“This is the Kingdom of God” – the thrill of those words hung in my mind throughout the week of the International AIDS Conference. The floor of the Global Village, the free part of the conference where the Lutheran GRACE booth was located, was flooded with a vast array of people: uniformed military medical personnel, Cameroonian, EL Salvadorian, Namibian, South African educators, and activists for prostitutes and the homeless. Right in the middle of the village, nestled in the palm of God’s hand, was the Lutheran GRACE space which shared a wall with INERELA an organization of religious leaders living with, or personally affected by, HIV or AIDS. While addressing serious subject matter, the conference center reverberated with joy, enthusiasm, energy, and compassion.
With over 55 red-shirted volunteers from more than 26 different DC area congregations, the Lutheran GRACE booth hummed with activity. We passed out 15,000 prayer cards, each filled with handwritten prayers or drawings, and applied thousands of “Lutheran GRACE” temporary tattoos. On Wednesday Bishop Richard Graham of the Metro Washington DC Synod performed a booth blessing and spoke with many of the people who stopped by.
Lutheran GRACE (GRowing AIDS Compassion Everywhere) is a grassroots movement independent of the Metro Washington DC Synod and ELCA. It was started in December 2011 with a few dedicated volunteers from Christ Lutheran Church in Northwest Washington DC who wanted to “do something” for the International AIDS Conference. Since then it has grown into a network of 26 Lutheran congregations in the Washington, DC area. We are thankful for the support of Bishop Richard Graham, Karen Krueger, and others in the DC Synod office, as well as those folks in the national ELCA’s office who coordinated sending us ELCA banners. Lutheran GRACE is dedicated to turning the tide of stigma and providing a caring, compassionate Christian presence to those living with or affected by HIV or AIDS. Join us at 6:30 pm for a volunteer party on Friday, September 7th at New Course Restaurant 500 3rd St NW (3rd and E) or look for upcoming events around the AIDS Walk in October and World AIDS Day in December.
International AIDS Conference – Quick Facts
The International AIDS Conference was held from July 22nd – 27th at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. This was the first time in 22 years that the International AIDS Conference was held in the United States due to the lifting of the travel ban on international visitors who are HIV +. Lutheran Church of the Reformation was active and involved in this conference and companion events in multiple ways, including:
· Participating in the Interfaith Pre-conference on HIV, held July 20 – 21 at Howard University.
· Helping lead the Lutheran GRACE movement, including writing & drawing on prayer cards.
· Hosting three international guests from the Lutheran World Federation who attended the International AIDS Conference.
· Hosting the Spirit of 76 gathering, featuring visitors and activists from a number of the 76 countries where homosexuality is outlawed and, in some cases, providing HIV treatment to GLBTQ people is illegal.
Many thanks to Kathy Tobias, Philip Moeller, Phil Anderson, Pastor Mike Wilker, and all those adults and children who wrote prayers or drew cheerful pictures on the back of the prayer cards.
Adult choir rehearsals resumed our normal rehearsal schedule of Thursday evenings, 7:30- 9:30 PM, starting on September 6th in preparation for service on Sunday, September 9th, which is also Rally Day. If you've been thinking of joining the adult choir, the fall is the perfect time! We have an exciting season ahead of us as we prepare for the premiere of another major work for chorus and orchestra that I'm writing for a premiere performance at the National Gallery of Art on Sunday, Dec. 2nd at 6:30 PM. Our choir has been invited to present a 75 minute program, which we will perform again at Church of the Reformation on Saturday, January 12th, 2013 at 7:30 PM. Rehearsals for these special events have begun already. If you're interested in being part of the Reformation Festival Choir that will perform this concert program twice, please contact me at email@example.com.
We're also delighted to welcome on board Caitriona McEniry-Roschke, who will be our new youth choir coordinator. Caitriona brings lots of talents, musical and otherwise, to this project and we are very excited to be working with her.
