+Bishop Dee Pederson
Dear beloved people of God –
For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. – 1 Cor. 3:9, NIV
At the February 2020 Equipping Congregations Day, I led a workshop on imagining new ways to adapt in ministry in light of a culture that was rapidly changing. I referenced Tod Bolsinger’s Canoeing the Mountains and H. George Anderson’s It’s a Good time to Be the Church. Back then, the decades-long cultural shifts in religious affiliation, institutional loyalty, and communication were already clear. But many of us were doing just well enough that we thought we could be exempt from these cultural shifts a little longer.
When the pandemic hit, all those trends we wanted to deny were suddenly exacerbated. And now, across the country and across denominations, we as church leaders wonder where everyone went and if they will return.
Everything about life in the church, in our communities, in our country, and around this God-beloved world has changed. We grieve having lost so much. We’re exhausted. And those of us leading congregations and synods might find ourselves feeling that there’s never been a more difficult time to be the church– until we remember and tell the stories: the stories of Scripture, of the early Jesus movement, the beginning of the Lutheran movement, and pretty much any time except the decades of privilege many of us grew up in the church expecting. Honestly, I wouldn’t go back to those Leave It to Beaver days. We can’t. The only way forward is to do just that: move forward in God’s service.
I begin serving and leading as with you, giving thanks for the identity we share in our synod mission statement:
God places us in cities, farms, and towns together, under one prairie sky.
The Risen Christ surprises us with opportunities to plant God’s Word in the world.
Walking together in confidence, we cultivate life-giving congregations, nurture partner ministries, and cooperate in the life of the ELCA.
By God’s grace, together we have what we need.
What catches your heart in that statement?
There’s so much there! And while I’d like to condense it to 3 good trinitarian points, for me right now, there are four things that have captured me:
- The diversity of communities in which God has planted our congregations, and the importance of paying attention to each particular context as we think about ministries.
- The presence of the Risen Christ always coming as a surprise to people in the stories of Scripture and in our lives today.
- The word together, which appears twice. It’s a word of confidence and imagination in this changing time.
- The promise that we together will have what we need by God’s grace.
I look forward to many opportunities for conversation with you about how you hear God leading to us together.
With all of the changes in congregations and in the synod, these are areas of focus for me as Bishop these days:
- Transitioning communications networks and learning the many processes required for the responsibilities of bishop
-The ELCA churchwide organization is managing the process of calling a new D.E.M.
-Applications for Synod Minister have been received, and the synod Personnel Committee and I look forward to setting up interviews for this position in the coming week.
-Transition Synod Ministers. Pastor Kathryn’s retirement means that we need staff to work with 5 Conferences. I have asked former Synod Staff and Conference Ministers to provide leadership until a new Synod Minister begins:
- Dwaine Bruns – Glacial Ridge Conference
- Art Wiese – Lac Qui Parle Conference, plus a portion of Prairie Conference
- Stephen Rasmussen – part of Prairie Conference and Shetek Conference
- Linda Pedersen – Scenic Valley Conference
I am so grateful for their readiness to step into this part-time ministry opportunity to focus on care of rostered ministers, call process, and community-building for congregations.
A significant area of focus across the synod and across denominations is the need for Rostered Ministers to lead congregations. In our synod, there are many congregations seeking pastors and many who seek an Interim Rostered Minister. In the time being, we are seeing:
- Lay leaders who hear a call from the Holy Spirit to lead worship, preach, and equip others for visitation and care of their church community.
- Area congregations beginning conversations and being surprised at how they might be in relationship to share programming and ministries in ways they’d never imagined before.
- Rostered Ministers who are graciously assisting area congregations with Word and Sacrament ministry.
There is a clear need to identify, affirm, and raise up people who have the gifts, faith, and temperament to pursue one of the many paths of theological education for lay or rostered ministry. Please pray about this individually and in worship. Look around your congregation and community, and pray about who you might ask, “Have you ever thought about ministry?” By God’s grace, together we will have the leaders we need.
For now, I am humbled and grateful for your prayers and encouragement as I begin this new call as bishop and as we begin this new chapter of our life together. Thank you, beloved synod community. Together, we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.