Report of the National Bishop to Convention forward looking

“We are not just a church and a communion that looks back to the events of our founding, we are a church that God is calling into a challenging and uncertain future, but with the promise that God’s hand is leading us and God’s spirit is guiding us,” said Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) National Bishop Susan C. Johnson in her report to delegates at the ELCIC’s 16th Biennial National Convention.

Bishop Johnson’s report on Thursday, July 6 featured highlights and updates from the past biennium, as well as reflections on the ELCIC’s emphasis on the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) theme adopted for the reformation, Liberated by God’s Grace, which the ELCIC has also used as its theme.

The ELCIC’s National Office strategic priorities formed the framework for the Bishop’s report. The National Office lives out the call to be a church In Mission for Others through four areas of focus identified by the ELCIC’s National Church Council and affirmed at the 2013 National Convention. These areas include: Spirited Discipleship, Compassionate Justice, Healthy Church and Effective Partnerships.

“This has been a time for us to realize that we have come of age as a church,” said Johnson. “We are not just a church and a communion that looks back to the events of our founding, we are a church that God is calling into a challenging and uncertain future, but with the promise that God’s hand is leading us and God’s spirit is guiding us.”

Johnson lifted up some of the major commitments the ELCIC continues to work on, including: reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, care for creation, peace in the Holy Land, homelessness and affordable housing, and responsible resource extraction.

Partnerships were a theme throughout Johnson’s report. “I know that I do not work alone, but rather I am part of a team of leadership across our church and with our partners,” she said. “For that shared leadership and collegial support, I give thanks to God.”

Johnson concluded her report by quoting Romans 5:5 and reflecting on her last 10 years as National Bishop. “Hope does not disappoint us,” she said. “I’ve learned this from being involved in The Lutheran World Federation and realizing we are not a small church! We are a medium size church… We are Liberated by God’s grace. We are blessed with a hope in Jesus Christ that will not disappoint us. We are being strengthened to meet the challenges ahead. We are called to be people of faith for people in need… we are a church In Mission for Others.”

The report of the National Bishop was received with a standing ovation by convention delegates.

A video of the Bishop’s Report to Convention is available online: https://youtu.be/2SsdSKRZcNM

Information and highlights from the ELCIC’s 16th Biennial National Convention are available online: www.elcic.ca/In-Convention/2017-Winnipeg

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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.

Material provided through ELCIC Information is intended for reproduction and redistribution by recipients in whatever manner they may find useful.

For more information, please contact:
Trina Gallop Blank, Director of Communications
600-177 Lombard Ave. Winnipeg MB R3B 0W5
204.984.9172
tgallop@elcic.ca

Subscribe or unsubscribe to ELCIC Information by emailing info@elcic.ca with a short message.

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Convention keynote addresses theme and subthemes

“God’s grace is given to us as a free and unconditional gift,” said Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, in his keynote address to delegates, special guests and visitors to the 16th Biennial National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

“The theme Liberated by God’s grace did not come out of our heads but was taken directly from the theological writings of Martin Luther,” said Bishop Younan, who offered a glimpse into his views on grace.

“We live in a world of wealth,” he said. “Everything costs and everything has a price. My relationship with God is not built on my merits but on liberation by God by grace through faith.”

“It is our responsibility to let the light of God’s free gift of grace shine for the sake of our neighbours.”

Salvation – Not for Sale

We have come a long way in 500 years, said Younan, “but there is still work to be done.”

“While we may like to think of slavery as a thing of the past,” he said, “the reality is the exploitation of workers is done in a quieter less visible way today. We can call them migrant workers, temporary workers or undocumented domestic help but in the end, it is still slavery.”

Pointing to the plight of the thousands of refugees that seek safety and welcome outside their war-torn countries, Bishop Younan thanked those who have lent a hand already but said more needs to be done.

“Many refugees are seen only as political commodities or considered to be economic liabilities.”

Human Beings – Not for Sale

The Bishop urged delegates to speak up for the human rights of all.

“God created all of us in God’s image,” he said. “Those who are liberated by God’s grace are those who are working for the dignity of human beings.”

Creation – Not for Sale

Creation is a gift from God, said Younan. “We did nothing to deserve such beauty, such diversity and such abundance.”

“We are all caretakers of the precious gift of our earthly home and of every creature that lives upon it,” he said. “This is God’s creation and human beings are to care for it. We are to tend to God’s beautiful garden.”