Excerpts from Faith—Confidence and Doubt in Daily Life by Martin Marty
Faith for Seasons of Beginnings
Trust is a faith for the seasons of beginnings. Let’s focus on the nature and dynamics of childlike faith in God who is trustworthy.
Prayer for the journey:
Lord, help us to focus on felt needs within our church and our community. Strengthen our trust and faith in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Faith for Seasons of Risk
Believing in God means taking a risk to be grounded in the deepest reality there is.
Prayer for the journey:
Help me move, O Lord, from faith that Jesus is coming to save, to faith that inHis presence I am in the presence of eternal life, already begun. Amen.
Faith for Seasons of Seeking
Our belief in the gospel involves the belief that it is true for us.
Prayer for the journey:
Surround us, O God, with fellow seekers and fellow believers who can impart knowledge of faith and life, and let us become witnesses through our own growth in knowledge, grace, and courage. Amen.
Faith for Seasons of Action
God accepts you by the simple act of faith, and faith finds expression and completion in works of love.
Prayer for the journey:
Let love be the priority, the first expression to issue from our faith, and help us, O Lord, to commend faith to others by showing them our love. Amen.
Faith Active in Community
The faith of individuals is nurtured and challenged in the community of believers.
Prayer for the journey:
Help us each experience a growth in character, O Lord, so that we can credibly commend the faith to those who come into contact with us.
Faith for the Season of Victory
Faith has limits, and yet faith offers us limitless possibilities.
Prayer for the journey:
O Lord, let the power of the resurrected life show through the doings of our ordinary life in the here and now. We pray in the name of the risen Christ. Amen.
Small Group Facilitator
Property Committee Report
After a record hot summer, I am sure you are looking forward to a beautiful, cool fall. The sunny weather brought some good news and that is related to our solar panels. In July, the solar panels produced 2.27 MWh electricity, which is an energy offset of 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide or an offset of 40 trees. Total production so far this year is 14.4 MWh, or 14.1 million watts. I am also looking into switching the remaining electrical usage over to wind power, which is available through Pepco.
Recent projects that have been completed are painting of the Blue Rroom and repair of the metal staircase behind 220 East Capitol St. We also had to repair the flood lights in front of church after they weret damaged by water leaking into the housing and shorting them out.
Together with our new Property Committee Chair, Rob Cowden, and Vicar Rose, I am working on plans for future projects in 2013. A work/clean up day on Saturday, October 13, is planned so please mark your calendar.
Consecration Sunday is coming on Reformation Sunday
Dear Church of the Reformation Members and Friends:
Individual financial stewardship, from a biblical perspective is not merely a way for a congregation to pay its bills. Rather, it is a way to help people grow spiritually in their relationship with God and support their church’s mission and ministry with a percentage of their income.
Our congregation’s Council has selected the NewConsecration Sunday Stewardship Program as a way to teach the biblical and spiritual principles of generous giving for our stewardship education emphasis this year.
New Consecration Sunday is based on the biblical philosophy of the need of the giver to give for his or her own spiritual development, rather than on the need of the church to receive. NewConsecration Sunday encourages people toward proportionate and systematic giving in response to the question, “What portion of my income is God calling me to give?”
During the morning worship on Reformation Sunday, October 28, our worship leaders will conduct a brief period of instruction and inspiration. Then members will make their commitments as a confidential act of worship. We will ask attendees and members to make their financial commitment to our church’s mission, benevolent, and educational ministries in this community and around the world.
Every attendee and member who completes an Estimate of Giving Card does so voluntarily while attending morning worship on Reformation Sunday. We also urge people to attend who may oppose completing a card. The procedure will be done in such a way that no one feels personal embarrassment if he or she chooses not to fill out a card.
We encourage participation in Reformation Sunday’s events through the Stewardship Team and Council members. Since we will make no follow-up visits to ask people to complete their card, we will make every effort to inform, inspire, and commit everyone to attend worship on Reformation Sunday, October 28.
