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


With Thanks

By: Neal F. Fischer

I wish to share with you my heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to serve the last six years in my role on Synod Staff. My last day with the Upstate New York Synod will be November 30th. On December 1st, I start in the role of Director of Communications with the South Carolina Synod.

This call to serve the Church as a communicator has been a tremendous opportunity for me. I am deeply grateful to all who have supported my efforts to improve communications in our synod. Your encouragement and patience has helped me to grow and improve. Thank you for your partnership.

My wife, Michele, will be finishing her current call at the end of December. We will then be working together on a fresh start. I remain committed to helping the Church communicate better and look forward to new challenges.

November 22, 2014 LDR Update

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you:” Isaiah 43:5a

The people in western New York continue to dig out from last week’s tremendous amounts of snow with help from people and organizations not only from across New York state but from across the nation and from Canada. In grateful appreciation to the many volunteers who are reaching out to help, driveways are being cleared, sidewalks shoveled to ensure that mothers awaiting delivery of newborn babies are able to be reached by local emergency responders to transport them to hospitals, and food is being delivered to those stranded in homes, where provisions have been depleted. Congregations have mobilized work crews to help with shoveling, to prepare soup, cookies and other food items to nourish emergency responders, and are partnering to help each other. Sunday worship services have been cancelled in some locations and members invited to worship with a neighbor. Pastor Laurie Carson, Holy Cross – Farnham, will hold a conference call prayer service for her members on Sunday morning. What a creative way to share God’s presence!

The Western NY VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) has been mobilized. Pastor John Klatt represents us in this group and is working closely with other ecumenical partners as well as local and state government representatives. All are preparing for the anticipated transition of the snow event to a significant flood event early next week as temperatures warm and rain and melting snow combine. LDR in Upstate NY has been in conversation with Rev. Michael Stadie, LDR Program Director at our Churchwide offices in Chicago.

Many are asking how to help. Please do not travel to the affected areas without first connecting with those coordinating help. If you wish to volunteer please call the volunteer coordination line at 716-677-3812. As we move from snow to rain and possible flooding the needs may change. We will do our best to keep you informed as to the best ways to help.

Merciful Father, we command to your loving keeping all who work to bring rescue and relief especially the firefighter, police, paramedics, medical personnel, and volunteers, all who are helping, Give them courage in danger, skill in difficulty, and compassion in service. Sustain them with bodily strength and calmness of mind that they may perform their work to the well-being of those in need so that lives may be saved and communities restored. Amen.

  1. Pray individually and as a community for those who have been affected and continue to be affected, for all those who are responding including emergency service workers, utility crews, government and non-profit organizations and many, many others.
  2. It is anticipated that flood buckets will be needed. Instructions for assembling “Flood Buckets” are available on the synod website.
  3. If you have congregational teams willing to volunteer, please call the volunteer coordination number or be in touch with Rev. John Klatt or email information to LDR at providing type of assistance you can provide, # of volunteers, possible availability dates, and contact name, phone and email.
  4. Join Bishop Macholz in making a financial donation to Lutheran Disaster Response. If you wish to make a donation specifically to be used in upstate New York please send your donation to, LDR in Upstate NY, c/o Lutheran Homes Foundation, 108 Utica Rd., Clinton, NY 13323 (Checks made payable to “Lutheran Homes Foundation” – please note LDR-Upstate NY in the memo line). Donations support the LDR volunteers working locally in the wake of disasters here in our territory to share information, train and coordinate volunteers and to support recovery efforts.

Immigration Statement from the ELCA Conference of Bishops

Immigration Statement
November 20, 2014

Conference of Bishops
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

As people of faith and leaders of the church, we support public policy that protects children, reunites families, and cares for the most vulnerable, regardless of their place of birth.

The treatment of immigrants is a core religious value. To welcome the stranger is to welcome a child of God. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger, for “just as you did it to one of the least of these… you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40) Each day in our congregations and in our service to the community, we see the consequences of this broken immigration system: separated families, children returning home to find their parents have been deported, and the exploitation of undocumented workers.

By removing the threat of deportation for many people, we are showing compassion for people who have been here for years, working hard to provide for their families, obeying the law, and contributing to the fabric of our community.

While today’s action addresses a pressing need, it does not provide a path to citizenship, establish policies that prioritize family unity, or create more efficient channels for entry of new migrant workers. Our hope is that congress will address these and related issues, including the practice of family detention, which undermines our values as a people of faith and a nation of welcome.

The Scriptures consistently show a significant concern for immigrants:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

The positive role of immigrants in our history, economy and our community is unmistakable. We support this compassionate first step toward reforming an immigration system that is flawed and requires many of our neighbors to live in the shadows in fear.

The ELCA Conference of Bishops

Buffalo Area Snow Storm

Nov. 20, 2014

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The people in and around the Buffalo area have been inundated with snow this past week as you know and there is more on the way. The growing threat is the weight of snow on house tops and collapsing roofs. Some have begun to collapse already and with more snow on the way the threat intensifies. Many remain trapped in their homes and can’t get out. With more on the way and warmer temps with the threat of rain over the weekend the picture is challenging at best!

I am happy to tell you that Dean Nancy Milleville was in touch with me to indicate that Pastor John Klatt was organizing, on behalf of Lutheran Disaster Response, a snow removal party to help those in need. There are folks who will gather at Holy Trinity and set out to assist and Pr. John Deibler from the GFL is generating a list of folks to make the trip. This last one assumes the Thruway will be open, I believe, so that folks can get there.

All of which is to ask you to keep all of the folks in Buffalo and the southtowns in your thoughts and prayers. If you can help with clean out that’s great. If not, include all in prayer. Or join me in making a donation to Lutheran Disaster Response for times such as these.

For Rescue Workers

Merciful Father, we command to your loving keeping all who work to bring rescue and relief especially the firefighter, police, paramedics, medical personnel, and volunteers, all who are helping, Give them courage in danger, skill in difficulty, and compassion in service. Sustain them with bodily strength and calmness of mind that they may perform their work to the well-being of those in need so that lives may be saved and communities restored. Amen.

Prayer in Times of Trouble

God of wind and water, stillness and storm, your spirit sweeps over the surface of the sea. Give us faith to seek you in times of trouble. Reach out your hand to us when we are sinking so that we may believe and worship you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

In service to Christ,

The Rev. John Stanley Macholz
Bishop of the ELCA Upstate New York Synod

Portico Health Update

By: Patsy A. Glista, AIM, Assistant to the Bishop for Operations

Thanks to plan members who made 2015 benefit selections early, Portico’s president and his wife donated $5,000 to the ELCA Fund for Leaders to help promising seminarians prepare for ministry! Remember, all employees have until Friday, November 21 to log in to MyPortico and sign up for those benefits. Enroll today, if you haven’t already.

Plan members should sign in to MyPortico to generate their specific 2015 benefit elections. Members need to:

  • Enroll in the health benefit option your congregation selected, buy up to another option and pay the cost difference, or waive health benefits if they qualify;
    • Make decisions about contributing to tax-advantaged accounts, purchasing additional life insurance, and starting or changing pretax retirement account contributions;
    • Name life insurance and retirement account beneficiaries.