Skip to content

Navigating cultural change

Feeling disoriented by changes in church and culture? You’re not alone, as Bishop Burkat told a recent gathering of congregation council leaders. A “Great Emergence” is both opening new opportunities for Christianity and challenging the institutions formed in the last 500 years, she said. It’s part of a pattern of moving from orientation through disorientation to reorientation that the church has experienced every half-millennium. The shifts are real, and present opportunities for congregations and not reason to panic, said Bob Fisher, assistant to the bishop. Read more

What’s “popping” in your congregation?

The Church is called to join God in mission across Southeastern Pennsylvania, planting seeds of faith, service and reconciliation and watching what pops up. This website collects your stories, ways congregations across SEPA are planting seeds of mission, watering them with faith and action, and watching the growth God brings.

Share the new seeds and new growth in your congregation. Click here to tell your story!

“I Am Doing A New Thing”

With all of the challenges the 21st Century Church faces to be a vital and relevant Gospel witness in word, worship, and service, how do we clean out the ecclesiastical attics and the basements and the drawers and closets to make room for the Good News of Jesus Christ and to clear away the clutter that may make seeing Gods activity difficult? Watch Part 1 of Bishop Burkat’s reflection on Isaiah 43:18-19, which asks us to reflect on which inherited gifts need to be honored and affirmed in our tradition, which gifts our congregation has to share with the Church, and what might get in the way of new people coming to our churches. Read more

Bible Study Explores God’s New Thing

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  — Isaiah 43:18-19

Explore God’s promise of hope and renewal expressed by the Prophet Isaiah in a bible study based on Bishop Burkat’s presentation at last fall’s “God Is Doing Something New” conference events. This bible study, suitable for council retreats, small groups or ongoing bible study groups, will help you look at what central traditions need to be honored in your congregation as well as what “former things” might be clouding the view of what God is doing right now. Read more

Recent Articles


Memorial to the Lost

Two-hundred and eighty-eight crosses clothed in colorful t-shirts stand on the lawn on St. John’s Lutheran Church, Mayfair, in silent witness to the epidemic of gun violence plaguing Philadelphia and the nation. Each bears the name of someone killed by a gun in the city during 2012. The display went up July 6 and will be up through July 20. Read more »


Considering Online Giving?

Online giving is a small but growing portion of the overall plate offerings for the church. Many churches stress online giving during the summer when people tend to travel and be away from their faith community. After the jump, check out a link to the ELCA’s guide to online giving, and see a fun video one congregation used to inspire people to give while away. Read more »


Trying Something New This Summer?

Ascension, Washington Crossing, is experimenting with worship-in-the-round this summer. What new things are you trying this season? Let us know in the comments.

One nice advantage of movable chairs instead of pews, Ascension has discovered, is the flexibility and creativity they provide. For the summer months, Ascension has redesigned its sanctuary layout to put worshippers in a circle around a central altar.

Read more »


Listening to The “Nones”

New England Synod Bishop Jim Hazelwood has spent time listening to the “spiritual but not religious” people who profess no religious affiliation. Otherwise known as the “nones,” these people are often outside the circles of many church leaders. So Hazelwood brought a panel of “nones” to the Synod Assembly this year. From his listening, Hazelwood says these (often) younger people are asking different questions than Lutheran theology usually tries to answer. He writes:

I’m hearing a desire for:

1) Safe, non-judgemental places for people to explore the deeper questions of life, faith, God.

2) The great suspicion of rules, yet the hunger for relationships raises the possibility that people are seeking an authentic community.

3) I also sense a desire for people to clarify their purpose in life. What gives life meaning? How is God connected to that question?

How does your church address these questions? What might you do to engage people of no religious affiliation more deeply?

Watch some of the bishop’s “interview” with the “nones.”

Image Matt Stiles/NPR. Source: Gallup


What Can Congregations Due When Disaster Strikes?

What can congregations due when disaster strikes?

Pastor Steve Keiser of Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, Philadelphia and Julia Menzo of Lutheran Disaster Response in Eastern PA (sponsored by Lutheran Congregational Services- A service of Liberty Lutheran) share their stories in a new video.

What has your congregation done? Tell us your story in the comments.

Watch the video



Being Church in Emerging Culture

The postmodern time is one in which people are skeptical of authority and see themselves as having a global identity, Pastor Jay Gamelin told the 2013 Synod Assembly. We now also live in ambiguous times where there is a tension between reason and mystery, he said.

“Some of the most faithful people I know are physicists, said Gamelin, “because they get what it means to live in theory rather than truth.”

He said what begins to show up and come together in postmodernism is the character of Christ. We don’t just talk about the words Jesus said, book look at how he lived his life. We are actually watching Jesus. Read more »


“What Needs To Die In Your Church?”

