so heavy, causing me to reflect a great deal this week on this current moment we’re living in – a time characterized by fractures and emerging social movements.

And now I’m stepping away from this week to get on a plane to Germany. My biggest wondering setting foot on this pilgrimage through history and tradition concerns the questions we face as a church today: ever-reformed, ever-reforming. Where do we stand in movements of change, in moments of rupture around the powers that take life instead of give it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely curious to learn more of the stories surrounding Luther’s life, see his childhood home, appreciate the music and art that marked the start of Lutheranism. Yet my deeper curiosity is about the stirring unrest in Luther’s day. I want to know more about how he navigated the pain of dissonance and failure in the harmful systems that needed to change but didn’t come apart without loss.

I want to place myself more inside an understanding of the social fabric of Luther’s day. I want to better see the structural harm embedded in the institutions of that age and how the faithful sought to find a new way.

I want to know more about how Luther navigated the pain of dissonance and failure in the harmful systems that needed to change but didn’t come apart without loss.

So I’ll toss in a notebook on top of the packing pile, and hop on the plane in t-minus 48 hours. I know many church folks are making this trek this year, and many have already. I’ve loved perusing the blog posts from the young clergy in our synod and learning from their experiences earlier this summer. (See https://reformingforward.wordpress.com/).

The reflections we share and questions we raise together – both in our time at home and time away – are so important. May these voyages we take, whether afar or within our own communities, Reformation-year related or otherwise, stir new wonderings, inform us, and reconnect us.

Ahhhhhhh, Summer. Wait. What?

July 18th, 2017

By Pr. John Hulden

There is a 35-year-old Minneapolis Area Synod tradition of Summer Youth Programs. More than a dozen congregations see summertime as a golden opportunity to reach out to children in the city. What a great ministry — touching hundreds of young lives. It’s also extra programming – everyday programming – that takes planning, volunteer recruitment, and, of course, coaxing and coaching high schoolers to be mentors and leaders.

How about you? What do you have added to your summer calendar? Vacation Bible School. Youth trips. Outdoor worship. Bible camp. Neighborhood festival/fair/parade. Finding coverage for vacation. Knowing an important meeting will have to wait because summer calendars don’t jive for you and your leaders.

Ah, Summer. A change of pace. Perhaps a vacation week or two.

 

BUT NOW WE ARE half way through summer. Yikes! It’s the middle of July!

Isn’t summer our annual prime time to catch up on this or that at church, extra reading, or writing?

Summertime is just a-whole-different-kind-of busy.

I still fool myself every darn spring (even after 30+ years of doing this pastor/church stuff): “Summer is coming! Summer will be slower, more laid back, so I’ll have more time.”

Right.

Granted, summertime in this northern climate is radically different from the school year and those blustery winter months. Nevertheless, every year I fail to realize that even though the workload of summer is different, summertime is just a-whole-different-kind-of busy.

So, … how are you doing this summer, really?

Here’s hoping you carve out some time: to read; to sleep; to write; to enjoy friends, family, or a little more of God’s amazing creation.

I’ll tell you what, though. One thing does not change for me in the summer: I have to finish this blog so I can get to my regularly scheduled peer group gathering! Yes!

In Search of Independence

July 3rd, 2017

By Bob Hulteen

When I was little, my (much) older brother blew up my “little army men” with firecrackers. Mercilessly, he would throw some of the plastic soldiers into an empty can of Folgers with an entire pack of Black Cats. Oh, the carnage.

I also watched older boys/men returning from Vietnam, with injuries that would determine the rest of their lives. I saw physical pain, but also emotional and spiritual devastation for these veterans.

I didn’t like war. And I didn’t like firecrackers (which, to me, seemed like the “gateway drug” for war preparation). So, I wasn’t a big fan of the Fourth of July.

