A Letter from Bishop Burk

Dear Friends in Christ,

Like so many of you, I have read and responded to lots of Facebook posts, statements released and invitations to “sign on” to letters that speak to issues that have either arisen with or made more complicated by, the dawn of a new administration. There is a sense of heightened urgency. But the issues are not new. Policies related to immigration, refugees and access to health care have come into greater focus, creating a dizzying sense of need among society’s most vulnerable. All the while, challenges related to hunger and poverty, systemic racism, support for quality education, caring for wounded veterans and any number of other challenges still loom large.

The circumstances that call for faith-based advocacy have so many layers that it is tempting to think of advocacy more in terms of being “against” something or someone rather than being “for” those who need us to speak on their behalf, who long for us to stand with them because of how they are being or will be victimized. It is a risky business worth the risk when it is unambiguously driven by the good news we are called to proclaim.

So here is the challenge when tempted to take our lead from the latest headline or blog or tweet. Let our proclamation, week in and week out, day after day reflect a clear telling of the Jesus story. More than that, in our encounters with parishioners and politicians, with the mighty and with the least of these, let us give them Jesus. We are called to declare that God’s all-inclusive love is a promise kept, that God’s mercy is intended for all people, including those who do not see things the way we see them. Including those who enflame our passions and stir us to anger.

There is the rub. We are called to proclaim a good news that is for everyone in an era of such polarization, never yielding on premise that this inclusive good news is especially for the poor and for those who are themselves most at risk.

To be sure, there is often an “against-ness” to doing justice. But advocacy at its best reflects and consistently embodies the good news that the dawn that matters is the rising of a crucified Christ, the saving witness that God is FOR this broken world. All of it.





Bishop Michael Burk



Pigs with a Purpose

Mitten is the first of what we hope will be many pigs popping up across the Southeastern Iowa Synod between now and the synod assembly in May. These will be pigs with a purpose…to reinforce that ours is an anti-hunger synod and to raise funds to fight hunger.

Here is how it works. Plywood cut-outs of pigs in the same shape as Mitten are available to any group or individual that will commit raising or contributing at least $500 toward anti-hunger efforts between now and the Southeastern Iowa Synod Assembly, May 19-20, 2017. Decorate your pig. Display it at your church or in your yard or wherever it is likely to get the attention of others who want to join the effort to fight hunger. And then send or bring the money you’ve committed to the synod assembly as part of a special offering to help end hunger.

To get started, contact Coco Lyons, Associate for Communication (lyons@seiasynod.org). She will help you get connected to your pig. And then enlist the aid of others (youth group, church choir, altar guild, family and/or friends) to decorate and to donate. $500 is “buy in” for a pig, but there is no limit to how much can be contributed. The more, the better. All funds will go directly to support ELCA World Hunger ministries or anti-hunger efforts within the synod.

Our hope is the people from every congregation in the synod will assist in this special effort to raise funds to fight hunger. This is not limited to acquiring your own pig with a purpose. Every gift of any size matters and will be welcomed into a synod-wide anti-hunger offering at the synod assembly. But the pigs can serve as a visible reminder of our commitment as they draw attention to the effort to feed the hungry and support people living in poverty.

By the way, Mitten got that name from Bishop Burk’s grandson, Noah. Mitten will be “attending” the synod assembly. It will be great to have lots of other colorful reminders at the assembly on full display. Between now and then, who knows where the Bishop’s Pig might show up.

Free Media

Before I was the synod communicator, I was a youth director with a degree in multimedia communications. That meant I was the go-to girl when it came to figuring out how to market/publicize/communicate any sort of information.

The biggest frustration I had when it came to trying to create eye-catching publications (posters, announcements, videos, graphics etc.) was I didn’t have the tools necessary to achieve the look I wanted.

The tools I used in college were too expensive for a small congregation’s budget, yet the free tools were clunky and outdated. I needed something that would allow me to create communication publications easily and that made it look good.

Below is a list of places you can go to create timely communication publications for your congregation.

Stock Photos/Images: pixabay.com

Royalty Free Music: bensound.com

Video: videvo.net

Fonts: fontsquirrel.com

Graphics: canva.com

If you have any questions or are in search of more resources please contact me by email at lyons@seiasynod.org.

*As always, be sure to fully read and understand the licensing on each piece of media you download.*

Coco is the associate for communications for the Southeastern Iowa Synod. Her passions include ministry and media with a side of photography and baking. An avid cat lover, Coco is from Waukon Iowa and graduated in 2015 with a communication arts degree from Wartburg College.

Lutheran Day on the Hill

Mark your calendars and plan to join a group of passionate advocates on Tuesday, February 21, 2017, for Lutheran Day on the Hill and make a difference for tens of thousands of Iowans. Your legislators want and need to hear from you about critical human services.

Lutheran Day on the Hill gives you the opportunity to share your voice with your legislators. As in years past, participants will be given information about important issues before the legislature and will be given suggestions about how best to visit with them concerning what is most important to you. The day will begin at 9:30 at Capitol Hill Lutheran Church before moving to the Statehouse.

Chartered buses offered at no cost to attendees will be stopping in Iowa City and Newton. Online registration will be available in mid-January. Additional information will be provided on that site.

This event has been made possible in part through a grant from ELCA World Hunger. Lutheran Services in Iowa is proud to be a partner in Lutheran Day on the Hill with the three Iowa Synods of the ELCA.

