As we journey towards the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, ELCIC members and congregations have been sharing their stories of mission and hope through their involvement in the ELCIC Reformation Challenge.
One such missional story comes from Rev. Bruce Gelhorn and the congregation of Grace Lutheran Church in Winnipeg, of the Manitoba Northwestern Ontario Synod.
“When we first received the Reformation Challenge invite from the National Office, I felt as though this was something that our church would be able to really help support and embrace,” Gelhorn said. “I am pleased that in just a few months of time, we have been able to contribute towards three focal points: refugees, scholarships and trees.”
Contributing towards three areas of the Reformation Challenge is no easy task either. Under the guidance of Gelhorn, Grace Lutheran has already been able to sponsor three refugees, donate five scholarships and plant many trees in honour of the ELCIC’s latest project. One member – as Gelhorn pointed out – even took the initiative to dedicate the 24 saplings that he planted at his cottage towards the Reformation Challenge.
“I suggested to our members that they consider gathering together with family and friends and planting a tree,” Pastor Gelhorn said. “Then we would ask of them to take a picture beside it and we would post it up in an effort to raise awareness throughout the church. We actually had one member plant 24 saplings at his cottage. We popped his picture up on our slideshow before a service began back in late fall. It’s obviously winter now, so next spring we will encourage people again to gather family and friends together to plant more trees, and hopefully generate more in that regard as well.”
So how did all of this good work begin at Grace Lutheran Church?
“I lifted up the challenges to the congregation on Reformation Sunday through a pictoral sermon,” Gelhorn said. “We went to Europe a few years back, so I showed pictures and talked about where Luther was born and baptized. I ended up doing a bit of a Luther history in a sense. From there I continued on talking about the 500th anniversary and the Reformation Challenge, and then I lifted up the four areas to cover.”
But it wasn’t just in front of his congregation where Bruce urged action towards the ELCIC’s project. He made sure to stay adamantly involved behind the scenes as well.
“So after already agreeing to put money aside for a refugee family and talking about the importance of planting trees, I decided to look into how we might be able to support the other areas,” Gelhorn said. “I knew that we had some money sitting in our memorial fund, so at our November council meeting I proposed that we give 15 percent of that money to the Reformation Challenge. Originally I suggested that we split it evenly between the scholarships portion and the Lutheran World Federation. But we ultimately decided that we felt that the scholarships area could use the most help, so we decided to put all of our money into scholarships for five students.”
Although still waiting upon the arrival of their refugee family, Grace Lutheran Church can be joyful in the fact that they have already contributed five scholarships towards students in the ELCJHL, and are actively pursuing the planting of trees for the Reformation Challenge. And if Rev. Bruce Gelhorn gets his way about it, donating to the LWF isn’t as much of a longshot as it may have initially appeared.
“I still would like Grace to be able to contribute towards all four areas, but for now we are really pleased with what we have been able to accomplish so far.”