A visual tour of ELCA congregations, people and events.
Blessing of the animals
Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Seattle, celebrated the feast day of Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, during its Sunday, Oct. 4, worship service with a special pet blessing. During the service, members thanked God for the creatures that gladden their lives and for the earth that we share.
Homer with her loving human, Laurel.
Lola the pit bull shares love.
Pastor Joanne blesses Sophie and her human, Vickie Gassman.
Molly, a border collie, shares peace with Pastor Joanne as Ru and Liz wait.
Babette, a French bulldog, readies to go in peace to share love with the world.
Pastor Kari rejoices in life with Flossy, a sheltie who is beloved companion to Susan Christiansen. Pastor Kari’s message from the day’s service is available here. Learn more about Kari and her ministry here.
South Carolina flooding
Heavy rainfall that began Oct. 1 has caused severe flooding in South Carolina. The recent storm has brought the heaviest rainfall the state has seen since Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989. ELCA congregations and members have come together to support and pray for their neighbors who are in the midst of the devastation. In coordination with Lutheran Services of the Carolinas, Lutheran Disaster Response is addressing the needs of those affected by the flooding and is ready to provide long-term recovery efforts. To help, click here. (Photos: Neal Fischer, director of communications, ELCA South Carolina Synod)
Blossom Street Bridge (pictured) in Columbia, S.C., is one of the few bridges in the area that has not been washed out. More than 160 bridges in the state have been closed.
National Guardsmen prepare sandbags to be moved by helicopter to drop in a breach of the Columbia canal. There are 5,000 National Guardsmen in South Carolina who are helping with rescue operations and disaster response efforts.
Members of Good Shepherd Lutheran in Columbia, S.C., are collecting materials for the officers of the Forest Acres Police Department and members of the South Carolina National Guard who are using the church as its center for operations.
Columbia is one of the hardest hit areas in South Carolina with more than 20 inches of rainfall in a two-day period.
More than 26,000 homes are without electricity, and more than 40,000 homes are without running water as a result of the flooding.
The amount of rain that South Carolina received equates to 1.2 million gallons of water for every person in the state.
More than 70 miles of highway in South Carolina have been closed due to the flooding.
Furry friend brings cheer to seniors
In many ELCA congregations, the blessing of animals is celebrated on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, or on a Sunday near that date. In honor of this day, we’re highlighting the blessings Rusty the dog brings to everyone he meets. The comfort dog brings cheer to seniors at Trinity Place in Albemarle, N.C., one of Lutheran Services Carolina’s homes for seniors.
Jaynata Haldar enjoys sitting with Rusty. “It’s really amazing how much happiness (Rusty) brings and what a difference he can make in residents’ lives,” says Courtney Adams, Trinity Place administrator.
With a gentle nuzzle and the wag of a tail, Rusty creates a sense of normalcy and helps make Trinity Place feel like a home rather than an institution. Audine Page, a resident at Trinity Place, pets Rusty.
Increasingly, science backs up the idea that dogs make us feel better. Interacting with dogs can help reduce stress, according to research from Kean University School of Nursing in Atlanta.
Rusty, 2, is from the Humane Society. He loves receiving treats from the Trinity Place seniors he greets.
“He’s a sweetheart,” says resident Sarah Blalock. “(Rusty) helps us. He makes me laugh.”
Sparks of faith
Trinity Lutheran Church in Mount Joy, Pa., is seeing sparks. Michelle Shirk, Trinity’s director of youth and family ministries, implemented the “Spark Teams” concept in which the youth of the congregation use their personal passions to fuel projects that serve their community, share the gospel and strengthen their faith.
Jacke Houck and Alex O’Shea collected sports equipment with their Spark Team to give to inner-city youth.
Eighth-graders Emily Ashley, Milli Straub and Kelsey Long organized a 5K walk/run with their Spark Team to raise awareness about world hunger. Their event raised more than $1,200, which was used to purchase seeds for farmers in Haiti.
Zach Rago, Hannah Williams and Abby Johns worked on their Spark Team to design curriculum, organize activities and develop a budget to host a “Senior High End of Summer Youth Retreat,” which helped rising ninth-grade students feel welcomed into the senior high youth group.
As director of youth and family ministries at Trinity, Michelle Shirk (far left) helps point out where God is working in the youth through the connections they make on their Spark Teams.
Fourteen-year-old Anika Weaver used her passion for theater production to create a PowerPoint movie to celebrate the end of the youth-group year and to show the congregation how the youth are serving.
‘God’s work. Our hands’ Sunday
On Sept. 13, ELCA congregations from across the country joined together for “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday. This dedicated day of service builds on the work ELCA members do every day to serve their neighbors and make the world a better place. From cleaning roadsides to preparing meals to playing music for shut-ins, volunteers participated in a multitude of service projects. “God's work. Our hands.” Sunday celebrates a church that believes God is calling us into the world together.
Mountain View Ministry is a joint ministry of three congregations in rural North Dakota – Peace Lutheran Church in Dunseith, Valle Lutheran Church in Rolette and Willow Creek in Overly. Volunteers help put the final touches on the newly constructed Dunseith Food Pantry.
Volunteers from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Greenville, N.C., make tie fleece blankets for Community Crossroads Center, a local community shelter.
Almost 40 volunteers from Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church in Sedalia, Mo., gathered on “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday to make fleece tie blankets for Child Safe of Central Missouri, a child advocacy center.
About 125 volunteers from St. John's Lutheran Church in Norfolk, Neb., participated in “God's Work. Our Hands.” Sunday. Service activities included helping paint and make repairs at a local rescue mission, creating thank-you cards for military veterans and assembling welcome kits for the Chamber of Commerce.
Volunteers from Christ Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa, assembled birthday cake kits that were delivered to the local food pantry.
Members of all ages participate in “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday. Volunteers from Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Crown Point, Ind., help with yard work at the home of a member’s mother.
Back to school at Ascension Lutheran
School is back in session at Ascension Lutheran School in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Serving grades kindergarten through eight and offering early childhood education, Ascension Lutheran School has been educating young people in a Christian setting for more than 50 years. Ascension Lutheran School is connected to Ascension Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Happiness is seeing your friends back at school after summer break. Many Ascension students develop life-long friendships with one another.
Middle school students at Ascension were excited to come back to school to discover that the lockers had been painted to look like books in a bookshelf. Lockers appear as book spines with titles or authors painted on them.
Middle school students, grades five-eight, can often be found collaborating in study groups outside the classrooms.
Ascension’s early childhood center is a wonderful place for infants through pre-K students. Children love to learn and play in the Nature Explorer Outdoor Classroom, which features abundant open-ended, hands-on activities that allow for investigation and a sense of wonder.
Ascension’s kindergarten teacher works with a new student. Kindergarten students at Ascension enjoy a full and rich day during which they participate in academic and enrichment classes including Spanish, music and physical education.
Students at Ascension work hard and they play hard. Recess is a favorite time for all students!
Eighth-grade students help lead chapel on the first day of school, greeting the students with welcome signs and high-fives.