A visual tour of ELCA congregations, people and events.
Happy New Year!
Grace and peace to you from your colleagues at Living Lutheran! As we continue to celebrate the coming of the Christ child and embrace a new year, leaders of the ELCA extend to you and your congregation a special greeting. “Eternal God, you have placed us in a world of space and time, and through the events of our lives you bless us with your love. Grant that in the new year we may know your presence, see your love at work, and live in the light of the event that gives us joy forever — the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 63) .
“Each new year is a gift — a wonderful reminder of God’s grace. We have nothing to bring about the new year. It is given and we receive it. Be thankful. May your new year be blessed!” — Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop
“The new year always brings promise and hope as we begin a new year. We have a feeling that the slate has been wiped clean, and we are starting new. In baptism God gives us newness every day. May 2014 be the year in which we live in that daily promise to the glory of God and the life of the world.” — Chris Boerger, ELCA secretary
“The coming of a new year offers us an opportunity to start fresh — a renewal of sorts. It's the same feeling I get every time I recite the prayer of confession and take communion. It's a new canvas, and, from that point, it's what you make of it. May your canvas for the new year be filled with beauty, love and joy!” — Carlos Peña, ELCA vice president
“Our theme for the anniversary year of the ELCA has been “Always being made new.” Now that 25 years have come and gone, we are still being made new. Whether it is Jan. 1 or Sept. 11, whether it is July 4 or June 19, we are always being made new in Christ. Thanks be to God.” — Jessica Crist, bishop of the ELCA Montana Synod and chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops
Breaking new ground in Jordan
Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and others will celebrate in January 2014 the opening of the new Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan. The denomination represents one of seven Christian church bodies given land by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Members of the church and others broke ground Jan. 6, 2012, and celebrated with a Service of Holy Communion by the Jordan River. Below are images from that service and the groundbreaking. The ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land are members of The Lutheran World Federation, a communion representing more than 70 million Christians in the world.
The site contains a church, pastor’s house and multipurpose hall.
The Rev. Munib A. Younan (right), bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president of The Lutheran World Federation, presided. Other worship leaders included the Rev. Mitri Raheb (center), Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, and the Rev. Samer Azar, Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Amman, Jordan.
Pastor Raheb distributes communion.
Though Palestinian Christians have been in the Holy Land since the first Pentecost, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land traces its roots to the mid-19th century when German and English missionaries came to teach. Today the denomination has six congregations in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala and Amman.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land maintains an active women’s ministry.
Pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and others break ground for the new baptismal site.
The new Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan will be the first Lutheran church on a holy site.
Christians of all denominations are invited to enjoy and worship at the facilities.
Part of this church’s tradition are the annual Christmas programs that congregations across the country take part in at this time of the year. Here are but a few of the memories from this year’s programs.
Intergenerational Christmas program at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Columbus, Ohio.
Children’s program from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
Grace Place Children’s Christmas program from Living Grace Lutheran Church, Omaha, Neb.
Toward the end of the program at Epiphany Lutheran Church, Eagle Lake, Minn.
Mary and Baby Jesus, played by Lindsey Youngblood and her 7-month-old son, Logan, during the manger scene that concluded the play Sunday evening at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Ander, Texas.
Accompanying the church in China
From India to Myanmar, Lutheran churches continue to explore what it means to be Lutheran and how to witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. In countries such as China, a broader Protestant identity has taken shape and is growing at a rapid pace. More Chinese are in church on a given Sunday than in all of Europe. The post-denominational China Christian Council, the church’s national expression, coordinates theological education, social services and resource publishing for millions of Protestants in China. The photos below have been contributed by Y. Franklin Ishida, ELCA area program director for the Asia and Pacific regions. Taken during his November 2013 visit to China, the photos share some of the ways in which the ELCA accompanies Chinese Christians.
Children from the Lisu ethnic minority village of Meile in the northern Yunnan Province of China have fewer education resources compared to their counterparts in urban areas. An ELCA World Hunger grant provided computers for this school, giving children a level playing field when they go to high school (boarding schools in larger towns down the valley.)
