The good things God is doing
Planning an assembly is challenging. What ministry areas need to be highlighted? What do we hope congregations will learn that can be energizing for their own ministries? The recent 2019 NC Synod Assembly was no different. While the assembly theme, Vital Congregations, was lifted up in a variety of ways, folks also learned much more about shared ministries and the good things God is doing in this synod.
Here are comments from several assembly attendees who shared their own assembly take-aways.
First-time voting members Gregg and Vickie Fletcher from Mt. Zion, Conover, had a great experience at the assembly. Gregg shared that “Vickie and I enjoyed the overall experience. We felt the meeting was well organized and the topics on point. The move to meeting every other year with training in between is good. The direction of the church is clear; as is what we need to do as members of the church. We also have a much better understanding of how contributions are used by so many ministry partners.”
Kreig Spahn, congregation council president at Calvary, Morganton, shared that “this was the first time I’ve learned anything at a synod assembly.” Kreig also shared, “What I enjoyed the most was the time I spent with my pastors and the vice-president of the (congregation) council getting to know them better and in a different setting from church. Lutheran Disaster Response is awesome! Not only do they go in to help, but they stay for months or even years! The extended work, in my opinion, is more important to the rebuilding process than just the initial work (which is necessary also!).”
Kreig continued, “Probably the main benefit I gained was reassurance of what I already was feeling—that we need to love one another. … This was reinforced a lot during the assembly, which made me realize that this is the right way to lead my life, and, hopefully, to pass on to my children.”
Steve and Carol Swing from Community in Christ, Cornelius, attended this year’s assembly. Steve had attended assembly in the past, but this was Carol’s first time attending. She shared, “My time at the synod assembly was eye-opening when I realized the resources available through the synod and the ministry partners supported by all of us. It was extremely uplifting and energizing to realize that there are many opportunities and ways the synod supports congregations, regardless of size. I learned that the symbiotic relationships of the ministry partners supported the themes of vitality and inclusion. The ministry partners seem to have an unwritten air of ‘no one left behind,’ when it comes to our Lord and Savior Jesus.”
Carol continued, “Steve and I presented a slide show to our congregation on Sunday, June 9. We had about 3-4 minutes to present, but I opened the presentation with the disclaimer that there is no way to tell them in 3-4 minutes what we experienced over the two-day assembly. We explained the two prevalent themes were vitality and inclusion. Many of the topics were relevant and we rejoiced in the knowledge we received that may help align our vision at Community in Christ with the pastors we have just called. For instance, we informed the congregation that the ELCA celebrated the anniversaries of the first African American female pastor as well as the 50-year anniversary of women in the ministry for the ELCA. As we have just called a female pastor, the “Seriously?” video helped us prepare for any negative comments (intentional or not) that may be directed at either of our pastors.”
Pastor Matt Brunoehler, who was recently ordained and called to Good Shepherd, Elizabeth City, shared “since Good Shepherd is a congregation at the tail end of a successful redevelopment, but also capable of complacency and stagnation, NC Synod’s Director for Evangelical Mission, Pastor Danielle DeNise’s presentations regarding congregational vitality were meaningful, helpful, and a good reminder of the congregational life-cycle and the road ahead if we are going to continue to be a place of vitality. I am thankful for Bishop Smith’s leadership and willingness to be vulnerable to set an example. Many of us (myself included) do indeed come from a place of privilege (in a myriad of ways) and our ability to disciple and be Gospel-messengers to our context requires self-awareness and vulnerability. I appreciated his example.”
Pastor Matt continued, “The most enjoyable part for me was worship. Being in a room designed for congregational singing with lots of amazing singers and a great organ was moving and life-giving. At the same time, it made me appreciate our very flexible, adaptable, and handicapped-accommodating space in Elizabeth City.”
“The congregational life-cycle and naming some of the prophetic emphases of the ELCA and NC Synod are things that I plan to bring back to Good Shepherd. I also plan to share our opportunities to be church together. We will enjoy and share the Summer of Psalms study and we are already getting geared up to submit a “Tell It” youth video and attend the LYO assembly again in 2020.”
People sometimes ask why we have a synod assembly. The folks above have answered that:
“To be equipped to be more relevant (and vital) in our work across the state”
“To celebrate what God is doing in our midst”
“To learn from each other”
And, echoing both the bishop and vice president Diana Haywood in their remarks at assembly, “To grow in relationship to God and one another.”
How are you and your congregation growing in your relationship with God, each other, your community, and our neighbors throughout the world?
Photo: Ray Sipe—pastor, chaplain, and techno-geek.