Friday, January 28, 2011

In the News: ELCA News

January 27, 2011

ELCA Launches LivingLutheran.Com for Sharing Stories and Conversation

[Click for larger image] is an ELCA website for stories and conversation about what it means to 'live Lutheran.'

CHICAGO (ELCA) --, a new website for members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), offers a daily blend of stories and conversation about what it means to "live Lutheran." is the companion site to, the official website of the ELCA churchwide organization. The site is at

"We really wanted to create an every-member publication but with a new twist on the concept," said Scott J. Hendrickson, ELCA director for marketing and public relations. "We could either print and mail a publication to all 4.5 million ELCA Lutherans, or we could leverage new technology to create a living, breathing publication where members can explore and talk about their faith experiences."

"It's really the first of its kind," he added. "We thought we'd take a page from Martin Luther and try our hand in new technology."

Hendrickson said one particularly significant aspect of is the blog section, featuring members from throughout the ELCA who have "very different perspectives and life experiences."

"It's time for us as ELCA Lutherans to show the world that dialogue is possible, that there is room in our world for voices that represent faith without rushing to judgment and closing off discussion," Hendrickson said. "We're really fortunate to have people like Megan Rohrer and Erma Wolf lend their voices."

In addition to the blog entries, visitors will also find personal profiles written by ELCA members; articles from Seeds for the Parish, the resource newspaper for ELCA congregations; stories about members and their ministries; short videos designed to inspire and amuse, and more.

The concept behind was researched and tested with members, Hendrickson said. New content is posted daily, including stories about members and congregations, weekly text studies, and messages from leaders. The site employs social media tools to enhance member engagement with the site. Members can use their Facebook profiles to connect to, he said.
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with approximately 4.5 million members in more than 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In the News: SF Weekly

Get to know S.F.'s community gardens with SF Refresh
By Karen Macklin Wednesday, Jan 19 2011

Urban environments are great places for bars, nightlife, arts, food, and culture. They are also great places for neurosis, stress, and isolation. Why? Because people in cities keep fit-to-bursting work and social calendars that often ignore the daily and seasonal rhythms of nature, are constantly surrounded by machines and artificial light, and go home to apartment buildings where no one knows their next-door neighbors. The gist of it is that people in cities are detached from the natural environment. And those people in cities are us.

But guess what? We don't have to be. There are pockets of nature everywhere in San Francisco. They are our community gardens. There are more ways for you to get involved with those gardens than you could possibly take advantage of, but most of us don't know where to start.

Enter SF Refresh, an initiative that will create all-day events in participating community gardens on six days in 2011 (see list at end). On those days, these local gardens will host free whole body care services and classes, including yoga, acupuncture, art-making, and food-making.

Inspired by Sunday Streets, SF Refresh was created by Megan Rohrer, manager of the Growing Home Community Garden in Hayes Valley. The project is being developed in partnership with the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance, a new organization created to connect the city's community gardens, and partly funded by the Mental Health Services Act, since the point of SF Refresh is to encourage stronger community and improved mental health.

"Community gardens have through scientific studies been proven to be therapeutic places that lower anxiety and help people come out of isolation," Rohrer says. "They have the ability to heal you in all of the ways you can think of. You're putting your hands in earth, so you're having a tactile experience; you're looking at beautiful flowers, so you're having a visual experience; and you're eating food, so you're having a nutritional experience. Gardens are a place that can speak to us on lots of different levels."

A man who goes by the name of Tree, a founder of the Free Farm community garden in Richmond, which will also be participating in SF Refresh, says that gardens remind us of how we are all connected. "When we think about soil, we are really aware of what's living in the soil — the microbes, the fungi, the protozoa — all of those things are connected in a web of life," he says. "And the people above the soil have to look at life in the same way. That's what this event is really about: connecting with other people in the city, and with what sustains us and brings about life."

Art, food, and soft edges
Head volunteer artist Ilyse Magy is recruiting other volunteers to lead art projects, focused on building community, beautifying the chain-link fences around the gardens, and creating other adornments. These group projects, she says, are a great way to try your hand at art, which can also be therapeutic. "I think self-care is about doing things that make you feel good, and I think art is just one of those things," she says. "Making art is an amazing way of being totally present. You get out of your head and are really there creating something." In the garden, she adds, nature functions as a muse for the artist: "What's more beautiful than flowers or plants?"

SF Refresh will also be offering classes in food-making, hosted by the local nonprofit Urban Kitchen SF. In these classes, which include pickling and kombucha-making, you can use ingredients grown right in the gardens and leave with starter kits to continue the process at home.

"It's incredibly empowering to learn these skills," says Kateryna Rakowsky, the executive director of Urban Kitchen SF. "You take something from the raw unfinished form, create something, and take that knowledge home." Also an environmental lawyer, she says that working with food on this level also teaches people to be curious about what's in their food and to read labels more carefully. "You're basically taking charge of your own sustenance," she says.

Other offerings in the gardens during SF Refresh will include yoga, acupuncture, massage, lectures and kids' activities. Kevin Bayuk, a permaculture designer and teacher in San Francisco, says it's the soft edges of a garden that make it the perfect environment for restoring yourself. "In San Francisco, 70 percent of our surfaces are paved over and impervious to rain," he says. "We have a lot of built environment, so we have a lot of hard edges. Gardens are mostly soft. The softness tends to harmonize with opportunities to become vulnerable or open to connecting through things like yoga or healing."

