On a cloudy Sunday morning, Stephanie Niemeier and her family scoured the nearby neighborhood of Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church, 720 Edgewood Road NW, for litter and other debris to pick up with their rubber-gloved hands.
The Niemeier family joined about 50 other members of their congregation in a Day of Serving, a national effort to give back to their community in celebration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s 25 year anniversary.
Participants donned gold shirts that said “God’s work. Our Hands”, a phrase that encompasses the ELCA’s mission.
Niemeier, flanked by her 3-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, said there is no better way to celebrate the anniversary then to give back.
“The backbone of the church is to help other people,” the 38-year-old said.
More than a dozen other ELCA churches in the Cedar Rapids area participated in the anniversary event. Throughout Sunday, members of participating congregations helped to clean up and pick up trash in their neighborhoods and parks, baking cookies to serve at local elderly homes, collecting food for area food banks among other smaller projects.
Craig Brown, associate pastor at First Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids, said national church leaders felt the best way to celebrate was to get congregations into their community.
“They really strongly felt we should get out into the community to serve those in need,” Brown said of the national effort. “That’s what we’ve been about since the very beginning.”
The ELCA was formed with the merge of The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America. The organization has 4.8 million members and 10,500 congregations throughout the United States and the Caribbean, according to the ELCA’s website.
Although the day was a nationally organized event to get congregations into their communities, Holy Redeemer parishioner, Ron Hansen, said this isn’t the only day his church, along with many others, are giving back. Hansen said the church regularly donates to area food banks, participates in the annual CROP Walk, among other ways of giving.
“There’s always something to do and it makes it easier and more enjoyable with other people,” the 73-year-old said.