The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
Dear Partners in Ministry,
Then Jesus said … ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.’” Luke 14:16-23
This parable has served as a guiding text for our work as a synod in 2016. At our Conference and Synod Assemblies, our leaders and ministers explored together what it means that God wills that “my house may be full”. In drafting a statement of purpose, we discerned that for the Saint Paul Area Synod this includes the conviction that:
“Christ is renewing us today for –
deeper faith in the living God;
wider engagement in God’s world;
bolder trust in God’s work through us.”
(Statement of Purpose, 2016)
Our common work in 2016 was marked by regular opportunities for learning by the lay leaders and rostered ministers of the synod. Over 400 persons participated in the Tool Kit for Congregational Leaders, the Stewardship Lab, two gatherings of the ministerium, the Bishop’s Theological Conference, and ten formal learning cohorts this past year.
In those and other events, attention was given to racial justice as a deep and urgent concern for all members of the Saint Paul Area Synod. At our Synod Assembly, the Rev. Anthony Bateza challenged us to embrace the ways that our identity in Christ frees us to look deeply at racism in our own daily life. In July, many gathered to mourn the death of Philando Castile and to recommit energy to building more just relationships in our communities. In September, a dozen teams from our congregations as well as the synod staff participated in a two-day training session to gain skills for addressing racial justice within our churches. As a synod, we have committed ourselves to addressing racism and racial justice in all aspects of our shared work.
In August, 24 persons from the synod participated in the Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans. Memorials adopted there included several sent forward from the Saint Paul Area Synod: repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, calling for renewed attention to reducing gun violence, and utilizing investment screens to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The joy and vitality of being “church together” was apparent through the six days of worship, presentations and legislative deliberations. Appreciation for the last 50 years of formal dialogue between Lutherans and Roman Catholics was expressed through a standing ovation when the document, “Declaration on the Way” was received as a statement of all that is held in common by our faith communities. What a fitting prelude that was to the observance of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, which formally began on October 31, 2016.
Five new rostered leaders were ordained or consecrated for service in this synod in 2016. They include Sister Annette Langdon, Pastor John Schwehn, Pastor Stefanie Fauth, Pastor Patrick Joiner and Sister Tashina Good. By constitutional amendments adopted at the Churchwide Assembly, we will now address all Associates in Ministry, Deaconesses and Diaconal Ministers as “Deacons” and are grateful for the three dozen persons who serve in these ministries of Word and Service in this synod.
2016 also brought changes to the staff in the Office of the Bishop. We welcomed Michael Gold, receptionist and office assistant; the Rev. Joe Lees, assistant to the bishop for vital congregations, vital partnerships; the Rev. Tom Jenkins, part-time stewardship coordinator; and Deacon Krista Lind, assistant to the bishop for vocational formation. This was also the year we said farewell and godspeed to the Rev. Lamont Koerner, Julie Keefe and Sister Noreen Stevens.
At year’s end, it is a gift to look back upon the fruitful efforts, the faithful service and the generous mission support that allows us to be on this journey together. It is a privilege to serve as the bishop of the 113 congregations and mission starts that make up the Saint Paul Area Synod.
Yours in God’s service –
Bishop Patricia Lull