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[...]
I drove home from our recent synod assembly with a deep sense of gratitude and excitement about who we are as the Saint Paul Area Synod. As I covered the 22 miles from Prince of Peace in Burnsville to my home in Saint Paul, many images cascaded through my mind. Here’s what I saw from my vantage point at the front of the room.
Person after person extended their hands to receive communion with joy of their faces. It is always a privilege to share the sacrament when we gather. Those same faces bowed with solemnity the next day as we prayed words of repentance for the disregard and racism shown to the Native American community over the past centuries. Know that we will continue the journey toward reconciliation with the Native American community over the coming years. We will continue to confront the unjust forms of racism that stunt our outreach into the communities where we live.
And boy can we sing! Not just familiar hymns but new songs in fresh keys and call-and-response in hip-hop mode. Worship is central to our life together.
As Synod Council member Jason Langworthy interviewed Archbishop Hebda and me, I saw how attentively you listened to our exchanges about the work God is calling Roman Catholic parishes and Lutheran congregations to undertake as we walk in tandem in Christ. Your spontaneous laughter and applause when I told Archbishop Hebda to take good care of Pope Francis because we Lutherans love him was delightful and honest.
We live at an opportune time these 500 years after the start of the Reformation. There will be additional opportunities to observe that anniversary in late October at hymn festivals, worship services, local theater productions, film showings and the gathering of the ministerium on October 31st. We will conclude this remarkable anniversary year as Lutherans and Roman Catholics with a Service of Common Prayer at the Cathedral in Saint Paul in mid-January 2018. Details on all those events will be noted in the synod’s News & Events and on the website.
From the podium I witnessed the integrity with which resolutions were debated. We do not all see the public life of the synod in exactly the same way. Yet, we listen to one another, weigh arguments for and against particular actions, and strive to learn from those who would urge us to go in one direction or another. The adoption of an amended synod constitution and a resolution calling all of us to address gun violence in our communities were important parts of our deliberations.
The vote on changing the percentage of mission support dedicated for synod-wide ministries and church-wide activities was the closest one at this assembly. Yet, I did not hear one speaker suggest that mission support and our work together do not matter or that we should be less generous with our time or treasures. If we all agree that local, synod-wide and Churchwide ministries matter to us as people - who know God’s incredible generosity - there are no limits to the good and faithful work we can accomplish together. The 2018 budget, which we adopted with a goal of $2.1 million in mission support, testifies to that. The appeal for an additional $100,000 in annual, local mission partner support for our new starts is icing on that cake.
As I crossed the Mississippi River near my house, the last images that came to mind were the excitement with which Pastor Gilo Agwa and Pastor Jeff Japinga from the Presbyterian Church USA were welcomed as our co-workers in the newly launched outreach to the Anuak people, refugees from Ethiopia and South Sudan, now living in the east metro. Your enthusiasm for this kind of rich partnership was also there as we headed into break-out groups, each one addressing dynamics of our life among many contemporary neighbors.
And that’s the theme we live by this year - We Are Lutheran: Among Our Neighbors. I’ll have my eyes open to discover ways that God is calling us to deeper engagement and learning and I hope you will, too.
Patricia J. Lull, Bishop