Synod News, Katrina Relief Effort

Help for Homeless Gulf Coast Pastors

Fifteen pastors and AIMs in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod have been left homeless and without any income because the churches they serve were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod has designated all of its Disaster Fund to help these men and women get back on their feet, so that they may begin ministering to others. If you would like to help these pastors and AIMs, you may send a check to the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod at the following address: Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, 12707 North Freeway, Suite 580, Houston, TX 77060-1239. Make the check payable to “Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod” and write “Discretionary Fund – Pastors” in the memo line.

How New England Is Already Helping:

ST. PAUL, TORRINGTON, CONN.

St. Paul, Torrington, Conn., collected more than $800 Sunday (Sept. 4) during a special appeal for ELCA Domestic Disaster Relief. St. Paul has become the “east side” drop off point for the Torrington fire department’s citywide collection of relief items. The first trailer leaves early tomorrow morning. St. Paul youth unloaded cars and helped pack the trailer. The fire department was grateful for their help.

The Women of the ELCA group at St. Paul wanted to do something tangible to make a difference. At the coffee hour on Sunday, a member of the group suggested making fleece blankets for displaced children, not only for warmth, but for comfort. So, Monday, Labor Day, 13 of women gathered in the fellowship hall and “Labored on Labor Day,” completing 47 fleece blankets. They affixed a label on each blanket, giving the name of the congregation and saying that St. Paul is praying for them. “Lots of love went into each and every stitch and snip,” reported Paula Rosenbeck, “and we felt wonderful when they were all neatly wrapped with love in a clear plastic bag and then shrink-wrapped for maximum portability.” They were added to the items in the trailer at the fire department. “We hope they will bring comfort to a child by week’s end,” added Rosenbeck. “It was a great day!”

SOUTH CONNECTICUT CONFERENCE

Several congregations in the South Connecticut Conference are developing a plan with their Episcopal counterparts to send supplies and work teams to the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA, which covers Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. They will work with ELCA and Episcopal social ministry disaster teams in Mississippi. A work team is tentatively scheduled to leave Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006, after worship and to spend several days in Mississippi. Pr. Mark Christoffersen, Our Saviour’s, Fairfield, Conn., who grew up in Memphis, has contacts in the Southeastern Synod. In fact, his grandfather’s family “lost everything” in a hurricane that struck Hattiesburg, Miss., about 1913.

The ELCA is continually updating the how-to-help information on http://www.elca.org/disaster . Check this site often to find out how you or your congregation can best help.

EARLY-RESPONSE VOLUNTEERS/PROFESSIONALS NEEDED

Skilled/certified search and rescue volunteers. Send an email with “search and rescue volunteer” in the subject line, along with full contact information to ddr@elca.org

Self-sufficient debris removal crews (able to provide their own food, water, sleeping arrangements). Debris-removal crews are being coordinated at a local high school in Wiggins, Mississippi. It has been requested that you call the following number prior to going: 601-249-3695. Self-sufficient volunteer crews may also contact Hal Shope (hshope@allthingsnewministry.org, 678-580-3371) or Bob Tribble (trib713@juno.com, 404-313-7878), LDR Volunteer Coordinators.

Health and medical professionals should contact the Department of Health and Human Services at 866/528-6334, volunteer.hhs.gov or www.hhs.gov

Individuals seeking employment with FEMA should call 800/879-6076, to receive instruction for faxing an application or resume to 540-542-2484.

Contractors seeking opportunities with FEMA should visit www.swern.gov

LATER-RESPONSE VOLUNTEERS

Volunteers will be needed for Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery efforts long into the future. Groups should watch www.elca.org/disaster for volunteer opportunities, or after the immediate crisis has past, send their contact information to ddr@elca.org with “volunteer” in the subject line.

DONATIONS OF FOOD AND *NEW* CLOTHING

Multi-Agency warehouses have been established to accept delivered donations of food, paper products, and NEW clothing. (The warehouses are temperature-controlled facilities, so clothing donations will not mildew. We are not working with anyone at this time willing to accept donations of used clothing.) These warehouses serve as receiving and delivery points and are set up to receive semi-truck deliveries. If you are coordinating a donations drive, and plan to place the items on a semi-tractor trailer, if at all possible, please have these donations placed on pallets for easy removal from the trucks. The warehouses will accept donations if they are not on pallets, but it would help with the unloading process. Since mail services in these areas are uncertain, donations should be taken and not mailed. Contact information is below:

Louisiana
1102 E. Admiral-Doyle Dr.; New Iberia, LA 70560
Stanley Buckmaster-Manager (405)612-4602

Mississippi
4750 Northside Methodist Home Rd.; Jackson, MS 39213
Ray Elsberry-Manager (601)405-2975

Alabama (tentative, watch for confirmation)
Old Sams Club; I-65 W & Dauphin Blvd.; Mobile, AL
Tommy Warren-Manager

DONATIONS TO AMERICA’S SECOND HARVEST FOOD BANKS

America’s Second Harvest is organizing the delivery nationwide to deliver food goods to the impacted areas. The national number is 800-771-2303. Learn more, and find local food-bank contact information, here.