“If we are able to be like trees planted by the streams of living water, we must do our best to preserve the climate in which those waters flow,” said Younan.

The full version of Younan’s keynote address can be viewed online: https://youtu.be/HZeCgOrVjTw
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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.

Material provided through ELCIC Information is intended for reproduction and redistribution by recipients in whatever manner they may find useful.

For more information, please contact:
Trina Gallop Blank, Director of Communications
600-177 Lombard Ave. Winnipeg MB R3B 0W5
204.984.9172
tgallop@elcic.ca

Subscribe or unsubscribe to ELCIC Information by emailing info@elcic.ca with a short message.

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Planting a legacy for future generations

Situated exactly an hour southeast of the nation’s capital, the one-stoplight town of Williamsburg sits just north of the St. Lawrence River as one of the 31 communities within the municipality of South Dundas.

Although South Dundas Lutheran Community Church only sees an average weekly attendance of approximately 30, the church council decided to tackle two areas of the ELCIC’s Reformation Challenge and the congregation has responded very well.

Church secretary, Pamela Ropars, who – between multiple part time jobs, weekly church business, and the providing of help with her family’s dairy farm – worked on many of the details regarding the placing of members’ orders for the planting of 210 trees at a local tree farm.

“Regardless of our small size, our church council wanted to find ways in which to commemorate this momentous anniversary,” Ropars said. “So I prepared posters and newsletters informing that one of ELCIC’s goals was the planting of 500,000 trees this year. The members’ orders were noted down, and I placed an order for 210 trees at Ferguson Tree Farm in Kemptville, Ontario – close to where I live.”

But it isn’t just the planting of trees that South Dundas hopes to cover.

“We have also announced, through our Sunday bulletins, about members donating to help with scholarships, and we plan to have a fundraising Oktoberfest barbeque later on this year, with all funds raised to go towards the scholarships,” Ropars added. “We also have in the works, the preparation of a Church Directory, with a mention on the cover to acknowledge the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.”

Ropars and the rural congregation are not even done there. With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation fast approaching, there may even be more in the works coming out of the Seaway Ministry Area of the Eastern Synod.

“We may also be planning other events to fundraise and raise awareness of this special anniversary later on this year, especially around October 31st,” Ropars said. “Council and our Pastor, Rev. Moses Prashad, are doing their best to keep this very important year current in our members’ minds. So far, the planting of trees has been a multi-generational showing of support towards ELCIC and commemorating our 500th Reformation anniversary. It will be a great reminder to the younger generation throughout the decades of this commemoration.”

Find out more about the ELCIC Reformation Challenge here: www.elcic.ca/ReformationChallenge

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ELCICs first In Mission for Others Leadership Award recipient announced

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) is pleased to announce Donald Storch as the first recipient of the ELCIC In Mission for Others Leadership Award. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the life and work of the wider church.

Storch has been an active member in several ELCIC congregations in the British Columbia Synod and Synod of Alberta and the Territories, often serving on council and even as chair. In 1997, he was elected to National Church Council and served as secretary from 2001 until 2011. He is a former chair of both the Victorian Order of Nurses Foundation and its National Board. Storch was also the first president of the Lutheran Student Association – formerly Lutheran Student Movement, 1958.

The current Victoria, B.C. resident has dedicated significant time to helping out in the community – both through his professional work and his time spent volunteering. Storch, a former counsellor, mediator and educator, has facilitated many groups and led change processes in not-for-profit corporations and businesses. He is also well-known for his involvement in over 30 organizations dealing with law and health care goals, social welfare and family life. Storch was invested into the Order of Canada on April 7, 2010.

“I am really excited and pleased knowing that Don was selected,” said ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson. “I cannot think of a better person to be the first recipient of the ELCIC Leadership Award. He has a big heart, a great sense of humour and a love of people. Don is an excellent detail person and is very committed to doing his work.”

A call for nominations for the award was issued earlier in 2017. The ELCIC’s National Church Council voted by secret ballot to select this year’s recipient.

Storch says he was surprised to learn he was not only nominated but also chosen as this year’s recipient. “It’s always a pleasure to get a phone call from our National Bishop,” Storch said. “I actually had no idea that I was nominated! It is indeed quite an honor to be recognized by the ELCIC.”

