By Rev. Chris Markert
Recently, the Order of Lutheran Franciscans was invited to send a representative to a conference of the Joint Committee on Franciscan Unity, a gathering of Franciscans from a variety of denominational backgrounds working to nurture relationships among all Franciscans.
While waiting in line for lunch, an Episcopalian Franciscan approached Sr. Debbie and asked, “Are you the Lutheran?” Sr. Debbie confirmed she was and the response was “Oh wow! I knew y’all existed, but I never saw one before.”
The mythical Lutheran Franciscans. Yes, we do exist! Although rather new in North America, Lutheran Franciscans have existed for generations in Northern Europe. But American Lutheranism hasn’t been void of religious communities. Historically, the Deaconesses have been a community of women who have had motherhouses, made vows as sisters and worn a particular garb. St. Augustine’s Lutheran Monastery is a pan-Lutheran Benedictine monastic community in Oxford, Michigan. The Society of the Holy Trinity is a religious community of ordained Lutheran pastors seeking confessional renewal in the Church.
So, religious communities are not unheard of in Lutheranism, even in America. The Order of Lutheran Franciscans was established in 2011. It was cultivated in the ecumenical
Franciscan crucible—that is, we had the support and encouragement of Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, and Ecumenical Franciscans, who accompanied us as we hammered out our General Rule and organizational structure.
So, who are the Lutheran Franciscans? We are women and men, lay and ordained, single and married. We are a dispersed community, meaning we live all over the country (even in China and Canada). Our mission is to passionately follow Jesus in the spirit and simplicity of St. Francis of Assisi. Our core convictions include accompanying the poor and marginalized, ecumenical bridge building, creation care, and spiritual renewal of the church.
This fall, the Order of Lutheran Franciscans, in collaborative partnership with Lutherhill Ministries and with the support of the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod, will be birthing a new mission out of the Zion Retreat on Galveston Island. As shared staff, Chris Markert will be serving as the Director of Ministries for the Retreat Center, while also serving as the Pastor-Developer of a missional community for the people in Galveston. This new missional community will be rooted in ministry with the poor and marginalized, nurtured in Word and Sacrament, and shaped by Franciscan spirituality. This new mission will be called St. Francis of the Island.