In recent years, my experience has been a bit redeemed by the singing of a couple of patriotic anthems at my church. Most years we sing one or the other of two songs near the end of the service. As part of the holiday today, I offer the lyrics (and YouTube videos) of each.

 

“This is My Song”

–Lyrics by Lloyd Stone (1934); music by Jean Sibelius (1899)

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.

Listen to Cantus perform “This is My Song.”

 

“Lift Every Voice and Sing”

–Lyrics by James Weldon Johnson (1899); music by John Rosamund Johnson (1905)

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won

Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chast’ning rod
Felt in the day that hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place on witch our fathers sighed

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our star is cast

Listen to Committed perform a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

With “harmonies of liberty” and “hopes and dreams

[so] true and high,” may you experience genuine independence this day!

At Pentecost, the answer is blowing in the wind

May 30th, 2017

By Emilie Bouvier

“Think of a time in which you powerfully experienced public space.” This is what I asked a room of faith leaders this week at the Peer Group Lunch and Learn I led this week. We went around and told stories (in two sentences or less!) about everything from rallies to hospital waiting rooms. What came to my mind to share from my own experience was the smell of crackling cedar logs and crisp clear feel of prairie air in late October. I thought of the tarped shelter over a microphone next to the sacred fire that functioned as the central public space at the Octeti Sackowin camp of Standing Rock.

As people arrived in camp they were invited to the mic to share why they came and their connection the water and native rights. As the sunset lit up the tall grasses with tones of orange and red, songs would rise from the scratchy amplification of the feeble little sound system and reverberate through camp. Drums and singing, stories and prayers. I was honored to stand in that space and bear witness to the presence and narratives that bound the people together.

I heard many languages, not only from global allies but from those spoken by native folks here. I learned recently that the people of the native nations in the Americas pre-colonization spoke 350 different languages. Potawatomi, Bodewadmimwin, Lakota, Dakota, Hopi, Seminole, and many more.

 

LATELY EVERYTHING SEEMS to remind me of Pentecost and this story is no exception. I immediately think of that cacophony of languages and stirring of the spirit that compelled these disciples out of an upper room into the public space of the street – citing prophets, proclaiming a new way centered on hope and healing, washing new believers in holy water, and sharing all things in common.

Acts 2 is such a compelling text, one that I’ve been thinking about for weeks as we make the journey from the empty tomb to the tongues of fire. I’m struck by the sudden thrust into public ministry, as these disciples literally go from sitting around a table in a house to speaking in many languages on the street corner, abruptly, with no interlude.

The Spirit here is not abstract, we’re given these powerful, physical details: and suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. (Acts 2:2-3). Rushing wind, fire, power. Later in this story water and breaking bread make an appearance. There’s a very visceral and sacramental nature to this story in all its earthiness and elemental nature.

“This fossil fuel is not the oil of anointing; this oil never makes an appearance in our scriptures.”

I think again of the power these elements have and the tangible impacts they bear when I recall what I witnessed at Standing Rock. Water has the power to nourish, wash, and heal – to give life and hold meaning in sacred ceremony.

And water is threatened by pipelines carrying crude oil to fuel an instable system for powering society. This fossil fuel is not the oil of anointing; this oil never makes an appearance in our scriptures.

Yet the power of wind fills the whole house where they were sitting, and can fill too our houses with the literal electric power we need for our day. Wind power cost has dropped 58 percent in the past five years and is the cheapest form of energy (besides energy efficiency). Wind is currently the largest renewable energy source for Minnesota, accounting for nearly 18 percent of Minnesota’s electricity in 2016, ranking sixth in the nation for wind energy as a share of total electricity generation.

This transformation is hopeful, but with 78 percentof our electricity coming from dirty energy, including 44 percent coming from coal, we know we still have a long way to go and need to keep pressing for a fast and equitable transition of our energy economy.

Wind power cost has dropped 58 percent in the past five years
and is the cheapest form of energy (besides energy efficiency).

