The texts for the month of September inform us very well how Jesus would have us care for all of God’s people. The following are the “Introductions” for the week from Sundays and Seasons:
1st: Invited and inviting—that is the nature of the church. By God’s grace in holy baptism, we have a place at the banquet table of the Lord. When, by the power of that same Spirit, humility and mutual love continue among us, the church can be more inviting still.
2nd: The grumbling of the Pharisees and the scribes in today’s gospel is actually our holy hope: This Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. That our God wills to seek and to save the lost is not only a holy hope, it is our only hope. As Paul’s first letter to Timothy reminds us, “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Thanks be to God.
3rd: As we are invited today to consider what it means to be managers (rather than owners) of all that we have, it is crucial to recall that we are bought with a price. “Christ Jesus, himself human, …gave himself a ransom for all.” Apart from the generosity of God we have nothing—we are nothing. By God’s gracious favor, we have everything we need.
4th: Consideration of and care for those in need (especially those “at our gate”, visible to us, of whom we are aware) is an essential component of good stewardship. It is in the sharing of wealth that we avoid the snare of wealth. It is the one whom death could not hold—who comes to us risen from the dead—who can free us from the death grip of greed.
What can we do differently to better follow what Christ has taught us?
From the Northeastern Ohio Synod:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. [Ephesians 2:19-20 NRSV]
August 13, 2019
Dear Siblings in Christ of the Northeastern Ohio Synod,
By now you are aware that on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), by a majority of the voting members at the Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, declared itself a sanctuary church body.
Since then, many of you have asked the good Lutheran question, “What does this mean”?
First, allow me to give some background information as to the origin of this declaration. The Churchwide Assembly is the highest legislative body of the ELCA. All decisions made there become the policies and procedures of the ELCA. However, many of these decisions begin as memorials and resolutions from synods, like ours. After screening by a committee, they are passed on to the Churchwide Assembly, with recommendations. The voting members then deliberate and discern the final outcome.
I mention all that because this declaration is not some “mandate from on high.” It is truly the work of the people.
To designate the ELCA as a sanctuary church body is a way of publicly declaring the work we are doing in this and many of our synods, and historically have done throughout the history of our church. Being a sanctuary denomination is about loving our neighbors.
Those of you who attended our Northeastern Ohio Synod Assembly in June will recall that this year’s theme was, Who Is My Neighbor.
The theme grew out of a resolution which was submitted at last year’s synod assembly by one of you, which encouraged us to call for compassionate assistance to migrant parents and children entering the United States. It was referred to Synod Council, which then refined the wording of the resolution and approved it. You can find our completed resolution by clicking HERE.
There are additional statements and resources on our website, www.neos-elca.org. That page includes a pastoral letter I wrote to you in February of 2017, which has informed and guided much of our work here among you in the Northeastern Ohio mission territory.
In 2016, the Churchwide Assembly adopted the Strategy to Accompany Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities (AMMPARO). AMMPARO invites congregations to become “Welcoming Congregations,” which means they commit to spiritually and physically accompanying migrants in their communities, pray for migrant children and families, and advocate for a just and humane immigration system. Here in Northeastern Ohio, our synod’s Ecumenical Committee has been tasked with continuing to seek ways to align our synod’s work more closely with the work of AMMPARO.
Throughout the ELCA, 28 synods have an AMMPARO task force, 41 synods have AMMPARO related activities. Five synods have already designated themselves sanctuary synods.
The declaration of the ELCA as a sanctuary church body broadens the language to describe that work using a word that the world understands.
On a more practical level, being a sanctuary denomination will look different in different contexts. It may mean providing space for people to live; providing financial and legal support to those who are working through the immigration system; or supporting other congregations and service providers. Congregations, synods, and ministries cannot be mandated or directed to respond in specific ways. Each is called to work out what this means for them in their context.
It is also important to note that the designation as a sanctuary body in no way calls for congregations, synods, or ministries to engage in civil disobedience or any illegal actions. For us, welcoming people is first and foremost a matter of faith, which impacts how we live out all our vocations in God’s world, including our political life.
In baptism, we are brought into a covenantal relationship with Jesus Christ that commits us to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. Following the example of Martin Luther, we believe that advocacy is a crucial expression of baptismal identity.
We Lutherans have a unique voice that is needed in the public square. We are called to bring Christian insight into the conversation and make known the clear voice of God’s call to practice radical hospitality and to show the extreme nature of God’s love. God calls us to see beyond our walls, and recognize that we are all creatures created and loved by God.
I pray this information has been helpful. I realize that for some of you, this step that our church has taken may seem unsettling. I would be naïve to think that all of us agree on immigration related issues. We may never agree. But as children of God, which is what we are, we are loved by our Creator regardless of our differing opinion, and for that we say, “Thanks be to God.”
Grace and peace to you,
The Rev. Abraham D. Allende, Bishop
Also from the Northeastern Ohio Synod:
What does becoming a sanctuary denomination mean for the ELCA?
In its simplest form, becoming a sanctuary denomination means that the ELCA is publicly declaring that walking alongside immigrants and refugees is a matter of faith. The ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the highest legislative authority of the ELCA, declared that when we preach on Sunday that Jesus told us to welcome, we will use our hands and voices on Monday to make sure it happens.
