the 2007 edition of Making Christ Known, the booklet that
interprets the mission of the ELCA that is distributed at synod assemblies
and other gatherings.
are the church in the world,” says Blake Marles, an attorney from
Macungie, Pennsylvania. He goes on to say: “I attempt to use my
talents and gifts within Lutheran institutions not only for self-exploration
but also to have an impact, to make a difference in people’s lives.”
ministry, an ELCA-related college, an ELCA social service institution,
and his congregation have been arenas for Marles’ ministry in his
daily life over the years.
Marles’ sense of calling to serve others began in the home of his
parents, who were role-models for him, and continues in his own family with
his wife, Marilyn, and their two grown children, Adam and Lindsay.
Experiences at Camp Ministerium and Bear Creek Camp (both related to
the Northeastern and Southeastern Pennsylvania Synods) were formative for
Marles. From his first time at camp at age nine, through serving as a counselor
and a director, then being a member of the board, Marles continues to be
convinced that outdoor ministry transforms lives. Having a time away from
one’s familiar context, he says, provides a tremendous opportunity
to explore one’s self in relation to God, others, and nature.
As a student at Muhlenberg College thinking of transferring out, Marles
was challenged by an admissions director to list 10 things that should be
changed, then was told, “You can change these!” Through his
leadership on campus and as a student representative to the Board of Trustees,
and later in his dozen years as a member of the board, Marles was an agent
of change. His proudest accomplishment was forming a partnership between
the college and an elementary school in which hundreds of undergraduates
tutor students, coach sports and theater, and engage in other activities. “A
church-related college,” he says, “should help the disadvantaged
open doors for themselves.”
In the year after college during which he worked fulltime at Bear Creek
Camp, Marles enrolled in Temple University Law School. Why be a lawyer?
His answer: To immerse himself in the problems of others and to seek out
creative solutions. “The highest calling of a lawyer is to be a problem
solver.” As a member of a large law firm, one of his specialties is
advising college and university leaders in strategic planning and on complex
staff and student issues.
Several pastors early in Marles’ life who spoke of social service
agencies “as what Lutherans do in the world” influenced him
to accept membership on the Board of Directors of Good Shepherd Rehabilitation
Network, the largest independent ELCA-related rehabilitation complex. Serving
earlier as secretary and most recently as chair of the board, he has been
a trustee for 14 years in two different stints with a whole-hearted dedication
to Good Shepherd’s philosophy: God has called us to minister to, serve,
assist and enable people with disabilities to enhance their capabilities
as human beings.
All of Marles’ involvements and actions have their basic motivation
in his baptism and his experience in several ELCA congregations. “Here
is the place,” Marles says, “to be rooted and refreshed in worship.“ An
important component has been adult Christian education. “I need a
place to think things through with others, to explore why I do what I do,” he
And that is the kind of learning and commitment that has marked Marles’ journey
of faith in action.