Like many faith groups, the Lutherans are generous when it comes to helping others and that spirit of generosity only strengthened when three major Lutheran groups became one 25 years ago to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Locally, the Allegheny Synod of the ELCA supports Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit organization that provides health and human services and helps hundreds of people in a variety of ways.
Among them are counseling services, adult and child day care and retirement and nursing home care.
The 118 congregations in the synod have given more than $1 million to support the ministries through weekly donations, endowments and other gifts, synod Bishop Gregory Pile said.
"These people have been very faithful and deeply committed for the past 25 years and even before that,'' he said.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the ELCA, churches throughout America are reaching beyond their synods and thinking global to help others. They are working to raise $15 million to eradicate malaria in Africa and parts of Asia.
The Allegheny Synod has raised $25,000 and would like to raise an additional $25,000, Pile said. The money is used to buy mosquito nets that are draped over beds to prevent the insects, which carry the disease, from biting people as they sleep.
Closer to home, each congregation usually has its own special way to help those who are in need in addition to helping with the global efforts.
The congregations at Newry and Geeseytown Lutheran churches congregations are helping a pastor from India get his doctorate in Chicago, Pastor Michael Rhyne said. The parishioners are paying the living expenses for the pastor so he can return to India and help others there become men of God, Rhyne said.
They're following in the footsteps of a former Lutheran pastor from Newry, Father J.C.F. Heyer, who went to India in 1820 as a missionary and worked to convert people there to Christianity, Rhyne said.
The congregations also help with several other charities.
"These are not rich people," Rhyne said. "Some of them have had rather humble beginnings, but they remember what it's like to have had a need.''
The same is true for the congregation at Trinity Lutheran Church in Juniata, which Pastor Elizabeth Hess oversees. She said all she has to do is mention a need and the parishioners respond. When she suggested they take up collections of clothes for victims of Hurricane Sandy, the parishioners surprised her by responding with new outfits.
"They didn't bring out the old clothes,'' she said. "They said, 'Well, what if they have to meet with an insurance person or someone, we wouldn't want them to feel like a second-class citizen.'"
The congregation's house of worship is in Juniata, the section of the city that also houses the Norfolk Southern Locomotive Shop, where many workers have been the recipients of downsizing and layoffs.
As a way to support the neighborhood, Trinity Lutheran sponsors an annual spring block party for families with free entertainment and food items, such as sandwiches, for 25 cents.
"It's our way of saying we here at Trinity Lutheran are with you in this community,'' Hess said.
To commemorate the 25th anniversary, Trinity has stitched together paraments or cloths that were once used to cover the altar at a Lutheran church that is now closed.
The ornate cloths are decorated with different symbols, according to the various holidays of the Lutheran church. One has a rose commemorating a day celebrating Martin Luther, another has a dove for Pentecost and a third has a cross for Lent.
A 94-year-old parishioner, Margaretta Perry of Juniata, stitched the cloths together to make a large banner that Hess unveiled to the congregation on Easter.
"It's kind of reclaiming the past and also looking towards the future,'' she said.