Lisa’s Pieces: Creation Care Tips from the Synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Team

Lutherans Restoring Creation

The mission of Lutherans Restoring Creation is to promote incorporation of care for creation into the full life and mission of the church, working in five areas: worship, education, discipleship, building & grounds, and public ministry/advocacy.  For some timely tips in these areas, see below:

WorshipConsider Creation Reorientation:  Liturgy to Reconcile People & the Planet.Register now for the ecumenical 2019 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creationon Sept. 7 .  These creation-focused songsmay inspire. Seasonal creation-focused prayers for Pentecostin year C can be used in worship each week. Creation-focused commentarieson the lectionary from a Lutheran source are available.

EducationThe annual Creation Care Fest/Environmental Extravaganza, with terrific kids’ nature-focused activities, expert lectures on the State of Our World, & an exhibit by local environmental nonprofits, is Aug. 24. The essay Loving My Neighbor in the Whole of God’s Creationis an excellent basis for an Adult Forum. Or, use a documentary filmfor an educational movie night. The online Sunday Evening Conversations on Creationon Sept. 29, Houston’s Air Quality Challenges & What You Can Do and onAug. 25What’s the Health of the Bay? Galveston Bay Report Card, both educate on creation care.

Discipleship:  Make use of the “Bulletin blurb” eco-tips (+ verses & quotes) on the synod leaders Facebookpage each week and/or share the creation-focused prayer & devotion also posted there. Use the Season of Creation calendaror this daily prayer guideas a discipleship tools for members. Encourage members to join/support the Lutherans Restoring Creation bike teamriding Bike Around the Bay.

Building & GroundsCheck out these tips for your groundsor these tips for recycling.  Use this Energy Workbookto get a handle on your electricity usage. Looking to reduce your energy or water consumption with renovations?  A presentation on PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financingis scheduled for Aug. 28 in Houston. The Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston’s event on Sept. 8 deals with Reducing Toxins in Houses of Worship– IPM (Integrated Pest Management).

Public Ministry/Advocacy:  The weekly Opportunities to Care for, Learn About, and Enjoy God’s Good Creationfeatures volunteer events in the greater Houston area (see upcoming opportunities link). Contact Scott@texasimpact.orgto participate in legislative visits with state and Congressional legislators scheduled throughout August (on climate/energy, immigration & health policy). The Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston advocates monthly at Houston City Council meetings on eco-justice topics.  Contact Carol Burrus at carol.burrus@gmail.comto join them. You & your congregation are invited to sign the Paris pledge.

For more information on any of the above, or for creation care assistance/information, contact the synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Team by writing to Lisa at gcs.lrc@gmail.com. The team is seeking additional members. If you would be willing to serve, please contact us.

Creation Care Fest/Environmental Extravaganza

Exhibit at Creation Care Fest
Exhibit by local environmental non-profit at past Creation Care Fest/Environmental Extravaganza

Saturday, Aug. 24, 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Faith Lutheran Church
4600 Bellaire Blvd.

The synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Team invites you to the 2019 Creation Care Fest – Environmental Extravaganza! This free event has fun & educational environmental activities for all ages. Terrific kids’ activities will be on offer. Lectures by experts addressing the State of Our World will educate adults & youth. Exhibits by local environmental nonprofits will offer more opportunities to engage. Contact Lisa Brenskelle at gcs.lrc@gmail.comwith any questions.

Lecture Details:

  • 10 a.m. State of Biodiversity, Professor Kerri Crawford, University of Houston
  • 10:45 a.m. State of the Air, Professor Dan Cohan, Rice University
  • 11:30 a.m. State of Fresh Water, Professor Hanadi Rifai, University of Houston
  • 2 p.m. State of the Oceans, Professor Hyun-Min Hwang, Texas Southern University
  • 2:45 p.m. State of the Land, John Ferguson, owner of Nature’s Way Resources

Exhibits by local environmental non-profit organizations 12 – 2 p.m.
Kids’ Activities 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Please register for this event for planning purposes. Contact Lisa Brenskelle at gcs.lrc@gmail.com with any questions.

What’s the Health of the Bay?  Galveston Bay Report Card

Sunday, August 25, at 6 p.m., online

T'Noya Thompson
T’Noya Thompson, Advocacy Programs Manager, Galveston Bay Foundation

In August, T’Noya Thompson, Advocacy Programs Manager for Galveston Bay Foundation, will discuss the health of Galveston Bay.  The Galveston Bay Estuary is the largest estuary on the Texas coast and has weathered significant challenges over the years. The Galveston Bay Report Card, a citizen-driven, scientific analysis of the health of Galveston Bay, was created to increase interest in the health of the bay and to create an informed citizenry willing to engage local and state decision-makers on bay issues. The report cardis updated annually every August. Learn about the indicators that give you the information you need to be informed, and how you can take action to preserve Galveston Bay! Please register for this talk on www.eventbrite.com. Contact Lisa Brenskelle at gcs.lrc@gmail.com with any questions about this talk.