Thank you in advance for your enthusiastic participation in Reformation Sunday.
Namibia: An Experience of Companionship as Ubuntu
The warmth of southern Africa, even in winter, begins to wash over me as we fly into Johannesburg, South Africa, on the way to Namibia. Before me on the video map—a sort of aerial GPS—I see the location of Mabopane, which is very near Winterveldt, a place where I have a connection to a small nongovernmental organization. I feel a longing to be on the ground walking the dusty paths in the midst of that embracing community—much like the communities we have encountered in our trips to nearby Namibia on the southwestern coast of Africa.
Our group of about a dozen Lutherans representing Metropolitan Washington, DC has already traveled some 18 hours in the air, added to a long layover in Frankfurt, Germany, and we have one more plane to catch into the Namibian capitol, Windhoek. We are on our way to visit Namibia and to share and strengthen our companionship with the three Lutheran church bodies of Namibia and the three other U.S. synods withNamibian Companion Synod relationships. Our official delegation from Metro DC includes Bishop Richard Graham, Pastor Lowell Knauff, who chairs the Namibia Companion Synod Committee for the Metro DC Synod, Pastor Bob Allard, chair of the synod’s Global Mission Committee, and me, a lay representative with involvement in the Namibia Companion Synod relationship going back a decade. Nine other DC area travelers—mostly Lutherans—will share the visits around Namibia after the consultation.
We waste no time moving into the consultation—after our bags are stowed at the Guesthouse of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN), we convene with about 20 others at the nearby consultation site, hosted by the bishop of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN-GELC), Erich Hertel. For the next two and a half days, we will listen to each other—representatives of ELCIN-GELC, ELCRN, and the largest Namibian Lutheran church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN), all under the umbrella of the United Church Council (UCC), along with representatives of the ELCA office in Chicago and the synods of Northeastern Iowa, New Jersey, and Southwestern Washington. I take the notes for the minutes, which gives me an opportunity to reread and reflect on our efforts—and I will be processing that for some time to come.
At the consultation we listened to several inspiring messages, in particular, a homily from the Rev. Abraham //Kheibeb, National Coordinator of Namibia’s Evangelical Lutheran Church AIDS Program (ELCAP). (Seehttp://elcapnamibia.webs.com/.). He begins with Acts 2:42 (“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”) and 1 John 1:3 (“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”) Pastor //Kheibeb delves into the Biblical meanings of fellowship and koinonia,posing the question, “Is there more to fellowship than coffee and tea after worship services? He ends with a challenge: “Now the bottom line is we have an obligation. This obligation is that we belong to Christ, the Son of God. We, through him, have become brothers and sisters…Christian brotherhood and sisterhood is not an ideal—it is rather a reality in Christ in which we participate. Let us go back to the drawing board and see where we have failed and make an inner search as a Church how we are going to proceed so that God’s people, irrespective of their color, can be pulled out from themisery in which they are. May the Great Lord bless this work.”
We heard from Pastor BenyamKassehun, an Ethiopian by birth, but also a member of the ELCA staff in Chicago, who spoke about mutuality, inclusivity, vulnerability, and sustainability, and cautioned us as Americans to recognize that we will sometimes step in too quickly to fix others’ problems as we perceive them and that if we would learn how to accompany others, we need to listen, and listen, and listen, and know we will make mistakes.
Bob Allard posed the conundrum: “Sometimes on the one hand I begin to feel I need to understand it better, [that I am] guilty [of overstepping]. On the other hand, a more predominant feeling that was laid down by [Pastor// Kheibeb is that] we need to be our brother’s keeper—to be sensitive to what their need is and try to address it.”
We reaffirmed the covenant that we had established at our consultation in 2005—a process that was time-consuming but relatively easy. The seemingly harder part is determining how we are going to move forward.
