When I was a student at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., I worked at the summer conferences serving lutefisk at the Nordlandfest, setting up microphones for weddings, cots for the summer music program and chairs for the ELCA South Dakota Synod Assemblies.
In addition to providing me with a way to pay for summer school room and board, I learned many of the behind-the-scenes skills it takes to be a good community minister.
While it may seem strange, I bet that the members of synodical staffs around the country and the ELCA churchwide staff who manage national gatherings may resonate with the call to organize and coordinate.
Perhaps Noah was the first to get large groups coordinated in response to a natural disaster, but certainly, Jesus continued this tradition as he organized 12 motley tax collectors, fishermen and other riffraff to feed people, heal the sick and travel about bringing good news to those who had ears to hear.
The biggest difference between my time working summer conferences and being a pastor is that sometimes you don’t have to do all the organizing, chair moving and people moving on your own. Sometimes the most inspiring pastoral moments come when my sermons and actions inspire others.
Sometimes, these moments happen when just one person is inspired, like when a member of St. Francis Lutheran in San Francisco hosted a party at his leather boot store, Stompers. Party-goers were invited to bring a pair of gently used boots to donate to the homeless.
Other times, these moments inspire whole congregations, conferences and districts, like the Lutherans in the Bay Area who are collecting school supplies for the 2,200 homeless students in San Francisco’s public schools.
Last Sunday, First United Lutheran collected supplies and backpacks for 10 students and the members at Grace Lutheran planned a special collection. Ministry partners at Holy Innocents Episcopal heard about the backpack drive and collected five backpacks.
And this Sunday afternoon, St. Paulus Lutheran will be hosting a volunteer party to stuff backpacks and supplies purchased with a $1,200 grant from the local Thrivent Financial for Lutherans chapter.
Whether you are someone who helps by getting tables and chairs set up for activities, by donating your hand-me-downs or by participating in large drives with your congregation or synod, I hope that you will embrace the Lutheran understanding that we are all equal regardless of how we help (or don’t).
As I celebrate the diversity of gifts that we can provide our neighbors this summer, it’s also a great time to give thanks to all the people who bless our lives and congregations by keeping our church buildings unlocked, toilets unclogged, kids safe and entertained, lawns and gardens watered, bulletins free of typos, newsletters folded and mailed, little communion cups filled with wine and wax cleaned off the carpet.
May their faithfulness inspire you to do what you can for those in need this summer!
Megan Rohrer is an ELCA pastor called by five congregations and has been a missionary to the homeless in San Francisco since 2002.