Over 27 years of ministry I’ve found precious few of the synod assemblies I’ve attended to be memorable. Several have been contentious; others routine. A number have seen the same old resolutions cycled through over and again. Only a few have retained, for me, the sense of spiritual power and uplift that has endured beyond the weekend. Our assembly in May falls in that rare category.
Kathleen and Bob, in the article below, have done a great job capturing some of specifics which contributed to making this assembly memorable. The presence of our Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson was certainly part of that—what a gifted leader! I wish you all could have been present to hear Mark, and more importantly, to sense how clearly he has his finger on the pulse of the context, the challenges, and the opportunities before us as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as we seek to make Christ known. Bishop Mark brought his wit—and a sprinkle of vinegar—to the assembly, supporting and challenging us and calling us to deeper reflection of how we can be the church for and with those outside our doors. He also brought his trust and confidence in the Spirit’s presence as he led us through the stages of electing a new synodical Bishop.
Our synod’s purposeful process, unique among the 65 synods of the ELCA, was handled superbly, and infused with prayer at every turn. The fifteen gifted, articulate, and courageous pastors who had been nominated for the office all acquitted themselves admirably and gracefully. As the field of candidates narrowed, and each candidate spoke about her/his core sense of where the church should go and how we might get there, I came away with a profound sense of hope for the future of the church. I can say without hesitation, in the words of the author of Acts, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” that Pastor Kirby Unti was called to the role of Bishop. I hope you will join me in prayer in support of Kirby and his wife Kim as he makes the transition to this new office.
Delores Dufner’s hymn quoted above captures the sense of vigor to which the Spirit is calling us as God’s people in West Seattle. I especially like the line, “to scatter joy like seed.” There’s much to be joyful about as we mark this month together: we’ll celebrate with graduates preparing to take the next big step; we’ll witness our young people taking on leadership roles and our little ones lifting their voices to declare “Jesus loves me, this I know,” we’ll welcome new members into the fellowship of our congregation, making room for their voices, their gifts, their partnership.
Let’s not forget that the joy we experience and share between each other and within these walls is meant to be scattered—not kept! One question Bishop Hanson posed to us was this: Would there be any noticeable impact to the neighborhood in which your congregation resides if the church were to close? If so, what would the impact be? I’m curious how you would answer the question. The follow up question approaches the same topic from a different angle: How is our congregation writing the next chapter in the book of Acts? Indeed, this is the core mission we must always keep before us. And the beauty is, God has supplied us with ample talent, vision, and vigor to do just that!
Your partner in joy, Pastor Erik“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witness in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” - Acts 1:8