2019 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

2019 World Day of Prayer

Join us Saturday, September 7 at 10:00 a.m., for this year’s Ecumenical Observance of the 2019 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation at the Villa de Matel, 6510 Lawndale St., Houston, TX 77023. This day of prayer offers an opportunity for Houston faith leaders, environmental groups and local officials to join hearts and voices at a decisive moment for our natural world. Scientists, activists, the world’s poor and even children from across the globe are beseeching leaders in all areas of civic life to inspire moral action to address the current ecological crisis.

This joint prayer service, hosted by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, will be a time to give thanks, to repent, to plead for moral courage, and to bear witness to all of Houston of our unity in declaring that that climate change is an ethical imperative that must be addressed now. Please register for planning purposes on www.eventbrite.com.  Contact Monica Hatcher at mhatcher@CCVI-VDM.org for additional information.

Sunday Evening Conversations on Creation Continue…

The synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Team invites you to a monthly environmental education web meeting series whose theme in 2019 is environmental issues and what you can do.

Bakeyah Nelson
Bakeyah Nelson, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

Houston’s Air Quality Challenges & What You Can Do
Sunday, September 29, at 6 p.m., online

In September, Bakeyah Nelson, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston, will discuss air quality issues in Houston & how you can take action.  Air Alliance Houston believes that everyone has a right to breathe clean air. They conduct applied research, provide education, and engage in advocacy to accomplish their mission. Learn how, by working together, we can deliver cleaner air for a healthier future! Contact Lisa Brenskelle at gcs.lrc@gmail.comwith any questions about this talk. Please registerfor this talk on http://www.eventbrite.com. Contact Lisa Brenskelle at gcs.lrc@gmail.comwith any questions about this talk.

Bike Around the Bay

bike aroundBike Around the Bay
Oct. 12 & 13

Join the Lutherans Restoring Creation Team for Bike Around the Bay as a cyclist or supporter! Last year, our team was one of the top fundraisers, but this year, we’ve lost a key team member.  Please consider joining the team or making a donation to support the team.  For cyclists, this is great opportunity to both enjoy and care for God’s good creation.  See this site for details: www.bikearoundthebay.org.

A visit with Luke Scholar, Dr. Mikeal Parsons

By Bishop Mike Rinehart

Mikeal ParsonsA while back I sat down with Luke scholar Dr. Mikeal (pronounced Michael) Parsons. We met at Baylor’s Tidwell Bible Building, where he offices, then rode over to the Indigo Hotel for lunch with my wife Susan, who had been enjoying the Magnolia Farms Market.

Mikeal was raised in the mountains of North Carolina. He discerned a call to ministry at the young age of 16. He has taught New Testament at Baylor for 30 years. He has his B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Campbell University and his M. Div. and Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Dr. Heidi J. Hornik, who is a professor of Italian Renaissance Art History at Baylor. They have written three books together, including:

Illuminating Luke: The Infancy Narrative in Italian Renaissance Painting. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003.

Illuminating Luke: The Public Ministry of Christ in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Painting. Valley Forge, PA: T & T Clark International, 2005.

Illuminating Luke: The Passion and Resurrection Narratives in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Painting. Valley Forge, PA: T & T Clark International. November 2007.

Since we are in a Lukan year in the Revised Common Lectionary, I have been using his Commentary on Luke, from the Paideia series. You can read excerpts from this commentary in Working Preacher for the upcoming Luke texts.

While visiting, he gave me a copy of Body and Character in Luke and Acts: The Subversion of Physiognomy in Early Christianity.This book explores the belief in antiquity that ones physical appearance revealed inner truths about ones soul. So short Zaccheus, the bent-over woman, and the Ethiopian eunuch would have been assumed to be flawed internally or perhaps even evil. Luke’s gospel, however, subverts this. Zaccheus turns out to be generous. The eunuch converts.

Dr. Parsons laughed easily, inquiring about my family and the work of a bishop. He is very passionate about Luke/Acts, which has been his central area of study for decades. While being interested in the minute details of Luke/Acts, he also teaches Bible courses to undergraduates of all majors. He enjoys the interaction with young, inquisitive minds and differing opinions. He said he learns things with every class.

