CONNECTED IN PRAYER: Centering Prayer

“Centering Prayer is a receptive, deep method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship with God.”*

Here are steps to practicing Centering Prayer*:
1. Find a quiet place. Then choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
3. When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

For more details, you might check out this sight: https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/centering-prayer-method/

*https://www.minnesotacontemplativeoutreach.org/centering-prayer.html

CONNECTED IN PRAYER: Hand Prayer

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” Ephesians 6:18

 

This week is when we would have been gathering for our synod assembly had we not needed to cancel it due to the pandemic. During this time together, we would have been focusing on prayer together along with business. Even though we are not gathering physically in one place, we are wanting to engage us all in a variety of prayer practices. Each month, we will highlight a prayer practice, some familiar, some new. Today we share the Hand Prayer. As you prepare, grab a piece of paper and pencil or pen. You will start by tracing your hand, your hand created in God’s image. Write THANKS on your thumb, PRAISE on your pointing finger, LEADERS on your middle, WEAK on your ring finger, and ME on your pinkie. You will hold that thumb up as you remember to thank God and give him a big “thumbs up”. Even give thanks for the hard things knowing God can work them out for your good (Romans 8:28). Ending by saying from 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” You’ll go on Praise God with your pointer finger and read scripture from Matthew 6, then focusing on your middle finger pray for those who lead, teach, help and read scripture from 2 Timothy 2. Next wiggle your ring finger, notice its weakness, and it will remind you to pray for the sick, hurting, poor as well as friends and family and read the scripture from Ephesians 6. Finally your pinkie allows us to share with God about you, ask for forgiveness, share your needs, your fears, your excitements and ask for God to guide you as you read from Matthew 6. What a beautiful prayer practice that allows us to see, feel, and talk to God. Click here for a one page guide.

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.”, 1 Timothy 2:1

Connectedness Story: United Lutheran Seminary and the United Partner Initiative

There’s a new way to be connected and to support United Lutheran Seminary. To be a United Partner involves more than simply sending a check. It is an act of accompaniment with people who are discerning God’s call to rostered leadership. It is recognizing that people do not function in a vacuum, but are an integral part of God’ realm on earth, sustaining and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ for future generations to come.

Through the United Partner Initiative, congregations can journey with seminary students as they experience faith formation, learning, and finding their own unique way to answer God’s call to serve in a broken world. If you wish to join this new initiative as a partner congregation, go to https://www.unitedlutheranseminary.edu/community/united-partners. You will receive a welcome packet and information on how to make your contributions as seamlessly as possible.

What do United Partners Gain?

  • Invitations to an annual summit of partners with the President and Cabinet on either campus
  • Periodic zoom meetings to share information and ideas with Dr. Zimmann
  • Discounts on overnights at campus facilities and lifelong learning opportunities
  • Visits from guest preachers associated with ULS (subject to availability)
  • A partnership certificate, Advent Star, and Lenten devotionals

What does United Lutheran Seminary Gain?

  • A better understanding of the congregations for whom we seek to provide rostered leadership
  • A possible resource/think tank of people from different walks of life who have a passion for the church and its ministry in the world
  • Monthly financial contributions from member congregations

We are grateful for any gift a congregation is willing to share.  For further conversation or with questions, please email Rev. Dr. Martin Otto-Zimmann, Director of Church Relations at [email protected]. For complete information on United Lutheran Seminary: https://www.unitedlutheranseminary.edu/

 

Happy Earth Day!

by the members of the Delaware-Maryland Synod Creation Care Ministry

Even though 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, this year’s Jubilee Celebration honoring God’s creation will likely be overshadowed in the public’s mind by the fearsome changes wrought by the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic.

As members of the Creation Care Ministry trying to encourage congregations to move towards actions that will renew the water, sky, and earth, we see a profound realization coming from the shocking speed with which this virus has brought the human world’s whole economy to its knees. All at once, even the rich nations of the world have been awakened to the stark truth that our existence on this planet is fragile, dependent upon maintaining the balance between competing industrial economies and earth’s inescapable natural economy.

Encountering this pandemic of 2020 has required us all to submit humbly to caring for one another through the imposition of social distancing policies based on scientifically recognized best practices enacted for our collective health. In an awesome way, during this Jubilee year, we see the nations momentarily required to pause their headlong expansion of fossil-fueled activities – and in that moment we can see the planet breathe. On the first Earth Day, we marveled at the then-brand-new photographic images of our beautiful blue home from space … on this 50th Earth Day, we observe satellite images dramatically depicting how the atmosphere has cleared around the globe after just a month of reduced pollution.

Is the planet showing us that by uniting and working together we can mitigate our present crises, both short and long term? This year, on Earth Day, we pray that our response to the viral pandemic will become a dress rehearsal, transforming our ability to overcome the denial which has blocked us from taking the actions necessary to achieve a carbon-neutral future.

We can only hope and pray. But, as Easter people, we know that the damage which has been done to our common home through human carelessness is not the inevitable end of the story.  It is the ongoing birth and renewal of Creation itself which gives us new hope.  That is what we are celebrating this year on Earth Day.  As stated on the Earth Day website:

Earth Day 2020 will be far more than a day. It must be a historic moment when citizens of the world rise up in a united call for creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery that we need to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.”

