Sharing Our Faith Stories

Where have you encountered God lately? 

Stories of faith celebrate our encounters with God through Christ. God encounters happen in a variety of ways – through conversations with others, visions or dreams, quiet inner voices, unexpected, much-needed grace filled encouragement from others [Read more…]

reNEWal in Lower Susquehanna Synod

Seminarian David Tringali Shares reNEWal in Steelton, PA
Last fall, during my first year of seminary, I was assigned as a Ministry in Practice student to a small congregation in Steelton, PA. Steelton is a small, urban community just outside of Harrisburg, the state capital, and has been on the decline over the past thirty or so years. The church I found myself working in, Trinity Lutheran Church, has been in the community for almost 130 years and, for the first time ever, was finding itself with very few, if any, young members.

Most of the congregants at Trinity have been baptized, confirmed, and married in the church. Many of their children have done the same, and many of their families went through the same process years before them. However, with changing times, the children of this current generation of the congregation have gone off to college or other life opportunities and have not returned to the community.

In an aging congregation with a talent for teaching, hospitality, and mentorship, yet few children, I was presented with the problem of what to do to fill that gap.

I have always valued youth education and presenting children with opportunities and mentors. At the same time, I have been involved in martial arts since I was five years old, and owe much of my moral foundation and abilities to persevere to the excellent training I received in this regard. As a soon-to-be deacon with these unique talents and motivations, I decided it was time to combine all of them together, and thus, Trinity’s new young people’s ministry took shape as a wrestling club grounded in faith formation.

Kids, much like me, are kinesthetic learners. They need to touch things and explore them to make sense of them. Therefore, it goes to reason that the traditional “Sunday School” model not only will not maintain their interest, but will not allow them to learn in a way that best suits them. In “The Tribe,” we begin each gathering with a prayer and a simple lesson from Scripture grounded on one of twelve moral concepts found in Christianity. After a short reading, we break up into groups led by leaders from the congregation to talk about the lesson and what it means to them before getting everyone (adults included!) on the mats for technique drilling and free wrestling.

The lesson, however, does not end when we put the books away, no, it is only just beginning. The lessons in morality now get applied directly to our hands-on practice. For example, this month we are focused on honesty. As we wrestle with our partners we keep this theme in mind, encouraging the kids to use honesty to play by the rules, avoid cheating, and admit when they have been beaten. All the while, they are building trusting relationships with their classmates and adult mentors through hands-on wrestling. Finally, after our evening of study and roughhousing ends, we close with prayer and all of the kids get a paper copy of our lesson and discussion questions to take home with them, as well as a homework assignment to go over it with their parents and families. This way, their lessons get reinforced throughout the week and the parents of our students can be involved in what we are teaching.

Faith is an active process. Jesus never commanded us to cloister ourselves away from the world. More often than not, he asked us to go out and get our hands dirty, to “wrestle” with our beliefs, to stand against injustice, and to be there for those in need. If we can teach our young people from an early age that faith is something to explore, question, play with, and apply to all of their daily lives and activities, they will proudly take ownership and grow into fuller disciples of Christ.

While “The Tribe” is still a new program and has plenty of room to grow, our initial exploration into faith and physicality has been promising. Our kids are excited to come back and are seeing the applicable value of what we teach in their lives. Even more exciting is that of the kids attending the program, the significant majority are not members of the congregation! They came with friends who attend the church, or with no church connection at all! Through this unique method of faith formation, our congregation has begun to touch a part of the community that it never would have reached before and that may have never set foot in a church. I am still not sure whether or not these kids will ever actually end up coming to Sunday service, though the invitation is on the table. However, through this program, our church is serving the community. We are providing a safe place for children to grow, learn, and eventually go out into the world as honest witnesses to their beliefs. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – not bodies in pews, but being Church for the world.

