Grace Gathering- Day 3

What an incredibly full and wonderful day! We started off with a workshop on Luther, Lutherans and Poverty, looking at our understanding of our call to care about people who are trapped in poverty. Even in Luther’s day, he understood this to be a part of our life of faith: Christians are to be taught that [the one] who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better a deed than [the one] who buys indulgences.(Martin Luther)

We had an opportunity to explore the displays and check out the Walk for Water which included information about malaria and the challenges faced by people in developing countries related to accessibility to clean water.

We celebrated Holy Communion with the voting delegates to churchwide assembly, over 1200 Lutherans singing, praying and worshipping together!

In the afternoon we attended a workshop on Lutheran-Muslim  Relationships. We learned that the US is the first country where Muslim students were treated as equals in the society. The US is the first Democratic country where Muslims have had an organized society for more than 50 years. Lutherans in the US have a history or welcoming Muslims, even sharing their church buildings for prayer and worship when new Muslim groups needed a place to gather.

We were able to hear a presentation by Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, who was the leader of a women’s movement of prayer and rebellion that played an active role in ending the civil war and genocide in her cuntry. She was part of a trio of African female peavcemakers who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. One of the most powerful statements she shares with us was this: “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”

The day ended with a banquet and a musical presentation by a group of young musicians called Glocal Musicians.

Below are photos of Leymah Gbowee, Glocal Musicians, a Reformation 500 banner from the front of the convention center, a picture of me with Pastor Megan Rohrer from San Francisco and Brian and I with Julie Hettig, a member of Faith Lutheran in Meadow Vista. We had the chance to meet fellow Lutherans from around the US and are coming home with new energy for preparing to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and discerning new opportunities for ministries at home and beyond!

Tomorrow we will have worship and then prepare to head home to Grass Valley.

Shalom!  Pr. Eileen

20160812_223346 Glocal Musicians PE and Pr Megan Rohrer Leymah Gbowee Reformation 500 banner NOLA

Grace Gathering-Day 2

The day began with one of the plenary sessions of the churchwide assembly, and the report of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. She reminded us that we are the body of Christ, called to practice hospitality for our sisters and brothers in need, especially those who cannot return home because of war, persecution and destruction of their homes.

She challenged us to be bold n identifying ourselves as followers of Jesus, and telling people that we do what we do because of Jesus. Sometimes, she said,  “We hold the Lord’s name with such reverence that we don’t even speak it aloud.”

We celebrated Holy Communion together, with preaching in the African-American tradition by Bishop George E. Battle of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church. “Can I get a witness?” he asked often, prompting out traditional Lutheran gathering to verbally affirm his message with applause and shouts of “amen.”

There were workshops in the afternoon, and I attended one on Music and Justice that traced the history of negro spirituals as they reflect the life circumstances and faith of black Americans.  Brian and I also attended a session on the new study being conducted to define the future direction of the ELCA, “Called Forward Together in Christ for the sake of the world.” If you would like to read what has been gathered so far from across our church and even add your own insights, go to

We enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant with people from the Sierra Pacific Synod, including our Bishop and his wife. They are looking forward to being with us at Peace in September!

Tomorrow will be another busy day. It’s inspiring to be reminded that we are part of a larger church body and connected to many other faith groups and churches who share our desire to discern God’s will for our work in the world.

Shalom.  Pr. Eileen

Grace Gathering-Day 1

August 10, 2016   8:45 pm CDT

Brian and I have arrived safely in New Orleans (NOLA), but the start of the Grace Gathering was a bit different that what we had planned. We were scheduled to arrive in NOLA at 3:15 pm, giving us plenty of time to check in to our hotel, then get to the convention center to register, eat dinner and attend the opening session of the Grace Gathering where Bishop Eaton was the keynote speaker.

We got on the road to San Francisco airport at 3 am from my daughter’s house in Concord. All went well until we boarded our connecting flight in Dallas, TX. After a 15-20 minute wait while a problem was being investigated, all passengers were asked to take their belongings and leave the plane. We were told there was a fuel line leak that could not be repaired and that a replacement plane was being secured. As we waited in the gate area, a police officer with a K-9 dog entered the jet way to the plane. Not sure what that was about, but I suspect something more serious than a leaking fuel line.

But, with gratitude for the averting of a possible problem, we awaited a substitute aircraft. Take off was about 2 hours after our scheduled time. Well, we thought, it will be a bit tight, but we should still be able to make it. It was not to be! We spent 30-40 minutes circling above the airport in NOLA because flights were backed up due to heavy rains.

We missed the opening session of the Grace Gathering, but we are here safe and sound, thanks be to God! We’ve been following news of the churchwide assembly, and learned that one of the guest speakers today was Dr. Sayyid M Syeed, the National Director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, in Washington, DC. Dr. Syeed was quoted as telling the assembly “An attack on one religion is an attack on all religions.”

Tomorrow we will have our first plenary session of the Grace Gathering and celebrate Holy Communion together. In the afternoon, there will be experiential learning opportunities. Brian is registered for “Access to Housing” and I am registered for “Music, Justice and Peace.”

Tomorrow, I’ll be able to tell you about new things we’ve learned and people we’ve met. I hope you’ll continue to pray for all of us gathered here in New Orleans as we seek new ways to be the church together.

Shalom.   Pastor Eileen