New Beginnings, Inspirational Leaders (Letters from Presidents)

September brings some new beginnings in the wider church that I wanted you hear about. These beginnings bring good news and hope to the church. Two institutions, for lack of a better word, that have been important to St. Paul over the years are Lutheran Social Services and the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia. LSS has been a partner for almost 12 years as we have worked together in resettling unaccompanied refugee minors. The Lutheran seminary in Philadelphia is one of three seminaries from which I graduated (I needed a lot of work) and from which over 30 of our interns have come over the years.

You may have heard that after some 142 years, Lutheran Social Services has a new name--Ascentria Care Alliance. I should say with some measure of pride, that as a board member I helped launch this new name. You can read many of the good reasons this action was taken in a letter from its amazing leader Angela Bovill here. Although the letter is written to the hundreds of folks who work for LSS and serve thousands of clients in New England it will tell you a lot about the exciting changes happening, especially a big shift from being focused on running government funded programs, like foster care and refugee resettlement to being much more client or person-centered. It's a new day with a new name and a wonderful visionary leader. If you combined all the LSSs in the nation, it becomes the largest faith-based social agency in the U.S., bigger than Catholic Charities, or the Salvation Army, serving 1 in 50 Americans. Our local chapter, if you will, is being seen as an innovator and leader.

Our seminary in Philadelphia has a new President, David Lose. He was a much admired preaching professor at Luther Seminary in Minneapolis and a highly sought after teacher and public speaker. The adult forum has read a couple of his books Making Sense of Scripture and Making Sense of the Cross.   Like much of the church in the United States, the seminaries have been failing to thrive, so I was truly heartened to see that one of the church's best and brightest accepted this position. You can read his wonderful letter about the first day of school here. He says that a seminary is "quite literally, a 'seed-bed' (seminarium) — a place where hopes and dreams about God’s ongoing activity to love, bless, and save the world are planted in the hearts of women and men called to lead God’s church." He goes on to announce a goal we all share which is to "to raise a generation of Christians for whom faith is both deeply personal and profoundly public. The emerging generation will not keep going to church just because their parents did. But they will come and give of their time, talent, and financial strength to congregations they see engaging in the world and that help them not just profess their faith on Sunday but live their faith every day of the week." That's a calling for all of us at any age.

Speaking of presidents, I might mention two more. My long time friend and local pastor Martin Copenhaver just got started at nearby Andover Newton Theological School, bringing new vision and great strength from almost 30 years as a local pastor. It's the oldest seminary in the country and you can read his word of welcome here.

Finally, on the matter of racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, our Bishop Jim Hazelwood made reference in a recent blog to a letter from Fuller Seminary President Mark Labberton that is a call to prayer and action that I found thoughtful and worth reading. Fuller is an Evangelical seminary based in California and you may read the letter here.

That’s surely more links than you want to click but I am always on the lookout for good news and signs of hope in the world and in the church. These links share news of new life in the wider church near and far. I hope and pray that all of us might gather for worship as we begin a new program year on Rally Sunday September 14.

Blessings,   Ross

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