DEERWOOD -- One of the spiritual amenities Salem Lutheran Church in Deerwood offers its parishioners -- and the community, for that matter -- is a diverse and multi-skilled ministry team.
To illustrate, according to the church's August newsletter, two members of a Synod leadership team visited the church in late July to confer with church members, and then separately with church leaders. Their visit was part of a Northeast Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America effort to hear firsthand how things are going in individual churches.
One aspect of interest to the Synod visitors was the great number of people involved in the pastoral care team, the newsletter article says. In addition to Pastor David N. Anderson and ministry associate Greg Meyer, members of the team include parish nurse Mary Erickson, as well as the BeFrienders, Home Communion Visitors and the Telecare Ministers.
"The true expression of Christianity is not a sigh, but a song."
-- Taken from the Salem Lutheran Church of Deerwood's August newsletter
Salem Lutheran also has on staff -- some in paid positions and others volunteer -- wedding coordinator Amy Vukelich, director of music ministry Kelly Blake, organist Cheryl Karlgaard, kitchen coordinator Gloria Hales, financial secretary Mavis Jordan, parish secretary Deborah Carlson and custodian Mary Oliphant.
One of Salem's key pastoral care team members, Mary Erickson, a registered nurse, and her husband Ernie moved to the lakes area two years ago. This followed the culmination of full careers for both, as well as raising four children (they now are grandparents of three) in St. Paul. Mary joined Salem's ministerial team in January, following "graduation" from the Lakes Area Parish Nurse training program at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd.
Erickson has been decidedly busy in her role with the church. Just a few of the ways she's contributed since early August include speaking at a Salem Lutheran potluck and card party Aug. 9; leading weekly Bible studies at the area care center; joining the Salem staff members in their hour of Bible study and prayer Tuesdays, when possible; and writing her usual "News from Salem's Parish Nurse" column in the church's monthly newsletter.
Erickson, Pastor Anderson and Meyer are currently leading the "Word Alive" Bible study "about the Bible and our faith" at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesdays. They previously did a series called "Wrestling with Angels." For interested Salem members, Erickson is organizing a five-hour CPR class at the church this fall. She was involved in having a team from Salem Lutheran participate in the recent Relay for Life, a walk to raise funds for the American Cancer Society, and which other church members supported with pledges.
And Erickson taught Bible lessons to parish children during their August Vacation Bible School, which was designed around the theme of Habitat for Humanity and its mission to help others by building new homes. The children took a trip to see a Habitat house under construction in the Crosby-Ironton area. The day of Erickson's lesson, Bible school children around the church and outside wore bright yellow plastic hard hats.
Erickson participates in Lakes Area Parish Nurses meetings, coordinated by St. Joseph's Medical Center Parish Nurse Coordinator Cherlynn Nelson. "At the last parish nurse meeting we heard from LAPS -- Lakes Area Pregnancy Center. An interesting, but unsettling piece of information we heard was one in four women have had an abortion (nationwide statistic). LAPS offers a Bible course for women who are having a problem with guilt involved in having an abortion. LAPS sees some women who had abortions 50 years ago and could not overcome the guilt. For anyone who is in need of their services, pick up a pamphlet in the narthex (at Salem Lutheran) or call 1-800-395-HELP," Erickson wrote in her church newsletter column.
Erickson is also promoting the four-part television series, "On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying," to the Salem congregation. The program, Erickson said, will air the evenings of Sept. 10-13 on PBS.
"We're here to facilitate between the resources of our community and our congregation," Erickson said of her ministerial responsibilities.
"As a parish nurse we can zero in on the spiritual, as well as the physical and mental. We don't do any hands-on care (with the exception of blood pressure checks and health screenings). We share resources with people. We also do education. We have literature available at the church, and Cherlynn Nelson, parish nurse coordinator at St. Joseph's Medical Center, has volumes of information on resources. We do health fairs. I do blood pressure checks every week or every other week at the church between Sunday services. I give out information on blood pressure, and answer any questions people have. We help people realize how important their health is."
Erickson's contributions are one example of what Salem Lutheran's ministerial team is accomplishing for its parish. Many parishioners contribute, too.
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