Storch often finds himself looking back upon a certain line from his chosen confirmation verse –Joshua 24:15, “Choose you this day whom you will serve, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

“That verse has been a guide for me through all the years since confirmation,” he said. “My first thoughts after the surprise were that I wanted to thank those that nominated me. I then wanted to thank those who have mentored and guided me over the years – both lay and ordained – and my wife and family for their support as I was often away from home on Church Business. I give many thanks for being selected to receive this award.”

The ELCIC In Mission for Others Leadership Award will be presented to Don Storch at the 2017 ELCIC National Convention, which takes place July 6-8, 2017 in Winnipeg, MB.

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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.

Material provided through ELCIC Information is intended for reproduction and redistribution by recipients in whatever manner they may find useful.

For more information, please contact:
Trina Gallop Blank, Director of Communications
600-177 Lombard Ave. Winnipeg MB R3B 0W5
204.984.9172
tgallop@elcic.ca

Subscribe or unsubscribe to ELCIC Information by emailing info@elcic.ca with a short message.

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ELCIC National Bishop joins with Canadian faith leaders in a call to action to address famine crisis

National Bishop Susan C. Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada joins with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Baha’i faith leaders in Canada in a call for action to help address the famines in South Sudan and extreme food shortages in Yemen, northeast Nigeria and Somalia.

The letter, signed by faith leaders in Canada, calls on “communities and all Canadians to mobilize in response to one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises since the Second World World.” Read the full letter here: http://www.cccb.ca/site/images/stories/pdf/1_-_An_Interfaith_Appeal_from_Canadas_Faith_Communities.pdf

ELCIC members are encouraged to get involved in one of three ways:

  • Pray. Remember all those who are impacted by this devastating famine and include them in personal and community prayers. Pray for peace, for government leaders and for humanitarian workers in the region.
  • Give. The ELCIC, in partnership with Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR), calls on its members to respond through financial support to help meet the needs of drought-affected people through the promotion of climate resilient food production. Donations may be made through designated offerings for “Stop Famine Together” through any ELCIC congregation, by calling CLWR at 1-800-661-2597 to donate by credit card, or online at http://clwr.donorshops.com/product/9E06FCE/stopfaminetogether.php.
  • Speak out. Take the time to become better informed about the famine crisis, speak about it with family, friends and neighbours, discuss it with local community agencies, and contact your local Member of Parliament to communicate your concerns.

—————————————————————–
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.

Material provided through ELCIC Information is intended for reproduction and redistribution by recipients in whatever manner they may find useful.

For more information, please contact:
Trina Gallop Blank, Director of Communications
600-177 Lombard Ave. Winnipeg MB R3B 0W5
204.984.9172
tgallop@elcic.ca

Subscribe or unsubscribe to ELCIC Information by emailing info@elcic.ca with a short message.

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Congregational questionnaire inspires commitments

An Eastern Synod congregation of Newmarket, Ont. has stepped up to take on two areas of the ELCIC Reformation Challenge. The church – located just an hour’s drive north up the 404 from Toronto – has an average weekly attendance of approximately 50 and has already committed to plant over 1000 trees and sponsor at least one scholarship.

For Cherilyn Spraakman, a member of Holy Cross and the Chairperson of the Global Justice Team, the support from her congregation has been “utterly remarkable”.

“We had originally planned to raise funds for one scholarship throughout the congregation, but one day I received an email from a member who was willing to contribute one full scholarship,” Spraakman said. “I was just kind of blown away by the generosity. But because we have other people who will also be contributing towards a scholarship, we are sure that we will have more than one, going above and beyond our original commitment.”

The decision on which areas of the Reformation Challenge to cover came from a congregational questionnaire back in October. With a ‘majority rules’ system, the decision was made to donate one scholarship and plant 1000 trees.

“After initially reading about the Reformation Challenge in the Canada Lutheran, we on the Global Justice Team started talking about potential options for each of the four different areas,” Spraakman said. “None of us were really able to make a decision, so we decided to ask the congregation of what they wanted to support. The questionnaire was just a one pager – nothing fancy, ‘here is the Reformation Challenge and please indicate what you would like to support anonymously’. It worked really well for us!”

Holy Cross had previously been supporting the Augusta Victoria Hospital, while also digging deeper into the Palestinian schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). So the decision to sponsor a scholarship for the ELCJHL was one that sat very well within the church.