We chatted on quite a bit about Luke and Acts. He regaled me with information about number symbolism in the Greek: Iota and eta, with a line over it, is not only an abbreviation for Jesus in p57, but it’s also the way one writes the number 18 in Greek; 70 or 72 for the Septuagint (sometimes just seven), and therefore the mission to the Greek world (Gentiles); 12 for the twelve tribes of course. This is why in the two feedings of the multitudes, there are seven baskets left over when it happens in Gentile territory and 12 baskets when it happens in Jewish territory. He reminded me how uninterested first century writers were in actual counts, and how important number symbolism was. This ties to the Sending of the Seventy (Luke 10), as a mission to the Gentiles.

He also chatted about the curious triangular numbers in the Bible. Triangular numbers are what you get when you add consecutive numbers. Hence,

1+2=3
1+2+3=6
1+2+3+4=10

A list of triangular numbers is as follows: 0, 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28, 36, 45, 55, 66, 78, 91, 105, 120, 136, 153, 171, 190, 210, 231, 253, 276, 300, 325, 351, 378, 406 …

In John 21:11, the disciples catch 153 fish: a curious number, a triangular number. In Acts 27:37, Luke tells us 276 were shipwrecked. And so on.

Okay, so we’re Bible geeks. I couldn’t help but feel I’d met a soul mate. And it occurred to me, I didn’t feel like I was talking to a Baptist. I was talking to a Bible scholar, who shared my love for the Scriptures, and transcended denominational identification. Once again, I felt the denominational organization of Christianity melting away.

As you continue to delve into Luke, I encourage you to use Parson’s commentary as an insightful guide.

Whom Shall I Send? Pulpit Supply in the Gulf Coast Synod

By Tracey Breashears Schultz, Bishop’s Associate for Leadership

pulpit supply

When I was a parish pastor and was going on vacation or had to miss a Sunday for a continuing education event, I relied on a list of pastors I regularly called for pulpit supply. Every once in a while, especially in the summer, I’d extend invitations to preach in my stead, only to learn all my regular supply pastors were committed elsewhere (or were going to the same continuing ed event I was).

If this has happened to you, or if you are a council member or volunteer trying to coordinate pulpit supply for your church, you might find it helpful to know the synod keeps a pulpit supply list. This is accessible from the synod website by going to the home page, choosing the Leaders tab, then clicking on the provided link (Supply Pastor List). This list is updated regularly. In the last couple months, we have been able to add pastors for the north side of Houston and for the New Orleans area.

Sometimes, we get inquiries in the synod office about the appropriate compensation rates for supply pastors. This is posted on the synod’s website (on the same page as above) and is a combination of mileage reimbursement plus the number of services a supply pastor leads. Mileage is based on the IRS rate for 2019 of $0.58 cents per mile.

  • One worship service: $190, plus mileage
  • Two worship services: $250, plus mileage
  • Three worship services: $300, plus mileage

If you are interested in asking someone on this list to supply for a Sunday, you may contact them directly at the phone number or email they have provided. If you would like to invite one of the clergy from synod staff to preach at your church, you may call the synod office. You may also phone us if you have exhausted your possibilities for pulpit supply and need help.

If you are interested in serving as a supply pastor, you are invited to fill out the supply pastor form. Once your request is approved, your contact information will be added to the supply pastor list. If you are on the list but need to update your contact information, you may send us an email, and we will make any corrections you submit.

Blessings to you as you make a way for God’s people to hear and be challenged and changed by God’s Word.

Summer Stewardship Seeds

By Chris Markert, Bishop’s Associate for Mission

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”  –1 Corinthians 29:14

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  -Attributed to Albert Einstein

BountyIn the stewardship book Bounty by Kristine Miller and Scott McKenzie, there is a chapter called Stop the Insanity. In it, they give the following practical advice for those who want to increase the practice of generosity within their congregations:

  • Stop printing financial figures in the bulletin (or showing them by projection) each week; and stop dividing the budget by fifty-two to determine how much you need per week or month to balance the budget.  Income for churches never comes in fifty-two equal installments.  In many churches, as much as 15 percent of the annual income is received during the month of December. This can add to a mentality of scarcity, which creates anxiety.
  • Stop sending out the same financial letters to everyone, givers and non-givers alike. Start sending letters that are personalized with the people’s names and a thank you. As Miller and McKenzie write: “An identical letter treats everyone equally, but not fairly.” A form letter may not offend those who do not give, or give little, but may insult the tithers and most generous givers. For financial letters and statements, the authors suggest:
    • A personalized letter instead of a form letter;
    • The letter should begin with “Thank you”;
    • There should be a highlight of a ministry of the church and how it positively affects people’s lives;
    • After the thank-you and a ministry highlight, if a request is being made, that it be in the form of an invitation to prayerfully consider making a gift over and above an individual’s regular giving to support that particular ministry.
  • At least once a month use the offering time as an opportunity for personal witness from someone whose life has been positively impacted by a ministry of the church.
  • If your church has more than 20% debt, get help and put a plan in place to reduce the debt.
  • Teach children about giving and generosity. Don’t just give them bibles. Give them Give-Save-Spend piggy banks. Consider giving them pledge/commitment cards during stewardship campaigns and invite them to share their giving stories with the congregation.