DONATIONS OF DISASTER-RECOVERY SUPPLIES

The Southeastern Synod of the ELCA is maintaining a list of congregations that are also willing to accept donations of disaster-recovery supplies.

OFFERS TO PROVIDE TEMPORARY HOUSING

ELCA Domestic Disaster Response/Lutheran Disaster Response is not coordinating temporary housing.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is working to develop a plan for resettling evacuees – see their Web posting at http://www.lirs.org/News/20050904Katrina.htm

The American Red Cross has launched the Family Links Registry, which will aid individuals who are seeking loved ones and family members in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Family Links Registry can be accessed by visiting www.redcross.org or by calling:
1-877-LOVED-1S (1-877-568-3317) to register.

Evacuees wishing to inform loved ones of their location can register their name by clicking on “Family Links Registry” on www.redcross.org or by calling 1 877-LOVED-1S. Concerned friends and family can register the names of their loved ones and view the list of those already posted. Due to the extent of the damage and the number of people displaced, concerned friends and family members are encouraged to visit the site daily to consult the list, as it will be updated continuously.

Sister Virginia E. Strahan
Synod Communicator
New England Synod
20 Upland Street
Worcester, MA 01607
(508) 791-1530, x103

August 31, 2005

This morning news of Hurricane Katrina continues to worsen, with devastating floods in New Orleans and surrounding cities and towns. If you have been watching the news, you are no doubt wondering what we can do to assist people there. Here’s a couple things: while the people on the Gulf Coast have asked for all of us to pray, you can also donate financial gifts to disaster relief in the region through the ELCA or Lutheran World Relief. For ELCA disaster relief, please click here: http://www.elca.org/disaster/ and donate to Lutheran Disaster Relief earmarked for Hurricane Katrina. You can also donate through http://www. redcross.org.

I’ve done a web search this morning, and there are many venues for giving help. Keep updated with Lutheran coverage of this event through the ELCA news available on our website, and stay informed about what our churches are doing in the region. Perhaps some of you have family or know people affected by the storm who need our help. If so, please email me or the church office at saintpaul.gis.net. As always, we can respond with prayers and action.

If you find yourself drawn to volunteer to go down to New Orleans, please look at ELCA disaster response; we have relief teams, and other ways of offering hands-on assistance.

July 7, 2005

Today we awoke to the news of bombings in London. I am writing out of mourning for the victims who have died, and those who were injured, for their families, and the people of London. I ask your prayers for all of them. I find myself bewildered and saddened by such violence, rather than angry, and so I ask your prayers as well for those who perpetrated this violence, to pray in the truest sense of praying for one’s enemies. I also ask your prayers for the leaders of the G8 summit, who will continue their work in spite of this violence.

Recently the ELCA published a timely statement called “Living in a Time of Terrorism.” I am heartened by this statement, for it places our response to terrorism squarely in the context of our faith, and asks us to think and talk about this reality in our lives. It asks us to think ethically about our response, but also to take heart from the hope and sturdy courage faith offers in a time of violence and uncertainty. We can order copies from the ELCA if you would like to have the publication. However, you can also read it online. If you would like to read the full text, it may be found at this website: http://www.elca.org/socialstatements/terrorism

Below is an excerpt from the document itself centering on actions we can take in our communities to build friendships and understanding between people and cultures who do not share the same religious beliefs, or cultural practices. We are not all the same, yet there is ground we share.

“Our times bid us to intensify our efforts to work with humility and persistence for mutual understanding among all religions, especially among Christians, Muslims, and Jews. This challenge has many dimensions and is only at a beginning stage. It includes personal relationships in neighborhoods, schools, and work places; meetings among congregations, mosques, and synagogues; cooperation with common projects; and scholarly discussions of sacred texts, historical relationships, and living beliefs and practices. It calls for recognizing the great diversity within each religion and for understanding friendly and hostile encounters in multiple contexts.”

The ELCA published the statement to encourage us to talk about terrorism as a community, and to think together what a faithful, peacemaking response to it we can make, as individuals, and as communities. One of the reasons I appreciate being Lutheran is this kind of invitation, that we be in conversation with each other, even in our deepest disagreements, that we continue to talk, and to listen deeply. One of my professors once said, “We Lutherans can talk to anybody.” And it’s true. Because Christian faith calls us to a sacramental listening to our neighbor. I hope you will read the statement on terrorism. If nothing else, it helps to ponder the realities of our times, in the framework of faith in a gracious God.