In this time of celebrating the call of God’s people to public ministry and the commitment of this new community to caring for the common good, asking questions about our energy use and advocating for sustainable sources in the public square seems like a good response – to the prodding spirit and the call of my neighbors I heard echoing around the sacred fire.

One possible response is signing on to urge an increase the Renewable Energy Standard. It’s clear as legislators recently wrapped up the 2017 legislative session, we’re at best going to choose not to take steps backward on environmental policies. Now is the time to be building for the steps forward we can take in the months to come and look to ways we can continue to make room for the winds of the Spirit – in more ways than one.

 

Postscript: The Minneapolis Area Synod’s EcoFaith Network prepared Pentecost Worship Resources. If you want to add your name to the Renewable Energy Standard sign on letter, please contact Emilie Bouvier at e.bouvier@mpls-synod.org.

What’s Essential?

May 16th, 2017

By Rev. Deb Stehlin

If you stop by the synod office this week, you’ll see stacks of boxes, file cabinets, and books shelves all over the place. We’re re-configuring our offices to make room for Jaddie Edwards, our new racial justice organizer. She and Emilie Bouvier, our eco-faith organizer, will take up residence right across the hall from me.

Whenever you make a move, it’s a great time to decide what’s essential. Do I really need this file? Will I ever read this book?

Last week, I got to sit at a table with church-planting executives from the mainline denominations in the U.S. and Canada. Each one came to share their latest research. I filled a legal pad with essential learnings – which I will keep on file!

One leader shared ground-breaking work by two Harvard Divinity School students. They did a deep dive to discover how millennials gather (www.howwegather.org). It’s required reading, I think. They studied 3,000 young adults and got a glimpse into the gifts this generation offers. We can learn a lot by noticing how they form community, seek personal and social transformation, use their creativity, and find purpose.

One person’s comment hit me like a thunderbolt: “If we’re not working for racial justice or addressing climate change – to millennials, it’s not the church.”

 

WOW! IT JUST SO happens that our synod is staffing to support congregations so they can enter into this work. And because these issues are so critical, foundations, individuals, government agencies, and ELCA Churchwide – as well as some individual congregations – were willing to provide support for the organizing positions through grants.

The “How We Gather” millennials study discovered something else essential: Even when young adults gather at Soul Cycle or The Dinner Party, even as they work for social and personal transformation, they are seeking what they call “something more.” Whether it’s named the Source of Being, The Transcendent, or God, young America thirsts for something bigger.

We can learn a lot by noticing how young people form community, seek personal and social transformation, use their creativity, and find purpose.

This isn’t anything new. The Apostle Paul encountered this reality in the first century! While he was hanging out with folks among the statues of gods at the Areopagus, he gave words to this yearning for something bigger, saying, “In

[God] we live, and move, and have our being.”

The gospel good news that we are loved by God and freed in Christ to serve the neighbor fits right in with the yearnings of so many. It starts with our belovedness. Nothing is more essential than that.

To Care is Human …

May 9th, 2017

By Bob Hulteen

The Metro Transit bus route 2 includes a long section of Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, so I can pick up the bus just a block from my house and get dropped off less than a block from work. Most days the 2 bus is my mode of transportation to work. And I am so often blessed by “the ride.”

Because the route traverses several resource-deprived areas and is a short transfer away from a hospital and clinic, a number of riders are in wheel chairs, often due to complications caused by diabetes. Also just a block off the route is BLIND Inc., a nationally-recognized training center for blind persons of all ages. Many passengers use canes. By and large, people treat each other incredibly well, making the ride better for all.

Some passengers with indications of mental illnesses are also regular riders of the bus. While not always, these folks contribute greatly to the community care of the ride. And, to be very honest and speaking for myself, I truly experience acts of clear compassion more often on the bus than in churches I visit.

