News and Resources from the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Living Our Mission

Thanksgiving: An Attitude of Gratitude

By: Rev. Judith VanOsdol, Director for Evangelical Mission

Thanksgiving to God is a central theme that runs throughout our worship, history and theology. The word “Eucharist” from the Greek means: “thanksgiving;” the Eucharistic prayer is referred to as “the Great Thanksgiving.”

Martin Luther’s final statement, prior to his death: “we are all beggars before Christ”-recognized that no one has any right to boast, but to come before Jesus, the judge, with humility, gratitude and thanksgiving.

A certain Bible professor used to declare that the main point of our New Testament witness, particularly Paul’s letters, was to “make hearers aware that we are all recipients of God’s grace in Christ.” That revelation would thus elicit gratitude and overflowing joy, which would, in response, become an outpouring of love, gifts and good works turning others to awareness of being recipients of God’s grace.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott illustrates a Christian attitude of gratitude with the author’s characteristic wit and warmth. For whom and for what do we give thanks this day? May each and all have a blessed Thanksgiving, overflowing with God’s grace and abundant joy.

Praise and Thanksgiving

By: Marcia Brown, Mission Interpreter

We are thankful for:

I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church – A Review

By: Rev. Jeff Silvernail, Prince of Peace, Clifton Park

It was the title that got me, “I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church!” It was as if the author Paul Nixon was channeling my thoughts. OK, I’ve read lots of books over the years about church growth, church revitalization, re-thinking church and on and on and on. They all have good ideas that worked somewhere but none of them provide a blanket guide that will work in our own congregations. That is also true of this book. What works, though, is that Nixon provides a framework to think through our contexts, our issues, our hopes, and our dreams for congregations with vital, mission-driven futures. He does so by laying out 6 choices.

  • Choosing life over death
  • Choosing community over isolation
  • Choosing fun over drudgery
  • Choosing bold over mild
  • Choosing frontier over fortress
  • Choosing now rather than later

I was so captured by that framework for thinking through our congregation’s mission that I had all of our Church Council members read the book before our annual leadership retreat so that we could use the choices to guide our visioning.

Not all of the Council members liked the book. At least one was offended by one of Nixon’s comments. But all of us engaged vigorously on what those choices might look like for us.

We left the leadership retreat with 12 initiatives for our congregation that seek to claim life, community, fun, boldness, and the frontier and we claim them for now. They won’t all work but the choices helped move us into action.


By: Rev. Zack LaBagh, Pastor at St. John’s and St. Mark’s, Canajoharie.

439During our Planning for our Community Vacation Bible school this year, one of our leaders had an idea to get backpacks and have the kids decorate them, then fill them with supplies to give to children who are put into foster care. When children are taken from their home they leave with nothing, they go to a home for a few days, and then leave there with nothing. During our planning the local community of Fort Plain was damaged by flooding. After the flooding it was decided we would take half of the backpacks and give them to children in our community whose homes were destroyed by the flood. During our Vacation Bible School, the children decorated lots of bags (close to 100). A few weeks later we had youth gather before a community work day (August 31st) in Fort Plain to pack the backpacks with the items that were donated, which include, a blanket, pajamas, toothbrush and toothpaste, comb or brush, a stuffed animal and a flashlight. From there our young people eagerly awaited the work day where they were able to give away 53 backpacks to other children in the Fort Plain community, ranging in age from 9 months to 14 years old.

438On August 31st members of St. John’s and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church gathered in Fort Plain to distribute the backpacks. Under drizzly skies, the youth piled in and out of the car to share the backpacks with other children. Shouts of joy from children, and tears from parents and grandparents who looked on as their children dove through their new packs and the goodies inside. Around 30 backpacks were delivered that day, with around twenty left at the volunteer center for the families who weren’t home, and other children that were made known at the time of the work day. It was humbling to see these children on both sides so impacted by sharing. Our Faith Formation youth are now seeking to fill the remaining backpacks to get to the local foster care office. We are grateful for the work of the Spirit here in this place, showing us that God works in many ways with many ages. Thanks to all who assisted, shared and gave to this worthwhile ministry.

God’s Work. Our Hands Sunday

By: Rev. Marie C. Jerge, Bishop

I will live to carry on compassion
I will love the world that’s broken
To be your hands and feet.
I will give with life that I’ve been given
I will go beyond religion
To see the world be changed by the power of your name.
The Power of Your Name by Lincoln Brewster and Mia Fieldes

20130908_094411-XLSheireil Mordaunt captured the spirit of the day as she sang this refrain during worship at King of Kings, Liverpool as members prepared to join an estimated 200 folks of all ages from at least 10 congregations in Central New York who offered themselves in a day of service to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ELCA. They joined people from across the synod and the entire ELCA. Thousands of hours of service were offered singing in nursing homes, working with recent immigrants, harvesting crops to feed those who are hungry, painting warehouses and sorting through donated goods, preparing ground for plowing for next year’s crops, baking cookies, cleaning a village cemetery, working in community gardens, packing CROP WALK packets and more.

20130908_124027-XLSharing the good news took many forms. One group that visited Matthew 25 Farm, which grows food to be given to not-for profit food pantries, harvested 257 pounds of onions, 286 pounds of tomatoes, 1636 pounds of corn and 145 pounds of beans – more than a ton of food in about 3 hours. One group that baked cookies to be shared in a local nursing home invited a worship visitor to join them, increasing their work force and sharing the gospel with a potential new member. In Buffalo, NY members of Holy Trinity cleaned up streets in the neighborhood. Folks in the neighborhood were attracted by the golden God’s Work Our Hands t-shirts and decided they wanted to play on God’s team. Workers gave them t-shirts. Different congregations haven’t often had the opportunity to work together in the community. Community leaders were surprised when people called and said “what can we do for you?” They learned that the church is ready to serve. We had the opportunity to witness to the good news of Jesus love by using our own hands and feet. God’s Work. Our Hands.

Proclaiming Hope

This mission magazine tells the stories of just a few of the many ways lives are being made new by the power of the Holy Spirit through the ministries of the Upstate New York Synod. We hope you will be inspired by te work we do together in Jesus' name.

Questions Regarding Mission
New Mission
Lutheran Disaster Response
Social Ministry
Outreach with Young Adults
Congregational Renewal
Congregational Redevelopment
Growing Disciples
Companion Synods
Missionary Support
Theological Education
Outdoor Ministry
Campus Ministry

Download a PDF file of the entire magazine.