A visual tour of ELCA congregations, people and events.

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.

Reformation places and spaces

Oct 27, 2013

On Oct. 31, 1517, the eve of All Saints Day, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses against indulgences on the door of the Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany. In modern times this event is considered the spark that led to the Reformation.

Portraits of Martin Luther and his wife, Katharina von Bora, painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder, a Renaissance painter, printmaker and friend of Martin Luther. These portraits, being placed by restorer Angelika Hoffmeister, hang in Kunstsammlung Boettscherstrasse, Bremen, Germany.

Pictured here is the Martin Luther statue at the site of the Coburg Night Market. Luther lived at Veste Coburg, one of Germany’s largest castles, for five months in 1530 during the Imperial Diet of Augsburg. His living and working quarters have been preserved.

In 2010 a controversial art installation of 800 plastic statues by Artist Ottmar Horl covered the Wittenberg market square while the iconic bronze statue of Luther was being cleaned. The 3-foot-tall plastic statues are now available for sale throughout the city. Warning — Wittenberg theologian Friedrich Schorlemmer describes the statues as theological and aesthetic abuse.

Third-year Wartburg College student Maren Hopkins in the Luther Room at Wartburg Castle, Wittenberg, Germany. This is where Martin Luther translated the Bible.

Worms, one of Germany’s oldest towns, boasts the largest Reformation monument in the world. It was at the Diet of Worms, from Jan. 28 to May 25, 1521, that Luther defended his 95 Theses. A “diet” was a formal deliberative or imperial assembly with the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, presiding.

A detail from current door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The bronze doors are inscribed with the 95 Theses in Latin and were commissioned in 1858 to commemorate the 375th anniversary of Luther’s birth. The original wooden doors, where Luther posted his theses in 1517 were destroyed by a fire in 1760.

Congregations celebrating special anniversaries

Oct 21, 2013

During this ELCA 25th-anniversary year there are quite a few congregations celebrating milestone events. Congratulations to all those celebrating anniversaries this year!

Incorporated in 1913, Hephatha Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The anniversary worship service included a blessing of the congregation’s pastor, Mary Martha Kannass.v

Four Mile Lutheran Church, Mabank, Texas, celebrated its 165th Anniversary on May 5, 2013. The celebration began with worship officiated by the ELCA Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod bishop, Kevin Kanouse, and Jan Castleberry, the congregation’s pastor.

Dressed in period vestments are, from left, Paul Tobiason, interim pastor, and Dennis Knutson of English Lutheran Church of Bateman, Chippewa Falls, Wis., during a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the congregation.

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Elk Point, the oldest Lutheran congregation in South Dakota, this year is celebrating 150 years.

Members of Messiah Lutheran Church, Washburn, Wis., kicked off their 40th anniversary on April 21, 2013, with dinner. The congregation has planned several events throughout this anniversary year. In this photo, members recall events with the help of a photo timeline.

In celebration of their one-year anniversary on Sept. 15, New Light Lutheran, Dundalk, Md., held their first church picnic and outdoor worship.

'God's work. Our hands.' day of service, Part III

Oct 14, 2013

Last month we posted the photo blog “‘God’s work. Our hands.’ day of service” Parts I and II. Because of the great response with the submission of photos from congregations all over the country, we decided to post more photos. You may also want to check out our Pinterest page and Facebook albums.

Milwaukee’s Oldest Lutheran congregation is always being made new! The people of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church were eager to celebrate the ELCA’s 25th anniversary. They took worship outside, sang, prayed, listened to God’s word, communed and welcomed all as they worshiped along one of the busiest streets in Milwaukee. After worship, members went into the neighborhood to clean up litter.

Trinity Lutheran of Porterville, Calif., reports the ELCA 25th anniversary found God calling Trinity to fellowship with Olive Street School staff, parents and students in planting 17 trees at the school along with painting lines for foursquare, hopscotch and student line-up outside the class rooms.

At Living Word Lutheran Church in Arlington, Tenn., the congregation combined the service day with Rally Day and collected gifts and clothes for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

The goal at United Lutheran Church, Hampton, Neb., was to paint every fire hydrant in town. At the end of the day all of the town’s 62 hydrants had a new coat of paint. The congregation gave their town a gift of service.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Cumberland, Md., began an Intergenerational Puppet Ministry Team in August. Their first opportunity to use their hands was on Sept. 8 for the “God’s Work. Our Hands.” service day. They visited a memory-loss residence where they sang songs, danced and brought moments of joy to the residents.

