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St John's Lutheran, Knoxville celebrates 125 years of ministry

posted Oct 29, 2013, 4:00 PM by Carolyn Davis   [ updated Oct 29, 2013, 4:01 PM ]

Marcia Power
Co-Lead - Anniversary Celebration Team
St. John's Lutheran Church
Knoxville, Tenn.

The congregation of St. John's Lutheran Church, Knoxville, Tennessee, announces with joy and thanksgiving our 125th Anniversary of ministry! St. John's is a downtown church, beautiful in appearance and Holy Spirit filled within! Our Gothic Revival style sanctuary was dedicated 100 years ago in May, 1913, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Our Senior Pastor, J. Stephen Misenheimer, celebrated his 25th anniversary of ministry at St. John's in August, 2013. On November 2, 2013, we will celebrate with a dinner and welcome Bishop Gordy and the Reverend Paul Summer. Our Associate Pastors Amy C. Figg and John Tirro join Pastor Steve in inviting you to worship with us at 8:45 or 11 Sunday morning, November 3rd. 

In 1888 a group of Lutherans came together to found an English speaking Lutheran church in Knoxville. These twenty-nine members were largely German, and they wanted their children to hear worship in their childhood language of English. One family, Volney and Mary Christina Day, came with their eight children from Zanesville, Ohio, because they knew of this movement in Knoxville. The Days' great granddaughter, Edna May Seivers, at 90 years of age, is the last surviving member linked to a charter family of St. John's. Although Edna and her husband, Charlie, can no longer attend church on a regular basis, for many years they were very active. Charlie piloted a houseboat on the Tennessee River, and they hosted many a gathering of church friends on their boat. Edna taught Sunday School and produced several plays, and Charlie drove all over Knoxville picking up the youth who would star in the plays. They can still share stories of many decades in the life of St. John's Lutheran Church. 

Our congregation looks forward with anticipation and asks for God's guidance as we commence another 125 years of ministry and beyond!

Our Lutherans

posted Oct 23, 2013, 4:08 PM by Michelle Angalet   [ updated Oct 29, 2013, 4:03 PM by Carolyn Davis ]

The Rev. Jay Weldon
St. Patrick's Episcopal Church &
Lutheran Church of Our Saviour
Albany, GA

From the prophet Jeremiah: The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors.  I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they will be my people. 

 Many of you are no doubt disappointed to see me preaching this morning.  You hear me every week, and here the bishop has come and yet he asked me to preach.  So I have decided that I won’t preach to you this morning.  Instead, I would like to talk only to the bishop.  Bishops are so hard to talk to because their minds are busy with important things, so since I have a captive audience with one H. Julian Gordy today, I would like to take advantage of that.  And since I will be talking about many of you, you probably don’t want to listen.

 Bishop, let me tell you about your Lutherans.  It was a short year and a half years ago that I met them, and things weren’t so good.  You know that, but since we are being honest and they aren’t listening in, I can tell you that things in the beginning were rough.  They always looked so sad, though it was hard to tell because I soon discovered that Lutherans usually look that way. 

 I didn’t blame them.  They had travelled a long and difficult road, and it is probably only fair to say that out loud.  They had travelled a long and difficult road to get here.  And they didn’t really want to be here, at least not in the way that most people want to come to a church. They wanted to be Lutherans—tall, strong, grace-filled, generous, stubborn, Lutherans—with an equally Lutheran pastor and church.  But it hadn’t all worked out the way they had imagined, and they came here. 

 In looking back, I think that both your Lutherans and I are convinced now that it was actually  a moment of grace, but at the time I saw how sad they were, and I understood. Yet I saw how determined they were to find a way forward.  That was also who they were: determined to find a way forward.  That is how your Lutherans became our Lutherans. 

 And they came and they brought a different tradition than St. Patrick’s had ever known.  And some days it was just different, and some days it was difficult, but many days it was wonderful.  It gave us all a chance to learn more what it means to follow the Christ of the gospel than simply a denomination or a tradition. And I think that was amazing.  I suspect it was a word of grace that many of us needed to hear.  I suspect many of us will be thankful for that word of grace for years to come.

