We write the words of God on our heart so that when our heart breaks, the words fall in.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Yesterday was my second year attending the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin (NWSWI)’s synod assembly. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but think about where the year has gone, but also the difference, for better or worse, that I noticed between what I have been to in the past for synod assemblies and what I experienced yesterday. Here are my top 3 – and some songs from the day!!
It’s ONE DAY!
There are pros and cons to a one-day event, and because we do a one day event, it seems that the pros outweigh the cons. As someone participating, I realized that we have important work that we do as the ELCA and as the NWSWI in the world around us. We have one time a year where we gather to do the business of the church, to hear the reports, to share the stories, to worship together, to break bread together, to dream together, and to pray together.
That is a lot to get done, and done well, in such a short amount of time.
I do understand that it is asking a lot for people to give up more time to go longer, and as it was reported, we have had a higher percentage of the synod show up for these synod assemblies.
What I missed was the networking time, time to get to know the people in our synod. I missed seeing youth have an opportunity to connect and get to know the leaders of our church – get to know the Bishop. I missed having the opportunity to learn about organizations in our synod, to meet people from camps, to connect with people from the resources that are unique to our synod. I saw people who chose to leave early because they had a long drive and since the “business” was done, they snuck out. I understand it. I’m not saying that I have answers. These are observations and yearnings. I think it will be interesting to compare this with the 2019 synod assembly that will be 2-days at UWEC.
2. The Spirit is moving and at work!
There are so many unique things happening around our synod. Churches that are living into their unique identities and living out the call God has for them in this world. When we hear so much that mainline denominations are dying, I see that the Spirit is at work in new and creative ways all around this synod and around our church as the ELCA and the Lutheran Church around the world.
We heard of churches that are dreaming about what technology can do to grow the kingdom of God. We heard of churches that are letting go of tradition and welcoming Community, Children, and Christ-Centered Chaos into their midst. We heard of congregations that are finding new ways to connect with busy families.
And then we heard from a pastor in New Richmond. She reminded us that we have to rely on God, we have to know our Why, and we have to be authentic in our uniqueness. And above all we have to know what our expectations are. We should expect God will move; expect that there will be pushback, disagreements, and setbacks; expect that people will get upset and will be hurt; and above all – expect love and forgiveness.
We heard of congregations that had received grants from the synod to expand on outreach and evangelism. Congregations that went out door to door in their neighborhoods to invite people to join them in ministry. Congregations that found ways to serve their community in unique ways. Congregations that dreamed with God and are doing some awe-inspiring things.
Every story had a recurring theme – know who God is calling you to be and live into that identity with authentic expectations on God.
3. Generosity is Key
Finances are always a part of any annual meeting, synod assembly, etc. We are no different. Yet, we spent so much less time than I anticipated going over the budget. We did, however, spend time talking about “GENEROSITY”.
Bishop Hoyme shared two quotes from Andy Stanley about generosity.
“The reason we should be generous is because it helps people”
“Only generous people are generous. It is not limited to only rich or poor people.”
Generosity comes in the form of monetary gifts, yes. But it also comes from the teachers who lead lay-school, the people who gift technology or teaching how to use technology, when we share our gifts to lift others, when we help equip others for ministry, when we partner with our brothers and sisters in Malawi, and all the many other forms that people are giving from their heart to the church for the sake of the world.
There are so many other things I could share about our day, it really was jam-packed! If you want to know more about what happened, check out the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin website.
I end with a story that was shared with us.
A ministry leader was visiting a brothel to make connections and work towards ending sex trafficking. When she arrived, she was greeted by the manager, a woman.
As they walked around and saw these rooms and these young girls the ministry leader asked the woman, “you are strong and beautiful, why do you do this?”
She responded with a simple question back, “Where were you when I was 15?”
Who were the people in your life at 15 that got you to be where you are today?
We all have the potential to be an authentic, available, and affirming adults in the life of a 15 year old! Who in your life needs to know Jesus loves them? Get the WORD OUT!!!