 

I RECENTLY FOUND out that May is mental illness month. I confess that I don’t know much about mental illness. If I am being truthful, I am even uncomfortable discussing it. I don’t even know if the way I am talking about mental illness is insensitive. If so, I apologize. But I am aware that increasingly people I know are talking about struggles related to mental illness.

So, I better educate myself. And I commit here to doing so.

“To be very honest, I experience acts of compassion more often on the bus than in churches I visit.”

I am much more comfortable talking with assurance about structural evil and social sin than care for individual people. That deficit is likely the primary, but not the only, reason that I did not attend seminary.

When the Rev. Dr. Richard Wallace was teaching at Luther Seminary, however, I was inspired. He challenged students to start with their pastoral care passion, but to look for all the external factors impinging on people’s struggles.

Wallace challenged students to think about ways that racism or sexism or homophobia or ableism could cause or contribute to mental health issues for individuals. These social sins or structural evils can exacerbate exponentially individual challenges that already exist. Pastoral care, Wallace would contend, requires taking seriously the entire person, including those systems that hold people in bondage.

As the church addresses mental health struggles in a committed way this month, I pray that we can bring a sensitivity to the structural challenges facing people as well. Who knows? Perhaps there is even room for me in the seminary.

UPDATED: An earlier iteration of this blog did not include several of the stories.

Augies and Gusties and Norse, Oh My

April 25th, 2017

By Rev. Craig Pederson

At the change of each season, I relish the opportunity to return to the campus of my alma mater, Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter Minnesota. I have the privilege of serving on the college’s Board of Trustees. Meetings of the board are generally held over the course of two very full days, during which we hear updates from administration and faculty members on the college’s strategic plan, enrollment outlook, fundraising efforts, curriculum development, and other important areas of campus life.

The board also spends time in breakfast and lunch gatherings with current students. As we dine on cafeteria food far superior to what I remember as a student, we learn about their incredible drive and passion for their areas of study, as well as their participation and leadership in extracurricular activities that encompass about as broad a range as one can imagine:  music, arts, sports, theater, community volunteering, ministry groups, martial arts, academic clubs, interfaith dialogues, justice groups, knitters . . . phew! They are truly impressive students – so much so that after each of those gatherings, board members grow more firmly convinced that we might never have been admitted to the college if we were competing with these students!

Every ELCA college has a story to tell about how faith was foundational to its beginnings, and how faith continues to propel its mission into the future.

As I made the quarterly trip to Gustavus last week, I reflected on how the alumni and friends of other ELCA colleges and universities make similar trips to provide leadership and stay connected to these institutions of higher education. Although a lot of work, it is highly rewarding to serve this way and provides an opportunity to give back to these places that challenged, nurtured, and prepared us at a highly impactful time of life.

 

AS CHURCH-RELATED institutions, Gustavus and other ELCA colleges are also concerned with their relationships to the church and the broader community beyond their campuses. Gustavus relates to the broader church through an Association of Congregations. Augsburg is linked with several congregations and institutions to serve the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood through incredibly innovative programming. Every college has a story to tell about how faith was foundational to its beginnings, and how faith continues to propel its mission into the future.

Perhaps the greatest impact beyond campuses, however, is that our Minneapolis Area Synod congregations are generously populated by thousands of graduates from our 26 ELCA colleges and universities. These faithful folks are “salt and light” in our churches through their liberal arts curiosity, their commitment to working through challenges, and their love of Lutheran heritage.

Your synod office is also made up of several grads of ELCA colleges – three from Concordia, three from Gustavus, two from Augsburg, one from St. Olaf. As you might imagine, we have friendly rivalries about who’s the “best” – but we realize and celebrate that we are ultimately blessed to have so many fine Lutheran colleges in such close proximity.

And now, a word of acknowledgement: I know there are many more graduates from non-Lutheran colleges and universities in our congregations, as well as people who chose not to attend college at all. Please know that we are grateful for you, too! We need the gifts, passions, and commitment of all God’s people to enliven our churches.

