Always being made New. – Celebrating 25 years as the ELCA
By Carla Klawitter
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Day 2 started early with breakfast, rehearsal for those who will be part of tomorrow’s mass choir, more registrations, and a morning prayer service. Everyone seemed to be appreciating the sunshine.
Voting members and visitors gathered again in Lund Center. Rachel Kurtz slid us into plenary with her voice and guitar. Bishop Jon, wearing a shirt from South Africa, called the assembly to order. Bishop Emeritus Charles Anderson led our opening devotions. Nine words to remember from his message – “When you are not in transition, you are dead.”
Synod Vice President Gwen Arneson shared what’s new – what’s shakin’ – in our synod and how new ideas and dreams have come out of the Equipping Congregations and other events throughout the synod. What’s new in your congregation? In your community of faith? In your personal faith journey?
Newly elected to serve on synod council are Rev. Eunice Woodberry of Montevideo, Wendy Seefeldt of Dassel, Tatiana Gust of Luverne, Broderick Prokosch of Olivia, Curtis Ghylin of St. Cloud, and Jacob Holck of Worthington. New elected consultation committee members are Rev. Mark Astrup of Cold Spring and Lorna Bader of Slayton. Representatives for Lutheran Coalition for Public Policy in Minnesota and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota are Rev. Mark Little of Cokato and Greg Vandal of Sauk Rapids, respectively.
Synod Treasurer Bill Fenske presented the audit report and noted that the audit had gone very well. Bishop Jon encouraged people to have their congregations do thorough audits, and perhaps to exchange audit committees with neighboring congregations as good financial practice. The proposed 2014 budget was presented and will be discussed later.
Things were movin’ and shakin’ when Rachel Kurtz led the assembly in a stretch break. “This Little Light of Mine” had people clapping, shaking hands, bumping rumps, dancing, and singing. Fun! Must we get back to business?
Megan Potter, actress and young adult minister at Bethlehem Lutheran, St. Cloud, shared her faith journey as a young adult and her development of a young adult ministry at her church. Young adults crave the opportunity to serve. They are a diverse demographic – different ages, different stages of their young lives. Get this age group involved! Success can be slow, but it will be great.
Bishop Jon’s report focused on formation and Equipping Congregations (the people, not the buildings). We should try to listen more to each other. There was an increasing buzz in the room as attendees shared what caught them today as we were dwelling in the Word. We are a church that belongs to Christ. There is a place for you here. We’re more than a welcoming church – we must strive to be an inviting church.
Preventing and Responding to Abuse in Ministry has been a project for Sarah Hausken, Synod Youth Ministry Coordinator, and we as a synod will work in the coming year to help you in your context to be sure no one is hurt in any of our congregations.
Back to the South African shirt that Bishop Jon is wearing – like those worn by leaders in South Africa – Nelson Mandela style. Bishop Jon is also wearing a wooden cross around his neck – part of a pew from Gethsemane, Oak Park, where all things are being made new in Christ. Gethsemane has closed the building in Oak Park and moved into a new building.
Synod Minister Linda Pedersen highlighted Wild Wednesdays! – like Vacation Bible School, only once a week in a different neighborhood each time. Theology on Tap takes theology into public places – even those places with beverages on tap. Get outside of our buildings once in a while. There’s a whole community of people “out there.” And one more idea – the full-meal deal – fellowship, formation and worship – in your buildings and out in other places. Practice discipleship!
What is God calling our synod to become in the next 25 years? We need to keep looking forward even as we look back, remember, and give thanks. Trinity (Johnsonville) of Lucan and Prisoners of Hope, inside the prison at Appleton, are the two congregations that have closed during the year. We need to remember to try things – they may last a long time or they may be short-lived – but we need to try. In honor of those closings, the assembly sang the Doxology.
The second credentials report shared that 71% of potential rostered voting members, 59% of potential lay voting members, and 62% of potential total voting members were present and accounted for. Total present at the morning’s tabulation is 562. Of those 562, 48% are female and 52% are male.