The Mind of Christ

reNEWal through God’s Word
A Message from Rev. Tom McKee, assistant to the bishop
(Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32)

The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Philippi (2:1-13), directs our attention to what life in the Christian community looks like, how it is to be lived by those who bear the name of Christ.  St. Paul writes, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

St. Paul knows the church faces a hostile world and members of the community of faith also face all the snares and allures of the devil, the world, and sin.  He therefore exhorts to fellow members of the Body of Christ that it is essential that those who are members of the community — the church — share one mind, have the same love, are in full accord – the qualities of our common life by which the church is identified and sustained. Later in this same reading he tells us what this one mind, one love is. First, he exhorts the community at Philippi to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility to regard others as better than yourselves.”  He says, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

We don’t know what particular problems or issues St. Paul was responding to and addressing in this letter. Maybe two of the women who had worked faithfully with him in the past were at odds with one another, causing polarization, division, taking sides in the congregation at Philippi. Maybe there was dissension regarding certain practices of their previous life as a Jewish community – what was proper to continue, what should be left behind. Maybe there was envy or jealousy or pettiness that was being exaggerated by gossip about who does or does not belong to the ‘inner circle’. Whatever it was, the problem must have been rather serious. It was causing brokenness, pain, and division in the community.

We certainly know that the church at Philippi is not alone in having problems which divide and distress congregations. The issues don’t have to be huge. The issues don’t have to be church-divisive to cause pain, dissension, and discord. Often, the most hurtful things to the life of the Christian community are petty – one person speaks to another in a harsh, unloving way about something not really all that important.  Someone gossips to another – passing on tales or information that is just partially true or just not that important or necessary to pass on and which hurts or causes discord as it is spread.  Or, the things which cause discord could be general feelings of malaise, of complaining, of pulling down rather than building up, of speaking as though Christ’s resurrection has no power or brings no hope in our congregational life. Thus a community is weakened or destroyed or demoralized. And the devil rejoices.   Equally destructive to communal life are such things as an unwillingness to bear one another’s burdens, an aloofness from one another’s joys or sorrows, or distancing ourselves from the common mission we share and absenting ourselves from the communal gatherings of the congregation.

But St. Paul reminds us that this community that is the church is unlike any other human community or organization – other such associations depend on our human efforts and will to survive and succeed. The community that is the church is a community that is called into being by the Holy Spirit and formed to the mind of Christ. It is a community shaped by the Word which created it – the Gospel of our Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus. “Be of one mind” St. Paul exhorts. But what is that one mind? Is it that of the strongest, or most vocal, or richest, or most bullying member? Is it one determined by majority vote?  No, it is the mind of Christ. “Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” he writes. And then he describes what it looks like: it is the mind of a servant, the mind of one who gives himself completely for the sake of the other, the mind of one completely obedient to the Father’s will, ever living in the Spirit in the love they share with the Father. It is the mind of the one who left his heavenly throne to take on our human nature and our lot, who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, who died – not seeking a reward, but out of selfless love and willing obedience.

It is this mind – says St. Paul – this mind, the mind of Christ that should be among us, that unites us. It is the opposite of the minds each of us has in and of ourselves – minds that promote self-serving individualism, minds that look out for number one – me – and use a variety of methods to do so.

The mind of Christ dwelling in us through the gift of the Spirit – a common mind that practices humble service, loving speech, compassionate action. It is only as we grow in Christ that the Holy Spirit molds and forms our minds to his and bestows on us the gifts for the building up of community – love, joy, peace, patience, long-suffering, kindliness, compassion, and humility.

Therefore, it is imperative, it is essential for the life of the Christian community, the church and for its witness to the world, that those who have been baptized into Christ stay close to him, learn from him, live in him, and grow in the knowledge and love of him. Just as the plants and flowers in our gardens need sun and rain to grow and bear fruit, so we need the nourishment and refreshment of Jesus – the Bread of life, the living water. We need to be where Christ promises to meet us – in the gathering of believers where the Word is preached, where persons are baptized and where daily we return to that baptism through repentance and absolution, where the Table is spread and we feast on the Bread of Life, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus, and where Christians uphold and strengthen one another through mutual conversation and consolation. And just so shall we be led to serve with him – in the world and within the world-wide community that is his church.

Therefore my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, be of one mind in Christ Jesus. God is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Amen.

 

2017 Lutheran Camping Corporation Cornerstone Award

On September 8, 2017, friends of the Lutheran Camping Corporation (LCC) gathered at Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg for their annual banquet. In addition to offering gratitude to generous Camping Corporation supporters and hearing testimony from Deacon Chelle Huth, Director of Lifelong Learning and Certificate Studies at United Lutheran Seminary, regarding the impact of outdoor ministries on her and her family’s life, Executive Director Michael Youse presented the Camping Corporation’s 2017 Cornerstone Award to the Rev. Dr. Brenda J. Kiser.

