Monday, December 26, 2011


Images of Christmas Eve, 2011:

A wood cutout of a manger sits on the church building site; light is provided by a solar lamp.

Sisters' names are written on ornamental balls decorating a construction zone at the Benedictine Monastery in Cullman.

And in nearby Holt, Alabama, which was largely devastated by the April 27 storms, a Christmas tree and reindeer sit on top of a hill.

We believe, and we are not alone.   If the past several months have taught us anything, it's that belief is not ephemeral, transient, here today and gone tomorrow.  Belief is concrete, strong as time, solid as love.  Belief grounds us, defines us, shapes us, changes us for the ongoing work of the world.  The congregation of Christ Lutheran is growing now as never before:  in grace, in spirit, in communion with others.

We'd like to take a moment now to look back in gratitude, and thank everyone who's given in some way to our rebuilding effort this year.   The list below includes names of individuals, couples, groups and churches, hailing from Hawaii to Ohio, California to Florida.  We have been and continue to be blessed by your belief.  And we look forward to keeping you updated as we rebuild in the coming year.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Mr. and Mrs. Vetare                                                Berlin, MD
Cross of Grace Lutheran Community                        Jonesborough, TN
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church                        Woodstock, GA
Carol Feiste                                                            Moorseville, NC
Benedictine Community                                    Cullman, AL
Christ Lutheran Church Sunday School            Fredericksburg, TX
Event Concessions, Inc.                                    Pelham, AL
Sonya Carol Richter-Smith                                    Honolulu, HI
Pr. Scott and Diane Arnold                                    Prattville, AL
Desperation Church                                                Cullman, AL
Sonny and Betty Voigt                                    Hanceville, AL
Redeemer Lutheran Church Men                        Newberry, SC
Mr. and Mrs. Butterweck                                    Mt. Laurel, NJ
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church                                    Pen Argyl, PA
Mr. and Mrs. Hornak                                                Berlin, MD
Reformation Lutheran Church                        Columbus, OH
Calvary Lutheran Church                                    Willmar, MN
St. Michael Lutheran Church                                    Baltimore, MD
Pr. Tom Kochenderfer                                    Trappe, PA
Christ Lutheran Church                                    Staten Island, NY
Crowell’s Chapel Lutheran Church and            Unionville, TN
Joyce Parsons
Nicole Campbell                                                Shelbyville, TN
Craig and Margaret Coburn                                    Royersford, PA
Dick and Mary Hudson                                    Tyler, TX
Howard and Carol Morrison                                    Berlin, MD
Mr. and Mrs. Dale                                                Findlay, OH
Mr. and Mrs. Starnes                                                Birmingham, AL
Rick Yarbrough                                                Pinson, AL
Joyce Smith                                                            Fort Ashby, WV
Grace Episcopal Church                                    Cullman, AL
Jesse and Dorothy House                                    Perry Hall, MD
Lutheran Church of the Foothills                        Tucson, AZ
Christ Lutheran Church                                    Whiting, NJ
Kim and Ross Winchell                                    Freeland, KY
Pairs and Spares Sunday School Class            Cynthiana, KY
Gethsemane Lutheran Church                                    San Diego, CA
Mr. and Mrs. Courtney                                    Mill Creek, WA
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church                                    Berlin, MD
Solomon’s Evangelical Lutheran Church            Chambersburg, PA
Christ the King Lutheran Church                        Greenville, SC
David and Heather Rausch                                    Centreville, MD
Quilter’s Group and Bible Study                        Murphy, NC
Holy Cross Lutheran Church of Commack            Commack, NY
Mr. and Mrs. Loving, Jr.                                    Camden, SC
Mr. and Mrs. Boland                                                Little Mount, SC
Cathy Rohrs                                                            Gettysburg, PA
King of Kings Lutheran Church                        Oceanside, CA
Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church            Vero Beach, FL
Senior High Youth Group           
Don and Lauren Smith                                    Cullman, AL
Bethlehem Lutheran Church                                    Beaumont, TX
Advent Lutheran Church                                    Citrus Heights, CA
Mr. and Mrs. Wilson                                                Berlin, MD
Dot Baasen                                                            Columbus, GA
Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church                        Heath, OH
Our Savior Lutheran Church VBS                        McAllen, TX
St. Andrews Lutheran Church                                    Plains, GA
Patricia Boesel                                                Ukiah, CA
Mr. and Mrs. Scholten                                    Eagle Grove, IA
Mr. and Mrs. Riggle                                                Sioux Center, IA
Catalina Homeowners’ Association                        Cullman, AL
Pilgrim Lutheran Church                                    Othello, WA
Epiphany Lutheran Church                                    Pleasantville, NJ
First Evangelical Lutheran Church                        Brockton, MA
Our Savior Lutheran Church                                    West Columbia, SC
