Joy in the work

Still ahead of schedule, the Synod Assembly pressed forward into the final plenary session of the day after a delicious snack break sponsored by the Mission Investment Fund.

New Jerusalem Lutheran Church turns 250 this year - part of a presentation of ministry milestones.
New Jerusalem Lutheran Church turns 250 this year – part of a presentation of ministry milestones.

This session began with an introduction to the Mission Spending Plan, which was received without discussion at this time although it is substantially different from previous years.

This was followed by the voting for elected positions of synod leadership. Results will be announced at the plenary session tomorrow morning.

REPORT OF SYNOD COUNCIL

Dr. John White, Vice President of the Synod Council, stepped to the lectern for the next report. Assessing that in the cosmic order, the work of the council is adiaphora, he nonetheless reported joy in the work that is important for abundant life of the church here on earth.

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD

After taking time for a bit of recognition, acknowledging ordination milestones of rostered leaders in the synod and congregational anniversaries (including New Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Lovettsville, VA—celebrating 250 years of ministry!) we continue to look forward and explore how we can continue to move into the future together.

Mark Knauff of Thrivent Financial spoke briefly about how we can become better stewards of the gifts given to us by God to better serve our neighbors and live generously in the world.

In a welcome and timely adjustment to the agenda, the Rev. Karen Brau spoke next about what it means to be the church together in these days, in this place. She reminded us that “business as usual” is not ok for the church in the midst of these days. In the wake of the heinous acts committed against our black brothers and sisters in Charleston, South Carolina and in other places across our country, we are called to respond not with silence but with boldness.  Pr. Brau spoke frankly and openly about the intersection of racism and the church. She spoke about the fear surrounding our conversations about racism. But she also inspired a hope in the assembly that this does not have to be the end of story, and she reminded us that the cross of Christ frees us from this reality. As we sang together the gospel hymn, “Whom shall I Fear?” you could sense the energy in the ballroom.

Spontaneous clapping, heartfelt singing accompanied these moments led by Pr. Brau as we considered being church in these days.
Spontaneous clapping, heartfelt singing accompanied these moments led by Pr. Brau as we considered being church in these days.

This blogger is reminded of Romans 8:22, “we know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now,” and hopes that this groaning will lead to even more action in this synod and across the church to combat racism and support our sisters and brothers of color.

STAY WITH WHOM OUR PEACE RESTS

Director for Evangelical Mission and an Assistant to the Bishop of our synod, the Rev. Phil Hirsch, gave the next report, speaking first briefly about stewardship and then pivoting to the importance of new and fresh ideas across all aspects of our ministry.

Together in Mission (TIM), an annual, synod-wide event, was lifted up as a great way to hear about new ideas that people are trying in our congregations and elsewhere in the church and world. Pr. Hirsch also encouraged the assembly to look for people who are “leaning into you” as a way to share the gospel and message of Jesus Christ. The biblical example he gave was Luke 10:6-7, where Jesus instructs his disciples to stay with whom our peace rests.

Finally, Pr. Hirsch talked about the plan start new missions in the synod. The hoped for number is about seven, but he reminded the assembly that we could need to attempt 21 to end up with seven. Pr. Hirsch described 4 strategies for making these new missions successful: 1) Churches starting churches, 2) Restarts/renewals,  3) New Starts from Scratch, and 4) Missional Communities. He expressed hope and excitement for these new missions and the potential they have for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with more and more people.

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