+ Ferman Woodberry, SW MN Synod Vice-President
Here I Am Lord, Is It I, Lord? I Have Heard You Calling In The Night. I Will Go Lord, If You Lead Me. I Will Hold Your People In My Heart.
Hello, my Name is Ferman Woodberry and I am the Vice President of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA and I would like to take a little time to talk with lay people about holding God’s people in you heart. I woke up last Tuesday with the chorus of the hymn “Here I Am Lord” repeating itself all day long. As I sat through several Zoom meetings and worked over the next few days, it continued. The words of the chorus remind us that as God’s people we have been charged to hold each other in our hearts; so what does that look like? Romans 1:11-12 reads: “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” A few years ago my wife had to take a leave of absence from ministry to deal with her depression and anxiety. The first day that I was at work I decided to send her a text of emojis to let her know that I was thinking of her, and she told me that that little gesture gave her energy to start the day. To this day I still send her one during one of my breaks. I’d like to ask you to consider ways that you may brighten someone’s day during this time of physical distancing. I would ask that you include the following four things as you think about holding God’s people in your heart.
First, I would ask you to lift up your pastors; they have been and are doing great things to bring God’s word to all. As a pastor’s spouse I have witnessed both the pain and joy they are experiencing by doing ministry in new and different ways as they respond to the reality of life with the COVID-19 virus.
Second, I would ask that you lift up your church council members; they have had to make hard decisions concerning worship, staff reductions, building shutdowns and struggle with how to continue the ministries of the church possibly with less income.
Third, I would ask that you continue to financially support the ministries of your congregation. Romans 12:7-9 reads: “7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[a] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” In hard times the people we serve need our assistance even more. I ask that you give what you normally do, give what you can, or give more if you are able.
Lastly, I would ask that you lift up your Synod Staff and Synod Council members; they too are struggling with how to lead during this new reality, deciding how best to guide congregations and pastors, and, like pastors, trying new and different ways to minister to us.
The words of the Holden Prayer have become a centering point for me, and I would like to share them with you now: “ O. God you have called your servants to venture of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us.” How will you hold God’s people in your heart this day, this week, this month, next month?
The peace of our Lord and Savior be with you all! Amen