Janis Comstock-Jones                                                Mt. Vernon, OH
Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church                        Klamath Falls, OR
Mr. and Mrs. Manzee                                                East Bridgewater, MA
Faith Lutheran Church                                    Jeffersonville, IN
Ruth Johnson                                                            Commack, NY
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church                        Manheim, PA
St. Michael Lutheran Church                                    Baltimore, MD
Mr. and Mrs. Laughlin                                    Bridgeport, MI
Redeemer Lutheran Church                                    Kingston, NY
St. Peter Lutheran Church                                     Carlsbad, NM
Shepherd of Life Lutheran Church                        Lake Elsinore, CA
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church                        Bel Air, MD
Evangelical Lutheran Church of the                         Saugerties, NY
Christ Lutheran Church                                    Michigan Center, MI
Sandusky Lutheran Mission (Seven                        Sandusky, OH
Mr. and Mrs. Wilke                                                Elkader, IA
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson                                                St. Peter, MN
Grace Lutheran Church                                    Clearwater, FL
St. John’s Lutheran Church                                    Martinsburg, WV
Mr. and Mrs. Colestock                                    Spokane, WA
Atonement Lutheran Church                                    San Diego, CA
Mr. and Mrs. Keller                                                Commack, NY
Advent Lutheran                                                Sylvania, OH
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church                        Waterville, OH
Holy Cross Lutheran Church                                     Commack, NY
of Commack
All Saints Lutheran Church                                    Wakefield, MI
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church                        Wahoo, NE
St. James Lutheran Church                                    Gettysburg, PA
Mr. and Mrs. Deardorff                                    Waverly, OH
Advent Lutheran Church                                    Olathe, KS
Mr. and Mrs. Voros                                                Medford, NJ
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran                        Bridgeport, MI
St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church            Oakland, CA
Abiding Savior Lutheran Church                        Fairview, NC
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church                        San Diego, CA
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church                        Plains, GA
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer                                                       Atlanta, GA
Trinity Lutheran Church                                                                       Farmington, NM
Bethel Lutheran Church                                                                        Lyford, TX
First Presbyterian Church                                                                      Raymondville, TX
The Christiansen Family                                                                       Vinemont, AL
Bethlehem Lutheran Church                                                                 Georgetown, CT
D. L. Holter                                                                                           Pasco, WA
Christ Lutheran Church                                                                         Stockton, IL
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church                                                                   Taneytown, MD
Eidskog Lutheran Church                                                                     Correll, MN
Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan                                                                           West Richland, WA
The Petersons                                                                                        Fargo, ND
Grace Lutheran Church                                                                         Long Beach, MS
Trinity Lutheran Church                                                                        Jackson, MS
Christ the King Lutheran Church                                                          Van Nuys, CA
Mr. and Mrs. Gleason                                                                            Santa Maria, CA
Mr. and Mrs. Droen                                                                               West Fargo, ND
L.M.A., Inc.                                                                                           Homewood, AL
Mr. and Mrs. Twedt                                                                               Mitchell, SD
Mr. and Mrs. Birdsall                                                                            Rapid City, SD
Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher                                                                            Fredericksburg, TX
Grace Lutheran Church Global                                                             Toledo, OH
Mission Committee
Faith Lutheran Church                                                                           Clay, AL
Mr. and Mrs. Collins, and others                                                           Davenport, IA
Mr. and Mrs. Ray                                                                                   Hartselle, AL
Gethsemane Lutheran Church                                                               San Diego, CA
Birdsall Family                                                                                      Pt. Charlotte, FL
Trinity Lutheran Church                                                                        Sherman, TX
Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church                                              Johnson City, TN
Peace Lutheran Church                                                                          Holbrook, AZ
Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church                                              Lawton, OK
Mt. Joy Lutheran Church                                                                       Gettysburg, PA
Pasco First Lutheran Church                                                                  Pasco, WA
Women’s Group           
Mr. and Mrs. Selby                                                                                Cheyenne, WY
Mr. and Mrs. Smith                                                                                Chambersburg, PA           
Barb and Roger Parmenter                                                                     Eldridge, IA
Mr. and Mrs. Grimes                                                                              Hoover, AL
St. John’s Lutheran Church                                                                    Brenham, TX
Trinity Lutheran Church                                                                         San Gabriel, CA
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church                                                     Anniston, AL
Southwest California Synod                                                                   Glendale, CA
St. John’s Lutheran Church                                                                    Thurmont, MD
St. Matthew Lutheran Church                                                                 Columbus, GA
Grace Lutheran Church                                                                           Carrollton, GA
St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church                                                 Springfield, IA
United Mission of Christ Lutheran Church                                             Chicago, IL
Zion Lutheran Church Women                                                                Beloit, KS
Bear Creek Lutheran Church                                                                   Grand Meadow, MN
St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church                                                Cullman, AL
Salem Lutheran Church                                                                           Houston, TX
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church                                                                     Baltimore, MD
Siloah Lutheran Church                                                                           Graceville, MN           
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, LCMS                                                         Cullman, AL
Mr. and Mrs. Knecht                                                                                Union, NJ
Lois Frigerio                                                                                             Kenilworth, NJ
Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy                                                                            Middlesex, NJ
Mr. and Mrs. Strond                                                                                 Union, NJ
Barbara Birger                                                                                          Union, NJ
Mr. and Mrs. Schiffl                                                                                 Union, NJ
LWML Esther Circle @ Trinity Lutheran                                                Cedar City, UT
Dr. Rhonda Kay Gaede                                                                             Huntsville, AL
Catherine Heinzerling                                                                               Hoover, AL
Nancy Christman                                                                                      Douglasville, GA
Christ Lutheran Church                                                                            Union, NJ
Triumphant Cross Lutheran Church                                                         Dothan, AL
Women’s Group
Mr. and Mrs. Clarkson                                                                              Birmingham, AL
Mr. and Mrs. Foster                                                                                   Fruitland, FL
Mr. and Mrs. Allen                                                                                    Albany, GA
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church                                                                      Middletown, PA
Mr. and Mrs. Cobbs                                                                                   Vinemont, AL
Ray Warner and Jilian Mincer                                                                   Port Washington, NY
Pilgrim Lutheran Church                                                                           Othello, WA
Ruth Morgan                                                                                              Mebane, NC
Mildred Warner and James Pratt                                                                Groton, NY
Hudson Conference, New York Synod,                                                     Kingston, NY
Redeemer Lutheran Church Youth                                                            Newberry, SC
Redeemer Lutheran Church Men                                                              Newberry, SC
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church                                                                      Pen Argyl, PA
North/West Lower Michigan Synod, ELCA                                             Lansing, MI
ELCA Synod                                                                                             Chicago, IL
Luke and Sandy Niiler                                                                              Tuscaloosa, AL
Hudson Conference, ELCA                                                                       Kingston, NY

