The Wall between Us

I commend to you this letter by my friend and colleague Bishop Abraham Allende. He has been a consistent voice on matters of immigration.

Click here

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace.

Ephesians 2:13‐15

Where is Christianity headed?

The article "Where is Christianity Headed?" has been making the rounds on the internet.  It is by W. Granberg-Michelson whose book Future Faith was released last fall.   I've been recommending this article to our congregation councils.  

For me the most significant sentence is here following a section describing the influences of non-western Christianity:

These new influences are raising new questions about the relationship of the individual to the community, rational versus nonrational pathways to perceiving truth and the interplay of the spiritual and material realms.

I think this touches on something that goes to the heart of our ELCA decline.  As I entered this office of Bishop, I became aware that the culture of the ELCA is centered around carefully worded rationales for the way we operate.  We are a church whose essence is defined by words, and often linear rational approaches to ALL aspects of our life, faith, and governance.  

Hear me out:  I am NOT opposed to logic or rational thinking.  I sometimes engage in it myself. 😊  I do think that we have more to learn from our non-western non-white brothers and sisters than we realize.  I'd be very interested in having some "developing world" theologians engage us in this topic.  For me, the crux of the matter falls around our western dualistic thinking where we divide “sacred and secular”, as one example.  

As Lutherans, I think the origin of the divide for us is between Luther and Melanchthon.  How's that for bringing up a sensitive topic?.  Luther had a love relationship with the divine.  Melanchthon got the theology but didn't seem to have the same spirituality.  Then again, Luther was rooted in the Old Testament, he had a Hebrew approach to faith, as opposed to the Greek dualism that dominated theological thinking.

Today, we wonder why our people seek out their spirituality outside of the church.  Is it possible they are connecting to something we are missing?  Our recent visit to the outdoor church in Texas as part of the 2019 Bishop’s Academy struck me when the Pastor said, "We talk with our neighbors who are not enthusiastic about the church.  They say ‘we worship when we are in nature’. Her response was, ‘well we do too, come check us out’ - outside."  There is something more profound in that than simply a church that decided not to build a building.

I'm working my way through Larry Rassmussen's book Earth Honoring Faith.  What a treasure trove of integration of science, theology and the arts.  Larry is touching on something that is similar to the quote from Granberg's article above.  He sees a theology that is integrated with all aspects of life, and some of it mystical and non-rational.

How can we lift this up?  How can we get our clergy to preach and teach around this?  How can we shift our ELCA culture toward where the broader culture is going, while connecting it to the best of Luther?

Perhaps our struggle is not in our ecclesiology, perhaps it is in the DNA of how we live, move and have our being in the Spirit.

Just a thought or two

What does the Bible say about "The Wall"?

What to do when you are watching the Patriot runaway with a playoff game? Answer: Do a word search on the word “wall” in the Bible. I selected some to share with you. Yes, this is called proof texting also known as picking those verses that say what you want them to say. But, hey, others have done this for centuries to justify their positions, so why not. Is this high level critical scholarship? Hmmmm. But, it did keep me occupied during an NFL football game.

“‘Of the animals that move along the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, 30 the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon. Leviticus 11:29&30 NIV

“Suddenly, Saul tried to skewer David with his spear, but David ducked. The spear stuck in the wall and David got away.”   I Samuel 19:9. The Message


“then Meshullam son of Berekiah rebuilt the wall in front, of his storage shed.”  Nehemiah 3:27 The Message


 “We’re nothing but a joke to our neighbors, graffiti scrawled on the city walls.” Psalm 79-4 The Message

“Anyone who loves to quarrel loves sin; anyone who trusts in high walls invites disaster.” Proverbs 17:19. NLT

“Why bother even trying to do anything with you when you just keep to your bullheaded ways? You keep beating your heads against brick walls.” Isaiah 1:5 The Message

“You trusted in thick walls and big money, yes? But it won’t help you now.” Jeremiah 48:7. The Message


“So I will tear down the wall which you plastered over with whitewash and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation is laid bare; and when it falls, you will be consumed in its midst. And you will know that I am the Lord.15 Thus I will spend My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it over with whitewash; and I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone and its plasterers are gone,”    Ezekial 13:14-15 NASB

