Six youth and two adults from St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough, headed south for the February school break. Rather than a typical tropical vacation destination, their goal was Washington, DC, where they not only engaged in traditional volunteering at a food bank and a soup kitchen, but also spent a full day on Capitol Hil. While there, they met with ELCA Advocacy, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s ministry that works for change in public policy through political channels on behalf of biblical values such as peacemaking, hospitality to strangers, care for creation, and concern for people living in poverty and struggling with hunger and disease.
“This year’s mission trip demonstrates a changing understanding of youth education in the ELCA,” said Pastor Joseph Graumann, who along with youth leader Sarah Maston, chaperoned the group that includes Zach, Caitlyn, and Samantha Gogan, Emily Haley, Abby Maston, and Emma Keledjian. In addition to finding out about the church’s priorities in Washington, the group met with their local elected officials and had a full tour of the Capitol.
Also on the agenda for the 5-day trip was a visit to Luther Place Memorial Church, built in Washington, DC in 1873 as a memorial to peace and reconciliation following the Civil War. The neo-Gothic building resembles the shape of a ship, and is well known for its stained glass windows picturing twelve reformers. Luther Place has renovated neighborhood row houses, opened its doors to the homeless and later formed and worked with a multi-denominational coalition to open a facility to shelter and house people in need, and founded the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, now a national program that places hundreds of volunteers with social-justice oriented organizations.