Walking Together

White Fragility Book Study

Wednesday evenings at 7pm for six weeks - July 29-September 2

Registration is now full.
You may register below for a waiting list.
If you are no longer able to participate, please e-mail Ms. Nancy Corey, so that your registration may be canceled and another person may join the study.

Bishop Jeffrey Clements is inviting you, as a member or friend of the Northern Illinois Synod, to join me in a six-week book study of White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Racism is a really tough subject to discuss and I think this book will help us get into an important and timely discussion.

From the back cover: “Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence.” Does that resonate with you? It certainly does with me.

If you are interested in joining with others, in what I hope will be a challenging discussion without being threatening or scary, please plan to read and join in. We will meet by Zoom Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. beginning July 29. You will need to register so that I can send you the Zoom link to participate. Reading assignments will be made in advance.

Order a copy of the book by whatever means you normally use. It is available in print or e-book forms.

I am looking forward to spending this time with you.

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Northern Illinois Synod Worship Service

The staff of the Northern Illinois Synod created this worship service to be used by synod congregations when needed.

Northern Illinois Synod Worship Service - Sermon

Exodus 16.2-4, 9-15

John 6.24-35

Our evening meal began as they did every evening at 6 o’clock. Five of us at a Formica topped table in the cramped dinette.

Together, we prayed…

God is great.

                        God is good.

                                    Let us thank him for our food. Amen.

However, at this particular meal, I made the mistake of asking this question. Looking at the casserole in the center of the table, I asked, “What is this?” My mother answered, “It’s guck.”

My father’s immediate response, as I recall, was something on the order of, “Jeffrey, shut up and eat.” From his tone, I could tell that, if I were smart, it was a question that I would never ask again.

Guck was a casserole that my mother made often enough that I can remember exactly what went into it. Hamburger browned with a chopped onion, cooked white rice, some salt and pepper, and a can of tomatoes that were diced. This combination was mixed together with enough tomato juice to keep it moist and was placed into a clear glass casserole dish for heating through in the oven. Oh, yes, I must not forget, on top was a layer of carefully placed American cheese slices.

It wasn’t good. “Guck” was a fitting name. But it was a “go to” dish for my mother to make and we ate a lot of it.

One of my favorite days of the month was when my grandmother would announce that she had saved enough money to pay for supper from the fish and chip shop. Grandma lived with us and fish and chips were, for her, a taste of the old country. They were a real treat for me.

Guck? Not so much. What I did not know in those days was that guck was a desperation dinner, an empty cupboard casserole, a pre-pay day meal. I don’t think any of us liked it, but it was filling and probably the best that Mom could do with what she had available. There is no doubt in my mind today that I should have been more grateful for that guck. It’s no wonder that my father was stern in his response when I asked, “What is this?”

In my defense, I was young. I wonder if the person who asked Moses the same question was young. Let’s go now from the dinner table of my childhood to the Wilderness of Zin for another tale of unusual food.

The Israelites had left Egypt and had really just begun the exodus, what turned out to be years of wandering. They had camped at a place called Elim. It was a pleasant place. It was a literal oasis for the people with fresh water. From there, they headed toward Mount Sinai, but they ran short of food. They didn’t have enough water. So, the people began to complain to Moses and his brother Aaron. Apparently, it was quite the protest. Everybody was complaining. “Why didn’t God let us die in the comfort of Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!”

Isn’t it incredible that the people were longing for their life in Egypt where it had been a life of bondage? But, now that they are camping in the dry, dusty, formidable desert, Egypt looked like the good old days. So, the people complained. They grumbled. They were not happy with God.

So, Moses instructed Aaron, his spokesperson, to tell the people to “come near to God because God has heard your complaints.” And while Aaron is speaking, the glory of the Lord appeared to the people in a cloud.

God speaks to Moses. “I have listened to the complaints of the people.” But God was not angry. He was gracious and promised meat in the evening and bread in the morning. Why does God provide food them? So that they would know God. So that they would experience God. So that they would realize that Yahweh is their God. So that they would trust God.

And it was so. Quails showed up in the evening and they ate their fill. In the morning, well, in the morning, the people did not know exactly what they had. In fact, they asked the same question that had gotten me into a little trouble. Man-hu, they said. “What is it?”

It was a sign of God’s grace, that’s what it was, for God’s own people who chose to grumble and complain and murmur and rebel. It was manna, the bread that God gave them to eat. It was bread from heaven when the cupboard was bare, and the people were desperate.

            God is great.

                        God is good.

                                    Let us thank Yahweh for our food. Amen.

Guck in the center of a family’s table. Quail and manna in the wilderness. What will we find to eat if we look for Jesus in Capernaum?

Just prior to the crowd finding Jesus in Capernaum, he had fed the crowd of 5,000 from five loaves of bread and two fish. Everybody got their fill and they even had leftovers. Jesus knows the people have sought him out because their stomachs had been filled and their hunger satisfied. But he wants the people to seek the food that will endure to eternal life.

