Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

God's work. Our hands.

Bookmark and Share

Congregations Blog

RSS By: Pastor Kathleen Koran

Pastor Kathleen Koran shares resources and ideas for congregations.

St. Francis of Assisi

Oct 04, 2015

October 4 is the commemoration of St. Francis of Assisi. He is known for his love of animals and creation so many congregations invite people to bring animals of all sizes to church for a blessing. We asked some of our pastors what was the most memorable animal they had blessed and here is what we heard.

"The most interesting and cutest for me was a baby hedgehog."

Pr. Heidi Neumark
Trinity Lutheran Church, Manhattan

I have blessed so many animals over the years including a python named Sunshine; turtles and tortoises, a chinchilla that showered me in dust, horses, llamas, iguanas, a tarantula (from a distance), mink, and of course, dogs, cats, and birds."

Pr. Kimberly Wilson
Our Savior Lutheran Church, Glen Head, NY


"Our preschool chapel remembered St. Francis this week. We had a visit from a gold fish, dog, and bunny and prayed for them as pets who give great comfort."

Pr. Jim O'Hanlon
St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Rye Brook

"Someone brought a wounded pigeon that no longer flew. It just sat there in the young woman's hands."

Pr. Mark Erson
St. John's Lutheran Church, Manhattan

"The most unusual animal I blessed was Jasper the Ferret."

Pr. Scott Paradise
Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church, Dobbs Ferry



Pulpit Swap: Prince of Peace and St. Jacobus

Aug 10, 2015

In a pulpit swap, pastors will trade places, preaching and presiding in each others congregations. Not only do the congregations get to hear another voice, but the pastors are able to deepen their bonds of collegiality, gain refreshment and learn from the experience of being in another community. We certainly encourage pastors to reach out to each other and take this opportunity throughout the year!


After two of our Queens deans decided to swap for a Sunday, we asked them to reflect on their experiences.


Describe the context and demographics of your congregation.


Pr. Brenda Irving, Prince of Peace, Cambria Heights: Prince of Peace is situated in an upper middle class African descent neighborhood in Cambria Heights, Queens on the border of Elmont, Long Island. The church is situated in a neighborhood of well kempt, mostly single-family brick bungalows houses. The congregation of Prince of Peace reflects the demographics of the community: primarily Caribbean and African Americans and a few West Africans. We worship between 75-95 people each Sunday. 

Pr. Joseph Mantovani, St. Jacobus, Woodside: St. Jacobus is a welcoming and growing congregation located in the most diverse neighborhood in the United States (according to US Census data). This diversity is also reflected in our pews.  Our members come from 8-9 countries and a variety of neighborhoods throughout Queens. We have a weekly attendance of about 40. We have gone though some complicated challenges and changes, but celebrate being a place for everyone.  


How was your worship experience similar or different in a new place?


Pr. Irving: There were many similarities in the worship experience. The setting being used from Evangelical Lutheran Worship is the same one we use from This Far by Faith during Advent and Epiphany. I was happy to be so familiar with the liturgy and able to sing with ease. 

St. Jacobus also has a very spirited musician who made the hymns come alive.  Unlike Prince of Peace, there was no clapping or dancing except at the end. I, however, couldn’t help myself from clapping to a very soulful rendition of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"! 

The assisting minister was very kind and helpful to keep me on point. I had asked in advance for how long Pastor Joe usually preaches and was told 20 minutes; so I preached 19. I didn’t want to preach longer than their pastor.

Pr. Mantovani: I was amazed at how welcoming and comfortable it was at Prince of Peace.  The music and praise band were uplifting and joyful. Something just drew me into the worship—I was clapping and singing along (which is very rare for me to do).

Other than the occasional confusion on my part, things went incredibly well.  Members at the church patiently walked and talked me though the service with care. The time flew by; the service was about 45 minutes longer than at St. Jacobus, but I barely noticed.

For my sermon, I preached just like I would at St. Jacobus, just longer. I preached and led worship at an Indonesian Baptist congregation, a few years ago and learned how ridiculous it feels, looks, and sounds to adopt a style you are not comfortable with because you think it’s what people expect.


Where did you experience the Gospel in this community?


Pr. Irving: I experienced the Gospel in the welcome I received. I was first welcomed by the lady who keeps the lovely flower garden on the corner of the church lawn, and then the Pastor’s wife, Jennifer, who was picking a tune on a piano in the fellowship hall. Then Elke, a lady whom at met at a Multicultural event a few years ago and two groups of Asian Christians who share worship space with St. Jacobus, greeted me.  Finally I met the assisting minister who gave me a big hug.  I felt like I was experiencing a foretaste of the feast to come when every tribe and every nation will be gathered around the throne of the lamb, worshipping day and night.

