Trinity Lutheran Church in Vale is preparing for a special visit this weekend from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson.
“The word we’ve been saying all this past week is ‘surreal,’” Trinity Lutheran’s head pastor John Locke told the Times-News Thursday afternoon. “It’s a once in a lifetime for us.”
Locke emailed the ELCA office nearly two years ago, extending an invitation for Hanson to visit the western Lincoln County congregation for their 190th anniversary celebration. Locke said a few short weeks later the Bishop’s executive assistant emailed him back saying Hanson would be “thrilled” to attend.
“It’s been unbelievable until it became a real date on the calendar,” Locke said.
Of the roughly 10,000 ELCA churches across the country, Bishop Hanson only visits a couple of congregations each year.
Trinity Lutheran has invited a number of fellow ELCA congregations in the community to join in the weekend festivities which are set to include a reception time and BBQ dinner for local Lutheran pastors as well as a question and answer session with the Bishop.
Hanson also plans to meet with middle and high school youth for a Sunday morning devotion and Bible study prior to preaching at the church’s regularly scheduled worship service, Locke said.
The local pastor’s desire is for the head church leader’s visit to both inspire his personal congregation as well as the area’s entire community of ELCA churches.
“I’m hoping it (the visit) helps us solidify ourselves to work together better,” he said.
Locke also anticipates the Bishop’s presence will spur his church members to live out the ELCA’s tagline of “God’s work. Our hands,” renewing his congregation’s “faith-life and spirits” to have a stronger “desire to be involved in social ministry.”
Hanson was first elected to preside over the ELCA in 2001 and re-elected to the position six years later, according to the website. He also served seven years as president of the Lutheran World Federation.
His current church role includes a variety of denominational responsibilities including but not limited to staff, budget and administration oversight. He also chairs the Church Council, the biennial Churchwide Assembly, the Conference of Bishops and the Cabinet of Executives, the ELCA site said.
He and his wife currently reside in Chicago, Ill, the site of ELCA headquarters.