Jesus said to them, “Do not work for the food that perishes.” They knew the story of the manna in the wilderness. It was food that perished. It would not keep. It could not be stored. Jesus knows that the people had missed the point of being fed by the loaves and fishes. They thought it was a picnic. They did not understand that this was the sign they were seeking. So, they brought up the manna.

They said to Jesus, “What miraculous sign will you do, that we can see and believe you? What will you do?Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

Jesus then interprets the story of Moses and the manna, the story of how the people learned to trust God, the story of how God acted in the past, Jesus interprets this story in such a way as to show them what God is doing in the present. He wants them to remember that it was not Moses who gave their ancestors the manna. It was God who gave them that bread from heaven. And now, it is God who is giving them the true bread from heaven.  “The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

The people want this bread. They ask Jesus for it. And then, these marvelous grace-filled words are uttered by our Lord: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

The Israelites got hungry in the desert and immediately wanted to turn and go back to Egypt. They didn’t trust God yet. The people in the wilderness learned to trust God as God provided for them and they ate manna in the wilderness. God provided food and drink where there was none.

And God provided Jesus, the true bread, the bread that gives life. The bread that satisfies our eternal hunger. Jesus is the one who instills trust and gives life to those who eat the bread from heaven.

For some months, we have dealt with the impact of COVID-19. In March, the church responded quickly by suspending in-person worship. I have missed being with other people who confess the same creeds, and pray the same prayers, and sing the same hymns. I have missed sharing the experience of our worship in four acts: gathering, hearing the Word, sharing the supper, and begin sent into the world. Since you’re watching this sermon, it is quite possible that your congregation has not yet returned to in-person worship.

I have missed much, but nothing more than coming to the altar and receiving the body and blood of Christ. Congregations have made a variety of decisions regarding Communion while we are or were worshiping at home. Many engaged in a fast from Communion, that we originally thought might only last for the duration of Lent. It has turned out to be much longer.

In Communion hymns, we sing of receiving the bread of life from heaven in bread and wine. Communion feeds us in a way that nothing else can. This is the bread that people begged for from Jesus. It is not a food that satisfies a physical hunger. No; it is a food that feeds a spiritual hunger, a food that will never fail us.

But we are also fed by the Word of God. This is also what the people so desperately craved. This is food that is always available to us. It, too, will never fail us or leave us empty. We come to Jesus is a variety of ways. We are fed a variety of dishes. All of them fully satisfying. All of them life-giving.

This is a message that we can share. Right now, we can do it easily. Your congregation has most likely established an online presence. Will you invite folks that you know to join you in worship from the comfort of their living rooms?

The promises that Jesus made, and the gifts that he has given us, are far too good not to share. There is plenty of food to go around!

            God is great.

                        God is good.

                                    Let us thank Jesus for our food. Amen.

Bishop Jeffrey Clements
Northern Illinois Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
June 2020

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Grace, Woodstock

Pr. Ken Gibson

At Grace Lutheran Church in Woodstock, we have been blessed with an opportunity to live out our mission of Sharing God's Grace by providing meals and other support to the homeless population of McHenry County for many years. Recently, due to the shelter-in-place directive that was put into effect, this need has become even greater. Since we are no longer able to serve these sisters and brothers in the same way as we have in the past, Grace members stepped up to the call to provide restaurant prepared meals in a truly wonderful way. Personal funds were quickly donated, and we are now providing a Wednesday morning breakfast and a Saturday evening meal each week to 30 people. Not only has this had a positive impact on the lives of those we are serving, but it has also been a boost to our small locally-owned restaurants. Each restaurant that we have ordered from has expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to provide meals for the hungry. Each food order also helps keep their business going during this very difficult time. The following letter from one such business says it all.

First, let me start by saying how extremely generous it is of your congregation to do this for our PADS clients. This means more to them than any of you could ever know. Our clients have always enjoyed the food you have brought on the 3rd Saturday nights of the month, but in all honesty, having food delivered from local restaurants is something they are not at all accustomed to. Most don’t have the money to eat out and this is quite a treat for them when you bring in local cuisine. It makes them feel, as they would say “normal”, “special”, and “cared about”.

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Making Christ Known - Special Edition Spring 2020

Stories of Ministry During COVID-19

During this unprecedented time of sheltering-in-place due to COVID-19, Bishop Clements has heard amazing stories about the work that is currently being done by leaders and congregations across the Northern Illinois Synod. This special edition of Making Christ Known is full of those stories! Please share it with your congregation members and friends.

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Summer Ministry Conversations

Summer Ministry Conversations with the Rev. Robin Brown, the Rev. Brenda Smith, and the Rev. Louise Johnson

In order to continue to offer the growth opportunities to the people of the Northern Illinois Synod, we of the staff are excited to invite both rostered ministers and lay members of the Synod community to three presentations over the summer by those who had been scheduled to be keynote speakers at the 2020 Synod Assembly.