The congregation of St. Paul Lutheran Church , Sarasota, Fla., gathered for a sending prayer before half of the “God’s work. Our hands.” volunteers went to a local rehab facility and offered a “mini-worship” service. Others went trash-picking on a two-mile stretch of road for the Adopt-A-Road program of Keep Sarasota Beautiful.

Installation of ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton

Oct 07, 2013

On Oct. 5, 2013, Elizabeth A. Eaton became the fourth presiding bishop of the ELCA. Bishop Eaton was installed at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel.

The congregation turns to greet the processional cross, which was followed by the presiding ministers, preacher, assisting ministers and director of liturgy. Prior to the rite of installation, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson served as presiding minister. After the rite of installation, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton served as presiding minister.

Mark S. Hanson, presiding minister, (center right) addresses the assembly during the welcome of the presiding bishop-elect. Yolanda Tanner, vice president of the ELCA Delaware-Maryland Synod (center left) is the assisting minister.

Joelle Colville-Hanson, an ELCA pastor, (left) and Anita Tubben-Nueztmen hold service folders from the service of Holy Communion and the Installation of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. Joelle and Anita are regular feature bloggers for Living

Vested in red and white, the ELCA Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church. The conference includes 65 synod bishops, the presiding bishop and secretary.

Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and vice president of the North American Region of The Lutheran World Federation, took part in a laying on of hands over ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton.

“The office of presiding bishop is now committed to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” — Presiding Minister Mark S. Hanson

Elizabeth A. Eaton is formally presented as ELCA presiding bishop.

T. Conrad Selnick, priest of St. Christopher’s by the River Episcopal Church in Gates Mill, Ohio, reads the Gospel — Mark 4:1-9. Conrad is also the husband of ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton.

Jessica Crist, bishop of the ELCA Montana Synod and chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops, preached the sermon.

Elizabeth A. Eaton (left), ELCA presiding bishop, served as presiding minister after the rite of installation.

John H. Evans is the pastor who confirmed Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton when she was 12. John, now 93, is retired and traveled from Lakewood, Ohio, to attend the installation. He also delivered the prayer before the evening banquet in honor of Eaton.

The first three female synodical bishops of the ELCA pose with with Presidng Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton. From left to right, Margaret Payne, former bishop of ELCA New England Synod; Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, former bishop of the ELCA South Dakota Synod; Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton; and April Ulring Larson, former bishop of the ELCA La Crosse Area Synod. Larson was the first female synodical bishop; she was installed on Oct. 11, 1992.

Angels of the Bible

Sep 30, 2013

Mentioned over 200 times in the Bible, angels have a variety of attributes. At times an angel appears to be a human with unusual features. Daniel saw an angel with arms and legs resembling polished metal and precious stones. The angel who rolled away the stone from the tomb was a dazzling light. The Angel Gabriel came to Mary in the form of a man to tell her that she was to become the mother of the Messiah. The following images represent how artists have depicted these spiritual beings as found in the Bible.

“Hagar and the Angel in the Desert” by James Tissot, 1896-1900. The first mention of an angel in the Bible was as a comforter/provider to Hagar and her son Ishmael. “The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur” (Genesis 16:7).

Archangel Michael statue at St. Michael’s Church, Hamburg, Germany. The church is one of Hamburg’s five Lutheran main churches. This large bronze statue, standing above the portal of the church, shows the archangel conquering the devil. In the book of Revelation, Michael leads God’s armies against Satan’s forces. “And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back” (Revelation 12:7).

“Archangel Gabriel Annunciate” by Fra Angelico, 1431-1433. “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David” (Luke 1:26-27).

“Jacob wrestling with the Angel” by Jacob Epstein, Tate Britain, London. “Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak” (Genesis 32:24).

Angels rolling away the stone from the sepulcher, William Blake, 1805. “And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it” (Matthew 28:2).

Trinity icon, Andrei Rublev, 15th century, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. In some traditions the three travelers represent the Trinity. In many western traditions the travelers welcomed by Abraham and Sarah were three angels. “He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground” (Genesis 18:2).