Our highlighted ministry for August – October 2021 is Peace Lutheran Church, Memphis, Tennessee. Peace Lutheran Church is the oldest ELCA congregation in Memphis. Initially called First United Lutheran, the congregation was established in May of 1926 as part of the United Lutheran Church in America.
Peace is a diverse congregation with an almost even number of congregants of African descent and Euro-American. Likewise, there is economic diversity with business owners, college professors, and persons on fixed incomes.
Peace is a small but very resilient congregation. Last year, on April 4, during the early days of the pandemic, Peace’s pastor entered the church triumphant. Still, the congregation has continued to gather – via Zoom-only for many months and gradually started hybrid worship in adherence to CDC and Synod guidance for safer gathering.
The congregation, with the help of community volunteers, remains committed to finding ways to address food insecurity in the communities served by Peace. For many years, a hot lunch, fellowship, and a lot of love were served every Monday and Wednesday in the fellowship hall. With Covid-19, take-away sack lunch is served with as much fellowship as social distancing and face-covering will allow.
June last year, Peace received a Synod sponsored Covid-19 Food Insecurity Grant available to congregations to help alleviated food insecurity in communities. Over the summer months, the grant allowed Peace to distribute 486 25-lb boxes of fresh produce totaling 12,150 pounds and 2,750 pounds of meat and packaged food in response to the increased level of need made worse by Covid-19. The grant allowed Peace to provide fresh produce, meat, and a variety of packaged food to 554 families.
Strategically located in a neighborhood that transitioned from middle to upper-middle class before desegregation to a neighborhood in decline with white-flight, the area is now in rapid gentrification. Peace is looking for ways to help current residents prepare for and weather the effects of gentrification – especially low-income homeowners, many who have lived in their homes for 30 – 40 years.
Peace is tenaciously looking ahead discerning how the Spirit is leading and guiding the congregation to participate in God’s purpose and mission in the world. The congregation continues to overcome the challenges of Zoom worship while capitalizing on the benefits of the technology. Relationships within the congregation remain strong and in illness, the wagons are circled, and members help each other with meals, check-ins, and prayers.
The annual backpack giveaway is planned for early August. In December 2020 the Angel Tree program served twice as many children over 2019. Relationships are built and strengthened with the families Peace is blessed to know and serve.
As a small congregation, the ministries of Peace are primarily supported by ministry partners like sister ELCA congregations in the Memphis area, other churches, individuals, and community volunteers. Donations make it possible for Peace to respond to the needs of the communities it serves and we are grateful for your generosity and abundance!
Please prayerfully consider how you can support this vital and generous congregation with your gifts so that they can continue to serve, doing God’s work with their hands!