When I preached I didn’t get the type of response I might have gotten at Prince of Peace or in another African descent congregation, but I saw the Gospel radiating from and reflected in the eyes of the people. I was almost moved to tears.  And during the sharing of the peace, many told me how much the sermon had moved them and I responded, "thanks be to God for the privilege of sharing the good news with you!"

Pr. Mantovani: Although there were many, I will share 3 moments where I experienced the Gospel. First, as soon as I entered the church, I noticed their Pentecost banners inviting in and proclaiming the presence of the Holy Spirit in the sanctuary. For a long time I have wanted to leave our Pentecost banners up and this is the first year we have. We are a Pentecost people and the banners were a beautiful, bright red reminder of that. 

Second, throughout parts of the service, there was a baby crying towards the front of the church.  One of the assisting ministers whispered to me, "there is so much hope in that sound." I was amazed by the depth, faith, and beauty of that thought. 

Third, at the end of the service, we sang "Go My Children, With My Blessing". This is the song we sang at my church 2 weeks before as a sending to the National Youth Gathering and one of my favorite hymns.  This time, as we sang "Go, My Children, Fed and Nourished, closer to me" and  "Here you heard my dear Son’s story, here you touched him, saw his glory," I felt like that is exactly what is happening in this church. 


What are the ministry and mission strengths in this congregation?


Pr. Irving: The people of St. Jacobus are a diverse group of people that get along as a united community. They are welcoming and friendly. A part of their mission is to provide child care as they sponsor Rainbow Christian Preschool and Kindergarten.  They are ecumenical in that they share their space with two other congregations and intentionally plan a combined worship service and dinner once a year.   By their worship style and liturgy, they are deeply steeped in the Lutheran tradition.  They are a tenacious, outreaching, welcoming, loving group of saints.

Pr. Mantovani: There was a great spirit, joy and energy in this church. I could feel that everyone was happy to be there and so was I. I have been to many worship services with praise bands and music. In general, they were non-Lutheran congregations. It was great to experience this music, life and energy incorporated within the traditional Lutheran liturgy.  This church has a great connection and relationship with the community around them.  There was a lot of excitement for an upcoming block party and the completion of some renovations. All told, this community projected God’s love through a true welcome and openness to others.


Do you have anything more to add?


Pr. Irving: I loved doing this pulpit exchange. It was a refreshing break in the summer season.  This break in the routine was refreshing and invigorating. I highly recommend that more of our colleagues get on board with this idea so that they can experience some of the joy that Joe and I felt.


Are you planning a pulpit swap? Let us know! Send Pr. Kathleen Koran an email with the date and participating pastors.


Identifying skills for healthy leadership

Feb 03, 2012

"This life, therefore, is not godliness, but the process of becoming godly, not health, but getting well…"

—Martin Luther


When I attended the Healthy Congregations annual gathering this past summer, I noticed a subtle but significant change in language. Rather than saying "healthy congregations" and "healthy pastors," we were talking about "healthier" congregations, pastors, and leaders. I responded with a laugh first, and then a sigh of relief. We’ve tempered our perfectionism with realism, but have maintained our hope as well. Brother Martin would be proud.


Healthy Congregations is a series of six five-hour workshops that introduces "systems thinking" to congregational leaders. Participants explore the effects of anxiety and conflict on an emotional system (the congregation), and begin to identify and practice skills for healthy leadership in an era of rapid cultural change and challenge.


Not a "fix-it" program for a congregation in conflict, but an introduction to a way of thinking and understanding our relationships and inter-relatedness, Healthy Congregations can help our church strengthen ministry by strengthening leaders. Individual congregations, clusters and conferences are encouraged to plan for these workshops in your area. A number of trained facilitators in our synod are ready to help congregations plan and host these workshops. The workshop titles are below:


1. Creating Healthy Congregations

2. Healthy Congregations Respond to Anxiety and Change

3. Leadership in Healthy Congregations

4. Relationships in Healthy Congregations

5. Healthy Congregations Develop Generous People

6. Spiritual Care of Healthy Congregations


Contact Pastor Kathleen Koran, Assistant to the Bishop for Congregations, for more information.

disaster relief
Connect and Share on Facebook

mnys is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

© 2011 MNYS. All Rights Reserved.

Web site design and development by Americaneagle.com