“I have really been influenced by the generosity and commitments of our congregation,” Spraakman said. “We intend on planting one tree in a nearby park, while a lot of our members have also suggested planting trees on their property. Many people in the church have already given gifts for planting in Ethiopia as well.”

Although the funds have already been raised, Holy Cross is still in the beginning stages of sorting out details with the Parks and Recreation Department in town as to how and when the church will be able to plant their special tree.

“The congregation has really been excited about the tree planting feature – maybe even more excited than the scholarships,” Spraakman said. “The scholarships for the Palestinian students will really go a long way, but also the help of Canadian Lutheran World Relief in our tree planting commitment is to be noted. There are a few rules in town as to what kind of tree can be planted, but we hope that that will be sorted out soon, and we can maybe even have a special planting ceremony!”

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ELCIC members encouraged to support Stop Famine Together appeal

More than 20 million people in South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria are facing a food crisis and in need of urgent humanitarian aid. In addition, the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, are facing their own hunger crises or are feeling the effects from their neighbours.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), through its partnership with Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR), calls on its members to respond through prayer and financial support to help meet the needs of drought-affected people through the promotion of climate resilient food production. 

In Ethiopia, CLWR is supporting small-scale farmers and pastoralists by constructing irrigation systems to improve food production. CLWR is developing a project in Uganda to meet the food and nutrition needs of South Sudanese refugees who are experiencing malnutrition.

Today, the Government of Canada announced that for every eligible donation made by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities between March 17 and June 30, 2017, it will contribute an equivalent amount to the Famine Relief Fund. 

The Humanitarian Coalition, a national coalition comprised of seven agencies that are responding to the food crisis—of which CLWR is a member—has launched a joint fundraising campaign: “Stop Famine Together.” We invite your support for our response to the food crisis.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the food crisis,” says Rev. Susan C. Johnson, ELCIC National Bishop. “I have visited some of these regions and have seen first hand the devastating effects of the lack of rain, land erosion, and the scarcity of proper irrigation systems. It is important that we assist our sisters and brothers by responding generously to this appeal.” 

Donations can be made as follows:

  • Making a designated offering donation for “Stop Famine Together” through any ELCIC congregation.

  • Sending a cheque made payable to CLWR and mailed to CLWR, 600-177 Lombard Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3B 0W5. Please indicate that you wish to contribute to “Stop Famine Together.” 

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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.

Material provided through ELCIC Information is intended for reproduction and redistribution by recipients in whatever manner they may find useful.

For more information, please contact:

Trina Gallop Blank, Director of Communications

600-177 Lombard Ave. Winnipeg MB R3B 0W5
204.984.9172
tgallop@elcic.ca

Subscribe or unsubscribe to ELCIC Information by emailing info@elcic.ca with a short message.

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Creative Commemoration

You’ve heard of Martin Luther. Now let the people of Augsburg Lutheran Church in Brampton, Ontario introduce you to Martin Mooser.

In conjunction with the ELCIC Reformation Challenge, the congregation of Augsburg Lutheran – located in the GTA West Ministry Area in the Eastern Synod – got themselves a moose to help remind their members to stay involved giving-wise in the commemoration of the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Okay, it may not have been an actual living, breathing moose, but the brown, stuffed plush toy has done its part to help raise awareness within the church.

Rev. Nadine Nicholds, pastor of Augsburg Lutheran, and GTA West Area Dean is very supportive of the efforts made in her congregation that are reflective of the Reformation Challenge’s many goals.

“Our members are really happy that we are able to contribute, and it is just an added bonus that it can be a part of the Reformation Challenge,” Rev. Nicholds says. “For the most part, our congregation is really on board and excited with all of the things going on here as of late. To stay focused on the goal, the Sunday school decided to get a moose; they call him Martin Mooser! The Sunday School is also emphasizing that the reason we are raising this money is not only for funds going towards a scholarship, but also to commemorate the Reformation anniversary. That really helps the kids understand the big picture.”

Augsburg Lutheran is currently involved in three of the four Reformation Challenge areas.

“In addition to the Sunday school raising money for a scholarship for students in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, we are also in the process of trying to get some trees planted,” says Rev. Nicholds. The congregation planted a memorial tree in honour of a longtime member who had had a love for gardening.  

In 2016, the congregations of Augsburg Lutheran and fellow GTA West member, St. Philip’s Lutheran decided to pair up to co-sponsor a refugee family of two. After confirming the details, the two congregations received quite the surprise.

