CONNECTEDNESS STORY: COMMUNITY DIAPER DRIVE

CONNECTEDNESS STORY: FAITH-BASED RESPONSE TO OPIOID & ADDICTION CRISIS

To help those suffering from drug addiction, it is imperative that we engage, educate and train our church body about opioid addiction and overdose. This crisis is in our communities, our congregations and our homes. As faithful people, we must not ignore this crisis but rather live out the words of Matthew 25: 35-36 tells us:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

We show the love of Jesus by accepting and supporting people in active addiction. We do this by connecting with people in the midst of the realities of where they are in their life and open the possibility of recovery and building relationships with them throughout their recovery journey. This ministry can only succeed by building relationships across our synod for those being affected by the opioid crisis connecting people to each other, to the greater church family, and to our communities.

The facts are before us:
Maryland is among the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths with nearly 29.7 deaths per 100,000 persons were related to opioids—including prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl—compared to the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000[1] and Delaware has the 13th highest for opioid-related overdose deaths at a rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 persons—compared to the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000[2]; and reported the second-highest percent increase at 105% in suspected opioid overdose emergency department visits from July 2016 to September 2017[3].

The CDC indicates that the average life expectancy in the United States has declined for the second time in three years primarily due to deaths from drug overdose and suicide, with more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths reported in 2017[4].

Of people entering treatment for heroin addiction who began abusing opioids in the 1960s, more than 80 percent started with heroin. Of those who began abusing opioids in the 2000s, 75 percent reported that their first opioid was a prescription drug[5].
86 percent of young users had used opioid pain relievers nonmedically prior to using heroin, and their initiation into nonmedical use was characterized by three main sources of opioids: family, friends, or personal prescriptions[5].

The Delaware-Maryland Synod Opioid and Addiction Team is calling us all to participate in this essential ministry.

On August 24th, our synod will be offering a Faith-Based Response to the Opioid Crisis and Other Addictions training. Please join others in the Delaware-Maryland Synod to work faithfully to fight the greatest health crisis facing our nation: addiction to drugs and alcohol.

This event will help individuals, congregations and organizations grow in their knowledge of this crisis and work on plans for a strategy in your context. All ages, genders, races are being affected. We ask, how will your congregation have a faithful response? This time together will include presenters from the ELCA, US Drug Enforcement Administration and provide Emergency Overdose Response Training, as well as connected us together to share, support and empower each other to work to address this crisis.

The event will be Saturday August 24, 2019 from 9:30 am – 1:30 pm at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church (905 Frederick Rd. Catonsville, MD). A light lunch will be included. Cost is $15/person or a max $60 per congregation/organization so bring a group! Childcare will be provided, and you must pre-register.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER and share this flier throughout your congregation and community!

Pray about your engagement in this national crisis who will you invite to join you in this event and important work.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Sources:
[1] Maryland Opioid Summary. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-summaries-by-state/maryland-opioid-summary
[2] Delaware Opioid Summary. National Institute on Drug Abuse https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-summaries-by-state/delaware-opioid-summary
[3] Delaware ED Data Shows Significant Increase in Opioid Overdoses; DPH Announces Forum for First Responders and EDs to Address Overdose Management. March 7, 2018. https://news.delaware.gov/2018/03/07/delaware-ed-data-shows-increase-opioid-overdoses/
[4] https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20181210lifeexpectdrop.html
[5] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use

CONNECTEDNESS STORY: GOD’S WORK OUR HANDS SEPTEMBER 8th

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10

 

Practice and celebrate who we are as ELCA: one church, freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor.  The ELCA encourages congregations to “be the church and serve the community” by planning service projects that can be completed on God’s Work Our Hands Sunday.  Your church may choose to do one large event, several smaller activities or join with other congregations in your conference to broaden your reach. Just look to meet needs in your community.

This year God’s Work Our Hands (GWOH) is September 8, 2019.  We are excited to see what our congregations across Delaware and Maryland will engage in on this day along with congregations across the ELCA.

Past congregational activities have included:

  • Assembling care kits for homeless people
  • Doing assorted household chores (painting, yard work, window washing, garage cleanout) for those in the community who don’t have the health or financial resources to care for their homes
  • Installing a garden at a non-profit shelter
  • Handing out bottled water at a community event
  • Providing a birthday party for residents of a nursing facility
  • Pick up trash along a road or in a park

There are several online resources for GWOH Sunday available including a tool kit, bulletin inserts, press releases and post cards to invite others to join the activities. Having the same T-shirt for each person participating is a great way to tell others who we are. These are available online. To personalize them with the name of your congregation, the deadline is August 13, 2019.

If you can’t participate on September 8, choose another time!  See www.elca.org/dayofservice for more information.

CONNECTEDNESS STORY: AFRICAN DESCENT LUTHERAN ASSOCIATION (ADLA)

Did you know that there are 255 ELCA congregations who report over 49,000 people of African Descent as active participants across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands? A network of persons who self-identify as Black, African Caribbean, African American, African National and others of African ancestry from numerous countries now living in the United States are united as the African Descent Lutheran Association.

