Connectedness Story: Creation Care

Today we acknowledge the beauty of God’s Creation and our connectedness with all of nature.  Our Synod Creation Care team has been advocating for clean energy, working to address issues of climate change, and this special Holy week when we journey through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter vigil and come to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter, they also empower us with ways to live out Earth Day on Monday.

  • As April moves into May, include an appreciation of nature in your daily faith and worship life. Spend time outdoors and notice the beauty and renewal found in spring vegetation, insects, birds, animals, and aquatic life. Give thanks to God the Creator for these good gifts.
  • Let your voice be heard and act for justice in support of creation. Contact your legislators via calls, email, letters, or in person visits to let them know that you treasure creation as a gift from God and want it preserved for future generations. Be active in organizations that care for creation.
  • Plant native trees that reduce carbon dioxide and provide food and habit for wildlife and support pollinators such as bees and butterflies such as milkweed and coneflower to provide food.
  • Use less water by limiting shower times to no more than 10 minutes, turn off the water when brushing teeth, install water conserving showerheads.
  • Change transportation habits to combine trips, walk or ride a bike where possible, carpool or use public transportation, even consider alternatives to flyingas airplanes are a significant contributor to greenhouse gases.
  • Change eating habits by growing your own produce using organic methods or purchase locally grown food. Try eating less meat and other animal products such as eggs and dairy products.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Especially find alternatives to plastic. Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery and other stores. Don’t use bottled water and instead bring your own in a reusable container.
  • Conserve energy and switch to renewable energy sources. Think about getting a free energy audit from your local utility. Get a programmable thermostat to reduce the settings when you are not at home and overnight and remember to turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use and even use cold water setting when washing clothes. You can even switch to electricity provided by wind, solar, or other renewal source.

Over and above all the ways each of us can care for God’s creation, our Delaware-Maryland Creation Care Team and our ELCA have been doing amazing work.

On April 8, 2019, the very last day of the Maryland General Assembly, the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) was passed by the House and Senate and was subsequently sent to the Governor’s desk for signature.  The bill will accelerate the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 50% by 2030, including a huge leap in solar energy combined with quadrupling the state’s commitment to offshore wind. (RPS requires utilities to buy a certain percentage of electricity each year from renewable sources, taking it from the current target of 25% by 2020 to 50% by 2030). Additionally, the bill will provide millions of dollars to workforce development programs, and require the state to create a plan and complete a robust analysis in order to accomplish the goal of Maryland going 100% clean energy by 2040. The Clean Energy Jobs Act is projected to bolster the clean energy economy. It’s estimated the bill would spur on 20,000 new jobs in the solar industry and 5,700 jobs in other renewable energy industries. The Delaware-Maryland Synod Creation Care Ministry collaborated with many other environmental organizations over the past two years to advocate for passage of the bill. Bishop Gohl and ATB for Social Policy, Pr. Lee Hudson, also voiced their support through testimony and personal meetings with legislators. These efforts have allowed Maryland to join a patchwork of other neighboring states to enact policy that addresses climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in the fall of 2018 made it clear that at every level of government, business, and community, we need to act on climate as quickly and as aggressively as possible.

In recognizing the dire impact of climate change, the 2019 ELCA Advocacy Convening will have the theme “Prepared to Care: Our Advocacy in Light of Disasters Intensified by Climate Change.” The ELCA has also committed to these, among other environmental actions, in 2019.

  • Advocate with Congress and the Administration for strong environmental protection regulation to protect all of creation
  • Support climate finance measures that reduce emissions and enhance resilience to negative climate change impacts
  • Support Lutheran Disaster Response with climate change and disaster connections as well as stewardship of the land
  • Work with associations and faith-based entities on just transition issues in areas where renewable energy technologies are expanding

The Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice social statement explains the ELCA’s teachings on ecology and the environment, grounded in a biblical vision of God’s intention for the healing and wholeness of creation. This statement provides a Christian understanding of the human role to serve in creation, and a hope rooted in God’s faithfulness to the creation from which humans emerge and depend upon for sustaining life. It provides a framework for understanding the human role in creation, the problem of sin and the current environmental crisis.This statement and other caring for creation  resources can be found here: https://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Caring-for-Creation

If you have an interest in Creation Care work, please check out the work of our team at https://demdsynod.org/connectedness/creation-care-ministry/

Connectedness Story: DAART

Today we lift up the connection we have with those who face physical, mental, or neurological struggles. Our Definitely Abled Advocacy and Resource Team (DAART), chaired by Pastor Sandra Carlson Alexis, seeks to offer online resources to congregations and members who are looking for ways to include those who navigate life a little differently. Being welcoming may mean making bathrooms accessible or improving your sound system but it can also mean opening your hearts to include the gifts and talents of someone with down syndrome or autism. Each year the synod has a possABILITY Sunday for churches to encourage participation of all abilities where we can connect and use the gifts of all.

