“Strength for the Journey” was the theme of the 2021 North Carolina Synod Assembly, with the central text being the story of the man who was paralyzed being lowered through the roof in order to see Jesus (Mark 2:1-12). Each day of the assembly, devotions were offered by different lay leaders in the NC Synod.
On the first day, Doug Ramsey, a member of Friendship Lutheran in Taylorsville and the NC Synod Council Secretary, shared one of the patterns of his life that sustains him. Every Wednesday morning for 12 years, Doug has met his two friends in the sanctuary of Friendship Lutheran Church. They meet for fellowship and prayer; they offer each other strength for the journey.
As Mr. Ramsey described those morning gatherings of storytelling, support, laughter, problem-solving, and prayer, he said there have been times when it has been his turn to pray – and the words won’t come. “Sometimes when it’s your turn to pray, there are no words, or your tears are too heavy for speaking. Sometimes anger and grief mean it won’t sound like a prayer. In those times, when the silence is deafening, my friends put a hand on my shoulder and pray for me. When I can’t or won’t go to God, my friends load me on a rack and lay me at the feet of Jesus.”
Debbie Purpur, one of our synod’s trained lay preachers and a member of synod council, offered the devotion on the second day of the assembly. She acknowledged the need for healing during and after the pandemic. “I wonder how many of us this past year have felt the need to be carried to Jesus. We have known fear, isolation, anger, and discouragement. The pandemic has affected our schools, families, worship experiences. Pastors and leaders are weary from decision fatigue, constant adjustments, complaints over opening, and concern about parishioners.” And she reminded the assembly that God brings healing, forgiveness, and grace when we are feeling broken.
On the last morning of the assembly, Diane Ryan, the NC Synod Office Administrator and member of St. James, Rockwell, offered a tender devotion. She shared that the second anniversary of her grandson, Alex’s death was the same week as assembly, bringing up memories afresh for her. Diane gave thanks for Alex’s faith in Jesus and for the people who helped foster that faith. Her closing prayer provided a beautiful place to dwell as the assembly came to a close.
“We give thanks for all the new gifts that this day will bring. Help us to move into the day with an open heart and mind. Healing Lord, watch over all who are ill. Listening God, be my sounding board. Let me vent to you when life is overwhelming. Steadying God, when my feet slip, thank you for helping me safely navigate. God of all nations, help me to follow you. Strengthen me in faith and ground me in your love. Give me the strength to serve you and all people. Here I am, Lord. Send me.”