LOVE AND GATHERING
Bishop Richard Graham opened the 2012 Metro D.C. Synod Assembly with words from Scripture – 1 John 3:16-24. Themes of love, gathering, working together and praise marked the words pronounced by those gathered in the formal opening of the assembly.
In attendance at the beginning of the event are 217, including voting members from congregations, rostered leaders and visitors.
Bishop Graham led the assembly through a few quick orders of business.
Karen Krueger, the synod’s communicator, quickly walked through ways the synod is online and reviewed what information and resources are available. Various groups in the synod have sections or pages of their own that they maintain. Among the ways the synod is online:
• Synod’s website
• Presence on Facebook
• LivingLutheran.org, another way the ELCA is present on the web
She gave the assembly a preview of the new design of the synod’s website.
Ecumenical guests brought greetings to the assembly. The Rev. Jonathan Barton, General Minister, General Minister, Virginia Council of Churches, and the Rev. Ted Gulick, Jr., Assistant to the Bishop, Diocese of Virginia, Episcopal Church of the USA, both brought greetings, noting that they come from churches that are in full communion with the ELCA.
The Rev. Jon Denninger, representing the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Southeastern District, brought greetings from the Rev. Dr. Jon Diefenthaler, District President. He mentioned his church’s efforts to plant 100 churches within the Southeast District as part of a national initiative of the denomination.
Other business included the report of the nominating committee, sharing the names of individuals to be on the ballot for elected positions of leadership. Many nominations for the various slots came from the floor.
In the report of the treasurer, John Handley explained that in 2011, general giving through benevolence to the synod was down, but overall giving was up. Some of the increase included contributions to disaster response, the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and the ELCA Malaria Campaign. The treasurer reminded the assembly that the synod gives 50 percent of what it receives to the Churchwide expression of the ELCA.
After a break, the assembly began a Festive Eucharist. The Rt. Rev. Marianne Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, was scheduled as celebrant at the service, but she was unable to make it. In her place was the Rev. Elizabeth Platz, chaplain at the University of Maryland in College Park. As part of the confession and forgiveness of sins, worshippers were invited to write their sins on a card and then bring them to a large cross in the center of the room. They then dipped their cards in red paint and made a mark on the cross to symbolize the blood of Christ that was shed to take away our sins.
In his sermon, Bishop Graham spoke about Jesus’ last meal with his friends before he was crucified (the Gospel lesson for the service was John 13:1-17, 31b-35). Bishop Graham spoke about Jesus’ presence in self-giving love in the meal of bread and wine we share in the Eucharist. “Any meal you share with another person is a clue to what awaits us in heaven,” he said. Bishop Graham said that Jesus also asks us to love each other as he asked his disciples at that meal.
But, Bishop Graham said, love is difficult. Because Jesus has joined himself to us in the meal, we can join ourselves to each other, he said. We can love all of God’s children, even our enemies. The meal gives us that love.
After the hymn of the day, worshippers were invited to practice love at various stations on the edges of the room. These stations engaged worshippers in activities labeled “love notes,” “servant hospitality,” “imperfections,” and “betrayal.” At the servant hospitality station, worshippers were invited to give and receive shoulder massages. At the love notes station, they were invited to write a note to somebody expressing their love.
As the sending hymn drew to a close, worshippers processed from one meal, the Eucharist, to another – lunch.