The African Descent community within the ELCA is wonderfully diverse in culture and context. Standing in a long and biblically historical line of people of faith and of African descent are Christians, some new to the faith and others who for generations have been baptized Christians in Lutheran congregations, who each bring a unique chapter that adds to the larger story that represents the ELCA.

In our own Delaware-Maryland Synod, we have an active ADLA Chapter with the goal of “Full Partnership, Full Participation”.  They gather monthly to connect, advocate, learn and partner so all African Descent Lutherans in our synod are supported to live as disciples of Christ. Click here to learn more about our local ADLA leadership and events.

For ADLA engaging, involving and investing in the gifts, interests and capacity of people of African descent in every aspect of the life of this church is the focus. As part of the Ethnic Specific and Multicultural Ministries Team, they seek to strengthen the hands of the ELCA for building — with integrity — a multicultural church. As people of African descent, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that provides the faith and freedom to unite with our sisters and brothers to boldly participate in God’s work of restoring and reconciling communities in the name of Jesus Christ throughout the world. ADLA also strives to live out God’s call in and through visionary pastoral leadership, worship, witness, discipleship, stewardship, family ministries, social justice, and unity and diversity.

The Strategic Plan “Many Voices, Tell the Story, Create the Vision:  Build our Future” guides the ADLA’s work which includes:

  • developing important connections
  • advocating for congregations
  • promoting implementation of the National African Descent Strategy
  • providing fellowship, learning and sharing opportunities
  • providing a forum for theological reflection for clergy and lay members through collaboration with other African Descent organizations and networks.

“Lift Every Voice” is the theme of the Biennial Assembly in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that is scheduled for August 2-4, 2019.

Click here to access ELCA African Descent resources and visit the African Descent Lutheran Association Facebook page to learn more about our ELCA African Descent community and how to join this active, vital network and association.

CONNECTEDNESS STORY: OUR SYNOD’S PARTNER PROGRAMS & MINISTRIES

Today, I am pleased to be writing a story of connectedness so we can celebrate our very own Synod Connectedness Team and the many programs and ministries throughout our synod. The purpose of the Connectedness Team is to lift up all the programs and ministries that are going on in the Synod, to make public all the ministries that go on in our synod whether they are self-funding or receive synod funds, and to share the impact and needs of these dynamic programs and ministries.

All of these ministries can be a resource for congregations in discerning their call to the wider church. For example, our First Call ministry is for our new rostered leaders that are called into our synod. This ministry provides a space for our newly ordained and consecrated leaders to share with one another the joys and challenges of this thing we call “ministry.” The First Call ministry also provides mentoring, resources and best practices for the newly called into our Synod. This is a vital program in which rostered leaders and congregation’s benefit. The congregation benefits in that the newly called are able to learn about their parish, community, and culture. It is a position where both leader and community learn and teach one another.

Another vital area is in Ecumenical Partnerships. We cannot be the body of Christ alone. As Paul writes, we are all the body of Christ, together. Throughout our synod we have partnerships with numerous denominations and religions. Through these partnerships we are able to be the body of Christ together and do God’s work in the world. Through our Ecumenical Relationships we are able to seek and do God’s justice in the world, collectively, to make a stronger impact. Again, both leader and congregation benefit. We all benefit in learning from one another, teaching, and adapting some wonderful practices that help us find new ways to give praise to God.

As a member of our Synod Connectedness Team, I feel blessed to be writing this in a time when summer seems to slow things down. The reason being that this time can be used by congregations and each member to go check out the extensive list of Partner Programs & Ministries that our synod participates in and explore what your congregation might be called to engage in the future.

God’s peace and blessings, Pastor Chris Litton, Christus Victor Lutheran Church, Parkville, Maryland

 

CONNECTEDNESS STORY: RACIAL JUSTICE MINISTRY TEAM

The Racial Justice Ministry Team was established to provide an opportunity for congregations, teams, and other organizations of the Delaware-Maryland Synod to gather for the purpose of strengthening our collective and individual resolve in addressing the sin of racism.  This ministry is about being inclusive, not exclusive, to create a climate of peace, justice, freedom and dignity that embraces all people. A climate that provides opportunities for growth, leadership, empowerment and advocating for policies and programs that are socially and racially just.

The Racial Justice team meets regularly to review and discuss the latest literature and information on social justice and plans ways to incorporate this information into activities, workshops, and other opportunities to share across our synod. Some of the ways include:

  • Provide tools to help identify how and where race is playing a role.
  • Offer a deeper understanding of how race/racism operates in each other, in congregations and in society as a whole.
  • Plan events to expose folks to systems and structures that lay into racism.

By naming “racism”, we are free to discuss it, learn from it and overcome it.

(Palm Sunday Way of the Cross Racial Justice Ministry Team pilgrimage along Harford Road, 4/14/2019)

If your congregation or organization would like to learn more about racial justice, the team will share information and provide workshops upon request. Please contact the chair of the team, Rev. Patrick Gahagen at Journey of Faith (410 655 5250) or at [email protected].