Women of the ELCA

Commentary and reflections on issues, events and trends in our church, society and world, as seen through the lens of our mission and purpose and our ministries.

Rather than resist them, I think I’ll eat them

Posted on April 30, 2010 by Inez Torres Davis

Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth-century German visionary, described the process of coming to fruition as “the greening.” Here in the Chicago area, where I live, we are witnesses right now to the greening of every garden space, vale and riverside! The promise of life, the evidence of what is to come … the fruition has come.  And one big part of the fruition is …

…  dandelions!

They remain resistant to my attempts at natural controls. I do not use toxins in my yard, so these babies require hand pulling, and with my schedule, I don’t always get to them before they go to seed.  Every spring, the dandelions try to come in a bumper crop!

So my new approach to dandelions is this: I have decided that we will now eat them.

Got a good dandelion recipe? Send it to me. There are quite a few, so different ways to serve them up are welcome!

Dandelions actually remind me of a managing resistance handout I created for Women of the ELCA’s anti-racism educator’s network, Today’s Dream: Tomorrow’s Reality.

Finding ways to manage resistance, like placing dandelions in this spring and summer’s menus, is only intended as a little food (for thought). Indeed, now that I think about it, doesn’t being asked to change sort of feel like we are being pulled up by our roots, or even like we could get eaten alive?

The one saving grace for the dandelions in my yard will be my inability to be vigilant because I enjoy meditating in my garden more than I enjoy dandelion patrol. Our saving grace when we are faced with change or when we are invited to volunteer for transformation (which is what becoming an anti-racist is all about) is simply this: God is able. God knows us each inside out and knows just where our pressure points are; all we need do is allow God to work in us. We have it so very easy, eh? Or so it would seem …

Pass the salt!

Inez Torres Davis is director for justice, Women of the ELCA.

Busy hands make open minds: nail polish Sunday school

Posted on April 27, 2010 by Kate Sprutta Elliott

Long ago, I was a member at a small, urban congregation that didn’t have a lot of money. There was a group of young women, ages 13 to 17, who came to church because their mothers sang in the choir or they were friends with some of the girls. 

Given their backgrounds, the pastor thought they would be at risk for teen pregnancy, violence, drug use and the host of social problems that kids in those circumstances face. He also thought that as a middle-aged man, he wasn’t going to have anything in common with them. So he asked me to do an eight-week Sunday school class on values, faith, being safe and topics like that–just for the young women (no boys allowed).  I said I wasn’t qualified, but he convinced me to try.

The first two classes were a disaster–they would not talk! They sat with their arms folded and gave one-word answers when I asked questions. I needed to think of something that would help them engage in discussion. I had an inspiration. You can decide if it was the Holy Spirit or the result of being young and goofy…

I asked a bunch of my college pals and work friends to give me any bottles of nail polish they didn’t use anymore.  Soon I had a big bag of polishes in all colors. I bought some nail files and some hand lotion and polish remover.

The morning of the third class, I told the group that we were going to discuss dreams and hopes for the future–what they wanted their adult lives to be like. And then I announced that we were also going to do our nails, and I spread out the polishes and supplies on the table. The young women were stunned.  They didn’t see that coming. They were giggling like crazy. I told them to pick a color and get started.

So we did our nails together and I asked some questions. Every single girl talked. They relaxed and talked about the future and their dream jobs (or boyfriends). Once they had something to do with their hands, they could open up and have real conversation. 

We did our nails every week. We talked about God and self-image and setting goals and being safe and substance abuse and family strife–heavy topics. But they kept coming back and eventually brought friends from school. At the end of each class we prayed together while our nails were drying. I don’t think God minded.

Years later, one of the young women came back to visit. She was in a Navy uniform and proudly told us that she was trained in a technical field and had a wonderful husband and new baby. She was so poised and seemed really happy. She said she came to visit the church to say thank you to the congregation for believing in her.

I once heard someone say that sometimes “your brain is better if you let your hands do the thinking.”

How about you? Have you had the experience of talking freely because your hands were occupied? Maybe it was knitting, or making a quilt or chopping vegetables, but while working on a project with some other women,  did you find yourself sharing your life with them?

 Kate Sprutta Elliott is editor of Lutheran Woman Today magazine.