 One of the most wonderful things that our Lutherans brought with them was Pastor Diamond.  He was a man filled with grace.  He was gentle and he was kind and he was full of the hope of the gospel, and he was a tall Norwegian.  Well, actually, he wasn’t.  I think he was the smallest Lutheran pastor I have ever seen, but soon I learned that part of being a Lutheran is showing grace to others, and perhaps that meant imagining people not as they appear but as God sees them, in which case it became clear to me that, at least as far as things like faith in Christ and grace are concerned, Pastor Diamond towered over all of us.  He still does.  And we miss him.

 In his own gentle way, Pastor Diamond helped us to understand something wonderful about our Lutherans.  You see, they had come through such a difficult time, that it was easy to think of them in “those ways,” defining them by their difficulties and struggles, but that wasn’t even close to who they were.  They weren’t sub-par.  They weren’t strugglers.  They weren’t victims.  They were like so many of God’s people of ages past who have come through the fiery ordeal and have washed their robes white and have emerged as a transformed people of God.  They were survivors.  And not even for themselves.  They had survived in the hope that a gospel based on faith in Christ alone and on grace would live and would flourish here.  We soon discovered that our Lutherans were survivors. 

 When I saw that our Old Testament reading today was from Jeremiah, I immediately saw the connection.  You remember, Bishop, when last you visited, that you and I talked about our Lutherans, about their coming to St. Patrick’s, and about how their coming to find a new home reminded us of God’s people of old, who had gone to a foreign land, yet the prophet Jeremiah told them to build houses and to plant vineyards and to pray for the welfare of where they now lived. 

 Well, I think we have!  Both literally and figuratively, through the course of the last year, we have begun working on building on a new house of worship where we can share together in the life of the risen Christ, and we have built a garden together called Food for a Thousand, where Lutherans and Episcopalians together have worked for the welfare of people we do not even know, to grow food and give it to the poor of the earth; and together each week we pray for the welfare of this resurrected life we share together.

 And much of that is the story of our Lutherans, Bishop, how we have found life together.  As we dedicate this altar today, I am still reminded of the words of the prophet Jeremiah, how God called Israel and Judah together to be his people again.  They had so much in common; they had always been family, though history had clouded that from their eyes.  Yet God called them back together.  And today we get to solidify that very thing again in this altar that you will dedicate in memory of a man we all loved and miss.

 Bishop, all of that is the story of how your Lutherans became my Lutherans. Like a house-sitter or a renter or anyone who comes to have what isn’t really his or hers and yet loves it like it is, that is how your Lutherans have become mine.  And I love them.  And I would love to tell them that, but I am not sure how they would react to the news.  They are Lutherans, after all!  Stodgy, stubborn, wonderful, Lutherans.  Kind of like the girls I loved in high school.  And yet I love them.  And I know you do too.

 So today we dedicate this altar in memory of Pastor Diamond, and in the hope that something of him and the Christ he served will always live in us.  We dedicate it to your Lutherans, that the faith of those who came before them will still live beyond the grave.  And we dedicate it to our Lutherans, that like the people of Jeremiah, they will learn to love the city that God has given to them.  And we dedicate it to my Lutherans, people of faith who did not only survive the fiery ordeal, they did not just survive… they have come to thrive.  They wash their garments white in the blood of the lamb.  And they build houses. And they plant vineyards.  And God writes his law within them and on their hearts.  And they are his people, and he is their God.  Bishop, those are our Lutherans, yours and mine.  And that is why we love them.

The Rev. Amy Allen preaches at St Andrew, Franklin, TN

posted Oct 17, 2013, 12:42 PM by Carolyn Davis

St Andrew Lutheran Church, Franklin, TN, celebrated Women of the ELCA on Sunday, September 29, 2013. The Rev. Amy Allen served as the guest preacher for the day. 

Rev. Allen graduated from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in May of 2007 with a Masters in Divinity Degree. She holds her undergraduate degree in Theology from Texas Lutheran University in Seguin,Texas. She is married to The Rev. J. Erik Allen, Associate Pastor at St Andrew.

