By: Rev. Marie C. Jerge, bishop
Last year I agreed to become part of the Immigration Ready Bench. The Conference of Bishops has several “ready benches.” Each one focuses on a specific issue such as Care of Creation, Poverty, the Middle East, etc. Members agree to become educated on “our” topic, learn from one another and prepare ourselves to speak out on the issues as the need arises. So for a year I’ve been on Conference Calls, received updates from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) and am learning along the way.
Recently I have finished a book that I highly recommend to others. Bishops on the Border is written by four bishops who live and work in the Southwest US, including ELCA Bishop Stephen Talmage of the Grand Canyon Synod. The introduction is written by Mark Adams a Presbyterian who works in a Presbyterian Border Ministry. Each chapter is a very personal witness to God’s call to be engaged in this ministry and is in part spiritual autobiography. If you’ve ever wondered why the church is speaking out on this issue, this book will help you to understand.
My interest in this topic began during my first visit to our mission congregation, Todos los Hijos de Dios, Amsterdam and I heard first hand from these hope and faith-filled people about the difficulty of their life journey and their separation from family, how hard they are working to provide sustenance for their families back home, the unfairness of our immigration system, and the injustice they have sometimes had to endure at the hands of the US legal system. These immigrants are part of our church family. We need to listen and learn their stories.
I invite you to learn with me. Read the book. Visit the LIRS website at www.lirs.org. Connect with Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica at www.mvrcr.org. Connect with one of our congregations that has immigrants as part of their faith community such as Todos los Hijos de Dios, Amsterdam; Resurrection, Buffalo; or First English, Syracuse. Talk to someone in your community who works with immigrants. Think of your own ancestors and the immigrants who formed our congregations. Pray. Listen. Learn.
Across the synod we support five mission outposts within college communities. Together they are Lutheran Campus Ministries (LCM).
At the University of Buffalo, LCM of Western New York exists to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to students and young adults. In The House, where students live in intentional Christian community, leaders help students make choices in light of their vocational calling and challenge students to integrate their faith into everyday life. Peer ministers are a centerpiece of this mission.
LCM at the Rochester Institute of Technology is the only mainline Protestant campus ministry on campus. Student involvement and leadership is growing, including three peer ministers who assist in leading worship. They are also launching a new web discussion forum called www.GodShuffle.org. Meals after Sunday evening worship services are provided by area Lutheran congregations.
In 1913, Rev. Samuel Trexler traveled by train to Syracuse and Ithaca to found Lutheran Campus Ministries at Ithaca (now St. Luke’s) and Syracuse University. They were the second sites of LCM in the United States. Today these ministries help young people put God in the equation as they think about their gifts, talents, and career path. They nurture leaders for the work place, our homes, our neighborhoods, our congregations, and our global community. This is a place where minds and hearts are changed, new friends are made and the gospel is experienced in word and deed.
At the University of Albany, Cornerstone Protestant Campus Ministry offers worship, fellowship, Bible study, and learning opportunities in order “to bring students together to make a difference in the world.” Together they engage in mission and community service both locally and in the wider world. Eight to ten peer ministers lead the way as Bible study leaders, mission coordinators, administrative assistants, and worship facilitators. We support this ministry as an extension of LCM.
Atonement Lutheran Church, serving Syracuse’s Southside for 109 years, lives out its mission centered on the gospel’s call to enrich all peoples’ lives through faithful sharing of the Good News. The worshiping community leads, guides, and grows a variety of ministries rooted in Word and Sacrament, spiritual formation and a commitment to love and serve all people. The Childcare Center provides a safe, loving and nurturing environment in which children can grow and reach their full potential: physically, emotionally, socially and mentally. The Atonement Housing Corporation operates quality, low-cost housing opportunities in Syracuse’s Southside. Appleseed Productions, a volunteer-based non-profit community theater company, promotes the arts, offers quality family entertainment at reasonable prices and provides resources and education for the community. Lutheran, ecumenical and community partners accompany and support Atonement Ministries as they fulfill their mission to serve the community.
By: James Jerge
I have witnessed a miracle! I saw an ordinary church basement hall transformed into a buzzing center of mission activity.
All it takes is about 45 tons of reusable items (everything from fans to food to futons; from clocks to clothing to cookery; from books to boots to baskets; from magic-erase boards to mini-fridges to microwaves…..you get the idea!), about 30 super-dedicated volunteers a day, for 25 days, from various congregations and the community, someone(s) to make and serve a daily lunch……and, Voilà! Mission Center!
Understatedly named “Ten Tons of Love”®, The First English Lutheran Church of Syracuse (FEL) – in cooperation with Syracuse University, SUNY ESF, Onondaga Community College and a host of local businesses who donate trucks, drivers and storage PODS – has just wrapped up the 17th year of this semi-annual effort to invite students leaving campus at the end of a term to recirculate usable items from students to needy neighbors on the North Side of Syracuse and beyond. Volunteers sort, fold, launder and store all the items for distribution through FEL’s Clothing Closet
Pastor Craig Herrick reports that in the early days, his minivan and a Subaru went to a few dorms and picked up stuff that was mostly garbage. As the quantity of donated items has increased, so has the quality, as students report feeling good about sharing from what they no longer need with those who know only need. It’s not at all rare to receive items that are brand new (with tags in place!) to nearly new.
Coordinated for 16 years by Paula Hughson, FEL’s now-retired Ministry Associate, Steve Grant and I had our first experience in coordinating this massive effort. We did our best to stay out of the way and let this group of enthusiastic volunteers show us how miracles happen! Thanks be to God!