Rev. Deb Halter, Coordinator of Pastoral Care, Southeastern Synod       Atlanta, GA
Rev. Delmer Chilton, Bishop Assistant, Southeastern Synod                   Atlanta, GA
Bishop Julian Gordy, Southeastern Synod                                                Atlanta, GA

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Drawing Board

On Sunday, December 4th, Jock Leonard of Leonard Design P.C., visited us during fellowship time.  Mr. Leonard, the architect chosen by our building committee, shared renderings with us.

The new structure will occupy the former site and feature a sanctuary/narthex/sacristy, three Sunday School rooms, an office, a fellowship hall, and a screened-in porch.

The building committee is currently accepting feedback from the congregation. Planning will continue for the next several weeks, with a potluck and planning meeting scheduled for mid-January.

95 Thanks

On Reformation Sunday we signed and posted our own version of the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Sacred Heart Monastery Chapel.  We wanted to thank the Benedictine Sisters for so graciously providing us with worship space since the storm.  Of course, we had to say 'thanks' in a particularly Lutheran way:

The document reads:

'Out of thanks for the kindness and love offered, and the desire to bring them to light, the following is offered as a means of thanks under the seal of Christ Lutheran Church, Cullman, Alabama, and the signature of the Reverend Sandra Niiler.  Those that may not be hear to present their thanks orally have done so by signature.

'In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.'

Ninety-five signatures follow.


The Christ Lutheran Congregation gathered for a Prayer and Healing Service, October 30, on the site of the church.  From the bulletin:  'Since the earliest days of the church, anointing with oil has been a ritual of healing and hope.'   

Below, Pastor Sandy Niiler prepares oil and anoints W.T. Kraft, oldest member of Christ Lutheran church.

The Sending:

'May God bless us; may Jesus Christ heal us; may the Holy Spirit give us strength.  May God guard and save us, body and soul, and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.'

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October Light

Light shone down throughout the Sacred Heart Monastery grounds this past Sunday--fall light, October light, everywhere.  It shone at the grotto:

And outside the Retreat Center:

And during the children's sermon in the large dining room (abbreviated 'LDR,' which is, to us Lutherans, very real 'Lutheran Disaster Relief'):

 It shone as Pastor Sandy Niiler prepared for the service:

And there was the light of wisdom in the words of the Gospel reading:

"[Jesus] said, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'"  This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second like it:  'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Mt. 22: 37-40).

It was a Sunday of light, a day to remember that 'In him there is no darkness at all / The night and the day are both alike' (K. Thomerson, 'I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light,' WOV).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

We Ran Out of Brats!

Fall in Alabama means cooler weather, football, and--in Cullman--Oktoberfest. For two weeks the town is transformed as it celebrates its German heritage.

As part of these festivities, Christ Lutheran has prepared and hosted a traditional German meal for several years.  This year was no exception.

The circumstances were exceptional this time, of course.  Gas grills and tents took the place of our fellowship hall and kitchen.  Hot dogs, brats, chips and Cokes were on the menu.

Our pastor, Sandy Niiler, led us in the blessing.

And we didn't have long to wait before the crowds came.

An assembly line quickly formed:  grillers grilled, wrappers wrapped, servers served:

Did I mention the crowds?

We even had a visit from the Burgurmeister!

The festivities lasted until dark....and we ran out of brats!

Thank you to all who came out and supported us--and thank you, too, if you're reading this, for your continued prayers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What Remains

Demolition of the structure remaining from the April 27 tornado was completed in late July.  Each time I drive over to the old church site, I think I've made a wrong turn.  No landmarks remain:  no trees, signs, stores, bricks.  I've heard the site called a 'moonscape.'  It's as if we never existed.

But we still exist.  We are continually reminded of this simple truth.  Let me explain:

On Sunday, August 21st, the choir of Faith Lutheran Church (under the direction of Fred Ehrensperger, shown above, leading rehearsal) visited.  And they did what they do best.

They made music, so vital to the life of the Church, our Church.  Shown above:  the Faith Lutheran Choir, directed by Fred Ehrensperger, and accompanied by Adam Bowles, D.M.A.

And on Sunday, August 28, the Rev. Michelle Kuhlman and a group of parishioners from Grace Lutheran Church, Carrollton, Georgia, joined us for worship and a picnic at a local park.  Afterward, I drove the group over to the church site.

They say being a Lutheran in the Deep South is a lonely business--there's just not that many of us to go around.  But I say that just the presence of one or two others can make all the difference.  

The church site is indeed a moonscape.  You'd never know we existed.  But our friends' love and care reminds us that we do.