Leaders from congregations of the Ninglang parish in the northern Yunnan Province sing at a thanksgiving service. Members of this parish come from various ethnic groups: Han (Mandarin), Lisu, Mosuo and Yi. ELCA funds provide for lay leadership training that helps build community and growth in the church.
Lijiang, in northern Yunnan Province, is home to some 120,000 Lisu ethnic minority peoples. Further north, nestled in the mountains, is the village of Liming (pictured here), one of the Lisu centers. Many Lisu are Christian and their faith is encouraged as an expression of their culture.
A rebuilt Wujihou Gospel Church, up the road from Liming in northern Yunnan, was dedicated on Nov. 22, 2013. Built with financial assistance from the ELCA, it incorporates elements of Lisu culture and replaces an older, crumbling building. On Sundays, members often walk three or more hours to come to church, where they remain all day in worship and fellowship.
The Miao ethnic minority in China carry on traditions of family and the Christian faith, often under difficult circumstances, which include lack of road access and poverty. This extended family, living in the mountain community of Fengyi south of Yibin, Sichuan Province, is eagerly awaiting the construction of their church, having worshiped for a long time in their homes.
Peter Shen, ELCA China consultant, (second from the left) and Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission (far right) discuss plans with local church leaders. The plans are for a new church to be built in Meile village in northern Yunnan. The grounds will include a broad outdoor square, allowing for community gatherings and dances, all part of the local Lisu culture.
Feng Wen-guang first went to church to discover what gave his wife such joy as a Christian. He felt God calling him when he heard Paul’s words that in Christ, there is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). He now leads the Lijiang church at the county level as a lay elder. Even though he is losing his eyesight, he has found great joy, comfort and support through the congregation.
The Protestant church in China is growing fast, whether it be in urban areas or the far reaches of the country, such as here, close to the legendary Shangri-La and along the upper Yangtze River in northern Yunnan Province. It is here that the ELCA accompanies the Lisu ethnic minority community and the church in rural development and church leadership training.
Chao Wan-shen lives in the mountains above Meile and Liming in Yunnan where he raises goats provided by an ELCA World Hunger grant. Improved goat breeds bring greater income and are an incentive for people like Chao to stay on the land instead of migrating to cities, thus maintaining ethnic Lisu cultural ties with the land and people.
Advent is a tme of watching.
Even in the tension of our belief and unbelief, our watching is an act of faith, declaring that God is stronger than our doubts, our fears, and our questions Even if we begin in weakness, God will transform our watching into strength as Paul writes: “whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
During Advent, the Lord watches as well, with care and love abounding, not from an immeasurable distance, but a closeness that defines intimacy. The Lord watches not to note failings and our accumulation of sin, but as a way of knowing us and declaring us bound to one another in faith and life.
In our watching we may find ourselves turning to prayer as it emerges from the expectation that dwells deep and anchors us in faith. As we talk to God, let us embrace the richness of how we express ourselves: our sighing, our crying out, our whispers, even our laughter and our silences.
We begin Advent with the brutal honesty of our longing, echoed in Psalm 119:81-82. Already but not yet, the incarnation is both a moment in history and our present immediacy. The mystics of old had to escape into wild and lonely places to seek Christ, yet we seek him amid life and our living of it.
Evening gives way to morning; from the very beginning of creation, the days were marked by this transition. Where is the first place Christ will meet you and in what need of your soul will the Lord nourish and nurture you?
Our watching can find expression by inviting us to be lost to time, in prayer, thought and reflection, transforming the ordinary time of our going out and coming in and all that is between, and declaring it holy. Consider the gift given to us by the Christians Celts who believed that in an ordinary moment God is present; every act of our day becomes an act of worship.
In this season of Thanksgiving, ELCA congregations and members find a variety of ways to express their thankfulness in word and deed.
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.
Along with worship, members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa, Wis., also gather for a pie social.
Thanksgiving is a word of action. First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in Chicago offers a community Thanksgiving dinner.