Taline had belonged to several Christian congregations in her life. These experiences left her unsatisfied. “We have gotten really good at leaving churches,” she said. After a year or so “something would happen that just makes us flinch.”

Taline wanted to be part of a congregation that felt safe, where the word from the pulpit invited healing and dialogue. She was looking for “a truly inclusive community.”

A friend suggested that she visit New Life Lutheran Church, a congregation of the ELCA’s Southwestern Texas Synod in Dripping Springs. She found a community that lived out love in concrete ways. As a newcomer during the covid pandemic, people repeatedly introduced themselves by name. “I never felt alone, even with masks, even in the outdoor space where everybody was spread out.” The church, which regularly worships outdoors, also gives children permission to move around during services. They might hold the pastor’s hand during the sermon, but it’s not disruptive because, Taline says “they're part of the community. They're welcome in that space.”

The welcome offered by New Life is life giving, Taline says. “I can breathe in that space. I can invite people in and know that they'll be able to breathe in that space, too.” Because of the welcome offered by New Life, Taline is now in seminary, much to her surprise. The love that she has felt in this congregation has helped her to realize that in the ELCA, “We don't all have to say it the same way” because we share a common “desire to be in relationship with God and with one another.”
Submitted by Rev. Dr. Timothy Lincoln, ELCA pastor serving at Austin Presbyterian Seminary
Southwestern Texas Synod www.swtsynod.org