Throughout the 2021 Synod Assembly, we heard from our partners in ministry about their work to be the church together. Although the COVID-19 pandemic required all of our ministry partners to pivot, their witness to the gospel certainly affirms that we are better together even when we need to remain apart.
Stephanie Burke, Regional Gift Planner with the ELCA Foundation, was still able to meet with families (via Zoom) to inform, inspire, and invite them to provide endowments and estate planning gifts to benefit congregations as well as the larger church. The Lifeline Fund continued to support our rostered ministers and help relieve the stress of economic challenges due to education debt often faced by them. Portico Benefit Services also offered support to our leaders to help nurture resilience and relieve stress. Portico provides medical visits via text, loan counseling, and online mental health programs. The Home Mission Foundation continued to provide seminary scholarships, funds for ministry, and a professorship at LTSS despite the challenges of a global pandemic.
Both Novus Way (Lutheridge, Lutherock, etc.) and Agape+Kure Beach Ministries were unable to have campers on-site during 2020, but thanks to the generosity of the church together, both organizations held successful fundraising campaigns and are now ready to provide safe faith formation and camping experiences for children, youth, and adults once again. Send your kids and grandkids to camp for s’more fun and faith!
Although it looked different in 2020, the candidacy process to prepare folks for ministry continues. Seminarians went to class online, candidacy meetings were held via Zoom, field education and internships looked quite different than normal and were truly learning experiences, and the call process included meetings and interviews via Zoom. Still, approximately 45 candidates are in the process or were recently called to rostered ministry in the synod.
Lutheran Services Carolinas continues to provide services for seniors, children, families, refugees, and immigrants and to respond to disasters; however, COVID-19 required extra creativity and commitment from their staff. Despite a year of broken hearts, their spirits were not broken and LSC opened a new group home in Durham for those recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries, added two new PACE partners, continued building at Trinity Landing in Wilmington, and creatively cared for the seniors and others entrusted to their care.
Like LSC, our Campus Ministries also had to work creatively to care for their students who were not on their campuses. Lenoir Rhyne University and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary shared stories of resilience during the pandemic and new life due to vaccines, new faculty, and record enrollments on their campuses. As students return to all of these campuses, please remember to reach out to those campus ministry folks and let them know that your students are there so that they can connect with them!
The Crumley Archives, on the campus of LTSS, continued to safely keep our heritage, history, and stories but were able to launch a new website and a new Facebook page during the pandemic while doing their regular work in new and different ways.
Lutheran Men in Mission and Women of the ELCA have also had to do their work in new and different ways during the pandemic, but that didn’t mean their work to equip and empower men and women to do God’s work in the world stopped. They were still able to gather online and send newsletters, support important issues, make masks and quilts (in smaller groups) for Lutheran World Relief, and share the gospel for the sake of the world.
Like LMIM and WELCA, our partner the NC Council of Churches also continued to work with 26 judicatories across 18 denominations and with the legislature in creative ways during the pandemic. However, with 85 years of experience, they were able to advocate through the use of scripture for racial justice and LGBTQIA+ rights while partnering with faith communities and secular and social service agencies.
The stories these partners in ministry shared throughout synod assembly certainly exemplify that despite being apart for more than a year, we are stronger and better when we collaborate, support one another, share the resources God provides, and do God’s work together. We are indeed better together—thanks be to God!