Being a sanctuary denomination does not call for any person, congregation, or synod to engage in any illegal actions.
We have a broken system regarding immigration, refugees, and asylumseekers. To declare ourselves a sanctuary church body is to say that we seek to provide concrete resources to assist the most vulnerable who are feeling the sharp edges of this broken.
Being a sanctuary denomination is about loving our neighbors. While we may have different ideas about how to fix this broken system and may have different ways of loving our neighbors, our call to love our neighbor is central to our faith.
Being a sanctuary denomination will look different in different contexts. It may mean providing space for people to live; providing financial and legal support to those who are working through the immigration system; or supporting other congregations and service providers. We cannot mandate or direct our congregations and ministries to respond in specific ways. Each must work out what this means for them in their context.
While we don’t yet know the full scope of the work that this declaration will open for the church, we do know that our faith communities are already doing sanctuary work. Sanctuary for a congregation may mean hosting English as a second Language (ESL) classes; marching as people of faith against the detention of children and families; providing housing for a community member facing deportation; or, in some of our congregations, having thoughtful conversations about what our faith says about immigration. All of these are a step closer to sanctuary in our faith communities and sanctuary in our world for people who must leave their homes.
Except for our members whose ancestors were here before European settlement or others who were forced to come to the U.S. against their will, the ELCA is an immigrant Our decades-long work with immigrants and refugees is how we practice our faith in the world. Lutherans started Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of the nine refugee resettlement agencies in the U.S.
At our last churchwide assembly, we also committed to walking alongside Central American children and families fleeing their communities by passing the AMMPARO strategy (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation, and Opportunities).
Through the AMMPARO strategy, we are also working through our global partners in Central America to alleviate the conditions that cause people to migrate. We support organizations and faith communities that work with deported migrants in Central America and advocate for the humane treatment of immigrants in Mexico. In the U.S., we have a network of 151 welcoming and sanctuary congregations that are committed to working on migration issues and a welcome for immigrant communities. The church also has five sanctuary synods (our regional structures), all of which do work with immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers.
In baptism, we are brought into a covenantal relationship with Jesus Christ that commits us to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. Following the example of Martin Luther, we believe that advocacy is a crucial expression of baptismal identity. As a church, we have advocated for stopping the detention of children and families for decades. We have spoken out against family separation, sought a pathway to citizenship for community members who have lived in the U.S. for many years, and have taken steps to address the root causes of migration in a way that honors the humanity in people who must flee.
Being a sanctuary denomination means that we, as church together, want to be public and vocal about this work. At the same time, we will have conversations about what sanctuary means with many of our members and discern future action and direction. Welcoming people is not a political issue for us, it is a matter of faith.
New Photo Directory…Living Lord photo sessions for an updated pictorial directory will be September 9 and 10. More details and scheduling to come!
We are trying something different this year…For over a decade, the Lutheran congregations in Trumbull County have brought our youth together in community to build strong, trusting relationships. We did this through two primary means: (1) We have had a cooperative catechism hosted by Living Lord, and (2) we have gone on Servant Week missions together. During my tenure at Living Lord, the cooperative catechism included youth from Emmanuel, St. Mark, Lordstown, Prince of Peace, New Life, Trinity Girard, Trinity Niles, Grace, and St. Paul. We had classes as large as 30 students. For the last couple years, St. Paul and Living Lord have been the primary participants; however, it has provided that nucleus of youth and a welcoming place for youth from Emmanuel, Lordstown, and Trinity Niles when they had no pastor to lead the studies. Servant Week grew to 70 participants for a couple years. Our youth have had a tremendous impact on every community in which they have worked. Just as important, they have learned skills, including how to manage a project. In the last three years, our groups have grown smaller. It is time to try something new. This year, we are starting a Youth Group throughout the year which will include 6th graders through high school. We are meeting at St. Paul. Youth and families from Prince of Peace have already called and joined the group. There is a desire to maintain this effort of building community among our youth. We will meet every other Sunday evening from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. The meeting will include worship, instruction, fun activities, and servant projects. If you have any questions, please see Pastor Bill or Stacey Altiere.
Church Information…Please remember that you can obtain church information from the monthly Lamplighter Newsletter, the Constant Contact emails you receive, on the church website (www.lllc.org), on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Living-Lord-Lutheran-Church-493806727349110/), and postings on the church bulletin board. Church Council Meeting minutes are posted on the bulletin board and sent out via Constant Contact. We would like to see a better “open rate” when we send information to you via Constant Contact so that we know you are being informed of the activities that are occurring at the church. If you have any other suggestions on how best to reach out to our parishioners, please see a Council member.
Camp Frederick Golf Outing…Camp Frederick announces its 26th Annual Golf Outing will be held on September 14 at Beaver Creek Meadows Golf Course. The event is great fun and great food supporting children’s camping activities. Registration is $75/player. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Please sign up early because they again anticipate reaching the maximum number of golfers. For more information: web: https://www.campfrederickohio.com/ events/2017/9/9/golf-outing; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 330-227-3633.