These faithful graduates of Lutheran colleges are “salt and light” in our churches through their liberal arts curiosity, their commitment to working through challenges, and their love of Lutheran heritage.

Please pray for college students as they approach the end of the school year, and especially for those who will be graduating. Pray also for graduating high school students who are awaiting acceptance letters and making their college choices. I hope many of them will choose an ELCA college – I believe they will be glad they did!

Synod assembly: If you plan it, they will come

April 4th, 2017


By Bob Hulteen

Over the years, I’ve been to more than five dozen church conventions. I’ve probably been a voting member at a couple dozen; and an observer, first with my parents and then on my own, at more – in Western North Dakota, Eastern North Dakota, Northwestern Minnesota, Metro DC, and the Minneapolis Area.

As the associate director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, I also attended United Methodist (the best), United Church of Christ, Episcopal, and Presbyterian assemblies, as well as all the other Minnesota ELCA synods. And then, as editor of Metro Lutheran, I went to local and national conventions of the alphabet soup of the other Lutheran church bodies — LCMS, WELS, ELS, NALC, LCMC, AFLC, AALC, and CLC.

“In all my nerd-dom, I very much enjoy assemblies.”

I promise I’m not trying to sound egotistical – I’m not bragging, we’re in Lent and this is confession. I’m officially a church nerd.

In all my nerd-dom, I very much enjoy assemblies. All of them – my own and others’. Even if I show up sleepy-eyed and under-caffeinated, I leave feeling energized by good conversation with good people and by learning some new things from the folks who stood up in front and shared insights. I even appreciate the business that takes place – I’d rather be there for it than not, because I want to be a part of the process.

Now, I am inside the planning of assemblies. It’s a huge responsibility. Huge! I want everyone to find a part of the assembly – or hopefully all of it – that connects them more deeply with the church universal.

 

THE THEME OF THE 2017 Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly is “Real Presence: In our neighborhoods, with our neighbors.” We have some of the greatest preachers in the ELCA – Ruben Duran, Barbara Lundblad, and David Lose, pastors all – as keynoters. It’s like having the Festival of Homiletics All-Stars at our synod assembly. We will be so full of inspiration that we won’t need meals. (But, we will have meals; don’t worry.)

In our increasing efforts to be ecologically aware, we will use the guidebook app this year. This means we will use much less paper and ink; all the information and resources you will need will be at your fingertips on your smart phone, iPad, or tablet. (Just remember, it’s all about the electrons.)

“Since there are fewer resolutions than recent years, synod leaders are planning table discussions around a couple of issues that are before many of our congregations – racism and sanctuary congregations.”

The business agenda will include budget adjustments and constitutional changes, as well as discussion of one resolution (engaging our Muslim neighbors). Since there are fewer resolutions than recent years, synod leaders are planning table discussions around a couple of issues that are before many of our congregations – racism and sanctuary congregations. Everyone has a voice in these conversations.

And, rumor has it that a Jeopardy-like game will be on the agenda again. I am going to suggest, if you are interested in playing, that you start looking at hymns right now. That’s all I’m saying.

And we will do something to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran movement. Guaranteed, it will be mentioned, at least.

Are you a voting member for your congregation? Are you a rostered leader? Or, are you just someone who is now curious about what happens at synod assembly this year?

Let those who will be attending from your congregation know that you are interested in the workings of the broader church – from New Hope to Nigeria and from Longfellow to Leipzig, we are one body. And, one way we live that out is by coming together in assembly. We are church together …  a real presence in our neighborhoods and with our neighbors.

Pretending to be a pastor

March 28th, 2017

By Pastor John Hulden

Today I had the privilege to take four pastors out to lunch so we could talk about – can you guess? – starting a Peer Group!

Hey, how’s your peer group coming along? Isn’t it amazing to pray, support, and learn together?