Each year, the LCC Cornerstone Award is given to an individual or family who has offered significant foundational and diverse support to the LCC over a span of years. Associate Executive Director Marianne Brock shared the story of the LCC’s origin as the Lutheran Leadership Training Camp – a program of sustained and sustainable leadership training for the church – and introduced the Rev. Dr. Brenda J. Kiser as one of the success stories of that program.

Kiser is the fourth recipient of the Cornerstone Award. She was chosen because of her faithful commitment to the LCC through gifts of service and treasure. Kiser has enjoyed a life-long relationship with the LCC; her mother was a camper at Nawakwa in 1942, and Brenda began her own camping career in 1958. She graduated from the Leadership Training Camp and returned to Nawakwa to serve on the summer staff from 1969-1972. She served on various committees and the LCC Board of Directors and has volunteered at camp and for camp in many different capacities.

In recognition of receiving the Cornerstone Award, Kiser was presented with an artistic depiction of the cairn in Nawakwa’s Lower Camp. The cairn has stood as a memorial to God’s work at Nawakwa since the camp’s beginnings. Campers continue to add rocks to the cairn at the end of each camping session. Thank you Pastor Kiser for your faithful service.

Picture from left to right: Sister Marianne Brock, Lutheran Camping Corp. Associate Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Brenda Kiser, Michael Youse, Lutheran Camping Corp. Executive Director

Always Being Made New reNEWs Congregations

reFORM reNEW reVISION

We are a church deeply rooted in Christ – and always being made new.  Established at the Lower Susquehanna Synod’s 2014 Assembly, our five-year, $5.5 million Always Being Made New campaign is well underway.  We are almost half-way there! The campaign focuses on deepening our capacity to faithfully serve Christ’s church for the sake of the world.
Our desired outcomes are straightforward:

  • Renew congregations, encourage cooperation and engage in new mission;
  • Equip current and future leaders to address the practical realities of ministry; and
  • Enhance ministries to the hungry.

As we commemorate the Reformation and embrace the possibilities God offers, we ask for your prayerful support of the Bishop’s Congregational Mission Fund.  “This portion of our campaign invites congregations to experiment with contextually relevant renewal practices and serve our communities more faithfully,” shares Deacon Marsha Roscoe.

Congregational renewal is a journey in which congregations identify the growing needs in their communities and enhance outreach and faith practices to better welcome their neighbors to participate in God’s work. Congregations that commit to renewal are called to become communities of faith that are growing, vibrant and diverse, with an increasing number of worshipers supporting and engaged in God’s mission.

We believe this campaign continues to positively impact the lives of those right here in our synod and around the world.  In addition to ABMN Bishop’s Congregational Mission Fund grants, we are nurturing renewal as a missional culture across our synod.  Congregational renewal equips congregations desiring to grow deeper spiritually.

Together with the ELCA, the Lower Susquehanna Synod and other partners, like Vibrant Faith University and United Lutheran Seminary, are renewing congregations as vital centers for mission. Your gift to the Always Being Made New Bishop’s Congregational Mission Fund supports congregations in renewal and provides access to training and resources for engaging younger generations, urban populations, multicultural families and socio-economic challenged groups. For the cost of a night at the movies or a few cups of coffee, we can make a real and lasting difference in the lives of our neighbors and leaders.

The impact of ABMN will go far beyond our $5.5 million goal. Together, we will equip leaders, encourage cooperation and engage in new mission throughout the world, for decades to come. We are church, and together, we can do more!

Want to help make a difference? You can make a secure gift through our website.
Thank you for your generosity!

Visit our website for more information and resources, including our congregational resource toolkit.  Contact Deacon Marsha Roscoe, Director for Mission Interpretation, at mroscoe@lss-elca.org, or by phone at 717-652-1852.

