The Nov. 25 article about the churches in York (“Historic Lutheran Churches Feeling Stress”) is a common story: When specific immigrant groups settle in a specific region, they establish congregations. They may ultimately decline when the descendants of the founding families leave the community.
We have experienced the same phenomenon in Pittsburgh. However, we are no longer pessimistic about the future. Nine Lutheran churches have come together in a unique form of cooperative ministry. We call it Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries. The goal of PLUM is to help congregations rediscover their mission, to equip leaders with the skills to carry out their mission and to provide pastoral services on Sundays, in hospitals and homes, and by performing official acts.
We have three full-time pastors, one half-time pastor and one permanent supply pastor. Each congregation contributes a fair share to pay for these pastoral services.
Congregational leaders are excited about the future. Training events and nudges from the pastors have been effective. At a recent evangelism conference, sponsored by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, whose bishop is the Rev. Kurt Kusserow, PLUM leaders made up 30 percent of the participants. Now they are back in their congregations excited about what they learned and seeking ways to implement it. Our aim is not to close or merge congregations because we recognize that there is a mission field around each church.
For more information about PLUM or to contact us, go to PLUMofpa.com.
REV. PAUL F. KOCH