Last month we were blessed by the visit of Blaston Gaville, Bishop of the Iringa Diocese, and his wife Pamela. They tirelessly maneuvered through a schedule packed with visits to 18 Minnesota congregations, a couple Lutheran colleges and seminaries, met friends both new and old, and they were our guests of honor at the Bega Kwa Bega Fall Festival.
For me, one of the highlights of their visit was a quiet, thoughtful, Bishop to Bishop conversation that was held one morning, open to the public.
During this conversation, Bishop Gaville revealed how he acted against long standing precedent in the Tanzanian church by inviting Bishop Patricia Lull to preach at his installation and consecration service last June. The norm in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania is that the Presiding Bishop preaches at the consecration of a diocese bishop. You don't normally invite an outsider, and frankly, the Tanzanian church hasn't seen too many female bishops. Bishop Gaville told us that the invitation was so important to him that in order to break protocol, he traveled a long distance to speak in person with his presiding bishop. He said that the invitation was a sign of the love between the Iringa Diocese and the Saint Paul Area Synod.
Another interesting point of conversation came when the two bishops were asked how to maintain strong congregational partnerships through pastoral transitions. While noting that we have different ways of moving pastors on either side of the partnership, there was consensus that in congregations and parishes where the lay people are deeply engaged in the partnership, the relationship will continue to thrive.
Finally, a striking moment in the conversation occurred when each bishop was asked to list the challenges facing their church members. Bishop Gaville listed the very concrete struggles of poverty, funding the church, and finding the resources to serve the community with healthcare and education. He also named the spiritual challenge of congregants moving to other traditions, seeking miracles. Bishop Lull identified the spiritual challenges churches face in our consumerist culture, along with pervasive anxiety and division over politics and race. She noted that practical challenges of funding and retaining membership exist in our congregations as well.
One of the bishops commented, "Neither one of us is whole without the other."
And the other bishop agreed.
With deep gratitude for this companionship that makes us each whole,
Chair, Iringa Committee