Tag Archive for: Together04212015

New survey asks for members’ favorite hymns

What’s your favorite hymn? A new survey from the WELS Hymnal Project asks WELS members that very question.

The survey gives worshipers an opportunity to share up to ten of their favorite hymns fromChristian Worship (CW) or Christian Worship:Supplement (CWS), three from The Lutheran Hymnal that aren’t in Christian Worship, and three from the songbook Let All the People Praise You.

“Use this survey as an opportunity to celebrate our rich heritage of hymns by sharing with us your personal treasures,” says Rev. Jonathan Bauer, chairman of the Communications Committee of the WELS Hymnal Project. “We simply want to know the hymns that are close to your heart.”

For those who want to do a more extensive review of the hymns in CW and CWS, an additional survey allows worshipers to rate each hymn individually.

A special effort is also being made to give students the opportunity to share their thoughts on their favorite hymns. “The student survey will be accompanied by a lesson plan that teachers can use in a hymnology/religion class,” says Bauer. “It will serve as a way to do a little education and introduce students to the project in addition to giving them a chance to think about their favorite hymns.”

The favorite hymn survey can be taken online or printed and filled out by hand. All surveys are due by May 31. “There are so many good hymns. If nothing else hopefully this exercise leads people to appreciate how many good hymns God has blessed us with,” says Bauer.

The results of these surveys will be shared with the members of the WELS Hymnal Project as they continue to determine what hymns to include in the new hymnal that is being developed. Bauer says the Hymnody Committee is also looking at current usage of hymns as well as carefully reviewing and examining each hymn individually for its quality and usefulness in worship.

Four additional surveys have been conducted by the WELS Hymnal Project. A look at the survey results will be included in the May and June issues of Forward in Christ.

Find the favorite hymn survey at welshymnal.com.

Positive response to Spanish website

Initial response to Academia Cristo, a Spanish-language website released by WELS Latin America missions in February, has been encouraging. According to Rev. Michael Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America, videos created by Academia Cristo received more than 330,000 views in the first three weeks, more than 4,000 people watched theCome Follow Me movie in Spanish, and more than 100 signed up on the website to study the Bible. Numbers continue to rise.

The goal of Academia Cristo is to use videos and audio Bible studies both to reach out to non-Christians as well as to train Latin American church members how to share their faith. Hartman, the Latin American national churches, and other members of the mission team work closely with WELS Multi-Language Publications to create the materials. Currently six courses are completed, including two five-lesson Bible studies based on the Come Follow Me movie as well as other courses on what Christians believe and who Jesus is.

“We are now working to connect those who come to the site with existing ministries throughout Latin America,” says Hartman.

They are also working to start an online church, iGlesia Cristo, to provide worship opportunities and resources to connect people who live far from a Lutheran church.

Latin American missions is promoting the new website in Latin American countries primarily through Facebook. They are also physically sharing the site among WELS Spanish-speakers in the United States. Hartman says that when he was visiting Risen Savior, Milwaukee, Wis., Hispanic members came up to him excited about the site and how they can use it. “Multiple members said, ‘This allows me to share what I’m learning at my church here in Wisconsin with my family who lives far from a Lutheran church in southern Mexico,’ ” says Hartman.

Check out the site at www.academiacristo.com

6 new home missions authorized

At its April 17 meeting, the Board for Home Missions authorized the establishment of six new home missions throughout the United States totaling $563,000 in funding. The new mission openings being funded are located in Blair, Neb.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Fenton, Mich.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Liberty Hill, Tex.; and Tyler, Texas.

“As a church body, it is a huge blessing when Home Missions through district mission boards can partner with active congregations looking to have a hand in starting the next mission,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of the Board for Home Missions. Many of these new Home Mission starts have a core group of WELS members from our established churches in their area. “Some of these Home Mission starts already have 50 committed members willing to offer their time, talents, and offerings to help support the new congregation. In most of these locations initial outreach has already started by active core groups supported by the existing congregations near these six communities.”

One of the new places is in Blair, Neb., a city 20 miles north of Omaha. Rev. Stephen Helwig, pastor at Gethsemane, Omaha, was excited to learn that this mission had received funding to help start a new church in Blair.