Resolution 13.02 Regarding Southwestern Minnesota Synod Constitutional Change for Election of a Bishop, a technical adjustment regarding procedures for elections, was passed by more than the two-thirds majority required. If adopted, the procedures for election of a bishop would be removed from the constitution and added to the synod’s bylaws. This action will be on next year’s agenda and must be passed again in order to change constitution language.
Workshops were offered in the morning and in the afternoon. Practice Discipleship, social media, “Every Night in Every Home”, theological education, health care reform, strategic planning, prayer practices for everyday life, how congregations can help young adults, becoming a safe haven congregation, planned giving, mission development, congregation constitutions, worship, building men for Christ, music, team building, the 2013 video contest, the 2012 South Africa visit, and the next youth gathering in Detroit were among the topics from which to choose.
Attendees enjoyed a meal and fellowship before returning to Lund Center for the afternoon. We slid back into the plenary with more music by Rachel Kurtz.
Heidi Hagstrom, a daughter of our synod and director of the ELCA Youth Gathering, presented the churchwide report, including a greeting from Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. Heidi shared information about the many programs we help to support with our shared mission support offerings – Disaster Relief, the Malaria Initiative, World Hunger, Young Adults in Global Mission, Mission Partners, Global Mission, and much, much more. We could not do all of this work by ourselves, but together we can be the hands that do God’s work.
Rev. Bryant Kaden, the synod’s World Hunger coordinator, talked about how we all experience the three days of the synod assembly – like three days of church. Admittedly, he and his family are church geeks, so three days of church is great! To others, it’s maybe not so much fun. That gave us all a good giggle. The Bread Basket Award went to Borgund Lutheran, Madison, for their generous support for World Hunger – $54 per member – during the year. The offering gathered today totaled $6,545.26.
Nine visitors from our companion synod in South Africa were introduced and sang a beautiful song in fine South African Lutheran fashion – a cappella harmony.
During the get-up-and-stretch break, the assembly got their move on by marching, jumping, and dancing in the light of God.
Rev. Stan Olson guided our afternoon Bible study, which ended with the singing of “Lift High the Cross”.
During the business portion of our meeting, we:
- learned about the Endowment Committee’s PIE events, which teach about the transfer of assets from one generation to the other.
- voted to adopt Resolutions 13.03 Regarding Southwestern Minnesota Synod Constitution Bylaws and Continuing Resolutions for Election of a Bishop as amended; 13.04 Regarding the Transfer of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Lowry, to the SW MN Synod as presented; and 13.05 Regarding Support of Legislation Prohibiting Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity as presented. (Watch for posting of all resolutions soon after the assembly is done.) Note: gleeful clapping was allowed regarding the welcoming of St. Paul, Lowry.
- adopted the 2014 budget and compensation guidelines, both as presented.
- recognized the interns who are here and the hosting congregations who are helping in their formation as pastoral leaders.
After a short recess and more workshops, the “family reunion” continued with a banquet of delicious food, great conversations, and much laughter. Many were honored, including those celebrating anniversaries of ordinations, the new-to-synod rostered leaders, interns, new seminary graduates, and new retirees. Rev. Bernard Erling and Rev. John Peterson, who have been ordained for 65 and 60 years, respectively, received standing ovations in appreciation for their service.
A video featuring our partners in ministry – camps, campus ministries, seminaries, and others – was shown and representatives from the organizations were recognized.
Also on the program was a fine rendition of “Flannel Man” – a parody of “Piano Man” – by Rev. Jeff Engholm. What? Can it be? Yes, a flash mob joined him on stage to help sing the final verses and chorus – “Alleluia. Kum ba yah. Alleluia. Kum ba yah-da-dah.”
Three videos were shown about how God is always making things new in our congregations. These were selected as the top three of seven entries for this year’s contest. Banquet attendees could cast their vote for the winner as they left the banquet hall. Winner will be announced on Sunday.
The LSS “Servant of Christ” award was presented to Trinity Lutheran, St. Peter. The winner of the Mission Investment Account drawing was announced.
Remember that sunshine earlier today? Well, the clouds and rain are back, so the evening concert originally planned for outdoors was moved to Christ Chapel. Still a fun time. Still great music by Rachel Kurtz. Still a wonderful ending to a full day. More tomorrow.