While we were still in the Windhoek area, I had opportunities to meet and talk with the pastors of our sister congregations, the Rev. Ernst Gamxamub, of Martin Luther Khomasdal, who visited Reformation in 2003, and Bishop Erich Hertel, who is also pastor of Christuskirche in Windhoek. The complexity of life in this age of reconciliation post-apartheid was apparent as I listened to Bishop Hertel’s thoughts about the ongoing hot-button issues of land reform and basic income grants. What I took from the service in Pastor Ernst//Gamxamub’s congregation, as we marched out to the stanzas of “We are Marching in the Light of God” was the warm embrace of the Namibian Lutheran community and the challenge to us to be a part of it.
From the consultation, the Metropolitan Washington, DC, trekkers began a 16-day journey that took us northward through theEtosha Game Park, where we saw beautiful animals—lion and giraffe, antelope, wildebeest, rhinoceros, elephant and bird—and from there to visit friends, including Bishop JosephatShanghala. Bishop Shanghala showed us the pain of Namibia’s past, including his own—the site where his wife and unborn daughter lost their lives in an explosion during the war. And he showed us the fullness of life in northern Namibia today, introducing us to his now wife and daughter, and leading us in a visit to the Himba people near Ruacana Falls. From there, we traveled south and west to Swakopmundand Walvis Bay on the Atlantic coast.
As we traveled around Namibia, the needs were apparent all around us. We visited several of the hostels where children stay when they go away to school—Namibia is sparsely populated, so schools are often in distant towns, and one effect of the AIDS epidemic is the growing number of orphans also housed in the hostels during the school year. The hostels were built and for decades maintained by the Germans, who colonized and helped Christianize Namibia, but since the German funding ended several years ago, the infrastructure has been deteriorating—a fact which prompted some of our group to advocate a rebuilding project.. But as we delivered gifts of blankets and money to EngelhardtUnaeb, who is in charge of the hostel program, we learned that the immediate need is for funds that will provide the very basic diet for the 1,600 children who will move into the hostels as the school year starts. (There is a way to contribute directly to the hostels through Friends of Namibian Children, a nonprofit started by Janet Wenk, a Lutheran who worked with the hostels as a missionary in 2003-2005. The website is http://www.friendsofnamibianchildren.org.)
The gifts of Namibian companionship were as apparent as the needs. There is something about southern Africa—a sophisticated wholeness of community that has the potential to transform the way we practice Christian love—a wholeness partially captured in the southern African concept of ubuntu. In Begging to be Black,South African author AntjieKrog describes ubuntu as “a world view based on the idiom umuntungumuntungabanto—a person is a person through other persons.” She writes: “Don’t we know that it is impossible to live a sealed-off life in Africa?”
Chair, Global Mission Committee
Washington, DC was host to ReconcilingWorks 2012, which opened on July 6 with several organizers and planners, delegates and participants from Church of the Reformation. This was the biennial assembly of “ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation”, formerly “Lutherans Concerned North America”. Most events were held at Luther Place Memorial Church, with Church of the Reformation hosting final day events on July 10.
Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson gave a thought provoking and inspirational keynote address. It was the first time the Presiding Bishop has attended the assembly of an organization in the forefront for full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the life of the Lutheran Church. The Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber (of the “Sarcastic Lutheran” blog and the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver) was the bible study leader. She presented biblical reflections that were both entertaining and thought provoking.
During business sessions, delegates reached consensus on motions in support of five pieces of legislation currently being considered in Congress that address issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; two anti- bullying bills, the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act; the Respect for Marriage Act, to replace the Defense of Marriage Act; and the Uniting American Families Act, which would enable LGBT citizens to sponsor their non-citizen partners for citizenship, as heterosexual spouses are able to do. After a breakfast briefing at Church of the Reformation, assembly delegates went to Capitol Hill and discussed the pieces of legislation with their Senators, Representatives, and their staff. During the meetings several delegates were informed that they were the first people of faith to talk with them who support this legislation. Delegates returned to Church of the Reformation for lunch, followed by a spectacular final worship service.