The first morning began nice and early for our volunteers–we had them trickling in at about 7 AM (for anyone who wants to do some math, many of us did not get back to our rooms till about midnight) and preparing for registration.
The first event on our agenda is Opening Worship, which will then lead into the Plenary. Pastor Ben Hogue of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation opens with the story of creation. An important piece to note is that Pastor Hogue uses gender neutral/flexible pronouns when referring to God. Occasionally God is she, occasionally God is They.
After worship, Deacon Sue Rothmeyer steps up to the podium to talk about Bishop Graham’s service to our Synod. Synod Assembly 2019 is a very special and important assembly, since we are electing a new Bishop. However, for the moment, Deacon Rothmeyer wanted to focus on Bishop Graham.
After speaking to the service of Bishop Graham, Deacon Rothmeyer shows the assembly a video. In it, Presiding Bishop Eaton provides commentary about the vast number of people there are in any community, and how, as a church, we are called to serve the community around us where we can. In God’s love, dear is cast away. Therefore, we should not be afraid to reach out to serve others.
Mr. Nels Hendrickson is called up next to give the report on the transition team. There is, obviously, a lot to talk about in terms of transition, but Hendrickson reminds us that Bishop elections are not just about the election; because it’s not just an election, it’s a calling. It’s not just about law and constitutions, but the Holy Spirit as well. Therefore, the process needs to be Spirit-led. It should be similar to a call process–we should see the call in the candidates. It’s time for the Holy Spirit to work their magic here, Hendrickson concludes, as we elect a new bishop. He closes with a prayer for guidance and wisdom as we move forward in elections and as others discern their calls.
In his final report, Bishop Graham tells us that he is conscious that he was not perfect. He understands where he could have improved. But amidst the regret, he feels gratitude. He is grateful for the Synod staff, pastors and deacons, lay leaders and congregations, and volunteers. He is grateful for the trust people have placed in him.
It is not his place to tell us where to go, he says. That is for others to discern as we move forward with the weekend, and it is for our eventual Bishop-elect.
He finishes with a piece from Luke 12: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom…Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Next is the report of the Office of Evangelical Mission, provided by Pastor Gary Rhinesmith. A major project this office has been working on this year is New Connections, and Pastor Rhinesmith is looking forward to seeing where the mission goes in the future.
Pastor Rhinesmith provides the assembly with three questions to think about as we move forward in our congregations and mission:
What about God’s relationship with you feels good for you?
What about your relationship with a person in your congregation feels good to you?
What is one thing–and only one!–that you do with others in your congregation that feels good?
There are no wrong answers. No one will know what you say, unless you share it. Pastor Rhinesmith makes a point that words are just as important as action in the Church as a whole. Actions all start with words. So speak to others. Speak to who you know. Speak to who you don’t know. Move forward. Discern a call.
Some final thoughts from the first day: there is so much that goes in to running an assembly. There is so much that goes into running a Church. There are ministers and staff and volunteers at every turn to ensure things run smoothly. In this way, everyone is discerning a call to serve somewhere. Some discern their call to serve through ministry, and some discern a call to serve through administrative duties. Others may discern their call to serve through music. The Simbala family (Katie, our creative director, and her partners Luis and Raquel) led a beautiful musical worship to conclude the first night. That is how they discern their call to serve. And we are very grateful to everyone who feels a call to serve, at any level.
As I type this, we are beginning our second day. We will be leaving the weekend with a new Bishop. And, whoever is elected, they are discerning a call to serve at one of the highest places in the church. They will be serving God, the assembly, the congregations, and communities around the world.
There is a lot going on this weekend, so apologies if the notes seem slightly incoherent. Continue following us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to stay updated on the election process and more!