All in a day's work: First Lutheran Day at state Capitol gives Lutherans chance to meet legislators

By Tammy Swift, LSS Communications Specialist

I’ve always assumed Lutheran fellowship took place in church basements, over hot dish, Jell-O and giant, scalding-hot tanks of egg coffee provided by the church’s Ladies Aid.

Turns out Lutheran fellowship can take place anywhere, anytime and with people of any faith.

It can take place amid the soaring spaces and Travertine-clad grandeur of our state Capitol’s Memorial Hall, and it can be shared over Sudanese sambusas with church ladies who are powerful policymakers and state leaders.

Such was the case April 4, when we brought a bit of Lutheran spirit (translation: enthusiastic, but well-behaved and not too show-offy) to the “people’s house” in Bismarck for our first-ever Lutheran Day. LSSND leaders and supporters, ELCA representatives and Lutheran-affiliated organizations gathered to meet with the state’s 66th Legislative Assembly. They sat in on hearings they were most interested in, met their district Representatives or Senators and were even able to join legislators for floor sessions in the afternoon.

Along the way, they learned a lot about the ins, the outs and the intricacies of bills we’ve been

Participants were able to watch our state's lawmakers in action, and some chose to sit with their legislators during floor sessions.

following closely this session. In general, we support legislation that makes it easier for children, families, older adults and other individuals to receive the support and resources they need to get through challenging times and go on to live healthier, happier lives. See the bills we've been following HERE.

Some glimpses and observations of the day:

  • In my newspaper days, I quickly learned that the way to a reporter’s heart was through his/her stomach. Send a tray of brownies to a newsroom, and reporters will surround it like ants on a sugar spill.

  • Turns out this is also a great way to reach legislators. In line with our 1926 “First Lutheran Home Cookbook,” reprinted this year to celebrate LSSND’s 100th anniversary, we handed out sugar cookies adapted from Mrs. C. Lynner’s recipe in the book. (I say “adapted” because I added the cozy flavor of nutmeg, just as my Norwegian grandmother Dorothy Evanson Swift did to her cookies, and because I used butter vs. the then-standard lard.)

Our cookies, of course, were little, blue-frosted doves, with candy eyes that mostly wound up rolling around the bottom of the Tupperware used to carry them. Oh well. Maybe blind doves exemplify blind faith. ☺

Anyway, the cookies were a big hit, as were the cookbooks. It’s amazing how people start reminiscing about their own families when they see an old church cookbook. One lawmaker, Senator Dave Oehlke of Devils Lake, told us that he believes some of his grandmother’s recipes are in the book! We were delighted, as we were pretty sure we’ve seen a “Mrs. Oehlke” on the book’s yellowed pages. Find the book at

  • Across the hall, we were joined by Lutheran organizations such as Red Willow Bible

Camp, Crossroads Lutheran Campus Ministry and South Sudan Lutheran Church in Fargo. Matour Alier, director of the SSLC, offered a tasty sample of “Lutheran food” from across the world by serving Sudanese sambusa. Needless to say, a crowd surrounded his booth until every last sambusa was gone (this takes a while, as we all know how polite Midwesterners never want to take the last one!)

  • One could say the Great Hall, with its grand architecture and cathedral-like echo, is a church in its own right, in that the democratic process of law-making, in its purest form, does fill one with a sense of reverence. But even as suit-clad lawmakers darted to and fro, the Great Hall maintained a pleasant and leisurely Sunday-morning vibe, thanks to piano music, the sight of people chatting amiably over breakfast or coffee and an opening prayer by the Rev. Terry Brandt, Bishop of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the ELCA.

Speaking of music, LSSND’s very own Christine Lennon sat down at the grand piano in the hall and provided a lovely performance of “Like A Dove,” a song she composed especially for LSSND’s 100th ( It took some coaxing to get her to do it, as Christine is incredibly modest, but it provided just the right soundtrack for the occasion. (Also, how lucky are we to not only have a teammember who is a development and grant-writing expert, but is also a bona fide musician? So cool!) Incidentally, Christine will be making this song available for download on our website soon, so keep watching our social media to learn when it’s ready!

  • We also had the good fortune to be entertained by the talented worship band from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck. Their set included performances by Sen. Erin Hill-Oban, Bismarck, and LSS Housing Board member/Good Shepherd Pastor Craig Schweitzer, (sporting a streak of green and purple in his white locks. We liked to think this was because he’s a rock star, but word on the street was that it was all part of a fund-raiser.:)

  • It was fun to catch up with one of my former bosses, Gov. Doug Burgum, again.

Gov. Doug Burgum took some time out of his busy day to talk about our Imagine Thriving initiative (and to enjoy a cookie!)

He dropped by for a dove cookie (I remembered his fondness for homemade sweets!) and good-naturedly posed for a picture with the LSS and Imagine Thriving banners. Gov. Burgum is especially interested in mental-health advocacy for our state’s youth, so even offered some tips for ways in which different organizations could work together with Imagine Thriving ( to maximize reach and effectiveness. Thanks, Governor!

  • One of the most popular attractions in the Great Hall was an unexpected visit by two beautiful Newfoundlands. Rigley and Kenzie may look like giant, black bears, but they were teddy bears at heart.

The handsome dogs, who belong to Sen. Oehlke, showed the best way to relax people and break down barriers is to bring a well-behaved dog (or an adorable baby) to the proceedings.

Then again, sambusa, cookies and music don’t hurt either!

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