Twitter weekly updates for 2010-04-25

Posted on April 25, 2010 by Deborah Bogaert
  • Board just adopted agenda for Triennial Gathering, July 14-17, 2011. Exciting blend of speakers, workshops, worship, servant events. #
  • Board referred a memorial from Upper Susquehanna Synod re support of UN Resolution 1325 to 8th Triennial Convention (July 12-14, 2011). #
  • Preparing for and talking about the 44 synodical women's organization conventions that will occur in 2010. #
  • Executive board just endorsed the Lutheran Malaria Initiative & directed executive director to establish campaign to support it. #
  • Karen Wong: "without Women of the ELCA Project Return would not exist." #
  • Project Return helps with housing, jobs (or an alternative to help one get a job, like schooling) and healthy relationships #
  • Project Return, the grant recipient, works with women while still in prison & continues with them for 1 year after release #
  • 95% of girls in juvenile justice system have suffered some form of sexual or physical abuse, from a young age #
  • Karen Wong: People of God are called to stand in the gap created in our society between those who are in prison and those who are not. #
  • 3,500 women are in Illinois prisons at any given time #
  • Hearing from a 2009 Women of the ELCA grant recipient from Peoria IL who partners with incarcerated mothers returning to the community #
  • Exec. board starts day w/ reports from advisors from Office of Presiding Bishop, Conf. of Bishops, Church Council, Lutheran Men in Mission. #
  • Executive board meeting in Lisle, IL; meeting just started. Stay tuned for more news. #
  • "God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good." (Gen 1:31) Creation-focused resources: http://bit.ly/10x26g #ELCA #

When you are witnessing the earth being created, remember to stand back in awe for a bit

Posted on April 23, 2010 by Deborah Bogaert

The recent eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland (which I will refer to as “the Iceland volcano” later on because no one, except maybe an Icelander, should have to spell it more than once) has really gotten our attention, hasn’t it? 

“The cost of the Iceland volcanic eruption is growing more enormous by the hour, with airlines facing losses in excess of $200 million per day” was the lead on a story from ABCNews.com.  And now there’s a lot of questioning whether closing all that airspace due to the risk posed by volcanic ash was an overreaction, because someone–other than, of course, “Mother Nature,” who you can’t ask for a bailout–has to take the blame for the financial impact.

The financial costs are real, but is that all we can think about? Don’t get me wrong–I know that real people work for all those airlines, airports, and airport services, and that tens of thousands of people have been stranded around the world not expecting to have to spend a lot more money on hotels and meals. And then there’s the people of Iceland, whose lives will continue to be disrupted for weeks and months.

But here we are witnessing the earth being made, and what are we most focused on? Money.

The photos and video of this eruption have been amazing. Beautiful. Awe-inspiring.

And we are reminded that God’s creation is still creating itself with power that’s hard to comprehend.

I’ve been looking forward for weeks now to a long-anticipated trip to Hawaii. I plan to visit the Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting in varying degrees since 1983, so I’ve been checking the daily updates that track eruption activity. If I get lucky, I’ll see some surface lava flow. But whether I do or not, I will surely stand there near the  Halema`uma`u Crater (another word not to try to spell more than once) and try to imagine the scale of the Iceland volcano eruption: 30-story-tall lava fountains. 3-mile-high ash plumes.  Surface lava in Hawaii would be pretty amazing, but that … hard to grasp, isn’t it?

So when the earth reminds us of its creative power without there being a true human cost (like the earthquake in Haiti), and when we can almost walk right up to it as I hope to do next month, we are invited, I think, to just stand back in amazement for a while. It’s not every day you get to see creation itself happening.


Deborah Bogaert is content manager of Women of the ELCA’s website and editor of the organization’s newsletters and program resources.

Invest in yourself

Posted on April 20, 2010 by LPB

Do you spend $20-$25 per week at Starbucks or Caribou? Or maybe you spend that much each week for the movies? Maybe you easily drop that much at Amazon.com or some other Internet temptress? It’s all a question of priorities, isn’t it?

I’d like to invite you to invest in yourself. Begin today by saving $20-25 each week so you can attend the 2011 Triennial Gathering of Women of the ELCA. Women from around the church will be gathering in Spokane, Washington, July 14-17, 2011, for an awe-inspiring weekend around the theme “Renew, Respond, Rejoice!”

Cool off in this fountain, one of several lovely features of the Riverfront Park.

You’ll renew your faith and learn how collective renewal shapes us. You’ll be challenged to respond to your faith through service and advocacy. You’ll join with 2,000 other Lutheran women, singing and dancing and praying your praise to God.

The Spokane River runs alongside the downtown convention center, the site of the gathering.

Encourage a friend or sister to join you for the weekend. I’ve been to all the Women of the ELCA gatherings, but the best for me personally was the one my college roommate and I attended. Together we were able to bring all the excitement and inspiration of the gathering home to our Women of the ELCA group.

The Riverfront Park, close to the convention center, offers a green escape.

Keep on this weekly saving schedule and you’ll be ready to pay the registration fee when registration opens this fall, September 15th. Stay on schedule and you’ll have enough money to buy an airline or rail ticket as well as covering your housing and meals. Set aside money you might receive as a gift or bonus and you’ll have extra spending money to use in all the great shops in downtown Spokane.

You’ll hear more about speakers, workshops, worship, service opportunities, and the like as we finalize the planning in the next few weeks. Check back often!

Can’t wait to see you in Spokane!

Linda Post Bushkofsky, a big fan of triennial gatherings, is executive director of Women of the ELCA.

Twitter weekly updates for 2010-04-18

Posted on April 18, 2010 by Deborah Bogaert

Rachel still grieves for her children: Rachel’s Day is Sunday, May 2

Posted on April 16, 2010 by Valora Starr

During the last week of Lent, congregations in our conference come together for a lenten supper. It’s a very diverse group of folks from urban and suburban congregations both large and small.

