CONNECTEDNESS STORY: THE SHEPHERD’S GARDEN

It all started with a request from the now retired director of Lutheran Community Services (LCS) Delaware, “Please plant a strip for LCS”.  Lutheran Community Services supply of fresh vegetables had been drastically cut and the various churches supporting LCS were being asked to plant vegetables to help fill the gap.  This request, along with the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Wilmington, DE being involved in the LEAD (Living Everyday as Disciples) process, pushed Good Shepherd, a suburban church with ample green space, to reconsider how we use and steward our resources.

With an ideal location for a garden, funding by grants from partners including the Delaware Dept. of Agriculture and the New Castle County Conservancy and a Girl Scout working on her Gold Award project, Good Shepherd built three 4’x16’ raised beds in the spring of 2017.  The Shepherd’s Garden had been born.  A blessed growing season and many excited hands to work the beds allowed Good Shepherd to deliver 675 pounds of fresh produce to St Stephens Food Pantry (one supported by LCS).  Feeling like we could do more, Good Shepherd received a grant from the our Delaware-Maryland Synod through the Creation Care team and expanded the garden to seven beds in 2018.  We were able to increase our supply to the food pantry to 780 pounds.

At this point Good Shepherd had reached the maximum amount of beds that the congregation alone could tend, but there was still ample space.  We looked into the possibility of creating a community garden space where beds could be rented out to the public.  Another grant from the Delaware-Maryland Synod’s Hunger Task Force and two Eagle Scout candidates working on their projects, allowed Good Shepherd to build fifteen 4’x8’ raised beds.  They were quickly claimed by local neighbors with a desire to try their hand at gardening.  The requirement on the community gardeners was that they donate 10% of their harvest to the food pantry.  They well exceeded that requirement.  We are happy to report that through the this growing season, the Shepherd’s Garden was able to donate over one ton of food to the food pantry!

God’s abundance is on full display in the garden.  It is not only about the number of pounds donated, but also the wide-ranging ministry this project created.  Many local businesses donate to the garden, area high school students are involved, and congregation members devote hours to tending the garden.  Not only is it a place for hard work, but a place of relaxation and building dreams.  We have sponsored an internship for a college student in the garden, and a small business was born there.  Our community gardeners gather and share stories, and have a desire to do more.  The leaders of the ministry have been asked to speak about faith based community gardens at the Delaware Horticulture Society by the University of Delaware.  And, our congregation is once again connected in a tangible way to our immediate community.  We don’t know where the garden ministry will lead next, but following the lead of the Holy Spirit has been a wonderful experience.

For information on how you might begin a garden ministry please contact the Shepherd’s Garden at [email protected] The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Wilmington, DE.   Nov, 2019

To support either or both of our Delaware-Maryland Synod Creation Care Team or Hunger Team, feel free to Give online! At https://demdsynod.org/. Just choose the ministry you wish to fund!

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: OUR DELAWARE-MARYLAND SYNOD CANDIDACY

Candidacy: A call from God. In the Lutheran tradition a person’s call from God to public ministry is understood as both internal and external:

  • through an internal, personal sense of call that God is leading a person to public Christian ministry.
  • through other members of a congregation who encourage a person to enter public Christian ministry.
  • through public confirmation that a person has the character, commitment, preparation, and ability to serve in a public ministry roster.
  • through the receipt and acceptance of a letter of call to serve in a particular ministry setting.”

from:  “Welcome to the Candidacy Process of the ELCA!”

Currently in the DE-MD Synod, there are thirty-five (35) candidates, many of them students at United Lutheran Seminary, in various stages of the multi-step call process. But what is the candidacy process, you may ask? The process begins by applying for entrance as a candidate to become a rostered minister of  Word and Sacrament (a Pastor)  or Word and Service (a Deacon).  The Candidacy Committee represents the larger church as both a gate-keeper and partner for each candidate as they enter and complete the many steps leading to approval and assignment of his/her call.

In the words of one of our current candidates, “The process of Candidacy is one of deep discernment, self-examination, and continual faith formation. Each step of the process is carefully mapped out to ensure that the Candidate has a full understanding of themselves, their strengths, weakness’ and growing edges. Additionally, through this process, the Candidate develops a deeper sense of call, the ability to reflect on, integrate and articulate the Lutheran Faith, their commitment and their sense of call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament.”