(By the way, my offer still stands: I’ll take you and a colleague or two out to lunch to talk about starting a peer group!)

All four of these pastors I took out to lunch are new to their calls here in the Minneapolis Area Synod. They each shared their vocational journey and talked about camp directors and campus pastors and others who encouraged them to pursue ordained ministry.

 

ONE OF THOSE rostered ministers, Pr. Elizabeth Felt, just moved here from the Seattle area. She has received a very warm welcome from the good folks at Advent Lutheran in Maple Grove. Elizabeth shared that Pastor Dan Erlander encouraged her to go to seminary. That brought a smile to my face. Dan Erlander is one of my heroes. And I know that Dan has made a habit of that kind of specific encouragement.

“How about you? When did you first sense a call into ministry?”

You might know Dan Erlander by his amazing summaries of deep Lutheran thinking in the form of easy-to-read, cartoon-filled publications like Manna and Mercy and Baptized We Live— with Bowling Pin People!

My personal favorite is It’s All About Love. You can download this four-page gem. (It is a free download; Dan is also generous!)

A number of years ago, I took a group of first-call pastors to meet Dan. I listened as these new pastors had a wide-ranging conversation with him. One of the pastors asked, “When did you first sense a call into ministry?” I remember Pr. Erlander thinking a bit, and then he calmly replied, “Oh, about seven years after I was ordained.”

That is quite an answer.

How about you? When did you first sense a call into ministry?

On another day, I’m guessing Dan might answer: When I was baptized (since ministry takes so many different forms).

This Saturday, I plan on celebrating with Chris Wogaman at his ordination at Salem English Lutheran in Minneapolis. Yep, it’s on April Fool’s day. Chris has a sense of humor. He has to; he’s waited about nine years for a call.

 

THIRTY YEARS AGO on April Fool’s Day 1987, first thing in the morning, I went to Patty’s house on the Eastside of Saint Paul, and picked up the keys to Bethany Lutheran Church. (Patty’s husband was the treasurer of that little congregation.) I took those keys and began pretending I knew what I was doing as a pastor.

Why would I do such a crazy thing? Because I too was encouraged. By many people. I still feel that encouragement. I hope you do too.

Here are some prayers you can use to help your community in their work of “encouragement”:

Christ Jesus, head of the church, raise up from among the baptized pastors to preach your word and administer your sacraments; deacons to serve all people and bear your gospel to the world; and congregational leaders to bring vision and vitality to your people. Grant us the grace to identify those in our midst you are calling, courage to name their gifts, and opportunities to gently nurture and support their discernment. God of mercy. Receive our prayer.

O God, you make your love known in Jesus Christ. We thank you for loving your church so much that you send the Holy Spirit into the hearts of children, women, and men so that they know themselves called to be pastors and deacons and leaders for congregations and the church.  Bless your church with an abundance of leaders. And as we are bold to believe that you will raise up pastors, deacons, and leaders from this congregation, ready our hearts to nurture their faith, celebrate their call, and support their preparation for ministry. God of mercy. Receive our prayer.

O God, you so love the world that you sent Jesus, and our world so needs your love. With the whole Church we implore you to call forth pastors, deacons, and congregational leaders to lead us in bearing Christ to all the world so that the world may know your love.  We pray especially for those in this faith community the Holy Spirit may be nudging to public ministry in the church and Christ-like service in the world. God of mercy. Receive our prayer.

“One of the pastors asked, ‘When did you first sense a call into ministry?’ I remember Pr. Erlander
thinking a bit, and then
he calmly replied, ‘Oh, about seven years after I was ordained.'”

Lord Jesus, we pray for congregations in the call process and for the pastor you will send them. We pray for those outside the church who will come to know Jesus through ministry in his name and for the deacon you will send to serve them. We pray for our congregation’s future and for the leaders you will call forward to guide us.  Embolden us to invite those in whom we experience gifts for these ministries to prayerfully consider your calling, and give us generous spirits to support them. God of mercy. Receive our prayer.

