Lutheran parishes from throughout the Allegheny Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America shared in what ways their congregations are serving others at the 23rd annual assembly held June 11 to 12 at the Blair County Convention Center. Opening worship was held June 10 at First Lutheran Church in Altoona.
The theme for the gathering of about 275 delegates (pastors and laymen) was "God's Work, Our Hands, Telling & Living the Story."
Churches, including Bethany Lutheran in Altoona and St. James Lutheran in Huntingdon, shared the ways they are reaching out to their communities in discovery sessions.
Bethany Lutheran presented a PowerPoint presentation in the absence of Pastor Betty Landis who has answered a call to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Evanston, Ill.
Landis, reached by telephone, said the presentation centerpieced Bethany's fourth annual neighborhood clean-up in conjunction with its scouting partners and the growth of the Souper Bowl Sunday program where more than 600 cans of soup were collected on Super Bowl Sunday for local food banks.
Landis said the youth participated in a 30-hour fast that gave them an awareness that many people do not eat every day.
The church holds outdoor worship services at Penn State Altoona and with Second Avenue United Methodist Church each summer.
Suzanne Morelli, pastor of St. James Lutheran Church, said a fire destroyed the church in 2004 and the congregation opened the new building in 2007 with a focus to reach out to the community.
St. James contributes to the area by working in partnership with the Salvation Army to provide an afterschool program, swimming passes for kids and a community vacation Bible school.
Its bell choir plays for Relay For Life's vesper service and the PRIDE telethon. PRIDE stands for Promoting Rehabitation Independence Dignity and Education and helps people in need in Huntingdon.
Morelli said the confirmation class raises money for Big Brothers Big Sisters by by taking part in Bowl for Kids Sake and the group worked with the homeless during a trip to Washington, D.C.
Members of the synod made connections globally by contributing health kits (personal hygiene items) to Haiti through Lutheran World Relief and mosquito-proof nets to protect Africans from malaria.
The assembly also passed a resolution calling for unity in the church body. The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted in August to allow clergy in same gender relationships to serve in the church.
Timothy Knauss, assistant to the bishop and director for evangelical mission for the synod, said the action caused some waves in the church. He said the resolution acknowleges those disagreements, but calls for Lutherans to do the work they have been called to do.