Reformation Sunday 2016 saw the congregation of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Red Deer, Synod of Alberta and the Territories, planting a new tree as a symbol of their community’s commitment to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s (ELCIC) Reformation Challenge. The congregation has kicked off its 500th anniversary commemorations by emphasizing the challenge as a missional priority in the coming year.
Rev. Dr. Marc Jerry of Good Shepherd – who is also a member of the ELCIC’s National Church Council – expressed his delight and appreciation for what his church has been able to accomplish already. “We wanted, as a whole church, to do something very significant for the world in order to commemorate this historic anniversary,” Pastor Marc said.
“The Reformation Challenge has four specific goals: to support 500 refugees, to support 500 scholarships for students in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), to plant 500,000 trees (either locally, or worldwide in Ethiopia or Palestine through Canadian Lutheran World Relief), and to raise $500,000 to support the Lutheran World Federation Endowment Fund,” he noted. “What is significant about these ambitious goals is that it embodies what it means for us to have a national expression of the church. That is, no one congregation in the ELCIC is likely to meet these lofty goals, but as a National Church we, together, can meet these goals. That’s what it means to have a national church – it is where we can accomplish good work in the world together, that we may otherwise not be able to do individually.”
With the help of many generous donors, church groups and sponsors, the ELCIC has already surpassed their goal of 500 sponsored refugees. To date, the Reformation Challenge has been responsible for 524 new Canadians.
Chris Knelson, a church council member at Good Shepherd, and chair of the Reformation500 committee, pointed out that his congregation has, and will be engaging in a number of activities throughout the year. Already, Good Shepherd’s confirmation class of 14 students held a servant auction immediately following the Reformation Day service. Over $500 was raised as the youth donated their time for work projects in the community that members bid on. Good Shepherd’s youth also raised another $300 for the reformation challenge as part of their annual cookie walk event. The Sunday School is also planning to raise money for the ELCJHL scholarships.
“We hope that the Reformation Challenge will continue to be our focus for this year’s missional work, Knelson said. “We are looking at making the challenge part of our Lenten discipline programming. In the spring we hope to hold an outdoor service in the local community nature centre in Red Deer, followed by a tree planting event of up to 1000 new trees.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 114,592 baptized members in 525 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.
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