A person who feels called to rostered ministry starts by completing the multi-step ELCA application process.  Upon receiving a positive entrance decision, a “relator” (a member of the committee) is assigned to each one to guide them during their years of preparation which includes seminary coursework, Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), Endorsement, Internship, and Approval and Assignment for First Call, each steps to become a Minister of Word and Sacrament or Minister of Word and Service. Candidates apply for entrance into seminary at the same time they are applying to their Synod Candidacy Committee.

Vicar Peg Klus Marose, currently in the Internship phase of candidacy, shares, “The path of Candidacy has provided me with the opportunity to explore, stretch and live into my faith, my personal theology and my place as a child of God. Through this process, I am blessed to spend each and every day studying the Word and explore ways to share that word with the world. Each rung of the Candidacy ladder causes me to dig even deeper into the Lutheran Faith and formulate ways to articulate these teachings in preparation for a lifetime of shepherding.”

Clergy and Lay Members can support the process by encouraging individuals who may have the necessary gifts to consider entering public ministry.  Prayers and encouragement of their pastors and congregations throughout the stages of their candidacy process are very much needed during this intensive time. You may also be sensing a call for yourself, talk to your Pastor or feel free to contact the Rev. Amsalu Geleta at [email protected] to assist in your discernment.

Thanks and prayers go to those serving the synod on the Candidacy Committee as they work to guide candidates to their first call in the various ministries of the church. Gratitude to the many congregations that sponsor candidates with financial assistance, prayers, internship placements. We also encourage members across our synod to support our ELCA Fund for Leaders by donating here: https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Leadership/ELCA-Fund-for-Leaders/Give-Now.

Our DE-MD Synod Candidacy Committee is comprised of a group of fourteen individuals, clergy and lay appointed by the bishop or selected as part of their position from the ULS and ELCA.  Current members include:  Rev. David Asendorf, Chair, Rev. Patrick Ballard, Rev. Martha Clementson, Rev. Dr. Joseph Donnella, Ms. Heather Gayle, Rev. Dr. Amsalu Geleta, Bishop Bill Gohl, Mr. Robert Hahn, Mrs. Leslie Hobbs, Candidacy Coordinator, Rev. Kathleen Ierien, Rev. Virginia Price, Deaconess Jean Warren, Rev. Dr. John Largen, ULS, Rev. Dr. Paul Baglyos, ELCA. Here they are meeting both in person and virtually!

 

CONNECTEDNESS STORY: COMMUNITY DIAPER DRIVE

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

 

Pastor Russell Fink, Remembered

by Bishop Bill Gohl

I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. –Romans 8:37-39

I preached this sermon for the funeral of Pastor Russell Edward Fink
on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church (Severna Park)

Won’t you pray with me?

♫ Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so!
Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong!
Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so!

I welcome you to this place of grace, here at Our Shepherd, where Russ and Barbara have found and made a home in this season which Pastor Fink referred to as the “third season” of his ministry; the first being his baptismal ministry which began over 90 years ago; the second was his 42 years of active ordained ministry; and the third was these last 24 years of retirement and rediscovering God’s call as pastor, spouse, parent, and grandparent apart from a regular call to a congregation.

I’ve only known Pastor Fink in this “third season” – and for all of it. When Pastor Fink retired from his last regular call to St. John (Hagerstown), the associate and then-interim Pastor Ellie Doub, hired me as the Director for Christian Education and Youth. I literally moved into his office. When my time at St. John was completed, the women of the church sent me back to seminary with a copy of Barbara’s book, Daily Readings with Martin Luther. After St. John, I knew Pastor Fink through his work as the developer of the South Anne Arundel Mission, Redeemer in Deale; as a popular and well-appreciated guest preacher in many congregations within a two and a half hour radius of his then-Gemini Road address; and as a friendly, yet fierce tennis player – competitive with his friend Pastor Gilroy, whom he once referred to in my ear-shot as having been “still a youth!” At St. Martin’s and here at Our Shepherd, he has been a faithful Bible Study leader and a strong and supportive colleague for both Pastor Janssen and Pastor Oravec. Before I go any further, I want to publicly thank Pastor Earl for his ministry to Russ, Barbara and the family these last hard weeks. He has been so faithful to our friend and colleague.

Apart from the time that Pastor Fink gave an impromptu sermon to the Synod Assembly on his 65th Ordination Anniversary, I’ve only heard him preach one time! It was Reformation Sunday, about fifteen years ago, and we were having an Anne Arundel Conference Service where he connected Jesus Loves Me, this I Know to the three great Sola slogans of the Reformation.

