From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutheran Services in America 'Joined at the Heart'

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date 19 Apr 2000 14:32:20


April 19, 2000


     CLEVELAND (ELCA) -- The theme of the 2000 conference of Lutheran
Services in America (LSA), "Joined at the Heart," will serve the
organization for years to come.  About 400 participants heard the
theology behind the slogan and received a videotape which "touched their
hearts" at the annual conference here March 29-April 1.
     "We invite you to make 'Joined at the Heart' the centerpiece of
your organization," said Joanne Negstad, LSA president and CEO, St.
Paul, Minn.
     LSA is one of the largest human service networks in the United
States and Caribbean.  Its 296 social ministry organizations, in
alliance with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, form a national network of social
service and long-term care programs, providing more than $3 billion in
services in 3,000 communities each year.
     "We have an incarnate God," said Hal Dragseth, president, Seraphim
Communications, St. Paul, Minn.  God became a human being, Jesus Christ,
who experienced much of the pain which social ministry organizations
work to alleviate, he said.
     This connection between the life of Jesus and the lives of those
served was the inspiration behind a videotape Dragseth produced, "Joined
at the Heart," which accompanied hundreds of resource kits distributed
at the conference.  Each kit included a bookmark with the lyrics of a
song Dragseth wrote specifically for the video, a 30-page booklet and
discussion guide, and other materials to present the theme in the public
media and among agency staff and board members.
     "As you deal with the day to day, we must remember these are
sacred moments for the people served," said Dragseth.  "I have a lot of
respect for the work of social ministry organizations."
     The videotape may help people "discuss core values without talking
'churchy,'" said Dragseth.  It spotlights the stories of residents,
clients and "front-line" staff in a "plain and direct" manner, he said.
     All staff members of Lutheran social ministry organizations are
not Lutheran or even Christian, but the videotape presents the
commitment they share through their work, said Roberta Nestas, executive
director, Lutheran Social Services of Washington and Idaho, Seattle.
"This will affirm their work" regardless of their religious background,
she said.
     The Rev. James M. Childs Jr., dean of academic affairs and
professor of theology and ethics, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus,
Ohio, produced the kit's booklet, "What it Means to Be Lutheran in
Social Ministry."  In a conference workshop, he said the booklet
outlines "the anatomy of Lutheran identity."
     "Being Lutherans in social ministry is to be part of a history ...
history shot through with meaning," said Childs.  Social ministry is at
the heart of the Lutheran church -- around the world -- and has been for
centuries, he said.
     "It's important for the church to recognize how social ministry
supports its mission in the world," Childs said.  "At the heart of this
relationship is the mission of Jesus Christ."
     Lutheran theology illustrates "the freedom to be 'joined at the
heart' to other people in need," said Childs.  "I'm always surprised by
how the grace of God works through this church and its agencies."
     "Because God first loved us ... the heart of God dwells within us.
Now, what are we going to do with it?" the Rev. David D. Buegler, St.
Paul Lutheran Church (LCMS), Westlake, Ohio, asked during the
conference's opening worship service.  "What does it mean to kneel
before the God of the universe and be joined with him and his heart?"
     The agencies of the church join the hearts of Christians with the
hearts of other Christians and with the hearts of those who are hurting,
and they join those hearts to the heart of God, said Buegler.  The
church is "managing all the gifts of God ... managing the very heart of
God," he said.  "Being a steward of the heart of God takes humility,
     "Our love and care for each other is unconditional." the Rev.
David H. Benke, president, LCMS Atlantic District, Bronxville, N.Y.,
told the conference.  "This is how we know we are Lutheran."  The
unconditional love of God is central to Lutheran theology, he said.
     "The mission of God to the world has top priority," said Benke.
"The middle of the universe is the altar and font," he said, and the
social ministry organizations are "where the common vision and common
mission come together."
     The Rev. Marcus J. Miller, bishop of the ELCA's Northeastern Ohio
Synod, Akron, took the closing worship service's congregation on a
"virtual tour" of Cleveland, describing the neighborhoods in which
various Lutheran social ministry organizations work.  "We deal with
people they way they are," he said.
     "This is not an arm of the church, not a ministry of the church.
This is the church," said Miller.  "Through Jesus, God deals with the
world and deals with you and gives you God's heart."
-- -- --
     The Web site for Lutheran Services in America is at

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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