Click here to learn more or to purchase the book Bounty.

The Rev. Chris Markert, OLF
Bishop’s Associate for Mission
ELCA Director for Evangelical Mission

Following the Light: A great story, a great endowment model in Dickinson, TX

By Lizbeth Johnson

January 3, 2019, Epiphany Sunday, was the day that Pastor Deb Grant retired after 37 years of ministry, 11 of them at Faith Lutheran in Dickinson, Texas. It was a very joyous Commissioned for retirementtime—she had structured it just so. The beautiful, newly refurbished sanctuary had just recently opened for services after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey over a year before, seeing only two Sunday services prior to her last service presiding as the pastor. There was much to celebrate on January 6, 2019.

So many wonderful moments filled the service, along with a sense of accomplishment for the congregation. Accomplishment in restoring what Hurricane Harvey had destroyed, and accomplishment in the spiritual restoration that occurred in tandem. A very astute pastor, Reverend Deb Grant knew the only way to regain traction was to move the discouraged and hurt congregation outward to ministry that would impact others. In addition to lifting spirits of the Faith Lutheran congregation with new ministry, the church was restored as a place of worship and their faith grew in new and different directions along the way. Throughout restoration, the congregation worshipped with the local Episcopal congregation together in unity as a strange and different, but powerful witness. This display of unity is evidence that faithfulness to God’s promises will yield fruit. The Episcopal pastor who welcomed the congregation to her church for worship after the storm, spoke this Sunday of the magi following the light of the star and being so transformed by seeing Christ that they changed their plans to return to Herod and went home a different way. All of us focused on the light of Christ are, as well, transformed by Christ as Faith Lutheran has been transformed by recent trials. The trials have only made the congregation stronger through growth in their struggles.

How does the endowment fit in? In May of 2017, the council heard a presentation about investing with the church (ELCA Foundation). Using their existing memorial fund money drawing little interest, they established an endowment to provide quarterly distributions for ministry year after year.  They learned that adding legacy gifts would increase the quarterly distribution amount and the interest earned would generate funds that would continue to bless through outreach and ministry fulfillment. Within a month of opening an account, Faith Lutheran received a legacy gift from a couple that went to be with the Lord almost at the same time—one after the other. They were recognized by the pastor for their generosity to the congregation and with the gift addition to the account, the quarterly distribution immediately grew.

Harvey hit in August of 2017. The entire campus was at least four feet underwater and in some places, deeper. As the gift planner who facilitated the endowment’s account, I participated in a clean-up day at the church, but my heart was broken with discouragement for them and sad because of how bleak the situation looked to a volunteer. Cleanup was slow and tedious.

The church council had voted to cancel their flood insurance before Harvey hit, but the final arrangements to dissolve the policy never happened and insurance coverage was left intact. Congregations from Colorado wanted to help in the cleanup and restoration by sending teams of volunteers to help. Generosity from across the country occurred as those churches followed the light—new hymnals from the northeast, books for the school from the southwest. Lutheran churches from around the country sent supplies and funds to help with restoration. In return, Faith Lutheran chose to give back. They sent funds to congregations in the Carolinas after their Hurricane as well as to California congregations after the wildfires. “How could we not give back when other congregations had been so generous to us?” Pastor Deb told a group exploring the idea of endowment benefits at last year’s Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod Assembly. That’s following the light of Christ.

TestimonialIn the midst of their own need, Faith Lutheran’s generosity to others always provided its own reward. At Pastor Deb’s reception after the worship service, I learned more about how the leadership was able to slowly refurbish the church and extend ministry at the same time. It was a lesson in how the council stayed focused on the light of Christ but met their own needs in a slow build-back process. The congregation decided not to deplete endowment funds but instead use the quarterly distributions that came from the endowment in two ways during those dark days of restoration. Half the distribution would go into necessary restoration or upgrades for the church, and half would be used for outreach ministry to others in need. Without doubt, the light will continue to guide them. I believe their endowment will continue to grow and provide for ministry.

Their story is a success story that needs to be told because they successfully established an endowment and have used it in a way that follows the light of Christ. Thank you, Pastor Deb Grant for your leadership and for reflecting the light of Christ in the restoration of the church building and new ministry for the congregation. Thank you for an opportunity to see how an endowment can support, sustain, and inspire in good, and not so good, times for a church if there is unity in following the light of Christ.