Close to 100 folks gathered on Sunday, August 19, for the open house celebration and installation of your humble scribe, Pastor Tim Anderson, as Director of Community Development for Austin City Lutherans. We met precisely where we distribute food every Monday night to our southeast Austin neighbors – our new Bread For All location at Faith Presbyterian Church, 1314 E. Oltorf. A dozen churches were represented – nine ACL churches, Christ Lutheran (LCMS), Wildflower Unitarian Universalist (a congregation that worships on Faith’s premises), and the host congregation, Faith Presbyterian.
Pastor Brian Peterson, of Ascension Lutheran, and bassist Neal Nuwash, of St. John’s/San Juan Lutheran, made a joyful noise unto the Lord with a few jazzy pieces written in honor of legendary clarinetist Benny Goodman. One of our food pantry carts, blessed with bagged rice and canned beans, served as the backdrop to the stage for our celebration.
Fellowship was sponsored by two ACL congregations: Abiding Love and Shepherd of the Hills. Tom and Betty Lueders (foreground) had an interesting experience at the gathering on Sunday that was duplicated by others who were present. The Lueders were members of St. John’s decades ago. A work assignment then moved them to Washington, D.C. for a number of years. Returning to Austin, they joined Shepherd of the Hills. The open house gave them the opportunity to visit with folks they knew but hadn’t seen for years.
ACL is strengthened as new folks get to know one another, and as old friends renew acquaintances. Whether our ties are newer, older, or somewhere in between, we give thanks that we have good work to share together in Christ’s name across congregational boundaries.
Pastor Jessica Cain, of Living Word in Buda, handled the installation duties. She’s the new dean of the Capitol South Conference. She fit in perfectly with our intentions of fostering a neighborly and relaxed atmosphere for the event. I asked Pastor Brad Highum (background), President of ACL, to share a few words. Gracefully, he called us to go forward in this ministry. I’ve always been thoroughly impressed with Brad – his faith commitment, his articulation, and his passion for ministry – since the time he came through the candidacy committee that I was chairing some fifteen years ago. My estimation for my colleague and good friend has only increased over the years as we’ve had opportunity to work together – especially now in our partnership in ACL. He’s the original Hawaiian-shirt pastor, and I did my best to match him on this day.
We can only hope that whenever Pastor Jessica sees a Hawaiian shirt, she’ll have great memories of officiating at her first installation as dean.
The excitement around the ministry of Austin City Lutherans is contagious. We’ll continue to serve our neighbors in southeast Austin with food, hospitality, and encouragement. We’ll also continue to follow where the Spirit leads as we plan the implementation of a 2-Gen early childhood development approach in southeast Austin. A 2-Gen approach consists of caring for children and assisting parents by support and education.
It’s the main part of ACL’s vision and mission to respond to Jesus’s call to minister to “the least of these” (Matthew 25) – children born into poverty in Austin, Texas. Many of us had exceptional parents and communal supports – including church – that showed us the way when we were younger. Many of our parents, similarly, had supports and resources as parents. Consequently, we were picked up when we fell, fed spiritually, emotionally, and physically when hungry and in need, and shown by example that self-responsibility and compassion unto others were not incompatible traits. We’ve learned a lot on our journeys, mostly that no one can or is able to go alone. As inequality becomes entrenched in our country and our city, Austin City Lutherans responds with support and guidance to disadvantaged children and their parents that they may have the opportunity to flourish and subsequently enrich our community and world with their God-given and developed gifts.