Rev. Allen's sermon is printed below.

John 1:47-51

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you,[m] you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

It’s customary for a guest preacher to begin a sermon with greetings.  For example, you might hear, “I bring you greetings from…Luther Rock or Bread for the World” or, “The Southeastern Synod,” or, as Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson addressed us on his visit, “I bring you greetings from the 3.9 million people who make up the ELCA across the United States.” 

But coming from me, this convention seems a bit awkward.  Many of you see me every Sunday—albeit not in a robe.  And more to the point, the organization from whom I bring greetings today is actually a part of our congregation.  In fact, many of the active members of this organization are serving in worship here today.  And I say “active” because actually, more than half of us gathered here today are members of the Women of the ELCA.  Every woman who is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, of which St. Andrew is a part, is also a member of the Women of the ELCA. 

Now, I’ll confess, I fall into the more “inactive” members.  I don’t attend our chapters meetings, and so I was a little surprised I was first invited to preach on WELCA Sunday last year—what could I, someone who has only ever attended two WELCA meetings in my life, possibly have to say for or about the Women of the ELCA on WELCA Sunday?  The “feminist” in me prickled a little bit that our congregation even feels we need a WELCA Sunday.  For the same reason we don’t typically celebrate youth Sundays—because we aim to include youth and children in our worship throughout the entire year—aren’t the women of our congregation likewise included in our worship and in the life and ministry of our congregation on a regular basis?  Doesn’t the very fact of my ordination point to change in our denomination?  Didn’t our denomination just vote to elect Elizabeth Eaton—a woman—as the new presiding bishop of the ELCA? 

While the answers to those questions are, of course, all: “Yes!”, in asking them, I began to answer my own question about why it is important both to have a “Women of the ELCA” Sunday and, even more, a separate organization for the roughly 2 million girls and women who make up the ELCA. 

It is important that we celebrate WELCA Sunday because the election of Bishop Eaton has made national news on account of her gender.  Because, although increasing numbers of women in the ELCA have been ordained since 1970, the clergy in our denomination remain predominately male.  Because we live in an imperfect world in which, despite the best efforts to include women, youth, children, to say nothing of those (both men and women) who come from racial and ethnic minorities and those for whom English is a second language, it remains just that—an effort, one struggle (or many) among the “accusations that come at us day and night”. 

John of Patmos describes this struggle in our second reading today:

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

The word Satan in Hebrew, literally means “accuser” or “prosecutor.”  In the entirety of the Old Testament, the character of the “Devil” as we know it—red horns and pointy tail—does not appear at all.  Instead, various accounts describe “the accuser”—the one who brings charges of the unrighteousness of humanity before God and in so doing, “is actually a member of God’s celestial council, not the Evil One who opposes God.”[1] 

And yet, in John’s vision, something changes.  There is a coup in the celestial courtroom, and this accuser—the prosecutor of humanity—is thrown down!  John says nothing about a change in humanity.  Human beings, we are to presume, in light of the warning at the end of the text, and the lived realities we experience today, continued and continue to behave in unrighteous and sinful ways. 

 But the difference—the victory of Michael and his angels, the victory we celebrate today—is that no matter how broken and imperfect our lives and world may be or may become, God, the “celestial judge”, has stopped hearing cases against us.  Instead, the Lamb of God—Jesus Christ—knows, intimately, who we are, and loves and calls us anyway.

 And this is what Nathaniel experiences in the Gospel reading today.  Although at first glance Jesus’ praise of Nathaniel as “one in whom there is no deceit” may make it seem like Nathaniel is the exception—that he has somehow escaped the sin and imperfection of our world, the narrative leading up to this tells a different story.  In fact, before Philip introduces Nathaniel to Jesus (the Messiah), Nathaniel tells Philip that the Messiah cannot possibly come from Nazareth because nothing good comes from Nazareth. 

