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After 25 years, ELCA celebrates with service

In preparation for their acts of service commemorating the 25th anniversary of the ELCA, members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Owatonna, Minnesota, each placed a cutout of their hands on a banner in the shape of the ELCA logo. The purple hand in the “a” came from the youngest member of the congregation, who was baptized just a few weeks earlier. Photo credit: Karen Jorgensen

The “outside crew” at River of Life Lutheran Church (ELCA) in North Minneapolis was returning to the church with white plastic bags filled with garbage collected throughout the neighborhood. The “inside crew” had filled durable clear plastic bags with new bath towels, soap, stocking caps, baby shirts, and wash clothes donated by members to send to Lutheran World Relief. And now they were all gathering in the sanctuary for Eucharist to conclude the worship service they had started an hour earlier.

River of Life was one of thousands of ELCA congregations nationwide that participated in “God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday” on September 8 in celebration of the church body’s 25 years in existence.

“As a community, we wanted to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” explained Natt Dakagboi, a member at River of Life. Such a day, dedicated for service and addressing the needs of the neighborhood and the world, was important to his faith, he said.

‘We’ are the we

At Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul, congregants shared a 25th birthday cake during the traditional fellowship time before hitting the streets with bottled water to share and gloves and bags to collect garbage. Some members also were involved in planting flowers to beautify the congregation’s neighborhood.

“Sometimes an anniversary means a big worship service at Central Lutheran with a lot of clergy in robes, and that is fine,” reflected the Rev. James Erlandson, Redeemer’s pastor. “But it is so great to celebrate today by hosting a day of service. This is what we are called to be in church — out in the community.”

As part of “God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday,” Jared and Michelle Geschwill pick up trash at a park near Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul. Metro Lutheran photo: Bob Hulteen

Redeemer member Michelle Geschwill echoed her pastor, saying, “I belong to the greatest church in St. Paul because we are really doing outreach.”

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Owatonna, Minnesota, hosted an intergenerational event that drew a large response. “At Our Savior’s, our mission statement is ‘Together, Building a Caring Community in Christ,’” explained Susan Bantz, a Luther Seminary student at our Savior’s. “We not only see ourselves as a community, but as members of the larger community. What we would do for ourselves inside the church — provide care and comfort to those in need, celebrate mutual joys, and share the love of God — we are also called to do for the community outside the walls of our church building.

“In Christ, there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ — there is only ‘we!’” exclaimed Bantz. “The ‘God’s Work, Our Hands’ event allowed us to come together all at one time to do what we say and, with our banner, to say what God does through us.”

Presley Whern and Tarloh Quiwonkpa greet Greyson and Roger Saline after they return from picking up trash in North Minneapolis. Metro Lutheran photo: Bob Hulteen

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