These presentations and conversations will be held via the Zoom platform and are open to all.

Until All Are Fed: ELCA World Hunger and Your Congregation

The Rev. Robin Brown, Assistant Director, ELCA Hunger & Disaster Appeal

Tuesday, July 7
1 – 2 p.m.

Registrations due
Sunday, July 5.

The Rev. Robin Brown is Assistant Director, ELCA Hunger & Disaster Appeal in the Domestic Mission Unit, located at the ELCA Churchwide Office in Chicago, Illinois.

821 million people around the world – that’s more than 1 in 10 – can’t access the food they need to live active, healthy lives. So congregations in the Northern Illinois Synod are partnering with ELCA World Hunger to reach communities in need. You are responding to Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves. You are providing health clinics and microloans, water wells and animals, community meals, and advocacy. You are supporting smart, sustainable solutions that get at the root causes of hunger and poverty. 

In this conversation, you’ll hear stories of the life-saving difference you’re making and how to share them with your congregation. You’ll see new resources to support your prayer, study, and hosting of activities and fundraising events. And you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions.  

Find out more.

The Five Gifts of Discipleship and Living Out Our Faith

The Rev. Brenda K. Smith, Program Director for Faith Practices and Book of Faith

Tuesday, July 21
1 – 2 p.m.

Registrations due
Sunday, July 19.

The Rev. Brenda K. Smith is Program Director for Faith Practices and Book of Faith in the Domestic Mission Unit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America- Churchwide Office in Chicago, Illinois.

Pastor Smith will present an overview of the Five Gifts of Discipleship and engage in a conversation about the ways that congregations can live out their faith and their baptismal covenant. She will also guide attendees through the many materials available to them through the ELCA website through the Book of Faith ministry with the following goal: to lead congregations to open the Bible and have conversations about the transformative power of the word of God.

This time of learning is part of Pastor Smith’s role with the ELCA:  working with other faith formation leaders, both lay and clergy, to create a culture of discipleship in the ELCA.  Rev. Smith and another staff member, Rev. Dwight DuBois, coordinate the Book of Faith ministry of the ELCA, described above. She also convenes the ELCA’s Renewal/Prayer/Revival Team that offers healing and prayer services; Lutheran revivals; and workshops on various topics for congregations, synods, and other entities in the ELCA.

Brenda Smith bio

ALL QUESTIONS, NO ANSWERS: Navigating Change in an Uncertain World

The Rev. Louise Johnson, Director for Leadership Development for LEAD

Thursday, August 6
10 a.m. – noon

A $10.50 registration fee applies to this event only.

Registrations due
Tuesday, August 4.

The Rev. Louise Johnson is Director for Leadership Development for LEAD (

Many of you are longing to find ways to be stronger witnesses to your faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe you would like to have more young people in Sunday School. Maybe you are praying to see more families in the pews. Maybe you would like to be more effective in strengthening the community around you by serving those who are most vulnerable. In a world where most churches are in decline, it is challenging work to grow. But now we are experiencing a global pandemic, a national recession, and growing tensions around racial justice. The challenges of growing a church seem overwhelming.

There are no easy answers, but there are effective ways of working through our challenges together and becoming stronger witnesses to the faith. Learn how adaptive leadership and discipleship practices dovetail to help you navigate a way forward. Join us on August 6 for a two-hour introductory session offered by the Rev. Louise N. Johnson, Director for Leadership Development for LEAD (

Louise Johnson bio

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Making Christ Known

    Christ, Stockton

    Pr. Paul Gebo

    Thanks to the initiative of Nicole Haas, we are offering food and household supplies to members of the Stockton community, through our "Mini Pantry."

    Just outside the doors of the church sits a container of goods, with the invitation to "Take What you need. Donate what you can." The Stockton Food Pantry is only open a few hours each week, so this mini pantry offers members of the community extra opportunities to receive the things they might need. Nicole is very involved in the Christ Lutheran family, as well as the larger community. She was the head of my call committee (and now heads our Mutual Ministry team); she is a wife and the mother of two fine boys, one of whom is in our Affirmation of Baptism classes; and she serves as the Brand Director for the Greater Freeport Partnership.

    She is also one of the invaluable group of members who have been assisting me in our online/live-streamed worship services. Through the technologies of Facebook, Zoom, and YouTube, Christ Lutheran has been reaching out and proclaiming the gospel to people around the globe. Nicole and others are helping to upgrade our electronic equipment, so that we may continue offering the quality worship experiences, both now and, importantly, even once we are able to resume gathering together physically for worship.

    As challenging as it has been, this pandemic has given us opportunities to be imaginative and creative in the ways we proclaim the good news to our communities. I am faithful that we will come through this a stronger and more vibrant church and a more unified body of Christ.

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