The article below was originally published on the “Our Synod Stories” webpage of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA. It is re-posted with permission from – and gratitude for – the synod and the author, Pastor Devlyn Brooks, a member of the synod’s storytelling team.
Since its charter as a Lutheran church in 1960, Calvary Lutheran Church in Perham, Minn., has always had a heart for supporting missions outside their church walls, says Associate Pastor Eric Clapp.
So, it wasn’t a surprise when the Northwestern Minnesota Synod bishop’s staff announced at this year’s synod assembly that Calvary had again won the synod’s cherished “Holy Cow Award” for a second consecutive year and a third time overall. But, according to Pastor Clapp, while the congregation’s reaction was that it was generally “cool” to win the award again, that is not the church’s motivation when it comes to its culture of giving.
“Calvary has always had a strong spirit for mission support to the synod; the congregation is proactive in giving,” Clapp said. “You give no matter what, even when things look bad. And when things are good, then even more.”
In its 11-year history in our synod, only four churches have claimed the award, with Calvary’s three wins second only to Little Norway Lutheran Church’s (Fertile, Minn.) five titles. Calvary Lutheran Church in Little Sauk has won twice, and Immanuel Lutheran in Wadena once.
First dreamt up by a hunger justice committee in the Northeast Minnesota Synod nearly 20 years ago, the “Holy Cow Award” has since been adopted by the Northwestern Minnesota and South Dakota synods as well.
The beauty of the “Holy Cow Award,” Clapp said, is that any church in the synod has a chance to win because the award is based on a formula that includes a church’s giving to the ELCA World Hunger per member, in addition to its mission support directly to the synod in a given fiscal year. So, the award is annually within every church’s reach, big or small. Calvary Lutheran worships about 200-230 per week in the summer and 250-300 the rest of the year.
This past fiscal year, Calvary found itself with an operating overage, and its leaders asked the congregation where they would like to invest the funds. The decision was to split it equally into four mission areas, meaning that they donated $12,500 to ELCA World Hunger.
“We didn’t necessarily set out to win it; we just keep doing what we’re doing,” Clapp said. “The intent is to give and to share. This is who we are; this is what we’ve always done.”
Clapp said jokingly that there hasn’t been talk about a Calvary three-peat yet, but now given the idea, it just may provide some motivation for the church’s giving team!