We give you thanks, O God, for the children in our midst – especially those in elementary and middle school. We pray that as they grow, they will hear your voice calling them into your service – in the church, in the world, for the sake of their neighbors. Help them to imagine being pastors and deacons, church council leaders, Sunday school teachers, mentors and community leaders. Give them courage to say yes to your call, O God.  We pray in gratitude and boldness in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thank you to the members of the Conference of Bishops for providing these prayers. I am grateful to know there are church leaders still thinking about making space to hear the call into ministry.

Come Together … for Peace

March 14th, 2017

By Rev. Craig Pederson, Assistant to the Bishop

The Prayer Vigil and March held at Luther Seminary last July to remember Philando Castile – the black man who was shot by police at a roadside stop – was a powerful and poignant event for the hundreds of people who attended. This memorial service came just a few months after the police killing of Jamar Clark and the demonstrations at the 4th Precinct headquarters in Minneapolis, and coincided with the horrific attack in Dallas that took the lives of five Dallas policemen.

Gun violence and tensions between police and the community seemed to be increasing.  In response, people of faith were compelled to do something about it – even if the “something” was not clearly known. Trusting that the Spirit would intercede where sighs were too deep for words, the Prayer Vigil and March brought together Lutherans and ecumenical partners to declare words of lament, outrage, commitment, and hope. 

As summer moved into fall, a welcome reprieve from high profile shootings uneasily settled in. But in the everyday lives of people in communities such as North Minneapolis where gun violence persists, there was no reprieve. A further response was called for. Leaders from Lutheran Social Service, the Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Synods, Luther Seminary, and a number of congregations envisioned regular prayer gatherings where lament, outrage, commitment, and hope would be hosted in communities where they were most needed.

 

MONTHLY PRAYER SERVICES called “Come Together Peace Gatherings” have been the result. These services take place one Sunday afternoon a month from 4-5:30pm. They are led by a rotating group of ecumenical leaders who weave together elements of music, testimonies, spoken word, prayer, and dialogue. They create experiences that move from darkness to light, from despair to hope, and from lamentation to celebration. They rely on the conviction that, through Christ, all things are possible!

I attended the most recent “Come Together” service last Sunday afternoon. It was another richly diverse gathering with incredible music and honest dialogue about the challenges faced in our communities.

While it was held at one of our synod churches (Diamond Lake Lutheran), I recognized very few people there – which has been my experience with past services as well. And I consider that a good thing! Why? Because it causes me to broaden the circle of those with whom I pray and talk about the urgency of reducing gun violence and establishing peace in our neighborhoods.

The prayer gatherings create experiences that move from darkness to light, from despair to hope, and from lamentation to celebration.

Now, I know after a full Sunday morning of worship and activities in your own church, Sunday afternoon can be a tough time to get back out of the house. But your efforts will be rewarded, and you will be blessed by the inspiration and commitment of those who “Come Together!”

The next Come Together Peace Service is Sunday, April 9, at 4pm at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, 3811 Emerson Ave N, Minneapolis. This service will feature drumming prayers of Native Americans.

UPDATED 3/16/17: An earlier version of this blog said that Philando Castile was an “unarmed black man who was shot by police at a roadside stop.” The updated version acknowledges that Castile was a registered gun carrier who informed officers of his registration.

Craig Pederson says: “My thanks to Pastor Dan Carlson for graciously bringing this misstatement to my attention. Dan has been a public safety chaplain with police, fire, and EMS workers for ten years, and he is very willing to be a resource to congregations who are seeking a better understanding of these issues.  He can be reached at dan.carlson@publicsafetyministries.org or 612-554-4405.”

UPDATED 3/17/17: A second version of this blog included the phrase “even after informing them at the beginning of the stop that he was registered to carry a firearm” in the first paragraph. That phrase has subsequently been deleted.