Editor’s Note: Lars Johanson submitted this report on the June 7-8 New England Synod Assembly. The Rev. Leila Ortiz served as guest preacher and was elected to serve as Bishop of the Metro DC Synod of the ELCA at the Metro DC Synod Assembly held June 14-15. We’ll add links to the storytelling presentation by keynote speaker Margot Leitman as well as the sermon by the Rev. Leila Ortiz when they become available.
Pastor Kyle Seibert, Rosemary Affeldt and I attended the NE Synod Assembly in Worcester, MA. Over 500 men and women attended the two-day conference from congregations all over New England. One of the lasting impressions of the meeting was the number of women who hold leading positions within the synod and as pastors of various congregations. Many of them gave presentations and led devotions and worship.
A considerable amount of time was devoted to “church business” such as presentation of memorials and reports from Bishop Hazelwood and various components of the synod. I was very impressed with the four memorials that were approved and will be presented later this summer at the ELCA National Assembly. Two of the memorials dealt with the rights of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation and support of humanitarian aid to Palestinian hospitals. Another memorial called for an endorsement of the Poor People’s Campaign in order to encourage congregations and members to participate. The fourth memorial asked the ELCA to endorse the campaign and encourage all to participate where appropriate in organizing, advocacy, and actions. These memorials clearly show the New England Synod’s commitment to issues of social justice, one example of God’s Word and our hands.
Another lasting impression was the topics covered by Bishop Hazelwood in his report. He reported on the four areas that have been the focus of his attention: Congregations, Spiritual Growth, Global Mission, and Finding and Funding Leaders. It was very encouraging to hear that there were 35 new calls for pastors in the synod in the past year but very upsetting to hear that there are so many younger pastors who have substantial student loans. The bishop pointed out that the total debt is $1.75 million dollars. He encouraged all of us to participate in a campaign, Jubilee 2020, in order to help reduce this debt figure. This is probably a subject that should be brought to the attention of OSLC’s church council and congregation.
In the area of global mission Bishop Hazelwood and others talked about the church’s activity in the Holy Land and Honduras and through groups such as Ascentria. The latter gave a report on the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program that provides long-term foster care and other services. Once again I was impressed by our synod’s commitment to serve others.
The theme of the assembly was “What’s Your Story”. The keynote speaker was Margot Leitner, a storyteller and instructor. She told various stories herself in the keynote address and workshop and left a lasting impression about the power of stories to develop bonds between strangers. She gave various examples of how each of us can communicate our experiences and passions to others. These are good things to remember as we in OSLC try to know each other better and welcome visitors.
The assembly concluded with a moving worship service. Rev. Leila Ortiz from the Washington DC Synod gave the sermon. Her background growing up in a Pentecostal church put an interesting light on her comments for a Pentecost service.