Although plans are still under way, the first event is slated to take place in April, a great time to revisit the promises you made to yourself — in January. "I think April is the time when people have given up on their New Year's resolution or realized they've failed or forgotten about it completely," Rohrer says. "Coming to a garden to participate in an event like this — or even to watch other people participate — can be the first step in an entire lifestyle change."


SF Refresh will take place in community gardens around the city on Saturday, April 16; Saturday, May 21; Sunday, July 24; Saturday, Aug. 20; Sunday, Sept. 25; and Saturday, Oct. 15. All events are free. Some offerings, like the food-making classes, will require preregistration. As of press time, these five gardens had confirmed their involvement.


Growing Home Community Garden: 250 Octavia (at Page) Hayes Valley

Visitacion Valley Greenway Community Garden: Arleta (at Rutland)

The Free Farm: Gough (at Eddy)

The Hayes Valley Farm: 450 Laguna (at Fell)

Garden for the Environment: Seventh Avenue (at Lawton)

SF Refresh is also looking for volunteers, including general helpers, artists who would like to lead art projects, yoga instructors, and others who work in therapeutic modalities. If you would like to be part of a think tank for the event and offer ideas and suggestions about what else to include, visit for more information and contact details.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In the News: The Sacramento Bee

At Free Farm in S.F., all veggies are given away

Published: Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

SAN FRANCISCO – There was one common reaction when the Rev. Megan Rohrer said she wanted to start a farm in a weedy, glass-strewn vacant lot a few blocks from the Civic Center.

"People told me I was crazy," Rohrer said. "They said it was the wrong kind of space, you'll never be able to weed it, no one will come to work on it."

Yet the Free Farm will celebrate its first anniversary today, a year in which it grew and gave away more than 2,500 pounds of vegetables, making it the most bountiful of six gardens planted on Lutheran church-owned space in the Bay Area.

In an age when farmers markets are sprouting in every urban California neighborhood, the Free Farm is an unusual tale of success. Its "Hecka Local" brand produce, from tomatoes and zucchini to dwarf kale, pineapple sage and watermelon radishes, is prize-worthy, but is tended by volunteers and donated, no questions asked, to anyone who wants it.

"We want to provide an example of how to live based on generosity and sharing, instead of everything being seen as a profit," said a farm manager, who calls himself Tree.

He is joined Wednesdays and Saturdays by a dozen or more willing workers who mulch, shovel, weed and eat a communal vegan lunch. The volunteers come from all corners. There are students, teachers, members of a local temple, gardening mavens, food justice activists, the unemployed and people who describe themselves as living off the economic grid.

"We have eatings instead of meetings," said volunteer Pancho Ramos, as he sat with a bowl of bean stew and rice at the farm one day recently.

Ramos, who says he lives "without traditional currency," has watched the lemon and fig trees start to bear fruit and neighbors come by to get vegetables, surprised to find they are free.

"One woman took some zucchini and came back an hour later with empanadas," he said. "That's what a church should be."

Rohrer, executive director of Welcome, a faith-based nonprofit that works on poverty issues, saw the farm as a way to bring quality produce to inner-city residents. She had worked with the chronically homeless for about a decade and saw them struggling not only to keep housing, but also to afford good fresh food.

"The city wanted community gardens, but there was all this red tape," she said. "Everything was taking years, so I started talking to different Lutheran pastors about getting space."

One of the available spots was the lot on Gough Street, one-third of an acre that had had been unoccupied since a fire destroyed St. Paulus Church in 1995. Like much of the city, it sat in close proximity to wealth and poverty, blocks from the ornate Opera House, expensive condos and public housing.

Rohrer, who grew up in South Dakota, knew backyard gardens and had learned community organizing, but she turned to local experts for farming help. Tree and Lauren Anderson, founder of Produce to the People, which harvests food from backyards and community gardens, joined her.

Together with volunteers they built a ramp from recycled Christmas trees. They scrounged for old pallets, buckets, concrete and hardware. They fertilized the sandy soil and built a labyrinth with bricks salvaged from the burned church.

Today's scheduled celebration includes a greenhouse-raising. Tree hopes to use the structure for seedlings to plant and give away.

"I want to inspire people to pay attention to where food comes from," he said.

The Free Farm continues the work he's done since the 1970s, when he first started gardening and planting avocado trees in the Mission District. He took his name because of his connection to trees, he said, but prefers not to talk about himself. ("It's not about me. It's about the work we can do," he says.)

He started the Free Food Stand in the Mission District in 2008 to give away vegetables from community gardens and surplus collected from other farmers markets. The stand, which has given away more than 12,000 pounds of produce in the past two years, now also gets vegetables from the Free Farm. "Hecka Local" always goes first.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

MLK Day Living Lutheran Post

The words and the life of Martin Luther King Jr have inspired millions. I imagine that tales, sounds and video of his life and ministry will be passed from generation to generation for centuries to come.

However, sometimes when we tell the stories of great leaders, prophets and priests, we remember all the qualities that are rare or vitally needed in contemporary society, but we forget all the bits that make that individual truly human.

In the days following the assassination attempt in Tucson, in our 10th year at war in Afghanistan, with racial disparity, racism and violence still an issue, King’s work to bring an end to the Vietnam war, his impassioned cries for racial justice and his example of how to live life to the fullest knowing that death is around the corner, are certainly things worth remembering today.

Read the rest of the blog.