Augsburg Fortress
One Mission Blog - reflections on the ministry of publishing

“Oh, and I like the pictures!”

May 26th, 2016 by Beth A. Lewis

I love to hear stories about the resources we publish and how they are used.  While they range across all of our publishing units, Augsburg Fortress, Fortress Press, sparkhouse and Sparkhouse Family, I’m guessing that I hear more stories about the Spark Story Bible than any other single resource.

  • I hear about it being used in Sunday School, of course.
  • And, I hear about it being included in pew racks right next to the ELW pew edition, Book of Common Prayer or other worship resources.
  • I hear about it being read by adults as well as kids!
  • But, one of my favorites is when kids (and the adults who love them) read the Spark Story Bible at home!

So, as you might imagine, I was delighted when Kathryn Lohre shared this photo taken by her husband, Tim Seitz. It is of three of their beautiful children Hannah, Benjamin and John.

Lohre kids with Spark Bible Big brother John’s comment about the Spark Story Bible?

“I like it because it teaches me more about God. Oh, and I like the pictures!”

Smart boy!

Thanks for sharing this great photo and your kids’ love of the Spark Story Bible, Kathryn!

It’s because of hearing so many stories like this one that just last summer we launched Sparkhouse Family, a whole new publishing team creating books, more story bibles, DVD’s and streaming videos to form faith at home (or the minivan or park or…)!  And, be sure to check out the free Sparkhouse Family blog for parents!









Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

Who would have guessed?

May 24th, 2016 by Beth A. Lewis

When we plan a new resource, there are many questions we ask ourselves at the very beginning. Two of the most fundamental are these:

Who is the primary audience for this resource?

How will it be used? (by an individual? in a classroom? in worship?)

Usually, what we plan for is what happens. But, every so often, our partners in ministry across the church surprise us. And, it is always a delight to see how they adapt our creative efforts to something new that works well in their contexts.

Recently, I came across just such an example via a Facebook post by Karen Moyer. She shared several photos from St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Lakewood, CA:  “Sunday morning Bible Study reviewing the book “When Lightning Struck – The Story of Martin Luther” by Danika Cooley.

Moyer photo 1 Moyer photo 2Moyer photo 3



















When I asked Karen about this, she added, “My Bible Study group really enjoyed the book and the study questions offered. I even gave copies of the book to our catechism students. I enjoyed reading the book because I spent 5 days in Wittenberg last June and could relate to the scenes described.”

So, why do I say that this is an example of a book being used in a way that our editors didn’t really intend as the primary audience? Well, here’s the description from the Fortress Press website (emphasis is mine)

Martin Luther’s life was too exciting not to be written for teens and younger readers! In this fast-paced, action-packed novel of Martin Luther’s life, teen readers (and more than a few adults!) will be introduced to a fascinating time when princes ruled Europe and knights roamed the countryside. They’ll learn about a time when powerful forces lined up against each other and believing the wrong thing could get you killed.

When Lightning Struck! is far more than just an adventure story, of course. It also tells a theological story. Drawing carefully from Luther’s own words, this book introduces readers to a kindred spirit who struggled with what knowing God through Scripture means for daily life. They will understand what was at stake and how powerfully liberating Luther’s idea of grace through faith was—in his time and in ours!   

Cooley When Lightening Struck


While I am certain that the members of this St. Timothy’s Bible study group are young at heart, I think that they just might be past their teenage years. And, I think that is just great!

Is your congregation looking for a light-hearted, fun and very approachable way to learn more about Martin Luther as we approach 2017 & the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation? Karen Moyer and her friends might just be on to something!

Thanks for sharing your photos and affirming words, Karen!




Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

Alignment in preaching and teaching

April 28th, 2016 by Beth A. Lewis

“We are church,
we are Lutheran,
we are church together,
and we are church for
the sake of the world.”

– ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

Rev. Kevin Strickland and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

Rev. Kevin Strickland and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

As the ministry of publishing of the ELCA, we often measure our work against this inspirational statement from our presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton.

We are church: to us, this means that we are called to create resources that are used to assist congregations, synods, seminaries, and others as they proclaim the gospel through their ministries.

We are Lutheran: our publishing is rooted in the grace-based, both-and theology of our heritage while as a reforming tradition we are always looking to the needs of the church for the future.

We are church together: We collaborate with individual creative partners all across the ELCA and well beyond to other Lutheran expressions around the world, our full communion partners, and other Christian and interfaith partners in ministry.

We are church for the sake of the world: Many of the resources we create inspire congregations in their missional outreach serving God’s people in their neighborhood and through global partnerships.

Today, I was reminded of our work as we are “church together.” One of the ways we are church together, both within the ELCA and through full communion partnerships is in the ways we use the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) as a standard preaching and teaching framework. On any given day, thousands of people around the world are reading from, inspired by, and proclaiming the Gospel in concert as they use this common set of Scripture. For me, it provides a rich meaning to being “one body in Christ.” While we recognize that not every congregation in this tradition uses the RCL consistently, the vast majority do and find this common framework helpful.

One of the ways that use of the RCL can be lifted up, no matter what the age of a congregation’s members is through an alignment of the preaching in worship with the teaching in faith formation gatherings. We take this consistency of messaging seriously through our publishing programs.  Our Sundays and Seasons resources, both print and online, provide RCL liturgy, music, visual art and preaching resources. Our Lectionary for Worship and worship planning calendar resources assist worship planners and leaders. And, for congregations that use a printed worship bulletin, we offer RCL bulletin inserts for adults and for children Bread for the Day, our annual devotional book, connects individuals with the RCL on a daily basis. And, to make sure that faith formation can easily be linked to the readings and preaching in worship, we have two RCL-based Sunday School resources for children: Spark Lectionary and Whirl Lectionary.

As you might imagine, I was delighted when I saw this post on Facebook from the Rev. Kevin Strickland, Asst. to the Presiding Bishop, Executive for Worship for the ELCA:

Whirl quote























And, in a follow up email, he went on to say:

“I have used a variety of resources over the years that are lectionary based for children’s Sunday school and other faith formation opportunities, but after reviewing the whirl curriculum and seeing it first hand at the congregation I am a member of, I was more than pleased. Whirl is one of the best lectionary based children’s curriculum I have seen. Children are engaged in the liturgical year, but more importantly, they learn how the calendar of their own lives is marked and loved by God each and everyday through these connections made in this resource.”

If you are trying to connect what is happening in worship with what is happening in faith formation, consider Pastor Strickland’s affirming words for this curriculum. You can download a free sample lesson to try out in your congregation! And, we offer free webinars to learn more and have your specific questions answered. Our webinar schedule is found at 

Thank you, Kevin, for lifting up this important and every effective faith formation resource!




Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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