What I didn't expect upon entering the courtroom...

Sitting just outside the jury box with 79 other randomly selected and inconvenienced souls was not my first, second, or third choice for how to spend a Monday morning, the day after the 5th Sunday after Epiphany (otherwise known as the day after the Superbowl). We were stunned into silence. The jury clerk said we were the quietest bunch she’d ever had. I was given a number—lucky 13.

We waited a couple of hours before entering the courtroom and engaging in the “Voir Dire” process. It felt like confession. If voir dire is not a part of your everyday vocabulary, it refers to the process by which the judge and lawyers narrow the pool of jurors. They interviewed each of the jurors about our backgrounds and beliefs. Unlike private confession, however, we did this individually in front of everyone. As often as I have listened to people confess their sins, I wanted to close my eyes in this instance as people revealed their secrets in front of an audience, without a chance for absolution. After each person took to the microphone and shared his or her name, age, occupation, family composition, hobbies, news sources, and several other personal details, the judge and lawyers proceeded to ask questions to determine anything that would prejudice a particular juror for the case. We were instructed to raise our hands if any of us could say yes to any of their questions and then they would probe further. For example: Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Would your religious beliefs prevent you from being fair or impartial? Is there anything we haven’t asked you that you think we should know? Would being selected as a juror for this case be a devastating hardship for you?

Despite my objections, they didn’t seem to think being a pastor and parent of three children under three years old disqualified me from service. The Monday morning voir dire stretched into Tuesday afternoon selections, and Tuesday afternoon stretched into five weeks of service for a federal criminal case. The circumstances that brought the defendants to court were complicated and I won’t bore you with all the details here, but I will say that I was stretched in positive and constructive ways. From learning about the criminal justice system, to deliberating with complete strangers, to realizing the import of our collective decision as a jury of peers, I am better for the experience. If summoned again, would I willingly serve? Absolutely…but hopefully I don’t get called again for a very, very long time! If you’re curious and want to learn more about my experience, let’s sit down for a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you. Thank you for your support and encouragement as I fulfilled my civic duty. I’m also so thankful for my husband and family who endured a challenging schedule.

God’s Peace, Pastor Stephanie

A Note from Kristian: Preparing for Sabbatical

After a 3-year delay due to the building project, I’m excited to finally be going on sabbatical next week! I plan to start with some much-needed rest before Donell and I move from Minneapolis to Burnsville in April. In May, I’ll take the Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising course at Luther Seminary, followed by a trip to Missouri to help my elderly parents downsize. I also intend to have fun devoting time to my sorely neglected reading list, Netflix queue, and stack of Lego kits before returning to work on June 21, 2017.

I’m confident that things at ECLC will continue to run smoothly while I’m gone, thanks to the great team who’ll be pitching in to cover my responsibilities: Eileen, Erik, Harlan, Lisa, Rynda, and Stephanie. Don’t worry about keeping track of who’ll be doing what. Just contact Lisa at 952-926-3808 or lmacklem@eclc.org and she’ll direct you to the right person to assist you.

Solidarity With Our Sister Congregations

Throughout Lent, ECLC is exploring the Gospel through the Lens of solidarity. The Bible stories shared each Sunday and Wednesday reflect for us God's commitment to walking with each of us in struggle, especially those turned away by society. We, in turn, are transformed to respond to personal pain and issues of injustice and stand with our brothers and sisters as well, in whatever ways we are asked.

This month, our sister congregations have invited us to stand in solidarity with them. Please join ECLC is walking with our brothers and sisters:

Redeemer Lutheran: Redeemer, ECLC, and Westwood have come together for a monthly series on race. On Tuesday, March 14th, come to Redeemer at 1800 Glenwood Ave in Mpls from 7-8:30pm to hear Dr. Julia Joseph-Di Caprio speak on Race & Healthcare. Former Chief of Pediatrics at HCMC, Dr. Joseph-Di Caprio is working towards health equity of all.

Cristo de Paz: Our friends in El Salvador continue to express concern over the number of children fleeing their communities for the dangerous passage to the US. Join ECLC on Sunday, March 19th at 7pm for a public viewing of the movie Which Way Home, which follows the terrifying journeys of several unaccompanied child migrants from Central America. 

St. Paul’s Lutheran: A largely Latino congregation, St. Paul's community has expressed fear in the wake of immigration raids in our community. To show our support and solidarity, they ask ECLC to join them at their monthly bilingual worship service on Sunday, March 26th at 11am followed by a potluck. 

You may RSVP for any of these opportunities at the sign up center, by emailing Lauren at lmorsewendt@eclc.org, or making the most powerful statement of all: just showing up!

Whether you are able to attend these events or not, you can show your solidarity with these sister communities by supporting this year's Lenten offering which will support our local sister congregations, St. Paul's and Redeemer. You can support the Lenten offering by putting a check with "Lenten offering" in the offering plate at worship, donating at the soup supper, or donating online here. 

Together in Christ,