That sermon has stuck with me for lo these many years. Reformation Sunday doesn’t come or go without me remembering, borrowing or thinking about Pastor Fink’s thoughtful insights. To honor his commitment that today wouldn’t be a string of eulogies extolling his long and outstanding ministry, and that Law and Gospel should be preached, let me share with you a bit of classic Russ Fink, as I remember it:

Jesus Loves Me embodies Luther’s words, Sola Gratia, Grace. Grace alone. Russell knew grace in life and faced it, with faith, in death. His own life and witness is the story of a humble servant of God who was continually overwhelmed by God’s amazing grace which saw him through many struggles. His pastor’s reports over the course of 60+ years spoke of his own sense of grief and loss tempered by hope. He reflected deeply on his struggles as a spouse and father and could point to his own sense of being a workaholic as culpability in the strain of those precious relationships. I don’t know the conversations he might have had with district presidents and bishops past, but his reports are really clear: this situation is not helpful for my family, perhaps I need to step away and find something less taxing on my time and energy. Later reports spoke of the grace of reconciliation, and how he was working harder at being intentional about being a better father and grandfather. But, even in these last days, he counseled me and others to do what we needed to do, now, to make sure we didn’t have some of those regrets. He loved his family, this whole family; and your love and support were not lost on Russell, he knew grace in you and through you, too.

Jesus loves me, This I Know Sola Fide, Faith Alone! Despite the struggles of life and relationship, of discernment and dreams that didn’t come to pass, Russell knew Jesus loves you, and Jesus loves him, too. Russell knew it in life and faced it, with faith, even in death. Cancer, he told me, would not ever have the last word. And, as recently as last Friday, he told me it hadn’t. While ready to fight like hell to be open to new treatments and courses of therapy; he knew that his life and strength was in the hands of God. His own life and witness is the story of a humble servant of God who was continually overwhelmed by God’s amazing grace which saw him through many struggles.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so! – Sola Scriptura, Word alone! Even in this “third season” of ministry and call in retirement, Russell shared that Our Shepherd was a home and family for him and Barbara, too. He was no Sunday Christian – or pew sitter; he gave himself, time, talent and treasure to the work of the church, throughout the years, in any way that he was able. Even at Ginger Cove, he jumped right in – Bible Study, worship and thoughtful witness at the table, the mailbox and in the lobby. Today, as we gather in beauty and dignity of this place and service, we do so surrounded by the scriptures and hymns that Russell himself selected for this day. We find bold and blessed assurance in Russell’s strong sense of faith, hope and love. Though we come in the presence of these earthly remains, we take courage in his sure knowledge that he would visit us today from this urn, but with his Lord, alive again in God’s kingdom; with us again and again as we gather at Christ’s table of grace.

Yes, Jesus loves me; Yes, Jesus Loves me; Yes, Jesus Loves me! Sola Christe, Christ Alone! But I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth, if I also didn’t confess that while I know that Pastor Fink delighted in his family, and so many of us whom he and they count as family, have gathered, Pastor did have a soft spot for being the center of a celebration – and that is rightly what we are here to do today, to celebrate a life well lived and God’s promise well kept. Russell Fink was God-loving, grace-filled, a fed and forgiven servant of Christ.

So many of you knew Russell better than I ever did. You knew his more “vital and active” years, which I can’t even imagine, where my own memory is confined to this “third season.” But I am here to celebrate with you, nevertheless, because no matter how we knew Pastor Fink, God knew him best. I am here to remind you, that because Jesus lives, Russell lives – because Jesus lives, we live, also.

For you see, Russell Edward Fink was not simply a colleague these last 25 years, he was a friend; a trusted, wise elder; a man whose strength, even in trial and struggle, continued to be a source of strength and hope for us, too. It was a privilege to know and to love him, it was an honor to be one of his pastors. Emerson, whom I’ve quoted over other such giants’ funerals, said it well: You taught us well, dear friend, you showed the way and we shall not forget you.

Will you pray with me?

♫ Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so!
Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong!
Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so!

Friends, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  For indeed, I am convinced as Russell was too, that neither death nor life, not things present nor things to come, not anything, not anything, can separate us from a love so great that was, is and will be ours in Christ Jesus our Lord, forever. Amen.

So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. –Romans 8:31-35, 37-39