Through this partnership, together we can: 

  • Welcome all people warmly and without hesitation. We are a church that belongs to Christ. There is a place for all.
  • Use language that honors and respects the individual person, language that puts the person first — “person with a disability.”
  • Get to know people as people — not as labels, problems or diagnoses. Learn about a person’s interests & gifts.
  • Ask if a person needs help, before taking control and offering assistance.
  • Encourage all people to grow in their faith and their spiritual practices, and to use their gifts for the good of the church.

To learn more, get involved and to access resources, go to https://demdsynod.org/connectedness/definitely-abled-advocacy-and-resource-team/

Connectedness: Building Puentes!

by Bishop Bill Gohl

“Let us start building!” So they committed themselves to the common good. –Nehemiah 2:18b

A portion of a note from Pastor Mark Parker (Breath of God, Highlandtown) to the Building Puentes mission teams headed to Puerto Rico this summer: “Thank you so much for your desire and commitment to serve alongside our neighbors in Puerto Rico this summer! The response from individuals and congregational groups has been amazing, and we’re excited to continue working together as a team in the months leading up to our time together in Puerto Rico. Our current registration list has 106 volunteers from 24 different congregations, ranging in age across seven decades, and coming from at least six states. It’s an amazing group of people with a variety of experiences, stories, gifts, and abilities–I can’t wait for you all to begin to get to know each other and serve together.”

When people, from time to time, ask what value there is to being Church – and Synod – together, this is a powerful example of how we are tied to one another by the call of the Holy Spirit, in service to God and neighbor. The Building Puentes Initiative is an innovative collaboration among the Caribbean Synod, the Metropolitan Washington, DC Synod, and our Delaware-Maryland Synod, helping us to build cultural bridges and opportunities for serving alongside one another. Some of those opportunities are around issues of leadership and learning; others are about sharing material aid, time and talent for the physical rebuilding of the communities across Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands; each a sign of God’s gracious love given to all and shared for all.

As creation – world, church, and humanity – yearns for ways to cross divides, our church celebrates our connectedness both to one another and to the shared work of Christ in our communities and across the world. Come, friends, let us attend!

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” I told them that the hand of my God had been gracious upon me, and also the words that the king had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us start building!” So they committed themselves to the common good. –Nehemiah 2:17-18

Connectedness Story: The Community of St. Dysmas

Several times each month, our Connectedness Team members will be sharing stories of how our synod works together with congregations, partner ministries, and synod teams. You’ll find those stories right here on our blog.

The Community of St. Dysmas is an important and vital congregation of our Delaware-Maryland Synod that connects us all to those in need in prison. The Community of St. Dysmas is a multi-site Lutheran congregation of our synod located within the walls of the Maryland State prison system. Since 1984, we have had active congregations “within the walls,” and currently have congregations with weekly services and Bible Studies at the Maryland Correctional Institute in Jessup, the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women, the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, and the Central Maryland Correctional Facility in Sykesville.

Our congregations are dynamic in every sense of the word. The population is constantly changing as congregants are released or transferred, new folks are constantly coming in as they are invited by other CSD worshippers, and we may be able to add congregations or have to lose congregations as support or issues from the Department of Corrections allow.

Our worship is lively and spirit-filled — these are folks for whom the Good News of the love of God and the forgiveness offered through Christ is really that — good news! Our congregants own the service as much as possible — by setting up and clearing down the worship space, by leading prayers and readings, and by frequently offering testimony to the power of the Gospel in their lives. On more than one occasion, we’ve heard, “This is the only place I feel like a human being in here.” That’s what we hope to achieve, that the transforming power of Christ’s love helps them see themselves as a child of God and a Lutheran sibling to the congregations on the outside. We are also an inclusive, safe and welcoming congregation for those individuals who may feel excluded by other worshiping groups because of who they are or whom they love.

We depend heavily on volunteer worship leaders, musicians and Bible study teachers to make sure that we can continue with our ministry, and we have a cadre of dedicated and passionate people who serve in this capacity. We also support our faithful CSD congregants upon their release to the extent that DOC regulations, and our resources, allow. We are establishing a program of trained volunteers to provide much needed support in the weeks and months after release.

Congregations and individuals who want to help support this ministry can do so in many ways. Most of all — by prayer. Our CSD congregations on the inside are praying for you, and we need your prayers as well. Financial support helps us continue our mission, as does inviting our pastor to speak at your church. We are always looking for volunteers as well: ordained or consecrated leaders to lead worship, musicians to play at the services, lay or clergy to teach Bible study, and volunteers who have the time and flexibility to provide transportation or support, within guidelines, to our returning citizens.

Our theme verse is Matthew 25:36 — “(Jesus said), ‘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 at the Community of St Dysmas are excited and privileged to follow his mandate.