“We basically just said to Canadian Lutheran World Relief that we would take the first available couple,” explains Rev. Nicholds. “So after applying for what we thought was a family of two, it turned out that it was a family of five!”

Following conversations with the two churches, it was clear that both congregations were “easily a hundred percent on board” and had the resources to support the family.

“Everybody’s top priority seemed to be sponsoring refugees, so when we very specifically said that we will be raising money to sponsor a refugee family, everyone was very excited to be a part of that” she reflects. “Our two churches are only about 25 kilometres apart, so it works. The family has been here for over half a year now and we are learning together. Obviously both congregations have different strengths, but we are working together to help the family get settled with English lessons and get the kids settled into school.”

Although spearheading all three Reformation Challenge involvements, Rev. Nicholds is quick to dodge the spotlight, suggesting that much like St. Philip’s Lutheran, it was really the members of the congregation that helped keep the ball rolling on all three endeavours.

“In all honesty, all I really did was suggest it and continue to pursue it,” she said. “Both churches got on board quickly with the refugee part, and even though the other missional work is for something so far down the road, I have been thoroughly impressed with how involved the congregations have been. We got lots of pledges and it was excellent how quickly we raised money. I think that helping this family is the priority, and the Reformation Challenge brought this option to our attention. It might not be why we are helping, but it’s just an added bonus that we get to help in both regards.”

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Montreal Lutheran congregations commemorate Reformation anniversary with several major events

The month of May is expected to be a very busy time for those with ties to the local Lutheran scene in Montreal. As Rev. Dr. Matthew Anderson tells, a well-known musical act will hit the stage in early May in a fundraising effort, while a reformation conference is scheduled for the following two days.

“We have ourselves an incredibly busy few days in May to help mark the reformation,” Anderson said. “On May 7th, Connie Kaldor – who is a Canadian folk singer that grew up singing in a Lutheran choir, but is now a folk singer – will be performing in Montreal’s West Island. Then the next two days we host our big Reformation in the City Conference, featuring scholars from Helsinki, the United States and all over. The conference will be a joint initiative of Concordia and McGill Universities – definitely something to be excited about.”

Later in the year, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will also be putting on a special event to commemorate the anniversary of the Reformation and the coming together of The Lutheran World Federation and Roman Catholic Church in Lund, October 2016 – an event that highlighted 50 years of continuous ecumenical dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics and the joint gifts of this collaboration.

“One of our local pastors is quite plugged in to the music scene in Montreal,” Rev. Dr. Anderson said. “He has helped to arrange for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra to play a reformation-themed concert, which will be introduced by the director of the MSO, Mr. Kent Nagano – an internationally known symphony director.”  

In focusing on the ELCIC Reformation Challenge, two of Rev. Dr. Anderson’s congregations – Montreal based St. Michael’s Finnish, and St. John’s Estonian – have already made significant donations towards tree planting in Palestine and to scholarships for students in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).

“The way that the Reformation Challenge has worked out in Montreal has kind of taken several different tracks,” Anderson said. “Some churches are trying to raise money with events, while others are giving money directly to the national church through the synod. So for smaller congregations like St. Michael’s and St. John’s that aren’t able to actually host a big event, they have given a direct donation. Those two congregations have already donated seven thousand dollars to scholarships and the planting of olive trees.”

 “When I presented the Reformation Challenge to both congregations, they said that they were interested in being involved, so that got me very excited. Looking back, it probably seemed like I was pushing the scholarship idea, but they ended up liking that idea anyways,” he reflected. “It also helped that I informed them that Bishop Younan [of the ELCJHL] spent time studying theology in Helsinki. I know that they would have given their money anyway, but they were definitely appreciative to know of the Finnish connection. Also, one of the speakers from the Reformation in the City Conference just so happens to be a Finnish scholar and is going to be giving a talk to them along with a concert in May.”

Not only does the Reformation Challenge hit home for the Finnish and Estonian congregations of St. Michael’s and St. John’s in Montreal, but fittingly, it also strikes a chord in Rev. Dr. Anderson’s heart as well.

“As I also teach Biblical studies at Concordia University, I was in the Holy Land in 2009 on a study tour,” he said. “After spending a week in the West Bank with that study tour, when I saw the Reformation Challenge came out with the option for scholarships for Palestinian students, I just immediately thought that it was a great idea and I wanted to support it. I think that the Reformation Challenge is a really positive way of commemorating the reformation. The way that it has been set up has allowed us to mark this event in a very positive way. It helps us look forward to the future, and not just back to the past, which I think is just a wonderful thing.”

