by Charlotte Haberaecker, President & CEO, Lutheran Services in America
Being part of this broader faith community called Lutheran means that our work in social ministry has longstanding connections with the Church. LSA is aligned with two national Lutheran Church bodies, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). This affiliation takes shape through our bylaws, our Board of Directors and our members, who are affiliated with or recognized by one or both Church bodies. Our members are very closely connected with their Synods, Districts and congregations in their communities.
At a local level, this connection takes shape in many exciting and meaningful ways. I'm reminded of a visit last November to one of our LSA members, Immanuel Community Services in Seattle, in an area of the country which is known for the highest number of people who consider themselves "unchurched," or not currently connected with a congregation or faith group.
What I experienced at Immanuel Community Services was a program for recovering substance abusing men where the church congregation and leadership (the program is physically located at the church) and the men in the program work closely together to make sure they get their lives back on track and are able to live independently not only while they're in the program but longer term as well.
The week following my visit was Thanksgiving and the men were already busy preparing a turkey dinner for the church—and the church members were in charge of bringing the side dishes. And I thought: this is the 21st Century Lutheran potluck. And this is the Church in action.
"This is the 21st Century Lutheran potluck."
Social Ministry and its Connection with the Broader Community
Many times, "Church in the world" takes us to places where you might not expect to find us in the community. In St. Paul, Minnesota, our LSA member Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota has a place called the Center for Changing Lives, where we welcome and serve people in the community in a variety of ways, including a Somali day care center that serves the large community in the area of resettled Somalian refugees. Also in Minnesota, our member Fairview Health Services provides health care in mosques in the community, to reach more people in need of services. In the heart of Brooklyn, New York, NYU Lutheran (formerly Lutheran Healthcare, also a member of the LSA network), has created a safe and welcoming haven for their incredibly diverse community, where people from Latin America, China, Russia, the Middle East and more can count on receiving health care in a way that honors their cultures and meets their needs.
What does it mean to be part of a larger faith community called Lutheran?
The vision of LSA is a network of connected, strong and thriving Lutheran social ministries that transform lives and communities. I invite you to join us as we connect with each other; the church; and the community – because we are truly stronger together than individually.
Almost daily, I am reminded of those men in Seattle who are working to repair their lives and strengthen their community and how the simple acts of preparing a meal and sharing grace together can crystallize the gifts and the gratitude that have been bestowed on us. This time of year, our blessings are unusually close to our hearts, and our thoughts turn readily to those around us who are in need of faith, hope and mercy.
Please join me in prayer for all those who are served by Lutheran social ministry and who have been called to serve through the work of our network, which touches the lives of 1 in 50 people in the U.S. each year. As we bow our heads in prayer, we thank our Heavenly Father not just for our daily bread but for the many ways in which we have been blessed.
If you would like to help ensure that the work of Lutheran social ministry can continue, please visit our Donate page.