 And so it is a remarkable show of salvific authority that Jesus does not accuse Nathaniel of blasphemy or conceit, or even counter Nathaniel’s racial-ethnic stereotype with a slur of his own about Galileans.  Instead, Jesus, stepping beyond their differences, broadens the relationship by claiming their common descent as ancestors of Jacob—that is, Israel—and then seeing right through Nathaniel, for all his flaws, to the good that he will be capable of, when he proceeds to confess, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!”

 Of course, such a confession didn’t erase all the divisions between Nazarenes and Galileans.  They lived—as we live—in an imperfect and sinful world.  But Jesus, through his radical love, and Nathaniel, through his radical testimony, changed the rules of this world forever. 

 The voice coming from heaven proclaims, “Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of God’s Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.  But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony!”

 And so, as a woman, in a denomination whose leadership (though changing) remains predominately male; as a mother of young children in an adult-oriented culture; as a friend and ally in a country which, although our demographics are rapidly shifting, still creates a racial and ethnic divide that favors those with my color of skin and manner of speaking; and as a Christian, who is called to witness to the enduring love of our Lord Jesus Christ in the face of all of this, I bring you greetings. 

Indeed, I am privileged to bring you greetings from the Women of the ELCA, a community of women who claims as our starting point a common descent: “created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.”   I am privileged to bring these greetings because they show that, despite our imperfections and our brokenness, our church is trying to change.  That our church, the Lutheran Church of St. Andrew, the ELCA, along with other Lutherans and other Christians around the world is embracing our common heritage that transcends gender, race-ethnicity, or age, and calls us all to live and give of our lives in the service of God’s justice, [as Colin urged us to earlier this morning,] breaking down whatever barriers might divide us, confident that through Christ our lives and our world have been and are being redeemed. 





[1] Knight & Levine, The Meaning of the Bible, 443.  

Lutheran Leaders Climb Capitol Hill to Advocate for Human Immigration

posted Apr 18, 2013, 9:31 AM by Abby Koning   [ updated Apr 18, 2013, 11:54 AM ]

Press Contact: Luke Telander, LIRS Project Associate
(952) 826-9622,

WASHINGTON, DC April 16, 2013 - Living out their scriptural commitment to welcome the stranger, Bishop Julian Gordy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Rev. Floyd Blair, Esq visited Capitol Hill as part of a Lutheran leadership group delivering the message that economic security and personal responsibility start with strong families and citizenship, and that America would be foolish to rebuild its immigration system on any other bedrock.

“My America has always been a country that has been inviting to immigration. It has been a melting pot of cultures and ideas that has enriched my “American Experience.” As I overcame growing up in foster care and poverty in New York City, I gleaned from the numerous cultures that came to America (via New York City) that same drive to make it,” said Blair, President of Lutheran Services of Georgia, who, together with Bishop Gordy, made the Hill visits as part of a national leadership team organized by the 2013 Lutheran Immigration Leadership Summit.

“Compassionate immigration reform centered on family unity and a path to citizenship is crucial to the economic success and social cohesion of the Southeast,” said Gordy, who personally visited the offices of members of the Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee delegations as part of the summit organized by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).

“We’re meeting with a diverse group of congressional offices today, and we’re grateful to the Lutheran leaders who are the heart of this effort,” said Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to deliver this powerful message.”

40 Lutheran leaders took part in the leadership summit, which provided an opportunity for Lutheran leaders to engage with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to advocate for the reform of our immigration system.

LIRS’s advocacy goals for comprehensive immigration reform include providing a roadmap to citizenship, ensuring enforcement measures are humane and just, protecting families from separation, promoting integration of vulnerable migrants, and protecting U.S. and migrant workers.

“There has never been a more critical time for these Lutheran leaders to engage with their elected officials in Washington,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke, “We count on their faith perspective, leadership and the lived experience of the Lutherans they serve to help guide the immigration reform debate towards a humane and welcoming conclusion.”

Lutheran Services of Georgia has helped tens of thousands transform their loss, grief and trauma into hope, healing and strength for over 30 years, working with local, state, and federal entities, community organizations, and 140 Lutheran congregations and missions in Georgia. The SE Synod, ELCA, consists of 161 congregations in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee.

LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.

Click here to view or print this press release.  

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