“God sent the hand that wrote on the wall,and this is what is written: mene, teqel, and peres. This is what the words mean: “Mene: God has numbered the days of your rule and they don’t add up.   Daniel 5:24-26 The Message

“For he (Christ) is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”  Ephesians 2:14 NRSV










Complaints about the Pastor

As a Bishop, one of the concerns I hear about from people in congregations falls into the category of complaints about their pastor.  Oh, I hear complaints about me as well, my decisions, my dress code, my height, my theology, my progressiveness, my conservatism.  But, this colum is about complaints about the minister.  

Whenever, I hear about someone complaining about their pastor, I tend to listen to the way they phrase the complaints, as opposed to the content.  For instance, if I get an email, phone call or letter and the language is all about how horrible the pastor is, with no reference to other factors, I wonder if the author has really taken the time to be a thoughtful and helpful participant in resolving differences.  In other words, if it's all ‘you’ language, I tend to be suspicious.  On the other hand, if the complaint is rooted in some "I" language, I tend to pay attention.  As an example, "You know, it's been a stressful time for our community, and I believe our pastor really cares about us, it's just that I notice s/he tends to...."   That's a very different form of communication, than "you know Bishop, this pastor has never done anything right in his/her ministry...ever."  My response is typically along the lines of "really, never done anything right?  Ever?"

All this reminds me of a chart from Ed Friedman's classic book on congregational life Generation to Generation.  The chart is below, and I've left it large so you can print it out.  Ed's main point is that all of the complaints that have ever been lodged against the clergy can be found on this chart.    Rarely is the complaint have anything to do with the content. 99.9999999 times out of 100, it's about unresolved conflicts in either a) the family of the complainer  b) the family of the congregation as a whole.

How many times have I been attacked for something I never said in a sermon?  Let me count the ways.

Finally, this all should take us back to Jesus and his admonition to first approach the person you have the disagreement, then if unsuccessful in addressing the matter bring someone with you for the second meeting, then a third meeting in front of the leaders of the community. Most of the time, we go talk to everyone else first, and never sit down with the person we have the disagreement. If we did that, we’d solve virtually all the differences. Oh, and then there is that great admonition by St James the Lessor, “Don’t deal with conflictual matters by email.”

Now having said that, it's equally important for the parish pastor to recognize that a third and important factor plays into this as well, and that is c) our own unresolved matters from our family of origin.  That's a topic for another post.  

For now, spend some time studying this chart, and then listen to the complaints people say.  I bet it fits on the chart.


Yes, it's 2019 Prediction Time

The odds are good you are not interested in this article, nor are you interested in my Best of 2018 list. But here you are wondering, curious and sitting on your couch trolling the internet. Maybe you have even found this page via a Google search or Exposing the ELCA hacks sent you here in search of some heresy. Good news. I’m about to give you some heresy mixed in with some worthwhile thoughts. The challenge is to discern which is which.

Prediction # 1. The coming year will seem like more of a roller coaster ride than any other year. We are in for a wild ride. That’s true for geo-political economics as well as restaurants that will open and close. My advice is to find your center, and hold on to that above all else. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Prediction # 2. No matter what you think about New England sports teams, odds are we’ll be in the run for championships. This means January, May, June and October are going to have energy. Sorry, rest of America, we are just in one of the phases. Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots. It’s been a great run since 2000…it’ll continue.

Prediction # 3. In the life of church world, I’m maintaining that even in the midst of all this change, the basics are still what matter:

Churches that do the following will find life and energy:

  • Focus 70% of their energy on serving their neighborhood.

  • Hold worship services that are inspiring & meaningful to newcomers

  • Engage in helping people grow a healthy mature spirituality

  • Care for the poor, widowed and orphaned

I could add a million other items, but I think if you do these four well, the rest will follow. The challenge is doing these four consistently over a long period of time. Yes, this is hard work because there are forces that want you to have cat fights about money, the placement of napkins at coffee hour and Facebook arguments. If you can keep your head and heart about you, and focus on keeping the main things the main things…I believe the Holy Spirit will be reborn in your congregation. If not, then….

