Photo blogs

A visual tour of ELCA congregations, people and events.

Giving thanks

Nov 25, 2013

In this season of Thanksgiving, ELCA congregations and members find a variety of ways to express their thankfulness in word and deed.

Give thanks-Thanksgiving

November brings a season of giving thanks and sharing blessings. Take time to reflect on our blessings and to share those blessings with others. Consider a Thanksgiving gift to the ELCA Malaria Campaign. Since the start of the campaign, ELCA members and our companions overseas have already seen a reduction in the number of deaths from this disease.


Beginning Nov. 24 — Christ the King Sunday — congregations of the ELCA Nebraska Synod will reflect on God's abundance by praying for global mission partners and missionaries, educating members about global issues, giving toward the work of global mission, and sharing the stories of God’s mission in the world.


Many congregations of this church gather for Thanksgiving worship to offer thanks for life’s blessings.

St. Matthews-Thanksgiving

Along with worship, members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa, Wis., also gather for a pie social.

First Lutheran Trinity-Thanskgiving

Thanksgiving is a word of action. First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in Chicago offers a community Thanksgiving dinner.

Blessing of the animals

Nov 18, 2013

As autumn arrives it has become customary for many ELCA congregations to remember Francis of Assisi, who died on Oct. 4, 1226. Well-known for his love for all creatures, commemorations for Francis often include a blessing of the animals. Here are photos from the annual Blessing God’s Creatures Festival held at First Lutheran Church and School in Torrance, Calif.

As festival exhibitors, many nonprofit groups offer their advice, services and information.

Jared Carson, pastor at First Lutheran, blesses one of the many exotic birds in attendance.

All creatures of God’s creation are welcomed to the festival.

The festivities include a petting zoo.

All creatures great and small receive a blessing.

A service dog receives a special blessing.

A ministry of word and sacrament

Nov 11, 2013

"No one's prayers for peace are more ardent than those who have seen the absence of peace." —Howard Stendahl, ELCA chaplain in the U.S. Air Force based at the Pentagon

Chaplain Kristin Swenson at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

Chaplain Carl Trost, Newport Naval Base, Rhode Island.

Chaplain Anthony Stevens, Army National Guard.

Distribution of Holy Communion at Christmas.

A chaplain blessing deployed troops.

Taking a moment for prayer.

Air Force chaplain offering support and prayer.

A new ELCA secretary takes the helm

Nov 04, 2013

Upon learning he had just been elected ELCA secretary, William Chris Boerger said, "I am aware of the tremendous responsibility, and I will do my best to fulfill that responsibility."

Boerger, a nominee for ELCA secretary, responds to questions at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Boerger, who was then the bishop of the ELCA Northwest Washington Synod, poses with young people from the synod at the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans.

Boerger speaks at the Nyer Urness House groundbreaking in Ballard, Wash., on Feb. 21, 2012. The facility provides affordable apartments to 80 people who were without homes.

Boerger and his wife, Dede, react to the announcement of his election as the secretary of the ELCA.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson blesses Secretary Boerger after his installation on Aug.17, 2013.

Secretary Boerger processing at the installation of the new ELCA presiding bishop, Elizabeth A. Eaton, Oct. 5, 2013.

Servants of Christ

Oct 30, 2013

Thank you, Mark Hanson, for 12 years of faithful and prophetic leadership as ELCA presiding bishop. May you and Ione continue to "go forth into the world to serve God with gladness." Capturing 12 years of servant leadership is no small task. Here’s an attempt to share some images of Mark Hanson’s devotion and passion as presiding bishop of the 4 million-member ELCA.

Hanson was first elected to serve a six-year term as ELCA presiding bishop at the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. He was re-elected in 2007. Before serving as presiding bishop, Hanson was bishop of the ELCA Saint Paul Area Synod and pastor of three ELCA congregations in Minnesota, prior to his role as synod bishop.

The Installation of Bishop Hanson

Hanson traveled extensively across the United States, meeting with ELCA members and congregations — sometimes as frequently as three of four weekends per month.

Hanson also traveled overseas, meeting with Lutheran sisters and brothers as well as other religious and political leaders to build relationships and share messages of hope, reconciliation and peace.

The ELCA and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church embarked on a new relationship to engage in mission and ministry together, sharing in one another’s traditions, witness and service in the world. “It is my prayer that congregations of the ELCA and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church will join together in worship, Scripture study and shared commitment to work for justice and reconciliation,” says Hanson.

During his tenure as ELCA presiding bishop, Hanson met with Pope John Paul II and with Pope Benedict (pictured here). Hanson was accompanied by the Rev. Jessica Crist, bishop of the ELCA Montana Synod and chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops; the Rev. Robert D. Hofstad, bishop of the ELCA Southwestern Washington Synod; and the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop on ecumenical and inter-religious relations.

In 2012, Hanson participated in a panel discussion at the Coexist Prize Ceremony in New York City. Joining Hanson is Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and His Excellency Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt. The Coexist Prize is an international award established to recognize an unsung hero or heroine who has built bridges between people of different faiths.

Hanson gathered with the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of The Lutheran World Federation, and the Rev. Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, for a 2013 meeting of the Federation’s North American regional representatives.

As presiding bishop, Hanson met with the ELCA Conference of Bishops and the ELCA Church Council to engage in decision-making, a mutual sharing of ministries, worship and study.

In a historic visit, Hanson participated in a delegation of church leaders representing The Lutheran World Federation who traveled together Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2012, to areas of the United States impacted by storms produced from Hurricane Sandy.

Passionate about youth and young adult ministries, Hanson attended ELCA Youth Gatherings to share messages of God’s love and grace among this church’s young leaders.

During his tenure as presiding bishop, Hanson served as chair of ELCA churchwide assemblies.

At the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, Hanson was awarded the Servus Dei Medal.

Farewell to ELCA Secretary David Swartling

Oct 29, 2013

With deep gratitude for a job well done, we bid farewell to ELCA Secretary David D. Swartling. Secretary Swartling concludes his term of office Nov. 1, 2013, after a six-year term. The Office of the Secretary provides administrative services and tools for the leaders of this church as they serve in congregations, synods, schools, agencies, the churchwide organization and for all who have been given governance responsibilities for this church.

David D. Swartling was elected to a six-year term as secretary of the ELCA by the Churchwide Assembly on Aug. 11, 2007. Pictured here are Lowell Almen, former secretary of the ELCA (far left), Mark Hanson, Barbara Swartling and David Swartling immediately after his election.

Secretary Swartling “shouldering” the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which he believes is a missional document that he hopes teaches us that the ELCA does ministry better “together” and that there is room in it for people who do not always agree.

David Swartling greets a visitor at the churchwide office in Chicago, who was on her way to a new home.

Carlos E. Peña, vice president of the ELCA, presents the Servus Dei Medal to David Swartling, secretary of the ELCA. His wife, Barbara, stands by his side. The Servus Dei (Servant of God) Medal is given to honor retiring officers of the ELCA.

David Swartling, left, shares a song with Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Bishop Madden received a standing ovation after he extended greetings to the Churchwide Assembly on Aug. 13, 2013.

David and Barbara Swartling relocated to Chicago from Bainbridge Island, Wash., when he became ELCA secretary. The Swartlings are returning to their home in the near future.