In his second Assembly presentation, Jay Gamelin talked about his time in campus ministry at Ohio State University. When he arrived he could tell the Lutheran Campus Center had an identity crisis just by its many names on the sign. He decided to create a “gray space” in which he and the students could explore their struggles. The first year they studied the story of Jacob and for eight weeks put themselves into the story and wrestled with God. They explored what it would mean to not only wrestle with God, but leave limping like Jacob.

“The community eventually changed its name to Jacob’s Porch — because we wrestle with God and… because it’s a liminal space that faces outward,” said Gamelin. Read more »


“I Love You. Love, God”

The Bible is a lot like the love messages parents receive from their children, Pastor Keith Anderson of Upper Dublin Lutheran Church says in a new YouTube video. “The Bible can be a messy, complicated, confusing book, but at the heart of the Bible is this message: ‘I love you. Love, God.” Short, direct video messages of inspiration can be easily shared via social media, and are easy for “wired” congregation members to share in their social circles. Read more »


What if the kids don’t want our church?

In the Huffington Post, Derek Penwell writes that many young adults don’t want the “treasures” that their parents/grandparents have been accumulating for them. The trend applies to the church as well, he says. He writes that “churches with massive overhead invested in things like church buildings, denominational infrastructures, functional church organizational models…are awakening to the fact that the generations that are supposed to be taking the institutional baton are showing very little interest in grabbing for it.” Read more »


Blessed by lay preaching

Pastor Matt Staniz from St. Luke, Devon, shared an idea in the ELCA Clergy Facebook group: St. Luke’s features lay preachers at midweek worship during Lent and in the summer. Preachers are given a theme and select a text to preach on, and the pastors offer support and encouragement. “It’s been remarkable listening to people preach and witnessing how it equips them to proclaim, lead and discern how they are called to be the church,” he says.

Read more »


State of the Plate: Rise in e-Giving

A recent report by American Public Media’s “Marketplace Money” explored the growth of electronic giving options for churches as more and more people “go cashless” — especially younger adults. One expert who studies church giving trends reports that about 40% of congregations now use some kind of electronic giving. Has your church tried any kind of online or electronic giving? How’s it working? Please let us know your experience leaving a comment below or contacting us by email.

Listen to the Marketplace report here.


Video Promotion

Upper Dublin Lutheran Church and St. Janes, Limerick, promoted their Christmas services using Internet videos. Upper Dublin posted a short music video on Facebook and YouTube inviting people to their Christmas Eve worship services. Limerick created a promotional video clip promoting their “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” sermon series leading up to Christmas.  Read more »


Beer and Hymns

“There is something very cool about singing Beautiful Savior, Amazing Grace, and A Mighty Fortress in a pub,” Pastor Keith Anderson of Upper Dublin Lutheran Church writes in his blog about the experience of UDLC’s first “Beer and Hymns” evening. “Sure, its partly the novelty of it, but it also worshipful, spiritual, intimate, fun, great outreach, and an affirmation of God’s presence in our daily lives – in all the places we gather, including pubs.” Read more »


Holy Hot Dish

Update: Just this past weekend the “Community Meal” program hosted at St. Michael, Germantown, passed the 10,000 meals served mark! Just shows how a small seed can produce a harvest of a hundredfold, or more, when watered and nurtured. Pastor Bruce Todd of St. Peter’s, Lafayette Hill, notes: “Many people are involved from picking up surplus food from Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting, to shoppers who purchase additional items, then the cooks who prepare the meals as well as those who set up, serve and clean up every Saturday morning.” Learn more from the video after the jump.

St. Peter’s of Lafayette Hill and St. Michael’s of Mt. Airy started a Community Meals program for the Mt. Airy community. The program began June 12th, 2010 serving meals every Saturday from 11am until 1pm. “Holy Hot Dish”, our current Community Meals program serves a variety of casseroles, salads, fruits, vegetables and desserts. View video after the jump.

Read more »

Lasagna by Sunnybrain

“Dinner and B.S.”

Young adults aren’t always motivated to attend Sunday worship, and Gloria Dei, Huntingdon Valley, and Trinity, Fort Washington have found young adults ask for more when offered the chance to gather for a meal and conversation about life and faith. The two congregations, linked through the call of the Rev. Jim Goodyear as youth minister at Gloria Dei and pastor of Trinity, began inviting young people aged 18-30 to “Dinner and B.S.,” an informal meal and conversation Goodyear hosts.

“It’s designed to let young adults without children to get together and talk about life,” Goodyear says. As dinner morphs into “B.S.”, Goodyear says, “I listen for what’s going on in their lives, and bring a faith perspective to it.”  Sometimes “B.S.” becomes bible study, and “sometimes it’s just about the B.S. of life,” he says. Read more »