Newspaper article in a Long Island paper. E-mail me if you want the scan of the original.
Lutheran’s new ‘Life’
• In attempt to attract members, church in Old Westbury will take on a new look and younger feel
BY JENNIFER BARRIOS
(Picture: From left, David Benke, president of the Atlantic District; Gerald Kieschnick, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; and Rev. Bill Harmon discuss new plans for church.)
The Rev. Bill Harmon of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Garden City admits he isn’t much of a gardener. But Harmon and his church are undertaking an ambitious “planting” - creating a new type of church in Old Westbury.
Instead of robes and vestments, Harmon said, “We’ll wear a jacket and polo shirt. We’ll probably have more of a band, music that is more in tune with what people are hearing today.
“We want to tear down barriers that unchurched people feel keep them from coming to church.”
The effort is part of the Ablaze! movement by the national Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the second-largest Lutheran denomination in North America, with about 2.5 million members. The Garden City church is one of 10 congregations in the United States - and the only one in the state - participating in the new program, which offers grants to create the churches.
Harmon said that the new church, dubbed “The Life,” has taken over a tiny Lutheran congregation’s building on Jericho Turnpike. When it is up and running in October, Harmon said he hopes the laid-back experience will attract those who previously were turned off by church or who have never gone at all.
The Ablaze! project - which also includes more proselytizing by lay members of the church - is part of the Lutheran movement’s response to a world of more immigrants and more diversity, said David Benke, president of the Atlantic District of the Lutheran movement. It also is a response to the flat or declining membership that this and other types of religious organizations are facing.
“We want to reach out with the Gospel. But we have really walked right past a whole bunch of people in the past, especially in the New York metro area, Benke said. “As our older membership matures, moves out and moves on, we have to redevelop a lot of the parishes that we’ve been in for a long time.”
The movement’s national president, the Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, said the Lutheran church on Long Island and across the country will look very different in the next few decades.
“Our church is going to be more multicultural in the future,” Kieschnick said. “There are more and more congregations that will see their Sunday morning and their other activities during the week populated by people who are not just old white guys.”
Newsday (Long Island, NY) Friday, March 7, 2008 edition.