For years Gethsemane has asked its vicars to serve a core group of 15-20 members in the Blair community. “It’s been a great thing to see the vicars come in with their enthusiasm to canvass a new area and lead Bible classes for our core group,” says Helwig. “It’s about sharing our Savior with a new community outside the Gethsemane church neighborhood.”

It is a huge opportunity for an established congregation like Gethsemane to assist in the start of a mission, but it will also require the prayers and support of the synod. “It isn’t everyday a Home Mission congregation gets started, so it is very important for the community to understand that we are establishing a church that is in it for the long haul and wants to become part of their community,” adds Helwig.

A vital partner to Home Missions, the WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF), recently adopted an unrestricted net assets policy that provides annual special grants to Home Missions over and above CEF’s matching grant programs. “The new CEF policy is allowing us to open two new Home Mission starts in Fiscal Year 2016,” says Free.

“We continue to be blessed by people investing with CEF and by remembering us with bequests and gifts,” says Mr. Ron Hillmann, CEF president. “Our first responsibility is to ensure the security of our investors’ money, which we do. Once that is secure, then the extra dollars are used to do mission work.”

Home Missions has been provided increased synod support, which was made possible by Congregation Mission Offerings and the WELS Church Extension Fund grant. That, coupled with direct gifts to Home Missions from WELS members, provided enough funding for the six new mission starts. “One of the neat things is the cooperation of each district mission board in determining the feasibility of these six sites. We had many excellent proposals presented and if we had the extra funds, we had at least three more missions we would have been willing to authorize,” says Free.

Learn more about the work of Home Missions at www.wels.net/missions.

Graduates preparing to serve

There are about 80 vacancies for pastor-trained workers throughout WELS. About 65 of those vacancies are for parish pastors. Forty-one pastoral candidates will be available for assignment in May upon graduating from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. There are also about 95 vacancies for teacher-trained workers, but it is still too early to determine how many vacancies there will be at assignment time, since this number will likely change significantly during the next three weeks. Approximately 36 men and 51 women will be available for assignment, after graduating from Martin Luther College, WELS’ ministry training college.

Conference of Presidents (COP)
The COP is concluding its yearlong effort to update and expand a document entitled, “Marriage, Divorce, and Re-Marriage.” The document was originally authored by Prof. Armin Schuetze and was first published in 1989. The revision is intended to address issues and questions that have become more prominent in recent years, particularly questions regarding how current temptations such as Internet pornography can affect the marriage bond. The final document is planned for publication later this spring.

The COP is working with the Ministry of Christian Giving (MCG) to plan the One in Christ synodwide debt retirement offering, which will be launched at the synod convention in July. The COP is also developing a communications plan for next fall to encourage Congregation Mission Offerings.

The COP will undertake an in-depth review of the Ministry of Christian Giving. This review is not to address any problems, but simply to identify areas in which the work of the MCG can be utilized most effectively and efficiently. The review will begin next January.

Synodical Council
The Synodical Council (SC) will be meeting later this week. After spending a shortened time addressing normal business, the SC will begin to develop the next Long Range Plan for the synod. The current In Christ Alone plan runs through 2017.

The Book of Reports and Memorials, which contains the reports and recommendations that will be addressed by the synod convention in July, will be distributed during the second week of May. An online version will be available about a week before the published version is shipped.

Discussions with the Church of the Lutheran Confession
Representatives of WELS, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), and the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) conducted a second round of doctrinal discussions on Fri., April 17. Discussion centered on a document that summarizes the biblical doctrine of church fellowship. The meeting was cordial and productive. A third meeting is planned for August. [Note: the CLC was formed in the 1950’s by individuals and congregations that left WELS and the ELS out of concern that WELS and the ELS were not breaking fellowship with the Missouri Synod. The CLC has not been in fellowship with WELS and the ELS since that time. The CLC is comprised of about 70 congregations and operates its own seminary, college, and high school in Eau Claire, Wis. The CLC also works in several foreign mission fields.]

Prayers requested for the Ukrainian Lutheran Church
The Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), our partner synod in Ukraine, is facing new challenges as a result of the conflict with Russian separatists. Even though the government has exempted Orthodox and Greek Catholic priests from the military draft, no such exemption has been made for Lutheran pastors. Already two pastors serving multiple congregations have been drafted into the Ukrainian military, leaving their congregations without shepherds. We are contacting the ULC to ask what we might do to help. In the meantime, our fervent prayers will be much appreciated by our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder