As congregations and synods throughout Pennsylvania prepare to hold rogation services and pray over the soils of their companion synods both here and around the world, leaders across the commonwealth have lifted up the stories of specific locations to hold in prayer. The below sites are beautiful and vital themselves, but also represent broader categories of lands and peoples such as: camps and campers, community gardens and congregations, farms and farmers, parks and park rangers, etc. These stories, amongst others, will be lifted up throughout the growing season as we give thanks to God for creation, and ask God’s blessing on all those who inhabit and steward the land.
Keep up-to-date on when rogation services happen in your synod by checking back on our website.
Hi-View Gardens is a very small fresh produce CSA and greenhouse operation in south-central Somerset County. Todd and Sara Wetzel have Lutheran ties to the region. We supply eggs and produce with a farm letter to customers in a weekly “share box” delivered to a neighborhood pick-up site. The customer receives limited choices in the contents but is encouraged to try new and different produce week to week, whatever crop is ready to harvest. Technically our operation may be termed “Beyond No Spray” because we allow organic standards in our methodology but are not certified by a 3rd party. We have enjoyed being small enough to serve both the body and mind that grow the food and sell as a CSA share.
submitted by Susan Barclay
Star Cross Naturals
Star Cross Naturals is a small family farm located in south-central Somerset County. It’s owned and operated by Mike and Kelly Younkin. Along with our daughter Sada, we grow mushrooms and produce on 2 acres. We specialize in micro-greens and lettuce. We also raise chickens and ducks for meat and eggs. We’ve been growing for family and friends for many years, but the farm became official in 2017. The farm went full-time in 2020 when Mike retired from his job of 25 years as a 911 dispatcher. We farm without the use of chemicals and are Certified Naturally Grown. You can find our produce at several local farmers markets, through our CSA, and via delivery and pick-up in the winter months. We strive towards sustainability and are thankful for this piece of land God has tasked us with tending.
submitted by Susan Barclay
Pray for Immigrant Farm Workers
We pray for immigrant families and asylum seekers incarcerated in detention centers on Pennsylvania soil and working in the fields and orchards of Lower Susquehanna Synod. For families that are separated, for asylum seekers that have experienced trauma and loss, for individuals of strong faith and brave commitment to a better future for their families, we pray for protection, support, help, and healing.
from Rev. Carla Christopher
Kernsville Dam Desilting Basin
Hamburg, Pa. sits at the crossroads of Interstate 78 (running east-west from New York City toward Harrisburg) and the Schuylkill River (flowing north-south from the coal regions of Schuylkill County through Reading, Pottstown, Valley Forge, past the Philadelphia Museum of Art before dumping into the Delaware). After being used for many decades to clean mined coal upriver, the Schuylkill River turned black from accumulating coal silt and was “too thick to drink, and too thin to plow.” In the late 1800s, Philadelphia abandoned it as a source of drinking water, and in the early 20 th century, the Schuylkill was essentially a “dead river,” no longer host to aquatic life.
In 1945, the “Prohibiting Pollution of the Schuylkill River Act” passed the Pennsylvania House and Senate nearly unopposed, and over the next decades, roughly $30 million in state and federal monies poured into the region to clean up the Schuylkill. The Kernsville Dam, northwest of Hamburg, is a legacy of this clean-up project; coal silt was dredged at the dam and pumped into the desilting basin. Although most of the dredged coal silt was hauled away to make charcoal briquets, some sections of soil still bear witness to the desilting basin’s past, with glimmering bits of coal dust, as can be seen in this soil sample. The desilting basin is now home to a diversity of wildlife and a popular recreation area for locals and out-of-towners alike. Seen through a theological lens, the Schuylkill River tells a story of ecological death and resurrection. Rendered lifeless by human sinfulness, the Schuylkill is alive again. In 2016, the Creation Care Task Force of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod kayaked down the river with about 40 participants from across the Synod, including then Bishop Samuel Zeiser. We began with a thanksgiving for baptism at the shores of the Schuylkill, singing “Shall We Gather At the River.” Splashed with the river water, we remembered God’s vision of water flowing crystal clear from the throne of God (Revelation 22:1) and a “world redeemed, restored.” (By Your Hand You Feed Your People, ELW 469)
Let us pray.
Resurrecting God, Pennsylvanians have had to learn the hard way that misusing your creation has dire consequences. Thank you for the ability to learn from our mistakes, and for laws on the books that will prevent the river from dying again by human hands. Inspire ongoing relationship between your baptized people and the beautiful rivers of our commonwealth, so that we may see your power at work in our landscapes, until that day when we gather with all the saints at the river that flows from the throne of God. Amen.
Rev. Inge Williams, LAMPA Policy Council Member &; Pastor, Friedens Lutheran Church, Sharltesville
God’s Garden of Grace
God’s Garden of Grace is a ministry of St Peter’s Lutheran Church in Pen Argyl PA, part of the Pocono Mission District. It is supported by the members of St Peter’s, with help from local businesses and other churches in the community. The garden is planted, maintained and the produce harvested by volunteers from St Peter’s and other community members. All produce that is harvested is given to four local food banks who receive weekly distributions. Volunteers usually come out one or two days a week to care for the garden during the months of April through October, sometimes November if there is late cabbage to be picked. Last year, the garden produced almost 10,000 pounds of produce. Along with 2700 pounds of produce donated from member’s own gardens, God’s Garden of Grace distributed tomatoes, squash, string beans, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers, red beets and eggplant to our four local foodbanks to feed 100s of hungry families in the Slate Belt Region.
Gracious God, we give you thanks for soil that nurtures seeds and young plants to grow into a harvest of plenty to feed your hungry people. We thank you for willing hands who work joyfully to care for your creation and the bounty you provide. We thank you for the sun and the rain which come in due season, and for irrigation systems when the rain is less than needed. We thank you for volunteers with years of farming experience who make this garden possible. And we thank you for your generous Spirit, which continues to amaze us with harvests more bountiful than we can account for through our own works. Amen.
Tender Lord, we ask you for help for those who hunger: for those who hunger for food, that we might be useful in feeding them; for those who hunger spiritually, that they might see you active in the world through the works that we do in your name; for those who hunger for companionship, that we might help them to see a God who loves and cares for them and a community that welcomes them in. Amen.
submitted by Pastor Chris Druckenmiller
Lord of the harvest, Jesus told many stories of seed and soil, likening the bounty of your creation to the generous and grace-filled Kingdom of God. Bless the soil from this garden, and all soil everywhere, that all of your creatures may be fed. Help us to be good stewards of your creation. Help us to show love to you and to our neighbors in our care for what you have made. Help us to see the common grace in all things that grow. Amen!
First Lutheran Church, Warren, Herb Garden
Our Stewardship of Life Committee began a small herb garden four years ago, situated right outside of our Education Building near the main parking lot. Our goal is to provide fresh herbs, free of charge, to anyone who might use them. In our small town, fresh herbs are expensive to purchase in the grocery stores and this is a perfect way to encourage “culinary adventures” and to create a sense of community. At the end of the season, we have some congregation members who harvest what is left, via freezing or dehydrating.
During the summer, we have a Sharing Table in our narthex on Sunday mornings. This table features extra produce, special baked goods and now fresh herbs, for all to share. Donations are encouraged, dedicated to Lutheran World Hunger Relief.
A new addition to this year’s Herb Garden will be the development of a Herb Garden Booklet. This will feature tips for herb preservation, how herbs can deter pests, and best of all, recipes submitted by congregation members that feature herbs.
Our soil contribution is taken from our garden. Pictured in our photo are (L to R), Pastor Jeff Ewing and Stewardship Committee Members Penny Lester and Ralph Farone. One of our church members made and donated Herb signs, so that we can direct people easily to the garden. Once warm weather arrives, the signs will be re-installed, the dirt tilled and the planting will begin! (Note: The special red shirts are a “signature” of our church: “God’s Work, Our Hands”, with the back saying “Friends Loving Christ, First Lutheran Church”. We have shirts for all seasons, and are beginning to be referred to as the “church with the red shirts”.
First Lutheran is grateful to participate in this observance of Rogation Days.
From Warren County, submitted by Penny Lester, member of First Lutheran (Warren): Herb Garden
Good Hope/Zion Lutheran Ministry of Oil City, PA is located at the confluence of Oil Creek and the Allegheny River (which flows to Pittsburgh to join the Monongahela River and form the Ohio River which flows into the Mississippi and empties into the Gulf of Mexico).
When I chaperoned young people to the ELCA National Youth Gatherings in New Orleans in 1997 & 2012 I pointed out to them that where we live and how we care for our streams and rivers in our back yard effects so many people downstream! Oil Creek is the valley that “changed the world”. Native Americans skimmed crude oil from the surface of Oil Creek for medicinal use, insect repellent, skin coloring and use in religious ceremonies. In 1859 Drake Well struck oil near Oil Creek in Titusville, PA and forever changed our world.
The National Transit Building in downtown Oil City housed John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. This year Oil City celebrates its 150th Anniversary as does the congregation of Good Hope Lutheran Church.
So much has changed in the past 150 years. Oil was the fossil fuel that “changed the world”, but now threatens to destroy the natural world. Work in the oil industries sustained many immigrants in Oil City and across the world. Many are afraid of leaving behind our dependance on fossil fuels and looking ahead to new renewable fuel sources. We’ve moved from whale oil to light our lamps to oil, to electric generated from coal, water, nuclear fission, to wind and solar power…what else does our good and gracious Creator have in store for us?
We must use our God given intelligence and curiosity to seek sustainable ways to power our world.
We pray for our local town that is struggling with a slow economy and hunger. We pray for everyone along the water route from the “valley that changed the world” to those along all the mighty rivers around the earth that flow into the oceans. We pray for all of God’s creation that we have used and abused. We pray that we can keep our water, air, and land clean for future generations. We pray for new insight and inventions that will allow all people upon the earth to have food and all the other resources needed for healthy lives. We pray all this in Christ’s name. Amen
Submitted by Yvonne Paranick, member of Zion Lutheran Church, Oil City, PA and the NWPA Synod Green team.
Gate House – Pymatuning State Park
What Pymatuning State Park means to me.
I worked for 19 years as the Environmental Education Specialist at Pymatuning. The Gate House contains the gates that contain the 17,000 acre Pymatuning Reservoir. The land around Pymatuning was home to Native Americans, early pioneers and now provides recreational opportunities for over 3 million visitors each year. These visitors to the park can renew themselves through fishing, camping swimming, boating, hiking, birding and connect people with nature.
My prayer comes from the Iroquois Nation:
The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother, we send greetings and thanks.
from Linda Armstrong
Sending along pictures from our soil gathering at Presque Isle. I am a member of the NWPA Synod Green Team and my husband and I were married at and are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church, in NW Millcreek – Presque Isle is almost in our backyard.
Presque Isle State Park is a natural gem in PA but especially in NW Erie County (Erie/NW Millcreek/Fairview/Girard). It is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie and is Pennsylvania’s only “seashore”. Because of the many unique habitats, Presque Isle contains a greater number of the state’s endangered, threatened, and rare species than any other area of comparable size in Pennsylvania. More than 339 species of birds have been identified on the peninsula. It is enjoyed by many for the biodiversity, tranquility, beauty and enjoyment for human and non-human. It is renowned by birders as a significant stop in the Atlantic migratory flight path. The past couple years have taken their toll on the habitat of Presque Isle due to high water levels as a result of ever-increasing severe storms.
As you can see from the pictures, Presque Isle continues to support water fowl, especially during Spring migration, but the water levels have been so high and the winds so strong in the sand/soil foundation that many of the trees have weakened, tilted or fallen. There is very little in the way of ground vegetation for food for the birds and the 4-legged creatures and very little shelter. Lots of mud!!
Though we found a few carelessly discarded items of trash – the park is remarkably clean considering the record number of people who have frequented the park during the pandemic with well over 4 million.
My prayer would be in thanksgiving for the bountiful fresh water and my petitions are for all creation, not just humans, that treasure and depend on these nature places. Help us to understand and fulfill our role in being good stewards and protectors so that there will be, as God intended, enough for ALL.
from Lori and Larry Nemenz
“The Church in the Vineyard”
This sample was taken from the concord grape vineyard on the property of St. Peter’s Lutheran, known as “The church in the vineyard.” St. Peter’s owns three acres of Concord grape vines near the town of North East, PA. This vineyard borders two sides of our congregational building, and is part of a much larger vineyard (owned by others), encompassing some 20 acres in all. This region has the world’s largest concentration of concord grapes. As such, St. Peter’s is most likely one of the few congregations in PA that owns commercially producing acreage. Our grapes are usually sold to Welch’s, which has a “juicing plant” about two miles from this vineyard.
Dear Lord, Bring peace and safety to the migrant workers who tend to our vineyards throughout the cold of winter, pruning and tying vines in weather that no one else is willing to face. May your presence warm them as they carry out their duties. And bless also the vines themselves, helping them to withstand the ebb and flow of global warming, which brings them not only excessive heat, but freezing rain and snow, as well. We pray this in the name of the One who is our Vine, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
from Rev. Matthew Dennison, St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Lutheran, North East, PA
Lake Erie Shore Bluffs
This photo shows the damage done to a portion of Lake Erie’s shore bluffs due to storms that are increasing in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change. Properties along the bluff, including some homes, are threatened by the degradation of the bluffs. Old utility lines have been exposed. We must act now to reduce the effects of climate change as a part of our stewardship of God’s creation.
Prayer: Dear Lord, You have given us beauty, and yet we allow it to slip through our fingers as if your creation is not worth saving! We ask your forgiveness. Please, before it is too late, open our eyes, and move our voices and bodies to work for protection of the earth and all that dwell therein. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
from Dennis Groce, member of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran in North East Township
Eastwick, a neighborhood in Philadelphia, is adjacent to a superfund site, the Philadelphia International Airport, and Heinz National Refuge. It sits at the confluence of Darby and Cobbs Creek. Flooding is not new to the area, but development decisions riddled with racial prejudice over decades turned a once thriving and racially integrated community into a community that now suffers chronic flooding and chronic underfunding to address these issues. The community leadership is strong and dedicated to making changes, but they are deeply hurt by development injustices in the recent past that continue to impact residents today.
Tropical Storm Isaias caused severe flooding to hundreds of homes in Eastwick in August 2020. Many families are still without repaired heaters and have been unable to repair their homes. Lutheran Disaster Response along with partners from other disaster organizations and in partnership with Eastwick leadership, is working to help identify resources to help families recover; a process that will take years.
from Julia Menzo, Lutheran Disaster Response
Read more about the Eastwick flooding recovery process here:
Reformation Lutheran Church – Pollinator Garden
What good things can happen when a church makes a commitment to environmentally friendly practices, and they have members with green thumbs and a passion for gardening? In the case of Reformation Lutheran Church in Media, the result was a magnificent pollinator garden.
The seed for this idea was planted in 2015, and the Eco Ministry Committee at Reformation took this project under its wing. Guidelines for designing a pollinator garden were referenced in its planning and execution. Official certification of the pollinator garden came about in 2019, and over the years since its inception, it has been lovingly maintained and expanded. Filled with a variety of native plants and a water source for visiting pollinators, the garden is a source of beauty and a way station for nature’s helpers.
from Marilyn Berberich, member of Reformation Lutheran Church
Bateman Farm was established April, 2013. It is not a generational farm, handed down through the family, it was purchased by a man with a love of working ground and having animals. My husband spent over 30 years working and saving to purchase a farm of his own after spending time with his late dad from a young age, both sharing a love of farming on some neighboring rented property. His hard work has continued as this farm was in need of repair and love, from fields to farmhouse. This 200 acre farm is planted in hay, soybeans and corn and is home to range of 65-85 Hereford cattle. We have seen very wet years and very dry years as well as breakdowns and sick animals but we have learned to take the good with the bad and most importantly to work as a family. Farming is not for the faint of heart but has taught our son the value of hard work. I truly believe farmers are amongst the most faithful… they carefully cultivate and plant a seed in the spring only to pray that the seed germinates and grows during the summer in order to reap a bountiful harvest in the fall.
from Lisa and Bill Bateman
The land here at Camp Lutherlyn bears a breadth of history, from extractive industries to a restorative mission to care for all of creation. Parts of this land are shaded by aged trees, while other places are open for play and new growth. At Lutherlyn, there are several outdoor chapels, which are constant reminders of the intertwining of all God’s critters. We trust that in each of these spaces, we lift our human voices in praise joined with the voiceless praise of creation. The physical place of Lutherlyn demands a rapt attention to creation, but we also act in intentional ways to be caring. Including, composting food scraps, gardening, a vibrant environmental education program, water saving habits, a sustainable-living homestead, and so much more. As paths wind around the forests and fields there are layers upon layers of invisible footprints which mark the countless visitors, campers, staff members that have been accepted, challenged, and sent out to make a difference in the rest of the world. Since 1948 Lutherlyn has served as a place where people have reconnected with God and with God’s creation by getting covered in some of the same soil which has covered numerous people who have ventured into this space.
Rogation Prayer from Lutherlyn
O God of the cosmos, not one gram of soil is forgotten by You. The living community within the dark, safe recesses of the soil raise their invisible, unheard voices to you for rest and new life. As life springs forth in this new season, bring showers of justice and peace which will soak into our human hearts and sustain the earth we depend on. The soil we bring from Lutherlyn has witnessed years of people who have been shown how they are accepted by God, challenged in new life-giving ways, and sent out to other soils to do restorative work there. Guide us to listen carefully to the youngest among us as they inherit the joys and hardships of living in relationship with all of God’s creatures. We ask all this in the name of the one who lived and prayed among all of creation, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I think right now our main prayer request is based around the anxiety and hope of being together with summer staff and campers this summer. We are praying for safety and health during the fast-arriving summer season, especially as we continue to live through this pandemic. Along with the physical health-side of these concerns comes the anxiety around whether camp will feel or even be remotely similar to what we know and remember from the past. And those memories of the past are particularly vivid and important.
from Ryan, Lutherlyn
In addition to operating a butcher shop, Jim spent most of his career working for Standard Steel in Lewistown, but when we retired from that work he decided to move back to the house in which he was born and take up farming. The farm has been in Jim’s family since 1923. Recently Jim’s grandson has taken up much of the work. The beautiful property lies at the edge of Beavertown, PA on the edge of the woods and not far from the babbling Middle Creek.
submitted by Rev. James Vitale, Pastor of Beaver Lutheran Church, Beavertown, PA
The Mattern family lives and farms among the picturesque rolling hills between Beaver Springs, PA and McClure, PA. The farm belonged to Scott’s parents and has been in family possession since 1967. The family tills the earth primarily in order to provide feed for their steers. Joe has inherited his father’s passion for the work and continues in it diligently.
submitted by Rev. James Vitale, Pastor of Beaver Lutheran Church, Beavertown, PA
This soil comes from a land deeply connected, deeply loved, and deeply polluted. It is owned by Talen Energy. This soil comes from the foot of a bird house on lands preserved for the sake of human enjoyment. It comes from the shores of Lake Chillisquaque whose waters cool the reactors of a coal-fired plant. This soil will one day come under the stewardship of the community, those that have always walked its paths and loved its forests.
from Larry Herrold, Jr., Hunger Advocacy Fellow, LAMPa
This breathtaking farm in Troxelville, PA came into Dave’s possession in 1989 when he purchased it from the Norman family. A large oak tree spreads its roots out in front of the house. The former owners were attached to this tree and asked Dave not to cut it down until after they died. Now, years after their passing, the tree still sits. “It grew on me!” Dave says. It stands as a reminder of the long legacy of this farm and people who tended it.
submitted by Rev. James Vitale, Pastor of Beaver Lutheran Church, Beavertown, PA
Zion Lutheran Church – Community Garden
This soil comes from well-tended garden plots resting above a manicured church lawn. A mixture of topsoil and mushroom soil from a local landscaper, it has been rejuvenated year after year by members’ compost. This soil yields wholesome foods that feed parishioners and the food insecure. This soil yields plants that host grasshoppers, butterflies, and many more of God’s tiny creatures. This soil is a reminder of that congregation’s holy connection to the land.
from Larry Herrold, Jr., Hunger Advocacy Fellow, LAMPa
Access the Prayer Litany for Upper Susquehanna Synod here.
Submitted April 16 by Rev. Linda Johnson Seyenkulo, ELCA Missionary to Liberia (Curriculum Developer and Teacher, Louis T Bowers Lay Leaders and Ministers Training Center, and Associate Pastor, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church.
While the Coronavirus has not hit Liberia and other West African countries as hard as other parts of the world, it has had a very significant economic impact which has inspired a new program initiative for the Lutheran Church in Liberia. In order to control the spread of the virus, Liberia and its’ neighboring countries closed their borders, meaning there was no people or commerce allowed across the borders. That was difficult but the really unfortunate part of the closed borders was that Liberia, which imports 70-80% of the rice its’ people consume, started to run out of rice. Rice is the most important staple food in the Liberian diet. Without rice, the people of Liberia starve.
The lack of rice and the increased price of the existing rice, made it difficult for Liberians who were already challenged economically by the effects of the Coronavirus to be able to 1. Find rice, and 2. Afford rice. The Lutheran Church in Liberia, led by Bishop D. Jensen Seyenkulo, has begun a project, partnering with the Episcopal, United Methodist, and Baptist churches of Liberia, as well as the government of Liberia and educational institutions dealing with agriculture. The purpose of the project is to find ways to do sustainable agriculture in this very fertile country, particularly in the area of rice production. The project is called LIFE-Liberia which stands for Liberian Initiative for Feeding Everyone-Liberia. The idea is to help farmers and farming communities look at new ways of rice production so they can feed themselves. The goal is to reduce importation of rice by 5 to 10% in ten years. The goal is for Liberians to become self sufficient in feeding themselves and their neighbors.
The Evangelists of the Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL)are almost all farmers. They are selected by their congregations to teach and preach, while continuing to farm. Being an Evangelist is hard work, so is being a farmer. In Liberia, most of the farming is subsistence farming, meaning it is to grow enough for your family and it is done by hard manual labor. Farming equipment other than hoes, cutlasses, and whippers is virtually non-existent. The farming takes constant attention so that the weeds and other plants will not overtake the crops.
Some Evangelists of the LCL are encouraged by their parishes to attend the Louis T. Bowers Lay Leaders and Ministers Training Center in Totota, Liberia to gain skills in reading, Old and New Testament studies, Lutheran Teachings, Church History, Preaching, Evangelism, and other subjects. The program these Evangelists enter is a two year program, consisting of four nine week sessions. Evangelists who attend this training, leave their homes and their farms and their families for nine weeks at a time. For some of them and their families, this is a real hardship. However, many of them have said that the sacrifice is worth it because of how their studies enrich them. The farming stories in the Gospels particularly speak to their context and experience. They really get what Jesus is saying.
When they return home, their ministry grows and flourishes, and their excitement and commitment to their farming continues.
God of the Harvest, bless the crops that are planted by farmers and gardeners all over the world. Send rain and sun in good amounts to grow the seeds. Strengthen the work and the resolve of those who plant, that they may hold firm during good seasons and difficult seasons. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.
God who reigns over all the earth. You have created a world that is capable of raising enough food for everyone. As we humans have taken control, somehow the plenty for everyone has evolved into plenty for a few and scarcity for many. Move your creative Spirit through us, through our governments, through our world so that what is enough for everyone will really be received by everyone. Amen.
We pray for the Konde Diocese in Tanzania, our companion synod. We pray for April Trout, our called missionary, for Angela Hammer, our committee chair and frequent mission trip leader, and most importantly for the congregations and rostered leaders in Konde we are blessed to walk alongside. We pray for their growth, safety, and peace with the land and among their people.