Meeting needs and serving God in challenging times was among the topics discussed at the annual Assembly of the Allegheny Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America held June 2 to 4 at the Blair County Convention Center.
Bishop Gregory Pile said the role of the synod is to do the work of Christ and for Lutherans "to live out our faith in Christ and support his mission" in the Alleghenies, the United States and the world.
The theme for the gathering of about 275 pastors and delegates representing 127 churches in seven counties was "God's Work, Our Hands. Telling and Living the Story."
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Vernon Miller of DuBois accepts a blanket from Deanne Armgost of DuBois to assemble a disaster care kit. Lutherans made the kits at the annual Assembly of the Allegheny Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America held last week at the Blair County Convention Center. The kits are part of ELCA Disaster Response to help people who have gone through a tornado, earthquake or other disaster.
While churches have had to tighten their belts during the economic slowdown, Pile told the group, "It's not about money, it's about faith."
He said congregations exist for the sake of mission and to meet the needs of others in order to tell God's story.
The Rev. Susan H. Yatta, pastor of First English Lutheran Church in Tyrone and dean of the Altoona Conference of the synod, spoke to the Mirror about how churches are struggling, yet continue to minister.
She said Grace Lutheran in Bellwood, St. John's in Sinking Valley and Mount Zion in Glasgow are without pastors right now, yet the people continue to worship and serve.
"It's a very challenging time for churches and for us all in society," she said.
But in spite of the struggles, Yatta said the congregations continue to "live out their faith in Christ and live out his mission."
She gave the example of First English Lutheran providing a van with a wheelchair lift for a 5-year-old. She said when the opportunity became available to buy the van, the congregation wanted to live out its faith and continue Christ's mission.
Yatta spoke of other ways First English Lutheran helps people in need.
She said during the holiday season the congregation purchased a washing machine for a disabled mother with four children and provided gifts for the children. The church also donates particular items to the food bank in Tyrone every month and provides gifts and groceries for a meal to people in need during the holiday season.
The Rev. Greg Harbaugh, who pastors Zion Lutheran Church in Hollidaysburg, said his congregation is taking a hard look at ways it can better serve Hollidaysburg and the greater Altoona area.
Harbaugh has been at the church, which is a member of the Upper Juniata Conference of the synod, for about a year and a half.
The church is looking into possible ways to work with agencies and support prisoners, especially those who are released from Blair County Prison and have nowhere to go or need help getting to a residence.
"Sometimes, it's just cab fare," Harbaugh said.
He would like the church to become more involved in ministry to youth and young adults as he believes illicit drug traffic is a concern and to find ways to serve the changing neighborhood that is becoming more of a mix of lower and lower-middle class incomes.
At the present time, the church works with the county's foster care program to provide supervised meeting with foster families and parents. During the meetings, he is available to offer pastoral care.
A dinner is served to foster families during the holiday season.
In addition, Zion works with the American Rescue Workers by contributing to food, clothing and shelter needs as well as providing assistance to people who are referred to the church.
At the assembly's opening worship service, held June 2 at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Altoona, the Rev. Scott Schul was ordained.
He will serve St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Martinsburg.