On May 9, 2024, over 200 Lutherans gathered in Harrisburg for Lutheran Day in the Capitol. In addition to a day of advocacy, LAMPa celebrated its 45th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of ELCA World Hunger with a special Gala Dinner. The evening featured music by ARTolerance and a keynote address by Rev. Khader El-Yateem, the Executive Director of Service and Justice in the ELCA.

The centerpiece of the night was LAMPa’s annual celebration of advocates with the “Serve. Pray. Speak.” Awards. Each Pennsylvania bishop selects an individual, ministry, or community that embodies our call to advocate for our neighbor and the common good. These honorees get to share their stories as inspiration to others as food for the journey together. They each received a print of “The Table” by Freiman Stolzfus, which was the centering image of the evening with its vision of an abundant and welcoming table for all.

This year, LAMPa also awarded a special “Church Together” award to Union Lutheran Church in York. Union, under the leadership of Rev. Joel Folkemer, is an example of a congregation that consistently pairs their service of neighbor with advocacy for a more just world.

Read the stories of the honorees below.

Allegheny Synod Honoree – Ann Ferry 

Long before I heard the words “advocacy” and “networking,” my family was living it and leading me toward a socially conscious lifestyle. My father was a Lutheran minister and my mother was a teacher who raised my siblings and I. No matter where we lived, my parents cared for our neighbors in need. We learned at a young age to share our home with strangers and not be fearful. Again and again, they demonstrated to us how to serve others’ needs while respecting them as individuals with their own individual circumstances.

It was my parents who first introduced me to LAMPa when I accompanied them to the capital as a young adult to sit in the rotunda and listen to advocates and Bishop Hanson speak on justice, care of creation and other items of concern – many of them issues that we continue to face today.

LAMPa’s call for election volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic inspired me to become the judge of elections for my precinct. I currently serve as the Allegheny Synod’s Vice President. I also volunteer with the Lazarus Gate Food Pantry and deliver food for Meals on Wheels.

God’s call to care for others has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am grateful to LAMPa for guiding me to new ways to do so.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you all.


Lower Susquehanna Synod Honoree – Susan Ryder

My mom lived with a servant’s heart. She always invited folks who didn’t have family into our home for the holidays. While there she offered the best hospitality, including them in our family of eight kids’ celebration with lots of food, some small present, leftovers for later and a cookie plate for the way home! She never explicitly said “You should do this,” but she demonstrated how to treat others, especially those who whom the world was especially hard. I guess I picked that up by parental osmosis. It doesn’t seem special, but usual.

I volunteered often, but my awareness of homelessness began when I worked as a communication director at a local church, which worked with a local hotel.

That knowledge grew as I wrote stories for The Burg about homelessness, interacted with folks at Grace Lutheran Church’s Community Meal and The Giving Pantry, and talked much with my friend who works at Brethren Housing Association. My writing naturally began to gravitate towards “those for whom the world was especially hard,” including stories about racism and homelessness and the organizations that address them. People entrusting their stories to me is the greatest privilege. My hope is that this writing advocates effectively, moving those with power to make just decisions.

All of these experiences have conspired towards my current position at Family Promise of Harrisburg Capital Region, an organization which assists families experiencing homelessness.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8


Northeastern PA Synod Honoree – The Rev. Inge Williams

I first heard the voice of scientists sounding the alarm about the climate crisis as a young adult in the mid-2000s. Realizing that these cries were going unheeded by our political leaders shook me deeply, but some nuns who were friends with my Lutheran pastor Dad also were listening, and together we ran a workshop published by the National Council of Churches on the “Cry of Creation.” My home congregation also made space for me to promote local food security by growing produce for the food bank and donating any proceeds to ELCA World Hunger. Although I learned how to grow carrots, the more transformative lessons in the garden were about faith and resilience, the necessity of community, and the power of life itself. By encountering the living earth, my mind and heart were opened to a God of resurrection who was unfolding new possibilities even in apocalyptic times. It was there I discovered I might be called to leadership.

I have spent most of my life in rural, rust belt America. I come from a family of teachers, farmers, union workers: working class people who felt a strong sense of commitment to the public good. As a pastor, I have served for the past ten years in rural Berks County, where I have watched with sadness at the disintegration of our community institutions: the bank bulldozed for a Dollar General, an arena transformed into an Amazon warehouse. Like any pastor serving a “purple” congregation, polarization makes ministry difficult. I don’t have answers, but I am grateful to have conversation partners like LAMPA as we engage our social issues with Christ at the center.

Some years ago, Tracey invited me to speak at a press conference for some clean energy legislation, and on the escalator at the Capitol I passed a man who saw my collar and nervously said, “O God, a female priest… I feel bad for whoever you’re going up against today.” When I arrived at the press conference, he was also one of the speakers, and he laughed in relief to discover I was on HIS side. It was a good reminder that just showing up matters; that our presence as people of faith does evoke conscience.

I’m thankful that through LAMPA I’ve joined a chorus of voices advocating not on behalf of ourselves but this world God so loves. I believe that the keystone that holds our public life together is love of neighbor and the commandment to serve. The church’s role in this age of accelerating anxiety is to remind society that God’s vision of freedom rests on our responsibilities to one another. I’m deeply grateful for the privilege of following Jesus, together with all of you, down the path of servant leadership.


Northwestern PA Synod Honoree – The Rev. Karen Lundwall

In reflecting on our call to “Serve. Pray. Speak,” it seems that, in some small ways, I have followed the pattern of the Apostle Paul’s ministry, when he said to the Corinthians, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth (I Corinthians 2:6).” I have tried over the years to plant seeds which could empower others in join in God’s work toward a more just and compassionate society.

I served at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Erie, PA. The congregation is across the street from Community Shelter Services. I encouraged the director to come with me to one of LAMPa’s Lutheran Day at the Capitol. The theme that year was focused on advocacy for new and existing housing ministries. The director was inspired to reach out to our elected leaders to change some of the policies making it difficult for those in need to find shelter and spearheaded a new ministry to provide an overflow shelter in the winter. Called Our Neighbor’s Place, it became an ecumenical ministry among many congregations in the Erie area, and has continued to be so for the past 15 years.

Holy Trinity is also in one of highest poverty neighborhoods in the city. The congregation has always provided meals on a regular basis to any who wished to come. As the members got older and some moved away, it became more difficult to continue. A reporter for the newspaper wrote an uplifting article, saying we were asking for volunteers to come help us feed the neighborhood. Many people responded. Now, almost 20 years later, some of those same volunteers are making it possible for Holy Trinity to serve a nourishing meals as well as other much-needed ministries.

I have come to understand advocacy as planting seeds, one person at a time, be that person a public official or a private citizen. I am so grateful that, from a few simple ideas that were planted, many have given much time, effort, and compassion to being God’s hands in this one neighborhood. I am also thankful to LAMPa for making it easier for me and so many others to be advocates by planting seeds that will be watered by a host of advocates working with God in growing a world of justice and peace.


Southeastern PA Synod Honoree – Emmanuel Souderton E-Meal Ministry

As Pastor at Emmanuel, I learned that advocacy begins with listening. I spent the better part of my first year getting to know the community, meeting key people in local government, local business leaders, non-profit executives, and others to find out how a local church could serve community needs. This listening process resulted in the identification of opportunities to address local poverty, support the needs of busy families, and help with the scourge of drug abuse and addiction. One of my first considerations was the launch of a daily feeding ministry, having observed the lack of consistent food pantry services in our area. When proposing the idea, several people suggested that a daily food distribution program was unnecessary in our region.

I also learned that advocacy also involves persistence and an eye for opportunity. When the pandemic began in March 2020, I took the idea of a daily feeding ministry “off the shelf” and invited several Emmanuel members to participate in brainstorming what could be done, when the world around us was focused on what could no longer be done. Those discussions gave birth to the E-Meal Ministry, a feeding ministry that began with a simple concept, a brown paper bag containing all the elements of a single meal – one that could be easily packaged and distributed safely in a contact-free manner. We launched the ministry on March 16, 2020, handing “up” 34 meals. It didn’t take long for word to travel and for our food offerings to evolve and expand. Four years later, we have handed up 565,000 meals, serving 225 -250 families per week. We also distribute clothing, toys, diapers, period products and serve as the gathering and distribution point of a ministry that provides over 1,200 to 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for distribution to area homeless ministries.

Advocacy involves drawing attention to a problem, particularly when it is hidden from view. Aside from the impact E-Meal has made on local hunger, I’m proud of how it has awakened our community to the real problem of food insecurity in our region. The ministry has drawn the attention of Souderton’s Mayor, Borough Council, County Legislators, and State Representative Steve Malagari. These connections allow us to continually advocate for the E-Meal Ministry and for our government leaders to act in support of hunger ministries throughout the region.


Southwestern PA Synod Honoree – The Rev. Martin Rafanan

I am the son of immigrant parents. My father arrived from the Philippine Islands in 1927 and my mother is a German Holocaust survivor who came to this country in 1949 as a displaced person. As a multi-racial, multi-ethnic immigrant family, we experienced discrimination and racism in this culture. My family has always believed in the values of this country, and I was encouraged to ensure that these values could be applied with greater equity for all. For me, the legacy of my parents and my commitment to God compel my advocacy and political engagement. My faith in God is expressed as I work with the Beloved Community to make justice and peace real in our world.