Prediction # 4. More churches will close.

Prediction # 5. I’ll finally finish that book I’ve been working on and it will be published. Working title: How Heresy is What the Church needs Now or Rocky & Bullwinkel discover Boris & Natasha infiltrated the Altar Guild.

I tried Stand-Up's what I learned.

The promise was clear. “The only person who ever regretted taking this class was the guy who didn’t invite anyone to the final performance.” Those were the words of the person on the other end of the phone when I called to inquire about Poppy Champlin’s Comedy class.  I had seen the flyers around town for years. While I’ve incorporated humor in my public speaking, preaching and presentations, I’d never done anything close to Stand-Up comedy.  I’ve been intrigued and frightened by it for decades.  

My first attempt to be a part of this class ended in failure.  I showed up in September, only to find the course was cancelled since I was the only participant.  But two months later the minimum registrants of four had gathered to begin our journey into comedy.  Throughout the next six weeks, we would engage in a crash course in the world of Stand-up Comedy.  The final exam would be a live performance on a Saturday evening in December.  Each of us would prepare and perform an 8-10 minute set.  We were encouraged to invite friends and family. Thank you to all of you who showed up, I was grateful for the support. How’d I do? Below or here you can watch my performance, and judge for yourselves. 

What I learned over these six weeks.

Comedy is hard.  Many people think they are funny.  That may or may not be the case, but standing up in front of a live audience with a microphone, keeping their attention and sustaining laughter is not easy.  First off, this is public speaking on steroids.  If the fear of public speaking is the highest angst producing activity for US Americans, then add the expectation of generating consistent laughs. No wonder, I and my classmates were nervous back stage.  In Jerry Seinfeld’s recent Netflix special, Jerry before Seinfeld,there is a brief scene in which he teases the audience.  I’m paraphrasing, but the essence is this: “I know you’re thinking, I could do this, but I just decided to do something else with my life…like sell life insurance.”  

This was, in many ways one of the hardest things I’ve done in a very very long time.  Imagine bringing material, yes, your own precious ideas to class each week, and having them summarily dismissed.  “Nope, that’s not funny.”  “Too long, get to the point.”   As I was describing the process to my analyst, he encouraged me to, “Think of it as having some narcissism burned off.” Sheesh, now I’m getting it on two fronts.  I’m paying people for this kind of help?  And yet, our instructor Poppy Champlin, an experienced comic with credentials that included appearances with Rosie O’Donnell, Second City in Chicago, and Bill Maher, was a master of encouragement.  Her contagious and boisterous laugh communicated when you were on the right track. She challenged us and lifted us up along the way.

The combination of sharp criticism and celebratory praise was just right for me.  The honesty was so refreshing over other seminars and classes I've had where sugary politeness drowns out the opportunity for real learning.  “Comedy is different than other forms of communication,” Polly said.  “Each word, each phrase has to have a purpose.” I think her favorite mantra was “cut, cut, cut.” Her edits, her suggestions were mostly right on target. If you disagreed with her, you could push back. The engagement was lively…and tremendously helpful.

The best comedy is all scripted.  When you go to a comedy show or watch Comedy Central, it often looks as if these people are just naturally funny.  All they do is get up on stage and start talking, random funny things must come to mind, and they just say them.  WRONG!  It's all scripted.  Every single sentence is structured and tested and retested. Then it’s memorized, familiarized and incorporated into one’s very being.  Those seemingly spontaneous moments are plotted out.  Even those interactions with the crowd.  For me this involved an editing process that had 12 versions of my script. Over time it was reduced down to a core 8 minute or six-page document. I spent every spare moment I had learning that script.  This included various techniques of reading it out loud, recording it, then listening to it over and over and over again.  Practicing both in my living room as well as in my head on walks or while driving.  If it looks spontaneous, and you don’t notice the preparation, that means someone spent tons of time preparing that performance.

