On Being New

Date posted: Tuesday 08 July 2014

Long before the synod assembly in mid-May, many of you began praying for the new bishop and the transition process that would follow the election. I didn’t know then that you would be praying for me but I know now how vital your prayers and kind words are in creating an environment of encouragement and support as I step into this new call.


Although my term as bishop officially began on July 1, I spent a good deal of time at the synod office in June. The synod staff, the members of the synod council, and the conference deans have done much to welcome me and to ease this time of transition. They assure me that we are in this work together. When asked how the transition process is going, I have noted that there is much to learn and added how grateful I am that “at least I don’t have to leave home.” 


I’ve lived in Saint Paul for thirteen years and in this vocational move my address is staying the same. Or so I thought until the day I took the wrong exit off I-94. I realized then that I might as well admit to myself—and to all of you—that even finding the way home includes new learning. 


You’ve experienced that, too, amid transitions in your own life. Leaving home for college or military service, transferring to a new job across the country, or relocating in retirement, one day everything seems familiar and the next day everything is brand-new. I believe that God uses those times of fresh beginnings to help us see ourselves differently in relation to the world around us. 


Such seasons are always times of vulnerability and recognition of our daily need for God’s grace. Being new can be awkward and intimidating, but the opportunity to see all things in a fresh way can also be a joyous experience. 


I’ve entered new calls before. I remember learning my way around Alpena, Michigan as a young, first-call pastor and a similar time of discovery when I accepted a second call to a parish in Athens, Ohio. In each there were new names to learn, maps to master, programs to embrace or adapt, and the beautiful challenge of working with faithful people to discern how God was present in that place. 


I remember as well the joys and frustrations of being brand-new all over again when I began calls as an administrator that took me to the ELCA Churchwide Office, to Luther Seminary and Augsburg College, and most recently to the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches where I just completed service as the Executive Director. 


My prayer is that this will be a time of fresh learning for all of us in the synod; a season of transition in which we all pay attention to the world around us and the opportunities God is giving us to see ourselves and our neighbors in fresh ways. Please continue to pray for patience and openness—for me, for you, and for the work we do together for Christ’s sake.


Yours in God’s service,

The Rev. Patricia Lull