From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Secretary Addresses Assembly, Emphasizes Anniversaries

Date Wed, 13 Aug 2003 18:11:44 -0500


August 13, 2003

ELCA Secretary Addresses Assembly, Emphasizes Anniversaries

      (ELCA) -- The Rev. Lowell G. Almen, secretary of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), addressed
voting members at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, emphasizing the
importance of anniversaries within congregational life.
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 11-17 at the Midwest Airlines
Center.  There are about 2,100 people participating, including
1,031 ELCA voting members.  The theme for the biennial assembly
is "Making Christ Known: For the Healing of the World."
     "They can serve as reminders of our continuity in the faith
from generation to generation," Almen said.
     "Anniversaries also can widen our vision for current mission
needs and opportunities," he said.  "God continues to call us as
a church."
     "Moreover, anniversaries, as reminders of God's grace, can
foster in us renewed awareness of the commission to pass on the
faith to those who will come after us," Almen said.
     During his address, Almen spoke about Zion Lutheran Church,
Hollidaysburg, Pa., which is celebrating its 200th anniversary
this year.  Almen told of the Rev. Frederick Hass, a pastor who
traveled throughout Pennsylvania baptizing children, performing
marriages and conducting memorial services in the early 1800s.
     Almen spoke about the difficulties the Zion Lutheran
congregation faced.  "The congregation was not without its
problems and controversies," he said.  "Indeed, the story of this
congregation -- like so many others -- reflects, at times,
tensions over worship patterns and theological trends."
     Moving through the history of the congregation in his
report, Almen said pastors left the Zion Lutheran congregation,
funds were tight and, during the Civil War, the congregation was
touched by sorrow.
     "The life and work of this congregation continued," Almen
said.  He said that the people of the church have continued to
worship and move forward, even through trial.
     "From the doorways of Zion Lutheran Church, people here have
reached their arms around the world for the sake of the gospel,"
Almen said.
     During his report, Almen also spoke of other congregations
with anniversaries this year.  He said there are only four ELCA
congregations that have been in existence 300 years or longer.
He said these include Zion Lutheran Church, Athens, N.Y., 300
years; First Lutheran Church, Albany, N.Y., 354 years; Frederick
Lutheran Church, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, 337 years; and
New Hanover Lutheran Church, New Hanover, Pa., 303 years.
     He said about half of the ELCA congregations are less than a
century old: 2,744 are 51 to 100 years old; 2,112 are 26 to 50
years old; 815 are one to 25 years old; and 121 are in the
process of becoming new congregations.
     Almen said that congregations identify their contextual
settings in this way:  30 percent or 3,062 ELCA congregations are
in the rural countryside; 20 percent or 2,059 are in towns of
10,000 or fewer people; 1 percent or 1,317 congregations are in
small cities of 10,000 to 50,000 people; 20 percent or 2,084
congregations in cities of 50,000 or more people; and 17 percent
or 1,725 congregations are in suburban locations.
     "Regardless of the setting or situation, each congregation
shares a common bond and profound mutual commitment as part of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America," he said.
     ELCA congregations are bonded together, Almen said.  "We are
united, even amid the diversity of the histories, settings and
styles of more than 10,000 congregations of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America," he said.
     Almen also addressed the six basic purposes of the ELCA.
Those six purposes are: to proclaim God's saving gospel, to carry
out Christ's great commission, to worship God, to nurture members
in the word of God for their calling in daily life, to serve in
response to God's love in meeting human needs, and to manifest
the unity given to the people of God.
     It is important in the mission of the church to be guided by
biblical and confessional commitments of the church.  It is also
important to recognize "that mission efforts must be shaped by
both local needs and global awareness, by both individual witness
and corporate endeavor, and by both distinctly Lutheran emphases
and growing ecumenical cooperation," said Almen.
     Almen ended his address by reminding voting members of the
time for reflection that anniversaries allow.  "Indeed, such
anniversaries can serve as reminders of our continuity in the
faith from generation to generation," he said.	"They can prompt
us to give thanks for the faithful witness of our forebears."
     "Happy anniversary, Zion Lutheran Church and to all other
congregations marking important milestones this year," Almen
said.  "Happy anniversary to the whole Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America.  Yes, happy anniversary to all."
     At the assembly, participants will celebrate the 15th
anniversary of the ELCA.
-- -- --
Information about the ELCA assembly can be found at on the Web.

*Jessica A. Crane is completing her bachelor of arts degree at
Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.  She is an intern this summer
for ELCA News and Media Production.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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