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Participants from North St. Louis County LCMS congregations meet Nov. 18 to discuss short- and long-term plans for supporting the communities surrounding Ferguson, Mo.

Lutherans Work in Ferguson for Long Haul

Months after the Aug. 9 shooting of black teen Michael Brown Jr., a group of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastors and vicars, led by Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) Missouri District President Rev. Dr. Ray Mirly, continues to look for ways to bring hope and healing to their communities.

The men serve five LCMS congregations in St. Louis’ North County area, where Ferguson is located. The congregations are Grace Lutheran Chapel, Immanuel Lutheran Chapel, Salem Lutheran Church, Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church and Blessed Savior Lutheran Church.

“I have been impressed by how the pastors have been recognizing community needs, identifying local and/or Synod resources to apply to the needs and especially engaging the community with the Gospel and lifting it up in prayer,” Mirly said.

To aid that work, the LCMS Office of National Mission provided a $25,000 grant to the group. The money will be used for both short- and long-term work in North County.

During a November meeting, members of the group agreed that they would reach out to anyone in need – residents, business owners or first responders – following the announcement of the grand jury’s decision on whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson.

“We’re in a ministry of hope and reconciliation,” the Rev. Roosevelt Gray Jr., director of LCMS Black Ministry, said during the meeting.

Gray says Lutherans will work to bring peace.  “We will bring to bear the Gospel and other resources that can heal the community.”

In addition, the grant will provide initial funds for the group’s long-term goal: to open an outreach center in the area. They are currently looking for potential locations where they could provide educational opportunities such as tutoring and job training, as well as spiritual care.

Eventually, the Rev. Steven Schave, director of LCMS Urban & Inner-City Mission, said he hopes this work will address the “bigger mercy issues” in the community, such as the availability of jobs, in conjunction with nearby Word and Sacrament ministries that transform city communities.

“You want to prepare people for work, but they often are in communities with few jobs,” he said. “It’s something we are starting to tackle.”

Early on, Mirly invited Schave and Gray to provide their expertise in addressing the situation. Interest in developments related to Ferguson has expanded far beyond its borders.

“We are happy to partner in support of the local response with the district and local congregations and pastors,” said the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission and interim chief mission officer for the Synod.

“We pray this grant will allow the Lutheran community to be proactive in our response of love and mercy to a hurting community with the Gospel in word and deed.”

By Megan Mertz | Metro Voice contributor