Further information on the events in Montreal can be found here: http://montreal-lutheran.org/2017Luther500/index.html

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From pine cones to planting trees

It didn’t a lot of convincing to get members of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Dunbar, Ontario on board with the ELCIC Reformation Challenge, and specifically the initiative around tree planting.
 
Situated an hour south of Ottawa, and just north of the St. Lawrence River and the ever-populous 401 highway, the small 100-house community of Dunbar has experienced significant tree loss over the past few years.
 
“It is typically considered ‘dangerous’ when you get below 30 percent of land covered with trees,” said Rev. Jo Barkley-Probst, pastor of St. Luke’s. “Right now, our area is down to about 13 percent tree cover, and they are still cutting down trees. Farmers are cutting back trees from our area all the way to the 401; it’s like the pioneer days with everyone clearing land. Even the wildlife has nowhere to go.”
 
In early February of 2016, the Ontario congregation decided to participate in the ELCIC Reformation Challenge by raising at least $500 to go towards the Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR)-Lutheran World Federation project to plant 150,000 tree seedlings in Lalibela, Ethiopia. Fundraising began on Reformation Sunday, and by early December, the $500 goal was reached. With an average service attendance of 17, the rural congregation remarkably met its goal in less than two months. By Christmas Eve, $600 had been raised for the planting of trees in Africa.
 
Near the beginning of the new year, one of the church’s members gave an impassioned presentation about the rapid deforestation going on in the local region. This prompted the congregation to support a motion to get started on a local tree-planting initiative, working in partnership with the South Nation Conservation Authority.
 
“The Conservation Authority was created when the level of trees reached 30 percent,” Barkley-Probst said. “As our local issue become well-known, those in positions of power feared for the ecosystem, so they established the conservation authority. But unfortunately they haven’t been able to stop it from happening here, as we are currently down to below 15 percent. Just hearing those numbers really influenced our decision to get on board with this.”
 
In an effort to take a stand against the removal of trees locally, Barkley-Probst and his congregation have already taken the appropriate steps in dealing with the issues found at home. 
 
“We have some land here behind the church that we plan to use for planting, and there are other families in the congregation that also have available land,” he said. “Even if we can just buy some smaller deciduous trees, and have members take them home to plant, we would be making steps in the right direction. Obviously, this is still something that we are just beginning to work on and figure out the logistics of it all. This year has been a lot of planning, but next year we will be doing the implementation.”
 
Although showing much pleasure with his congregation’s donations and their willingness to help out with local planting, Barkley-Probst knew exactly what he was getting into with his “extremely generous bunch.”
 
“Just last year we gave away over a third of our yearly budget,” he said. “It is a very, very generous congregation; if you ask for anything, they will go over the top. Much like this initiative, in which we asked for $500 dollars in a year, and they raised $600 in less than two months. Over the years, we have raised close to $30,000 for CLWR through our yearly global hunger barbeques, and have more recently begun what we like to call a ‘hymn fest’ that helps raise money for the local foodbank.”
 
In typical St. Luke’s fashion, the congregation helped think up many creative ways to monitor and track their donations towards the tree planting fundraiser.
 
Upon the promise of Barkley-Probst to create a display to help with the fundraising efforts, one of the church’s younger members brought in a large bag of pine cones from her property and suggested that the pine cones could be used as a representation of trees for the display.
 
After a handful of ideas were considered, a two-dimensional wall display was created. Small tree stickers from a local craft store were used to represent the number of trees the congregation had provided through their donations. Each tree sticker represented 10 trees, and the bag of pine cones was left under the wall display. Those making donations towards the $500 goal were directed to either take one or more pine cones home as a token of appreciation, or to feed them to the squirrels who could in turn plant some trees of their own.
 
“I really appreciated the physical pine cone aspect, it brings real life into this concept” Barkley-Probst said. “A congregation of our size just didn’t have the resources to sponsor a family [another area of the ELCIC Reformation Challenge], so we just looked at the various ideas, and the planting of trees seemed to be the area that was easy enough to promote. I knew that our people would get behind it. Who knew that all it would take was some pine cones and little bit of construction paper!”

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