Would I do this again? Absolutely.  However, at the three-week mark, my answer would have been “no way.”  I had this sense I was just failing miserably. But, like most things in life, the rewards come out of the struggle.

What's next? Will you do more comedy?  Right now, I'm just enjoying this moment.  We will see.  I'm very intrigued by the area of humor and faith, because I think this is an untapped resource for us in the church. Humor can be effective in preaching, leadership and culture forming in our congregations.  Comedy is rooted in honesty, which has a closer sister in confession and absolution. I also believe that the best comedy comes from our personal lives. I think of Molly Phinney Basket’s book Standing Naked before God. Plus there is the Humor of Jesus, an older book by Earl Palmer.   And one of my favorite classics and now out of print, Jurgen Moultmann’s Theology of Play. So, I'm very interested in exploring the connection between personal storytelling, comedy, and faith.  We'll see where it all goes. 

Hey, you never know, I may end up seeing you at a club…or in a cathedral.

There will always be Church

We have been reading lots of stories over the past 5 or so years about the end of the church. This post is a counter argument.

While it’s true that the nature or form of the church is changing, and I’ve written about that elsewhere. Click here for my paper from earlier this year on that subject. What I want to highlight here is that the tools that church world lives and breathes are needed now more than ever, and I believe will be needed in the future.

Obviously, there is a theological/spiritual/biblical understanding that the church is eternal just as Christ is eternal. But, some have wondered if the current form of congregation centered church has a future. What about social media? What about Artificial Intelligence? What about automation? Yes, these are impacting the work world, but let’s remember that ministry is really centered around somethings that can’t be automated.

Church world is built on relationships, with one another and the Divine.

Technology will continue to change the way we do things over the coming decades in ways we probably can’t even imagine. But church life and ministry will always require:

  • trust

  • people skills

  • the correct temperament

  • the ability to tell your and God’s story

  • the ability to make the case for the value of your ministry

  • communication skills

As I travel around New England, and elsewhere, what I’m seeing is those ministries that hit most of those points have vitality, energy, meaning and purpose. Some of them have lousy websites, never do Social Media but they have a vibrant relationally. They have a connectedness with both God and the neighborhood.

My point is simple, but increasingly we are distracted from this work: Go out and connect with people, build trust, engage in conversation, practice relational prayer. That’s the work that matters, and that’s why there will always be church.


An RIC Synod

In 2001, the New England Synod became a Reconciled in Christ Synod. It was an intentional decision, not without dissent, to be a leader in the acceptance, welcome and full embrace of LGBT persons. Since then this synod has welcomed many of the finest leaders who identify as LGBTQ - both lay and clergy. I am continual impressed with all of our leaders, and candidly, could not imagine this synod without the many fine pastors, deacons, choir members, property team, Tuesday quilters, lay leaders, hunger outreach persons who make this synod so exceptional. Thank you. God has indeed blessed us by your ministry.

Today at our Synod Council, based on a prompting from Reconciling Works, we adopted updated language to our RIC synod status.

We affirm that people of all gender identities and sexual orientations share the worth that comes from being unique Individuals created by God; 

We affirm that this synod encourages all of its ministries to welcome people of all gender identities and sexual orientations into membership upon making the same affirmation of faith; 

We affirm that, as members of ministries of this synod, people of all gender identities and sexual orientations are expected and encouraged to share in the abundant life within this church, rooted in the Word and Sacraments; 

We resolve to identify as a ‘Reconciling in Christ’ synod; 


We urge all ministries of this synod to affirm their welcome of people of all gender identities and sexual orientations and to make that welcome known in appropriate ways, making use of such materials that are available from Reconciling Works and other LGBTQ+-affirming organizations. 

