Sunday, June 21, 2015

Southeastern Synod Recap

The following is a loose transcript plus some additional information from today’s Temple Talk on attending the ELCA Southeastern Synod.  I've included some links for further exploration and discovery -- Meredith 


When I was asked several months ago to attend the ELCA Southeastern Synod General Assembly in Birmingham as a delegate representing Messiah, I thought, “Why not.” My only hesitation by saying “yes” was thinking, “This means I will have to give a Temple Talk.”  However, once I learned I would be attending with Meredith, I realized she can “save the talk” from any of my discrepancies if she follows me.

I was privileged to attend the Assembly June 5-7 with Meredith Kilby, Pastor, Lee Smith, and Danie Blue. Over 400 pastors, delegates, and visitors attended the Assembly filled with plenary sessions, Bible study, workshops, prayer, worship, and entertainment. I am pleased to announce that our own Lee Smith was re-elected Treasurer of the Southeast Synod and our youth representative, Danie Blue, was elected by her peers to be the Conference 7 youth representative to the Southeast Synod Lutheran Youth Organization known as SESLYO.

Bishop Gordy opened the Assembly with the theme “We Are Church.” Greetings were read from Liz Eaton, the ELCA church wide presiding bishop who asked us to consider 4 points: We are church. We are Lutheran. We are church together. We are church for the sake of the world.

Dr. Mark Allan Powell, Professor Emeritus of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, and a very popular presenter led our Bible Study underscoring the theme “We are church.”   Using Paul’s and John’s teachings and imagery, major points of the study were 1) The church is the temple of God where the Holy Spirit dwells and each of us has the Holy Spirit so we are all connected 2) The church is the Body of Christ and we are part of Christ’s body 3) The church is the bride of Christ and we rejoice as a newlywed because of our relationship with Christ and 4) Jesus is the vine and we are the branches to do the “mission of God” as he works through us.

I was most impressed with the entertainment this year, especially since I wasn’t expecting any. I have been a lifelong Lutheran and I must say our Friday night experience was a first: Beer and Hymns.
Led by two young, dynamic and talented ministers with a band, a large number of synod delegates enjoyed beer, wine, and soda, while singing contemporary and traditional hymns.  It was a relaxed and casual evening of fellowship enjoyed by many.  This group has actually started a “Bar Church" church in a bar in downtown Atlanta and it all started with singing contemporary hymns while drinking beer. It is now one of our synod mission churches and growing. God indeed meets us in the least expected places. There was also a wonderful multi-cultural music group that opened each morning sessions and led one of the Worship services.

When Pastor asked Meredith and me about our impressions of the Assembly, I told him that attending synod made me realize how “healthy” and how much we accomplish at Messiah.  We are carry out great mission work, and have many programs at Messiah that many other congregations struggle with. For example, we have developed a Disaster Plan. We support a local school weekend food program and we have adopted Lunches for Learning as a global outreach.

I chose to attend a Cross Generational Engagement workshop along with Danie. I learned from others in the workshop that because their churches are so small and struggling to survive, they have no choice but to have all of their activities cross-generational. One church of only 35 members has a Sunday School class whose age group ranges from 3 to 73. I was able to share some of the activities we participate in that are cross generational such as worship support, Music Camp, Bible School, packing lunches for the weekend food program and kit ministry. I also learned about a few cross generational activities we may want to consider. I also attended a workshop that brought awareness to Modern Day Slavery and the rising problem of Human Trafficking. 

There were many other positive impressions and perspectives each of us gained from attending the Synod workshops and plenary sessions. One that stood out for all of us involved the context of “Church Mission” which Meredith will tell a story about next.  I’ll end with saying I feel really good about the work we are doing here at Messiah. We are healthy and we are blessed.


Good morning.  What a blessing to attend the Synod Assembly this year. I had never been, and I must tell you, that by Saturday afternoon, I was both physically exhausted yet spiritually excited , but so grateful for the experience I was having.  That morning at the plenary session, the Reverend Sunitha Mortha,  ELCA Director of Mission Formation, started her presentation on Church Mission with a short and powerful visualization exercise.

She instructed us to “Pause, close our eyes, and place in our minds a visual image of “Church Mission.” She asked us to stay in that picture and next, Place God in that picture, and observe what God was accomplishing in that picture and through the people involved.  We all opened our eyes and soon our understanding to how unique and personal Mission work is, how boundless it is, and how each of us have “stories to tell” when involved with Mission work.

So, curious to find out what other’s stories were… I asked.    Linda’s picture of Church Mission was of the School in Honduras which members of Messiah Lutheran support through Lunches and Learning. God was there working to bring education, meals and hope to school children.   Pastor’s reply was, “Music Camp! In his picture, God was at work, right here at Messiah, through the music, the learning, and the talented and giving hands of all those involved.   Such great images!

I paused… knowing they would both now expect me to share my image... and it was time to fess up.

My image was a stack of moving boxes and next to it, a quilt on a rack. Yes indeed, folks, I managed to put God in a box! However, if you’ve been around Messiah for any length of time, you KNOW what’s inside those boxes, Lutheran World Relief Kits, and the quilt, one of well over a hundred quilts made by our Comforter Sewing group annually.   Yes. God is in those boxes and in every stitch of every quilt…  but look at where God is goes, it’s boundless!

The word GLOCAL left a big impression at Synod Assembly.  Some folks, well, don’t care for the word. It is kind of made up and perhaps a tad on the trendy side, but I beg you to give it a chance. It so accurately describes some of the most exciting and successful mission work taking place across the ELCA; Like our Kit and Comforter Ministries, or the Dorcas Ministry of Refugee Women who made our Assembly totebags; global woman living working and worshiping at the Kiswahili Lutheran Mission in Nashville, Tennessee.  Our Christian faith, our Christian Mission is global, is local, and can be a wonderful combination of both.

Blessings --

Bonus coverage...

Another wonderful connection made at the Southeastern Synod was made by Pastor Scott and Youth Council Representative, Danie Blue, with Bishop Michael Grabow, presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bavaria,  our  "sister" synod.  Traveling with Bishop Grabow were two pastors.  Messiah Youth are in the early stages of planning a Youth Trip to Germany.

I two attended several terrific workshops.  The first workshop was on Congregational Change. I learned how one particular small urban Atlanta congregation, St. Luke’s, has redefined and is regenerating itself following a period of sagging attendance and the retirement of their long term pastor.  Church leaders used the first part of the transition to reset, assess congregational strengths, and make specific, sustainable and attainable goals.  It was a process, but on that was invaluable as the call to find a new pastor proceeded.  Knowing who they were and what they wanted helped find the right next pastor, and now Reverend Ruth Hamilton (she spent a summer at Messiah while Pastor Scott was on Sabbatical) leads that congregation and numbers are increasing. 

I also attended the GLOCAL Musician’s workshop.  These musician’s travel the country, performing, teaching and sharing the rich textures of Global Worship music taking place across the globe. Music is an international language and through the workshop we were led and instructed in a number of worship songs in Syrian, Arabic, Korean even sign language.  At the Saturday’s worship service, the musician’s led the liturgy, performed special music and led us through a number of hymns in different languages.  To hear God’s Word read and sung in a foreign language really drove home the point of how global and universal Christ’s teachings are. 

For a good overview of that the GLOCAL Musician's purpose is view this short video.

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