Today I had lunch with Peter, Pat, Brian, V-Anne, Donna and Linda, members of the malaria committee at All Saints Lutheran Church in Novato, CA. Their pastor, Annemarie Burke, would have joined us, but she was on vacation.
They started by telling me how long they had been members of All Saints: “about 30 years”; “35 years!” “going on 37 years”; “but I’ve been here the longest!” (that was Brian, proudly). Donna was the newcomer, beginning her membership “only” about a dozen years ago. She’s the council president now, but just about everyone around the table has had their turn with the gavel. A dedicated bunch, to be sure; more than 150 years of church membership between them.
And then it got exciting. “We like to think outside the box,” says V-Anne. “We know that God is calling us to be a different kind of church now,” affirms Linda.
“Our new pastor came about a year and a half ago,” they explained to me, “and since then, we have felt a real revitalizing in our congregation. Maybe not growth yet, but new life; new energy.” Led by these and other visionaries, All Saints is going through a process of “repurposing”—analyzing their community, researching emerging generations and how best to reach them, affirming God’s grace and their call to action, rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.
‘God Work. Our Hands. Sunday,’ which was celebrated across the ELCA on Sept 8th this year, was a turning point for All Saints. “We worship about 70-80 people a Sunday,” begins V-Anne. (“We worship God,” corrects Pat gently, and we all laugh.) “About 70-80 of us gather together each week—to worship God,” V-Anne goes on. “But on ‘God’s Work. Our Hands Sunday,’ 92 people gathered together at All Saints to serve our neighbors.”
Service, as they say, is in the DNA of this congregation. So it makes sense that, as part of their “repurposing” campaign, they would dream big about malaria awareness and fundraising. “We’re going to put Novato on the map!” says Brian enthusiastically. And I truly believe they will.
Their goal for the ELCA Malaria Campaign is intriguing: $53,301. Peter clarifies: “It’s one dollar for every citizen of Novato. We’re going to get the whole city involved.” (Linda chimes in that she’s pretty sure they could raise two dollars per citizen without much trouble.)
And I think they’ll do it—their plans are ambitious and organized and these folks are just not going to stop until they’ve carried the message of malaria prevention and control to every one of their neighbors. They’ve even chosen a mascot: a slightly rough-looking dude named “Mo Skeeter.”
The approach for the “Novato Malaria Campaign” has three tiers. More than 80 community leaders—not necessarily Lutherans!—have been invited to a dinner on January 16th. The team plans to let them know about the great work that the ELCA Malaria Campaign is supporting in Africa, and inspire them with ideas of how to get involved. (And they won’t hurt for ideas: their initial list of activity suggestions is two pages long!)
The whole community of Novato will be invited to celebrate World Malaria Day on April 26th by taking part in an outdoor event at All Saints on April 26th. The event promises “awareness, fundraising… and fun.”
The third tier of the Novato Malaria Campaign will involve a two months of intentional fundraising in the community, culminating in an energetic presence in Novato’s 4th of July parade. “We have one of the largest parades in the Bay Area,” Donna is proud to say. It lasts 2-1/2 hours and draws a huge crowd.
And if this committee has their way, just about every citizen of Novato will be marching behind the Novato Malaria Campaign float!