During our discussion, one of the questions raised was whether or not we should include ‘ia’ in the ‘LGBTQ+’ We chose not to because we as a Synod Council did not believe we as a synod could honestly claim a full embrace of ia, i.e. intersex and asexual. (A helpful introductory article explaining LGBTQIA+ can be found here.) Let me be clear, it’s not that we oppose, denigrate or antagonistic this section of the full breadth of humanity. Not that at all. Rather, we were attempting to be honest. Yes. Could we honestly say that we as a synod have done the good, necessary and vital work of engaging, learning and living into this portion of the LGBTQIA acronym? We believed that we have work to do, and want to do this work. In my view, this pause, before simply adopting something we have not fully engaged would be disingenuous. As a way of indicating our support of desiring to grow in this area, we decided to add the +. It was articulated that the added + would affirm all persons as well as further understanding. This entire conversation was largely lead by younger members of the Synod Council who were thoughtful, and patient in their educating supportive older members of the council.

I will confess my own need for growth in understanding the full breadth of human sexuality. I’m looking forward to deepening my own appreciation. We are indeed, always being shaped in ways that help us grow as God’s people.


As we enter into one of the better expressions of our uniquely US American liturgies, (better than the Super Bowl) I think of several people for whom my life would not be the same. I am grateful for them, and have begun my annual liturgy of writing notes, cards or emails to express my thanksgiving.

For whom are you grateful?

Books that have changed my thinking

The original post was titled, “Books that have changed my Life,” but that seemed a little over the top. There are some 130 million books that have been published since, well, since books were published. That means my small list represents some fraction so small, that if you have a beef with my selections…go make your own more significant list. Sorry, that was a little in your face, but just trying to make the point…to each his own.

In no particular order:

Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Carl Jung. I was a sophomore in College when I took a class called the Literature and Psychology of Mysticism. We read a lot of weird stuff and we read some really holy literature. This book led me into Jung’s way of thinking about life, faith and why I do some stuff that makes no sense.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Along with the sequel, Dharma Bums, these books captured my imagination, but more than that it was Kerouac’s writing style. I’d never read something that was so fluid, so random, so full of run-on sentences that made sense. It’s been 40 years since I read these books, time to break them out again.

Selected Poems by Mary Oliver. If nature is where you experience the holy, the divine or just plane wonder, no one communicates the significance of life through the words describing the natural world better than Mary Oliver.

Leading Change by John Kotter. I devoured the whole series of his books. As a young pastor trying to figure out how to move a congregation in a direction of openness to its community, Kotter’s simple steps (but hard to actualize) were my guides.

Jesus by Marcus Borg. Despite four years of seminary education, I still lived with a burden of not fully understanding Jesus and his life & ministry. Borg explained it all here. It was clear, and fit with my both/and view of Jesus and very down to earth and somehow divine at the same time.

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley. This book, along with the recent new version by his daughter Sarah Stanley Fallaw are insightful research on wealth. The titles may make you think I’m into some kind of get rich scheme. Actually, what these books have done, and the first one especially, is to steer me down a path of living within my means, saving and being generous. This was minimalism and FI movement before it was hip.

The Freedom of Simplicity and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. If you want to understand and explore Christian spirituality, these are the two books to read. Both have been recently updated by the author, and I highly recommend them for anyone wanting to deepen their lives.

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. You were wondering if there was to be any fiction. I first read The Hobbit while traveling by train throughout Europe in 1979, My brother introduced me. I think it’s also safe to say, this might be one of the few times book made it into a movie with success. Though I still would have loved it if Tom Bombadell had made a cameo. :)

That’s it. What about you?

Tree of Life

Thank you…Thank you to all of the congregations, pastors, deacons and members of New England Synod congregations who addressed the tragedy in Pittsburgh, PA. Through your prayers, or homilies, or projects, or writings, I have heard from many of your valiant efforts.

This is what makes the Lutheran movement in New England stronger. It’s that we have built into our DNA a desire to be people of faith, who are engaged in our neighborhood, aware that the gospel is not a private matter but a matter of public engagement.

Lutherans have some historical reasons for embarrassment around our relations with the Jewish community. We addressed these in 1994, with our public statement regarding Lutheran-Jewish relations. See here. In recent years, we in New England have struggled with the dynamic of supporting our companion church in the ELCJHL (The Lutheran Church in the Holy Land), and challenging the government of Israel to honor it’s commitment to human rights and full democratic participation.

Yet, these have been points in a on going relationship, where two bodies are working through our relations. Just like a couple who have tensions in their marriage - they are still married. We are still married.