My faith led me to become a pastor in the African American community in St. Louis, and the people of God in my congregation challenged me to “have eyes to see and ears to hear.” They lived within a system of racism and structural oppression. Each day, they had to teach me how that system impacted their lives and the lives of their children. With their embrace of loving support and solidarity, I would begin to understand the mechanics of injustice “on the ground,” and learn to resist and survive through connection to “Jesus on the Mainline.”

Black parishioners taught me that talking about justice wasn’t good enough; they wanted me walkin’ the talk. They invited me to join them in the fight for justice at the banks, in the real estate offices, and in the supermarkets of St. Louis. They wanted me to confront the drug dealers who threatened their children and the suburbanites whose expensive cars could be seen pulling up at the drug outlets on our streets. They wanted me to help them elect the right leaders to the School Board, build housing for the homeless, and create afterschool programs for their children. They encouraged me to stand up and speak out in the city council, the state legislature and at the offices of our congresspersons and senators. They wanted me to be actively engaged in politics. In short, they taught me how to be a pastor who could be a partner and co-laborer with them in the fight for liberation. That fight continues, and it always includes political advocacy as an expression of commitment to God.


Upper Susquehanna Synod Honoree – The Rev. Karl Runser

Advocacy became part of my pastoral ministry early in my first call, in the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod. The Bishop happened to read a newsletter column I wrote (some of you know how this goes!) and reached out to me with an invitation to serve on LAMPa’s Policy Council. Since then I’ve served on the Council three times, including on the Executive Team, including terms as Secretary and as Treasurer — some of the most useful continuing education I’ve ever had.

I don’t remember much about that newsletter column, but after two decades of ordained ministry I can tell you my attachment to advocacy grows directly from working with the food pantries in each parish I’ve served. The wisdom and dedication of the pantry volunteers, and the knowledge they have of the systemic problems of poverty and hunger, have informed what I say to legislative offices — and to many others.

I believe a significant part of our mission as God’s people is to accompany, feed, and care for one another and our neighbors, reflecting the love of a Lord of abundant grace and fulfilling the Great Commandment to love one another as Christ loves us. We carry out this Christian ministry expecting nothing in return, though it often blesses us with joy. It blesses the Church, too, with the spirit of wisdom and understanding.

I cherish the opportunity Lutheran Day gives us, not only to advocate in person at the Capitol, but to be gathered in the same space with others who embrace the mission of advocacy. The spirit (Spirit!) of this event is irreplaceable.

I give thanks to God for the privilege of working with LAMPa. Here’s to the next forty-five years of Lutheran Advocacy in Pennsylvania!


“Church Together” Award – Union Lutheran Church in York, Pastor Joel Folkemer

Union Evangelical Lutheran’s core values affirm that everyone should have what they need to thrive in an environment of justice and equity. Because we believe that every person is made in the image of God, we affirm each one’s intrinsic value and worth, and that God’s generous favor toward us comes with no strings attached, period. We understand ourselves to be the free recipients of God’s love, who cannot do anything to earn it, and that God calls us to share this free gift with others by word and deed.

We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, but our definition of love is not limited “warm feelings.” Our mission is to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Love is what we are to do. Furthermore, we believe that we are called minister with and to whole people. We strive toward radical inclusion, welcome, diversity, and community, including engagement with the world toward the realization of the common good, and especially toward the care of neighbors who are vulnerable. While neighbors is an expansive term in the Church, we at Union understand that we have a particular call to ministry with and to our neighbors living in the neighborhoods surrounding our physical buildings. Everyone is welcome to a place at Union. We want everyone to have a place of dignity and provision in our neighborhoods as well.

We place a high priority on working with community partners. We are actively engaged with over three dozen community organizations, nonprofits, and businesses. This doesn’t include the many different people who individually play a large role in serving our community together. We do not have everything, we don’t have all the pieces, but together, when we share our abilities, resources, and times, we can engage and walk with our community in many, many, ways. These relationships and partnerships are what makes much of our ministry possible. We truly are stronger together.

These ministries revolve around God’s command to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Too often, our society and culture demand “success” as money and power. We focus more on building our three main relationships: Relationship with God, Relationship with each other, and our Relationship with our neighbors. We evaluate our outreach ministries first on building relationships and trust, and providing for the needs of the marginalized, while sharing an invitation to become involved more deeply in our community of faith. We then evaluate performance based on the continued relationships and partnerships. Finally, we see growth in our community of faith as a trailing sign of success. The healthier we become in our relationships, the more people will be involved and join us in this ministry.


Photo credit: John Kahler