Editor’s Note: 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.
“WHAT’S YOUR STORY”
New England Synod Assembly Report
June 7-8, 2019
On June 7th, Pastor Kyle, Lars Johanson and I (along with close to 500 other participants) attended the New England Synod Assembly in Worcester, MA and discovered what this unusual and enticing title for a Synod Assembly was all about. As we learned from Margot Leitman, our Keynote Speaker, “Everyone has a story and connecting with strangers creates great stories which unite us and shows how similar we really are. Why we do what we do in the ELCA and in our own individual lives gets the stories out of our heads and into the world for all to hear. It is important for us to tell why we do what we do in our worship and work as members of the ELCA and in the activities of our daily lives. Even our Bishop Hazelwood has a story to tell in his new book entitled “Everyday Spirituality” which he identified as a resource to deepen our faith.
Much of the early content of the Assembly included a letter from the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, which informed us of the upcoming ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee on August 5-10. She indicated that as part of their legislative business they will receive and consider proposals from all synod assemblies as “this church continues to engage in God’s reconciling work through Christ in the world.”
On opening day during the plenary session, rules, agendas, credentials, the Bishop’s and Synod Officers’ reports, compensation guidelines, Synod Council elections, Partner and Conference reports and the proposed Synod Budget for 2020 were among the items presented.
Bishop Hazelwood in his report focused on four areas of importance to him, namely: Congregations which he stated continue to be the most important aspect of his work. There were 35 new calls extended, 21 of which are new to our synod and 27 new candidates for ministry, the highest in 6 years. The three remaining areas are Spiritual Growth and Global Mission which includes the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the Lutheran Church in Honduras. Finding and Funding Leaders, a fourth area of focus is of particular concern due to the substantial loan debt of $1.75 million incurred through seminary training. To address this, the Synod has put forth a Seminary Debt Reduction Campaign, Jubilee 2020, which we will bring home to discuss with our Church Council and congregation.
The NH Conference Report indicated that in 2018, two congregations celebrated new ministries, one of them being OSLC and Campus Ministry with the installation of the Rev. Kyle L. Seibert. We are blessed by his ministry. In addition, The NH Council of Churches fills a vital role in bringing together faith communities from across a broad religious and geographical spectrum to promote immigrant justice and to repeal the death penalty among other matters. I am impressed by the Synod’s commitment to social justice and service to our brothers and sisters who have fled their homeland.
There was significant information shared about: Synod Mission Teams, which includes the Forward Leadership Team of which OSLC is a member this year. Congregational Support Teams, Shared Ministries, and Partners round out the list and show broad Synod involvement.
The New England Synod presented two Memorials to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly:
- Support Humanitarian Aid to Palestinian Hospitals
- No Way to Treat a Child: Protecting the Human Rights of Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation. Both were strongly supported
A third and fourth Memorial on the Poor People’s Campaign called for an endorsement and participation stating : “We are freed in Christ to serve, love and care for our neighbor and in this work we strive to ensure that all people have a livelihood that is sufficient to meet their basic needs and is sustainable in creation.” This reiterates the commitment of the New England Synod to the service of others.
I also attended two workshops. “Telling Scripture by Heart” which spoke of a new way to make the Bible come alive for those who have heard it a thousand times before; and “Addiction and Substance Abuse: A Journey of the Cross into Heartbreak and Hope, Resilience and Recovery.” Three presenters spoke to their varied experiences and the resources they have utilized in their ministries to individuals, families, and community affected by the issues surrounding addiction, substance abuse and the opioid crisis. Their years of service doing this difficult work is indicative of their dedication and belief in Christ’s love for all His people and the importance of addressing these issues in our congregations. It also tells of the desire of those addicted to find and connect with God.
An appropriate and uplifting close to two days of learning and sharing was our celebration of Word and Meal on the Vigil of Pentecost Sunday. Our dynamic Preacher was the Rev. Leila Ortiz from the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod. As the 2019 Assembly closed, we were told to: “Go in peace, and share the Good News!”
I have appreciated the opportunity to represent the members of OSLC at the 2019 New England Synod Assembly.