On Sunday I acknowledged these tensions and our desire to strengthen our relations when I went to Boston to be a part of the memorial honor the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre. The response was words of appreciation for being in this on going relationship. I also brought the prayers of all New England Lutherans to that gathering. I know many of you attended other events, and provided other vehicles of support. Thank you.

We live in a time of increasing violence. It is often spurned on by those who seem unable to respond from a place of moral courage, or those who seek to use division as a way to acquire influence or power…sometimes both.

As I said to the good people of First Lutheran in Malden, MA on Sunday morning…There is something in the human soul that seeks division and results in hatred. Yet, there is also something that seeks reconciliation, forgiveness and grace. Thanks be to God, that Jesus is all about Grace.

Not a cheap grace, but a costly grace that calls us forward, saints and sinners that we are, to be people who embody what is good, and hopeful…so that the world may know Peace.

We are Going to Bat for Hurricane Relief

The Red Sox and the Dodgers are in the World Series. Join Bishop Guy Erwin and I as we battle it out for a parallel series. We are in a competition to see who can raise the most money for Hurricane Relief work of the Lutheran Disaster Relief.

Bishop Guy Erwin and I announce our World Series for Lutheran Disaster Relief Donate here

More info in the Video below

What can Lutherans do about Immigration?

One of the many things I have learned in my time as bishop can be summarized by the Anais Non quote. “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Depending on ones perspective, the headline to this blog post can be read in different ways. If you have a bias toward an anti-immigration view, you can read that question one way, if you have a more pro-immigrant perspective, you can read it another way. So, at the outset let me state my bias. I am very much a pro-immigrant bishop.

But, my reasoning differs from the typical arguments that dominate more left leaning politics.

First of all, I begin with a biblical understanding based on both the Hebrew Testament and the Christian Bible (aka the Old and New Testament) You can read a summary of those lessons by clicking here. The Bible is very clear that one of our callings is to be people of welcome and hospitality to strangers, travelers, migrants etc. This lays the foundation for my views on this topic.

Second, as a person who fully acknowledges that economic life is a central and undeniable reality to how we live and move and work, I am very aware of the value of immigrants in our society. This is a perspective that is acknowledged by economists on the right, the left and the center. Immigration is a positive for the economic well being of a society. It’s not just the argument of who will pick the strawberries, change the sheets in the hotel room; it’s also who is going to be your heart surgeon, the next social media start-up founder or software developer. Immigrants come to this country and they actually stimulate economic growth for all of us.

Third, and this one is particularly selfish of me. Immigrants make our food options far more interesting. I love being in New England where I can literally travel the world with our cuisine options.

Fourth, I’m here in the US because my grandfather immigrated in the 1920’s. I’m serving in a Lutheran denomination because previous generations immigrated to this country. There are Lutherans around the world because immigration allowed for ease of transport and movement throughout the world. Immigration is who we are as Lutherans.

So yes, I’m pro-immigration. Now, I do acknowledge that a system that addresses a fair and balanced form of how immigration should happen needs to be developed. In the past, Democrats and Republicans had proposals that were discussed but never acted on. Were they perfect? Of course not. If you want perfection folks, you are going to be waiting a long time. The problem today is that while we have lots of headlines, tweets and grand standing for political gain, there is no serious desire to solve this issue. The reality is that people in power today want this to be an issue that is used for political points. The harshness and brutality of this abuse of our civic life is horrific. The ones who are suffering the most are women and children.

So, let’s get to the question of what we can do about immigration:

  1. VOTE - If you don’t vote you can’t complain. Voting is not only a right it is a responsibility. Engage, and find out what candidates say they are going to do if elected.

  2. Consider becoming a Welcoming Congregation. This means you can simply gather a couple people in your church and engage in projects that support immigrants in different ways. Some churches have sponsored refugees and immigrants, others have accompanied people to legal hearings, others have engaged in public advocacy. Want to learn more? Send me an email and I’ll connect you.

  3. Learn more about what the ELCA Lutherans are doing across the country, as well as right here in New England. Visit the ELCA AMMPARO website. We just had two educational events in Providence and Hartford on this work, and I commend it to you.