Social Media Sunday is September 24, 2017 #SMS17 #LSS17

Ever wanted to live-tweet a sermon? Invite your Facebook friends to church? Social Media Sunday is the perfect time to try! Now an annual tradition in churches around the world, the 2017 edition of Social Media Sunday is scheduled for September 24. [Read more…]

reFORM reNEW reVISION

Renewal: What Does This Mean For Our Life Together? [Read more…]

An Urgent Message from Bishop Dunlop

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I urge Lower Susquehanna Lutherans and people of goodwill everywhere to join me in condemning the bigotry, racism and hatred we witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.  [Read more…]

A Wet and Wacky Week at Day Camp

Sixteen campers from five local Lutheran churches enjoyed a week of bible study, worship, and games at this year’s Mechanicsburg Day Camp.  Led by members of the Camp Nawakwa staff, this week provided an opportunity for students who can’t go to sleep-away camp to experience some of the activities and curriculum offered each summer at our Lutheran Camping Corporation camps.  Each morning began with opening worship led by a pastor from one of our Mechanicsburg area Lutheran churches.  Next, campers dove into the water-themed curriculum and bible stories.  Lunches were provided by members of our participating congregations, and in the afternoon, campers enjoyed a variety of fun activities including a presentation from the local water company, luau-themed games, science and craft activities, and even an afternoon at the Mechanicsburg pool. Campers also learned how they can help our neighbors in need.

 

Throughout the week campers made cookie pops to thank water workers, packed over one hundred Caitlin’s Smiles kits for hospitalized children, painted twenty-four wooden cross baptismal gifts, and experienced a small taste of what life is like for women around the world who travel miles to carry water home during a mini Walk for Water program.  Having fun together while growing in faith, campers and staff certainly made a splash this year at Day Camp!

Day Camp 1 Day Camp 3 Day Camp 2 Day Camp 4

WE PRAY

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” -Matthew 7:7-8

Click here to be redirected to the ELCA Prayer Ventures Page. Here you’ll find daily prayer petitions in PDF or Word documents for your personal use or for use in your congregation.

Click here for weekly prayers grounded in current world events. World in Prayer is a ministry of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist in Lodi, CA.

Lower Susquehanna Synod Prayer List

Weekly Prayers for our Congregations, Ministers, and Ministry Partners (November 13 – November 26, 2017)

We invite your prayers for these congregations of our synod: Zion (Enola), Zion (Etters), Zion (Glen Rock), Zion (Hershey), Zion (Hummelstown) and Zion (Jonestown).

We invite your prayers for these synod rostered ministers: The Rev. Terrence McCarthy (disability), Sister Deborah A. S. McClellan (on leave), The Rev. Brian A. McClinton (Mt. Zion, York), The Rev. Larry A. McConnell (retired),  Deacon G. Phyllis McCullough (retired), The Rev. Foster R. McCurley (retired), The Rev. Robert S. McEllroy, III (retired), The Rev. Judith A. McKee (retired), The Rev. Thomas E. McKee (Assistant to the Bishop & Secretary of Synod), The Rev. Tricia A. McMackin (SpiriTrust, York), The Rev. Ronald F. Mease (retired), The Rev. Ivan R. Mechtly, Jr. (retired), The Rev. L. Guy Mehl (retired), and The Rev. Fredrica K. Meitzen (retired).

We invite your prayers for our ministry partner the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Most Reverend Ronald W. Gainer, D.D., J.C.L., bishop and the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ, The Rev. Dr. Monica Dawkins-Smith, conference minister.

We invite your prayers for our seminarian Carla Christopher and Jessica Davis.

…prayers for the family and friends of Charles Compton (father of The Rev. Jeffrey Compton, retired) and Richard Miller (father of The Rev. Sherry Miller, SpiriTrust Chaplain)

…continued prayers for Seth Kurtz and his wife, the Rev. Caitlin Kurtz.  Seth is currently deployed with the US Navy until the end of February.

