We are a church that believes God is calling us into the world – together.
The ELCA has companion synod relationships that connect Lutheran churches throughout the world with ELCA synods and congregations. These relationships are rooted in “accompaniment,” which promotes the values of mutuality, inclusivity, vulnerability, empowerment, and sustainability. Through the program, companion churches and ELCA synods nurture and strengthen one another for life and ministry through prayer, study, communication, exchange of visitors, and sharing of resources.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa – South Eastern Diocese is our synod’s companion.
The South Eastern Diocese covers the whole of KwaZulu-Natal, stretching down to Eastern Cape Province through to Umthatha and its neighborhoods; parts of Free State Province such as Harrismith/Bethlehem and Qwaqwa as well as the Volskrust area in Mpumalanga Province form part of this diocese.
Companion synod relationships, including the one between Southwestern Minnesota Synod and the South Eastern Diocese of the ELCSA, began in 1990. The relationship was promoted primarily by exchange of visits by bishops and church officials of the companion partners. In 2005 it was decided to expand the relationship to the local level by pairing the 10 circuits of the South Eastern Diocese with the 10 conferences of Southwestern Minnesota Synod, so that people from the companions could come to know, walk with, and join each other in ministry and projects.
Here is a list of each synod conference and their partner diocese circuit:
- Crow River – Umngeni
- Glacial Ridge – Empangeni-Eshowe
- Great River – Durban
- Lac qui Parle – Kwa Nodwengu
- Lakeland – Empangeni-Richard’s Bay
- Minnesota Valley – Vryheid
- Prairie – Mfolozi
- Scenic Valley – Umvoti
- Shetek – Ondini
- Watonwan River – Shiyane
Walking together as circuits and conferences develops long-term relationships between God’s people in Southern Africa and Southwestern Minnesota. For these relationships to continue to prosper and grow, we need people willing to journey to our companion circuits and people from the circuits to come to our conferences.
Through these connections, we have benefitted from learning about reconciliation and forgiveness from our South African companions. We have also learned about poverty, racism, amazing singing, and people having great faith in very difficult situations.
Some realities are pervasive throughout the diocese. The realities created by the 350 years of Apartheid and racism continue in South Africa despite the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. HIV/AIDS presents grave health issues and has created many orphans and much poverty. The climate of the diocese is very hard on their church buildings.
Early in the circuit-conference relationships, it was decided that we could work together to combat HIV/AIDS through both a diocesan HIV/AIDS coordinator and circuits carrying on their own ministries. Thus, our conferences have annually supported a diocesan HIV/AIDS coordinator, and conferences are still encouraged to support the diocese’s Health and Wellness Committee’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.
All conferences and circuits have worked commonly to provide required school uniforms for children. Students from poor families are not able to afford $50 a year for uniforms.
Conferences also work to help with various kinds of building projects in the circuits since parsonages and sanctuaries need to be repaired and most of their offerings go to pastors’ low salaries. Buildings are neglected because the local church does not own either the parsonage or sanctuary.
Conferences and circuits, in their discussions and relationships, develop their own ministries and projects together. There is room for creativity in relationships. Some circuits and conferences are quite urban while others are very rural. Several of our conferences are very involved with helping with agricultural projects with their companion circuits in growing community gardens and raising chickens and rabbits. The diocese also appreciates pastors helping with preaching and teaching about stewardship.
If you would like to get involved or learn more about our companion synod, please contact Rev. Joyce Graue at320-262-2669 or [email protected]
The 65 synods of the ELCA are assigned a partner synod for the purpose of strengthening one another for life and mission within the body of Christ. The Southwestern Minnesota Synod is partnered with the Virginia Synod. Partner synods are diverse in their geographical location and cultural experiences. This journey seems to be natural way for us to learn about the church and each other in another part of the country.
The Virginia Synod is made up of 150 congregations; the average-sized congregation there has 85 people at weekly worship. To learn more, click here to visit the Virginia Synod’s webpage.