Message from Bishop Gronberg
Dear Partners in Mission:
Monday May 25th we as a nation recognize Memorial Day. Observed since the end of the Civil War as “Decoration Day” it became a national holiday in 1971. It is a day we remember those who gave, in Lincoln’s words, the “last full measure of devotion” to their nation and their comrades. Tradition held that on this day families and neighbors would go and decorate the graves of loved ones, particularly those who had fallen in service. So today we remember all who in service to their nation gave their lives and in so doing we fulfill the promise that their sacrifice will not be forgotten.
One cannot help but note that this year’s Memorial Day commemorations are different. The COVID-19 crisis has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, changed us and impacted every facet of our lives and these changes come quickly and with intense feeling. Friday afternoon May 22, 2020 was such a moment. Filled with news about our President, essential services, public gatherings, and how that impacts houses of worship. Partisan sides were quickly drawn and the news traveled so fast within 18 hours I received email from Bishop Moses Kobba Momoh in Sierra Leone with concern we had sufficient precautions in place to enable such in-person worship be held safely. I am grateful for his pastoral concern for you given the work the ELCSL has done fighting Ebola and continues to do in this crisis. Their wisdom and accompaniment is a reminder that we are not alone in this work. From conversations I have had I know you take this very seriously and have responded faithfully to our duty to serve the most vulnerable in our midst.
The church is not and has never been closed. You are at worship and work in many and various ways, adapting to the opportunities and challenges of our time. For your maturity and patience I am grateful. You will come together in-person when your leaders have conferred and prayerfully discerned it is contextually prudent and wise within our Lutheran understanding of Christian freedom as duty to neighbor. On this memorial day that understanding of duty to neighbor is vital. Remembering the sacrifice of lives given by men and women in service to their nation should encourage in us to sober and reverent evaluation of any sacrifices we might be asked to make.
I have seen in social media and other outlets complaints wondering why congregations might choose not to worship in-person while shopping malls and restaurants open. This helpful article discusses various levels of risk by activity. It reminds us that risk is impacted by the amount of time, number of people, use of facial masks, and location (indoor vs. outdoor). Church worship services, in the way you are accustomed to experiencing them, are higher risk activities because of their location (usually indoors), activity (including singing), and the time spent in one space with the same people. In order to reduce that risk many of our NT-NL congregations, drawing on the guidance given by our TX/LA bishops in April and continuously updated, have put extensive and thoughtful plans in place that reflect your context and community. I appreciate the seriousness with which you have taken this work and I am grateful for your focus on the health and well-being of vulnerable populations, honoring those who have died in this pandemic, and partnering with front-line healthcare workers to not overwhelm our hospital capacity.
Duty to neighbor also means we as the church must be intentional about raising up leaders for the work of proclaiming the gospel. These leaders are both lay and ordained and serve in a number of capacities. NT-NL has for many years made leadership development a priority and we are experiencing the fruits of that emphasis. The Escuela Secundaria de Educación Teológica (ESET)/Secondary School of Theological Education (SSTE) is one of those fruits.
This week’s Zoom interview features NT-NL pastors Edy Santos and Gus Vinajeras as well as Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod pastor Alvaro Nova who have helped pilot this program. As they describe the program is intended as a bridge between our very successful parish lay ministry academy and seminary education. To provide competency based education for lay leaders to serve in their current contexts or consider future study and leadership opportunities. This program developed in partnership with NT-NL, A-Ok synods and Wartburg and LSTC seminaries and is an innovation being recognized and noted across our church including in the ELCA Churchwide Synod Assembly Video that was released this month (if you are impatient skip to 3:35 in the video to see Bishop Patricia Lull from St. Paul handing off the baton to our DEM Pastora Irma Banales). NT-NL is innovating and leading.
Join Us This Thursday with Portico
Please join us for our regular Thursday morning prayer/check-in call for NT-NL leaders on Thursday, May 28, at 10am. We will be joined by our representative from Portico (ELCA Benefits Provider) Deacon Terri Endres. She will be highlighting existing and new resources from Portico specifically related to COVID-19. These include reminders about wellness and mental health resources as well.
Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 686 256 906
The Holy Trinity Sunday (June 7) Sermon
ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will record a sermon, which you can include in your worship service(s) on Sunday, June 7, The Holy Trinity. The video will be available to view and download on May 31 at YouTube.com/ELCA and Vimeo.com/ELCA. Bishop Eaton will read the gospel appointed for this day prior to the sermon. Local decisions can be made to use the reading on the video or invite another person to read the gospel instead.
ELCA Worship will provide a resource that includes texts for a Service of the Word, appointed readings, corporate Prayers of Intercession, and hymn and song suggestions. You may adapt and use this resource to produce online worship offerings to surround Bishop Eaton’s sermon. This material will be available on May 26.
ELCA Worship will continue to provide “Worship in the Home” via the ELCA Worship blog (blogs.ELCA.org/Worship) for those who make use of these resources for individual/family home devotions each week. On June 7, “Worship in the Home” will include a link to watch Bishop Eaton’s sermon as part of these home devotions.
Featured Resources for May
May is Mental Health (Awareness) Month
There are a number of trusted organizations who have quality mental health resources:
May 6 is World Maternal Mental Health Day
Save the Date
ELCA Global Mission invites you to join a contemplative prayer service:
Invitation to a Global Companion Prayer Service
Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 1pm Central
For the Healing of the Nations will speak specifically to this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, our anxieties and stress, and calling for God’s hope, comfort, and healing.
Participating in the leadership of this contemplative prayer service will be some of our synod and companion church colleagues, who will offer prayers of intercession.
This will be an online event. This service will be approximately 45 minutes in length and will be recorded.
Afterwards, a PDF file of the service will be made available on the Global Mission webpage (https://elca.org/Resources/Global-Mission) to use in your own settings / gatherings.
Please light a candle and join us in this global effort to pray together for the healing of the world.
You may use this link or call into these numbers to join the webinar:
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Webinar ID: 812 0510 6222
International numbers available: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/knhu3rmZ9
Recent Blog Posts
(https://www.ntnl.org/may-19-a-busy-tuesday-conversations-about-in-person-worship/ – published May 19)
(https://www.ntnl.org/gratitude-for-martin-junge-lwf-general-secretary/ – published May 19)
(https://www.ntnl.org/reality-of-fall-from-our-partners-at-paul-quinn-college/ – published May 21)
(https://www.ntnl.org/dallas-area-interfaith-and-judge-jenkins-zoom-life/ – published May 21)
(https://www.ntnl.org/religious-freedom-01/ – published May 24)
Where in the world is?
Based on recommendations from public health officials, and to live out our call to love and protect “the least of these,” Bishop Gronberg, Pastor Totzke, and Pastora Bañales are suspending all congregational visits, in-person meetings, and travel until further notice. They will continue to meet with individuals and groups online. Though many buildings are closed, the church is all of us, and ministry continues.
With the ever-changing guidelines and recommendations in our world right now, as we maintain physical distance in social solidarity, please keep in mind these events may be moved online, postponed, or cancelled:
- May 26: Holy Hollywood for NT-NL Young Adults, Zoom
- May 27: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders, Zoom
- May 28: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- May 31: For the Healing of the Nations – Invitation to a Global Companion Prayer Service, Zoom
- Jun. 3: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders, Zoom
- Jun. 4: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Jun. 7-11: Vital Congregations – Vital Communities: Building Leadership Capacity for Latinx Ministries, Austin, TX
- Jun. 10: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders, Zoom
- Jun. 11: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Jun. 13: Public Witness Team meeting, Arlington, TX
- Jun. 17: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders, Zoom
- Jun. 18: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Jun. 24: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders, Zoom
- Jun. 25: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
Access our full online Calendar here. Updates made regularly.
Do you have news or announcements to share? Please submit to Jason (firstname.lastname@example.org) for consideration for upcoming NT-NL News.