I sat with several folks from different congregational units. We talked about new program resources, and after I invited them all to the Triennial Gathering, a woman who is very active in her unit asked, “What’s our next Women of the ELCA assignment?”

I responded with Bold Women’s Day (which can be celebrated anytime) and Rachel’s Day! Her response to my suggestions was revealing. I guess she could tell from the look on my face that her answer caught me and the rest of the women off guard, and even though she tried to explain, it didn’t make it easier for the women at the table. Her answer, in a nutshell, was that gun violence is a problem somewhere else–the children in her congregation and community were safe, and Rachel’s Day is a day that they don’t need to observe.

I didn’t say anything, but others said this:

Gun violence is part of American culture, and it  affects the lives of all children.

It shapes how their generation will trust, love, do business, and live in community.

It doesn’t just happen somewhere else. No community, no group of people, is isolated from it.

It happens each day on inner city streets and in Amish communities. Just look around at the children who have lost their lives to gun violence this past year in neighborhoods everywhere. Boys learn to commit violent acts against women and girls through video games played in school yards every day, while girls learn how to be shrinking violets and bullies.

So is Rachel’s Day is a foolish hope?

Most of the folks at the table didn’t think so.

Valora Starr is director for discipleship, Women of the ELCA. See our Web site for program resources and ideas for observing Rachel’s Day.

Rambling reflections

Posted on April 13, 2010 by LPB

Today’s blog post might ramble a bit, but that’s okay. My thoughts have been rambling all over the place since I had total knee replacement nearly three weeks ago.

One of our pastors stopped by a few hours after surgery and brought me a prayer shawl. I’ve wrapped myself in the prayers that were worked into that shawl many times already. (If I don’t keep an eye on the shawl, one of my cats is likely to lay claim to it, as Jazz has done in this photo. I’m convinced all creatures sense the prayers knit within the shawl.)

Once I was home, during Holy Week, another of our pastors came one evening, offering prayers and Holy Communion to my entire family. The redeeming and reconciling love of God through Christ was right there in our bedroom as we shared the bread and wine.

While I’ve been recuperating inside, the growing warmth of spring has brought daffodils and jonquils and now the early tulips to life in our yard. I heard the ice cream truck drive by this past weekend, with a version of “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” playing to attract attention to the sweet treats found in the truck.

For someone who is always doing for others, it’s been a challenge to give up control and let others do for me. Right now I’m dependent on my family for food, drink, and laundry. I’m supposed to spend 4-6 hours each day using a continuous passive motion machine (that extends the flexibility and motion in my knee), but I can only begin and end its use with the help of someone.

I had assembled a big stack of books to read while I recuperate. It’s been nearly three weeks and I just completed the first book yesterday. I’ve been so busy with physical therapy and the continuous passive motion machine that there’s been barely any time leftover for reading. I’ve not had the concentration to knit either. And I tend to nod off fairly easily anyway.

I had thought my recuperation could be very productive. It is, but just not in the way I had imagined. I’m not busy reading or knitting. I’m busy healing and recuperating, the way it should be.

Linda Post Bushkofsky is the executive director of Women of the ELCA. She’ll have the other knee replaced this summer and looks forward to dancing by New Year’s Eve.

Twitter weekly updates for 2010-04-11

Posted on April 11, 2010 by Deborah Bogaert

A woman’s place is in the church

Posted on April 8, 2010 by Emily Hansen

The cause of the Catholic clergy’s sex-abuse scandal is no mystery: insular groups of men often do bad things. So why not break up the all-male club?  (http://www.newsweek.com/id/235882)

This is the opening question in an article in  Newsweek. And it’s not a bad question. Actually, for me, it’s kind of a “well, duh” moment.  No need to tell us Lutheran women why we should be fully included in the leadership of the church.  Been there.  Done that. 

So why can’t the Roman Catholic Church get its act together? I don’t think the all-male clergy is working very well for them. Do you? Even if the sex scandals ever end, their moral authority is pretty far eroded. Yet the Catholic church flat-out refuses to even consider ordaining women, and higher administrative positions within the church are denied to women as well. 

All this in a church that constantly relies on both the presence of women in the pews and the offerings they place in the basket. 

The chasm between the church’s stated principles and its functional reality yawns wide. In the U.S., 60 percent of Sunday massgoers are women; thus most of the contributions to the collection plate—$6 billion a year—are made by women.  (Newsweek)

How long can the Catholic church rely on those faithful women who are still giving their time, their money and their resources to a culture that has systematically denied them leadership?  Richard Sipe, a former priest, contributes in the same article that “Clergy are a group that are very privileged in their own mind. They have a sense of entitlement. Think about it. What other culture do you know of that’s all male, theoretically and practically?”

I think we’re seeing how destructive that culture can be. A culture of entitlement has covered up acts of true evil. ELCA Lutherans broke up the all-male club and are better for it. So are the Episcopalians. Why can’t the Catholics do it?

Emily Hansen is director for stewardship and development for Women of the ELCA.