This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.

By Daniel J. Lehmann

Lenten longings for our church

Stories that help along life’s way

 

Keep the promises

you made at her


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$2.50 Volume 2, Issue 8 March 2009

New beginnings Adults, see back cover

4 The Lutheran • B

eing snowed in the first few days of Febru- ary presented a chance for introspection. Having just completed needed updates of job descriptions with staff, it was time to do the same for the editor. Most of it would likely bore

readers: responsibility for this, authority for that, editing out a bit of ambiguity, all the while trying to focus on the bigger picture of how The Lutheran serves the ELCA in all its expressions to carry out ministry. What became clear were some hopes and aspirations as well as a few misgivings for our church. Start with this month’s cover article (page 20). Denominational statistics tell a tale of decline—as one reader said of a related piece in the January issue, “No news there.” Yet there is. Some of our congregations do take the plunge into self-examination and refocusing of mission. That’s why the magazine, month in and out, highlights congregations taking risks, finding different ways to reach their neighbors, upgrading or tweaking programs that sustain their missional life. What these parishes have in common is not living in the past. They want to be alive and relevant, to be a place that may or may not be the same as their grandparents’ church. Because it “belongs to the people of the ELCA in all our diversity,” the mag- azine chronicles the passing of congregations as well. Some years ago it was suggested that the average life expectancy of a U.S. Protestant congregation was about 80 years. All things must pass, as Scripture says. So The Lutheran highlights both—successes and failures. We do it often. We

don’t intend to stop. These stories serve as a mirror for the some 10,000 other ELCA congregations. What can be learned from others’ experiences, both how to grow and how to arrange a dignified and worthy dissolution, can help the rest prepare today for tomorrow.

Still, a significant number of congregations don’t see themselves in these

articles. They may fret about their fate but don’t undertake the work needed to re-engage their communities, to make word and sacrament and discipleship meaningful in today’s context. It’s tempting in these wintry days to moan that

no amount of outreach will make a difference. Our nation is rapidly secularizing. Some 16 percent of Americans now profess no religious affiliation and 80 percent do not attend worship. How are our efforts going to make a difference in these people’s lives? To paraphrase one letter-writer, things can change dramatically when the Spirit comes knocking. At The Lutheran, we put our trust in God to help us in assist- ing this denomination make a difference: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). M

What can be learned from others’ experiences, both how to grow and how to arrange a dignified and worthy dissolution, can help the rest prepare today for tomorrow.


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