At the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 2019, the Earth Charter was endorsed. We, the Creation Care Ministry, have created a 2020 Eco-Justice Resolution to implement several articles of the Earth Charter specific to ecological integrity. These include energy efficiency and reducing, reusing, and recycling the materials used in production and consumption systems. We ask congregations to prayerfully consider becoming a Creation Care Covenant Congregation. This covenant is a pledge by each congregation to take tangible steps toward better caring for God’s creation. It further encourages congregations to create a plan with actions and practices that are appropriate for and tailored to their members and their church. A document providing guidance on how to become a covenant congregation can be found on the Lutherans Restoring Creation website.

And although we are being responsible and caring for each other by practicing social distancing, there are some Earth Day observances we may be able to participate in from our homes:

  • Plant some native pollinators like purple coneflower (echinacea) and butterfly weed (Asclepias). Both of these do well in gardens and in containers.
  • Spend quiet time with God in nature. Go outside if you are able and take time to experience and celebrate the beauty of this world.
  • Pray for people who are currently affected by sickness, economic challenges, and environmental degradation.
  • Looking forward to the day when we can again work together side by side, bookmark this page for information about future stream cleanups.

We pray together: Dear Lord, you created all things and redeem all things. We pray for the earth, for the whole of creation, as together we work for the day in which all things will once again be brought to life and wholeness in you. Give us the will to be agents of your healing and redemption – for ourselves and for the blessed world in which we live, now and forever. Amen.

CONNECTEDNESS STORY: LOCAL HUNGER MINISTRY MEAL PACKING

35,000 meals packed! Such incredible connections and work happening in our synod supporting local hunger needs. This story celebrates the service that happened on God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday in Baltimore City and Baltimore County in coordination with CLAIM and 24 churches that packed 25,000 meals, but also proclaims the efforts of just one congregation, Good Shepherd, Frederick, who last week packed 10,000 meals. Together we do God’s work with Our Hands all year long!

We begin hearing about the meal packing that happened in Baltimore in September. Each year, individual churches take the time to plan projects for God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday. These are normally programs that are designed to help others. In March 2019, CLAIM (Coalition of Lutherans Advancing in Mission) launched a plan to bring together churches in Baltimore and Baltimore County to provide 25,000 meals to schools, churches, and organizations in the area. We needed to raise $6,250, recruit 100 volunteers and identify places that could use the meal packets – by September. Throughout the Summer, 24 churches worked diligently to reach our goals and The Hunger Task Force provided a grant of matching funds of $3,125. St. John’s in Parkville offered to host this event and The Outreach Project agreed to help by delivering the supplies and providing guidance in packing the meal packets. On God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday September 2019, nearly 180 volunteers from 24 churches gathered together to package 25,000 meals! People from 8 to 80 years old worked diligently to accomplish this mission. What an amazing site to see such a diverse group of people coming together to help those in need! People were having fun, laughing and getting to know each other as they worked toward a common goal. As volunteers were leaving, many asked if this was something they could do again, expressing their joy and fulfillment.  A local service sorority group told us how much they enjoyed working on this project and how pleased they were to have donated their time and money to the project. More than 23 churches and organizations received packets for distribution.  These are being given out in food pantries (many in our own churches), area assistance centers, homeless shelters, feeding programs, and schools.  Rev. Sandra Alexis (First English) took packets to a local school. “When Lans and I took the packets over, the staff at Barclay School said they were happy to have something to pass out to students in need. Having a supply of meals that were shelf stable gives them the flexibility to keep them on hand until needed. They said weekends and holidays when schools are closed can be particularly tough on some of the students”.  Thanks to the generosity of so many, more than $5,800 was raised in addition to a generous grant from the Hunger Task Force.  To ensure that these funds are used for programs providing food to those in need, CLAIM is accepting applications for grants to churches located in Baltimore City and those located in Baltimore County, near the Baltimore Beltway to begin new programs or enhance existing programs to provide nutritional meals in their community. This how we are connected and care for our communities. Learn more about CLAIM at: https://demdsynod.org/claim/ or donate to CLAIM by going to our synod site and clicking on the Give On Line: https://demdsynod.org/ and choose CLAIM.

It’s important to know though that individual congregations can also do meal packing events. Again, this Fall, Good Shepherd, Frederick, had a meal packing event on November 3rd. After services, the youth and social ministry folks coordinated this meal packing event. With 50 volunteers assisting, including people of all ages from elementary aged children to retired adults, men and women, members of Good Shepherd and members of the community, Good Shepherd packed 10,000 meals that filled almost 50 boxes of meals. These meals will be picked up and distributed by the Frederick Foodbank which is operated by Frederick Community Action Agency (FCAA). Good Shepherd was able to fund this incredible hunger ministry by raising over $900 through VBS and other donations plus an additional $300 came in from the sale of the cool Jeep bed we used as a photo booth to promote VBS. Plus in Partnership with Good Shepherds Social Ministry Team, all money donated to Gift of Love in the month of October was put towards the meal packing event. Learn more about the great work of Good Shepherd, Frederick at: https://www.goodshepherdmd.org/

Learn more about our synod Hunger Task Force at: https://demdsynod.org/connectedness/hunger-task-force/ or offer a donation by going to our synod site and clicking on the Give On Line: https://demdsynod.org/ and choose Local or ELCA Hunger.

 

CONNECTEDNESS STORY: COMMUNITY DIAPER DRIVE