Video Ministry

Scrolling through my Facebook timeline all I see are videos!

One of the goals set when I started at the Office of the Bishop was to produce and utilize more videos in the church’s ministry both online and at events.

I’ve heard over and over how people shy away from making videos because they don’t have the budget or they don’t have the fancy expensive equipment. What if I told you all you needed was your cellphone?

That’s right, really all you need to start producing videos is your cellphone. Are they going to be Steven Speilberg quality, Oscar nominated films? No, probably not, but it’s a start. So take out your phones and keep reading.

Basic videography tips:

  1. HORIZONTAL video. One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating videos with their cellphone is they hold their cellphone vertically which creates a vertical video. Watch the video by clicking on this link (Vertical Video) about why vertical video is bad.
  2.  Leave room. Leave 3-4 seconds of silence at the beginning and end of the video so no part of the message is cut off.
  3. Comfort. Make sure the person who is on camera is comfortable being there. It is important to have someone comfortable there in order for the audience to feel connected to the video and the story.
  4. Start Small. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to make a long video or a super fancy video. Start small. Do a little introductory video introducing yourself to your followers. Or, shoot a video explaining a part of the worship service that many people may not know about. None of your videos have to be flashy, the idea is to reach out and share your congregation’s ministry and story with other people.

Video Ideas:

Sermon Sharing: Facebook live allows someone to hop on Facebook from either a church page or a personal page and record live what is happening in the world around them. Your church may not have proper licensing to livestream the entire service. This is a great way to still get the message out to your followers. This will allow you to save the video and it will stick around on your page so people can watch it at any time.

Weekly Readings: One pastor I worked with started posting the week’s Gospel reading every Wednesday as a way to get the congregation to begin to think about how it applies to their daily life. Another congregation I’ve heard about asked their military members who were stationed/deployed away from home to record themselves reading one of the week’s old or new testament readings. This allowed the congregation to connect with their members elsewhere.

Day in the Life: Ever wonder what your pastor, secretary, or youth worker does during the day? Ask them to record a small clip during each of their daily events, put them together and post them so everyone can see just what a pastor does all day.

Bible Story: Have your children’s ministry students pick out a favorite Bible story and act it out to be shown during worship.

These are really just the start of a long list of ways to incorporate video into your ministry. I encourage you to utilize the time and talent from within your congregation. Maybe a youth enjoys creative writing, have them write a script. If an adult has a knack for photography/videography ask the person to be the director/producer/videographer. Make your videos a team effort.


Coco Lyons is the associate for communications at the office of the bishop. Her passions include photography, videography and baking. A Wartburg grad, Lyons is an Iowa native who was born and raised in Waukon. She enjoys exploring off the beaten path with her camera in hand and likes to relax at home with her family and cat.

Coping with the Holidays after Loss

The Christmas season is typically a time of joy, family and tradition.

Death often disrupts all these things and grief can be harder in this time. Here are some suggestions to help you cope as you anticipate the upcoming celebrations:

  1. Have Conversations: Realize that this year will be different. Have conversations with family and friends about what this means for you. If necessary, give others permission to talk about your loss.
  2. Traditions: Decide what traditions you want to discontinue or continue and what festivities you want to participate in or not. If it feels right, start a new tradition. If you have children at home and you feel it is appropriate, be honest with them and include them in conversations. If they want to, allow them to help in planning.
  3. Volunteer: Give back to your community by volunteering or participating in donations.
  4. In Memory Of: Finds ways of incorporating the presence of your loved one. For instance, you can give a toast to their memory or display a symbol that represents them, like a candle.
  5. Share Memories: Share stories and memories. It’s ok to laugh, it’s ok to cry. You might experience a range of emotions in this time. It’s normal to feel multiple things at once, some of which may seem to be in opposition.
  6. Identify Your Needs: Identify the people in your life who are helpful and note their gifts. Not everyone is a good listener, and not everyone is good with tasks. Be open about your needs in that moment and how they can help.
  7. Find Support: Consider attending a support group in your area.
  8. Grace: Accept grace from God, others and most importantly, yourself. Grieving is hard. Be patient with yourself.

Ministers – you can also be great resources for those struggling during the Christmas season and throughout the year. Here are some ways you can be supportive:

  1. Acknowledge this is not a joyous season for some.
  2. Consider hosting a healing service or services. Partner with other congregations or agencies if this makes doing so more feasible.
  3. Talk to or send a card to those who are grieving during the holiday season. Don’t be afraid to say their loved one’s name. Remember that your presence and support might be the most important or memorable Gospel message they hear this season.
  4. Get to know what services, groups and providers are available in your area. Funeral homes and healthcare providers are a great place to start. Consider inviting local professionals to speak, lead a class and/or, if applicable, preach.
  5. Recognize your own gifts and the gifts in others. We are not meant to be all things to all people. It takes all of us to be the body of Christ.

Heidi Larson is a bereavement coordinator with UnityPoint Hospice. Larson primarily serves the Greater Des Moines area and routinely connects people to grief support in their own communities. She is available to support people individually or through support groups in the Des Moines area. All of UnityPoint Hospice’s services are free and open to the community, and partner with area congregations to introduce their services, offer education workshops and let people know of resources that can be accessed to support people in their own congregations. For further information please contact Heidi at heidi.larson@unitypoint.org or 515-557-3204.