…continued prayers for the family and friends of Alyce Cleeremans (grandmother of The Rev. James Polanzke), Ruth Polanzky (mother of The Rev. James Polanzke and mother-in-law of The Rev. Liz Polanzke), Lea Kassekert (sister of The Rev. Tasha Genck-Morton), The Rev. George R. Knarr (retired). Fae Appleby (former synod vice president. Visitation will be from 9:30 AM until memorial services at 11:00 AM on Saturday, November 25th at Messiah, Lebanon.), Margaret Keyser (spouse of Pastor Ed Keyser, retired), Richard W. Eckert (father of Pastor J. Richard Eckert – St. Peter, Middletown), John Kelly (father of Pastor Sharon Kelly – Trinity, Chambersburg), The Rev. Frederick L. Shilling (retired), Louise L. Reynolds (mother of Megan McClinton and mother-in-law of the Rev. Brian McClinton), The Rev. Robert W. Jenson (retired), The Rev. Jay B. Eickhoff, Glenn Snyder (spouse of The Rev. Patricia Snyder), Dorothy Peterman, mother of Connie Dunlop, mother-in-law of Bishop Jim Dunlop, and former secretary of our synod, Olivia Geib, spouse of The Rev. Andrew Geib (St. James, Gettysburg), and daughter-in-law of The Rev. Richard B. and The Rev. Catharine Senft Geib (Tree of Life, Harrisburg).

…prayers for peace, healing and hope for Elspeth Allsopp (daughter of Pastors Rob & Sharron Blezard), Ernestine Ierien, mother of Pastor Robert Ierien, Pastor Charles Kampmeyer (retired), Pastor William Knotts and his wife, Nancy (retired), Pastor Elwood Leister (retired), Pastor Miriam Nicholson (Messiah, Elliottsburg), Natalie Rimmer, wife of Pastor Chad Rimmer (Lutheran World Federation), Denny Lubold, husband of former synod staff member Linda LuboldPastor Carl Bentz (retired) and his wife, Fair BentzPastor Richard Starr (retired, serving Starview), Pastor Charles Aurand (retired, WV-WMd Synod), Pastor Terry McCarthy (St. Paul, Broadway, Hanover), Pastor Susan McCarthy (Benders and St. Paul, Biglerville), Pastor David DeLong (Mt. Carmel), Janice Ambrose, wife of Pastor Al Ambrose (retired), Janice Cromer (wife of Pastor Douglas Cromer, retired), Pastor Don Gallion (retired), Pastor Jay Bohn, (retired) and his wife, Mary Bohn, Pastor George Buechner (retired), Richard Weaver (formerly a pastor in our synod).

…prayers for our bishopsElizabeth, Jim, and Israel-Peter and Bishop Elect of Konde Diocese, The Rev. Dr. Edward Johnson Mwaikali– and all who serve the church.

…prayers for the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Truscott, serving in Singapore, Pastor Stephen Deal, serving in Central America, for Young Adults in Global Mission, Dr. Joe and Pastor Deborah Troester, serving in Tanzania, Deacon April Trout serving the St. Paul Area Synod and for all other missionaries serving around the world.

…prayers for all elected officials and for all government employees — that they serve with wisdom, vision, seek peace and justice, and work for the good of all citizens.

…prayers for those who are hungry and homeless in our midst. We pray for the many ministries across our Lower Susquehanna Synod and give thanks for the difference being made.

…prayers for all those affected by natural disasters, especially our neighbors in Texas, Louisiana and Florida dealing with the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

…prayers for peace, justice, and reconciliation for the whole human family around the world that encounters violence, racism, prejudice, and injustice.

…prayers for immigrants and refugees who in their desperation to move to a new country put their lives in danger; that all be led safely in God’s care.

…prayers for all victims of violence and terror around our world, both at home and abroad. We pray for cooler heads, respect for one another, and saner solutions. We pray for the courage to love all God’s children. We pray that black lives will matter to all. We pray that law enforcement officials will be safe in their work, and that God’s house in all places will safe space and sanctuary for all who enter.

…prayers for those in the criminal justice system, especially this month we pray for the administration, staff, corrections officers, inmates, families of inmates of following facilities: Forest County Jail, Franklin County Jail, Fulton County Jail, Greene County Prison, Huntingdon County Prison, SCI Retreat at Humlock Creek, SCI Rockview at Bellefonte, and SCI Somerset.

…prayers for all who commit violence against others, that they recognize the violence they have committed, that their hearts would be changed, and that they receive forgiveness, mercy, and grace when it is offered and in doing so be changed.

Have a prayer request to share with others in our synod? Please contact Cathy Deitrich at cdeitrich@lss-elca.org. Please also notify her when you wish to be removed from the list.