OF WHALES and PHALAROPES: As far as other sorts of beachcombing, in May, there was a terrific storm if you remember, and birdwatchers in eastern Massachusetts had a windfall, literally, of birds blown in by the storm, toward shore. Some of our intrepid parishioners went out in the worst of it to watch red phalaropes, Wilson’s storm petrels, and Leach’s storm petrels swim in and out of the crashing waves off Folly Point. In Plum Cove, the phalaropes came all the way into shore, spinning in the shallows, and pecking through mounds of kelp and sea wrack. A wonderful three days, if you like a good storm off the coast.

In June, Michael and I sighted two humpback whales off of Folly Point; one swam in towards the Cove, in a leisurely way, and all the diners eating outside at the Lobster Pool stood up in wonder to watch the whales’ graceful dives. The sun set over the bay as they swam in and out, and finally back toward open sea. I was wondering what sort of parable Jesus would have taught if he had used whales. They do appear in the bible, in Job and the Psalms, of course, as “leviathan.” There was Jonah’s unfortunate adventure inside the whale, and we all must have wondered what sort of whale it was, a great blue? a humpback? a Moby Dick sort of whale? In the first story of Creation, in Genesis 1:1-2:4, the King James Version speaks of God creating whales, so they have an early appearance in our sacred histories. Michael produced a beautiful presentation for the Synod Assembly offering power point images based on that creation story, and one, of course, was a humpback whale. We hope to show it at the church this summer, sometime, after all the work on the floor downstairs is finished.

In late June I finished an eight week course at the UMass Medical Center in Worcester at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society. It was a program designed to provide people with practices to reduce harmful stress in their lives. I used some of my continuing education hours to take the class with another local pastor. We found ourselves delighted by the program, and came away renewed. For those of you interested in hearing more, please email me, or go to the website of the program: www.umassmed.edu/cfm.

On a sadder note, faith communities on Cape Ann are taking note of the continued violence in Dafur, and the genocide there. I urge you to read about this, if you have not already, in the news, and on-line. The Lutheran World Relief is in the thick of providing assistance, along with other faith based and NGO organizations. Below is a link to read more about this, and to offer financial support for relief efforts, as well as suggestions for writing letters to Congress and the President. www.lwr.org

On October 15, the Synod is offering Rooted for Life, an annual day of workshops and worship for lay and clergy. This year, the focus will be on faith development through the lifespan, and our speaker is a nationally known reseracher, Roland Martinson, who focuses on exploring the faith of young people, and the factors that sustain their faith journeys. I will be giving a workshop on Evangelism, something we are always thinking about at St. Paul. In preparation for it, I would like to gather five or six people who would help me think through the format of such a workshop, and who would be willing to try some of the exercises and suggstions I hope to teach. If you are interested, please email me at the church, or call the church office.

Beachcombing: April, 2005

This is the newest addition to our website–a Blog, which means, I’m told, a web log. One of my pastor friends told me about the software, and our trusty webmaster found it on-line and installed it for our use on the website, for which we offer him our heartfelt thanks. Most pastors use web logs–Blogs–to offer weekly columns or comments in between newsletter publications. This blog will be a series of reflections, or comments, written over the course of a month. And in keeping with our proximity to the sea, I’m calling it “Beachcombing,” since some days, when you walk on the beach, you find interesting things, and other days, the waves have swept everything away. I hope readers will find it useful.

I’ve been studying a book on evangelism, “A Story Worth Sharing,” recently published by Augsburg (a Lutheran publishing house) and edited by a Lutheran pastor, Kelly Fryer. I’ll be using the book for a N.E. Synod Rooted for Life workshop on evangelism on October 15th, in Worcester. The first essay in the book looks into the way we Christians tell the story of our faith, and how our individual stories are embedded in the larger story of Jesus’ life and mission. As I understand it, evangelism is telling that wonderful story of God’s love for all of us, as we see it in the life and ministry of Jesus, and also as we experience it in our daily lives as Christ’s disciples. At the beginning of each chapter in “A Story Worth Sharing,” the individual authors of the essays write a brief column called: “Who I am in Christ,” just two paragraphs, with information about themselves, and why they do what they do, and how they see themselves as Christians. That’s my question for whomever is reading these musings on this amazing April morning. Who are you in Christ? But to take it further, what is God up to in your life, in your community’s life? What is God up to in the world today as you see it? What do you have in Christ, and what do you know about this risen life that’s a story worth sharing?