  4. Have a conversation with someone from our New England Synod Refugee and Immigration Task Force. Doreen Rinas is a great resource. She can be reach at doreen.rinas [at] gmail [dot] com

  5. Consider going me on a Companion Church visit to the Lutheran Church in Honduras. We are going in late February 19-26, 2019. This will be a chance for you to meet Lutherans in Honduras, work on some lite construction at a church, help teach a Vacation Bible School. It’s a perfectly safe way to visit this country. Join me. More info here

Immigration is a part of our lives. Let’s embrace it and find a way to make it work.

Stir it Up - The Song

Click here to listen to this original song by Pastor Mike Lembke of St Paul Lutheran Church, Warwick, RI

Mike says he wrote this song in response to my Report to the 2018 Synod Assembly. I heard this news today, and it literally made my week, month maybe even year.

The Lyrics and Chords can be found here

Stir it up (Inspired by Bishop Hazelwood’s call to Stir It Up, Synod Assembly 2018) Copyright 1993/2018, Mike’s Music

So, let’s stir it up in the Spirit’s power.

Today is the day, now is the hour; 

for Grace and truth to blaze away;

we can stand in confidence, we have something to say.

 So, let’s stir it up not just survive;

or to keep the buildings open or to worship programs and pride;

but to further the Gospel; to meet our neighbors anew.

To go out in the air; to see what we can do.

So, let’s stir it up with Jesus to guide;

we do not preach ourselves, but Him Crucified. 

We risk ridicule; we consider in prayer; 

the neighbors in need to show them we care.

So, let’s stir it up in money and time,

put plans into action; something new is no crime;

Reformation’s a word with an edge to action, 

the joy of the Lord will give us strength and traction! 

So, let’s stir it up; comfort-convict, 

convince by our actions; confess with our lips; 

that opportunity lies just ‘round the bend: 

we’re just getting started who knows where it ends.

Pr. Mike Lembke on the left in the black shirt, playing guitar at this years Youth Gathering in Houston. His daughter, (on the right in Tie Dye T) Pastor Heidi Johnston leads singing.

Pr. Mike Lembke on the left in the black shirt, playing guitar at this years Youth Gathering in Houston. His daughter, (on the right in Tie Dye T) Pastor Heidi Johnston leads singing.

East Jerusalem Hospitals in Need of our Help

Dear Congregations, Pastors, Deacons and all of the New England Synod,

In recent days, I have read of the news that impacts our companion church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land.  Our brothers and sisters in the Lutheran congregations of Palestine are in danger of loosing medical treatmentthrough the East Bank Hospital System in Jerusalem.

The White House has made the decision to withhold $25 million from the network that includes the Augusta Victoria Hospital.  These are funds that have already received congressional approval.  

Regardless of ones political affiliation, I believe that as people of faith we must put the welfare of people, especially the most vulnerable, above politics. Therefore, I am asking you to join with me, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, and Lutherans all across this church to write to the White House and your congressional leaders.  Ask them to reinstate the funding for East Jerusalem hospitals.

What should I write?

As a person of faith who is concerned with the welfare of all people, I urge you to call for full restoration of humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, including the release of funds designated for the East Jerusalem hospitals. 

Where should I send it? - Note: Unless you want to receive emails daily from the White house, uncheck the box at the bottom of the contact form.

For whom shall I pray?

Pray for the patients, nurses, doctors, orderlies, custodians of the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, as well as the work of the Lutheran World Federation.

Where can I learn more?

 Thank you for your urgent attention to this humanitarian crisis, which can be averted.

  James Hazelwood +

 Bishop James Hazelwood

Embracing Stewardship DATE CHANGE TO MARCH 2019

Our Friends in the Western Massachusetts Episcopal Diocese have invited us to join them for an event on March 2019, with Chick Lane and Grace Pomroy.  If you are looking for new ways to practice generosity in your congregation, this is your best bet.  Click HERE for a link to the information and registration.

Below is a video of their presentation last fall in the midwest.