A Synod Snapshot
by Kathye Hamm
How time flies! It has been almost exactly a year ago that I started serving as the Interim Director for Evangelical Mission of the Sierra Pacific Synod. Now I am passing that responsibility onto your permanent Director, Pr. Tita Valeriano. I will continue to work with some congregations and provide transition support for Tita for several months.
In the time I have served I have enjoyed working with a good cross section of the Synod, geographically, various sizes, new ministries and longtime congregations that are seeking a renewal of their ministries. I have also been blessed to relate to several of our congregations serving a wonderful diversity of people. I have also walked alongside congregations struggling to survive, and wondering if God is calling them to carry on their legacy with a gift to new congregations.
In this year I have tried to listen very carefully to people and their hurts, yearnings, fears and new opportunities to be the church. As I look back, perhaps that is the best gift I could give our congregations. Too often we can propose answers before the question is even spoken. I hope you will understand if our new DEM comes to you not with an action plan, but with questions that help voice your hope of new vistas of ministry you had only dreamed about. And then what the DEM brings is a support to walk the bridge over to that new side of ministry.
While I have listened a lot, I have also thought of what could be. Fear often cuts off dealing with the new. It is tempting to hunker down and work twice as hard doing what we’ve always done. But in my year as your DEM, I’ve come to realize we can’t do that anymore. It is a new era in the life of the church. We are no longer building missions in shinning new suburbs. In many parts of our synod we couldn’t afford the land if it were available. And we have lost many of our younger generations and we can only pray they someday come back or find one of our ministries that create the room for open questions and a new piety that helps them navigate life with few fixed answers.
All this said, what we are called to do is to listen to the Spirit blowing and respond to the new people around us who may not look like us, think like us or have any idea what we mean when we say we are Lutheran. And yet, I haven’t given up on that identity. Our faith is one centered not in our cultural roots, but the gift Martin Luther lifted up to the world 500 years ago, and is still relevant to our lives today. It is the free gift that depends not upon what we do, but what God has already done for us in Jesus and how that sets us free to serve others with abandonment. We live in a world today that is filled with our own self-importance. It is often seen in our politics, our desires, those we want around and those we don’t. That leads us to believe we are our own savior. But just look around and see that has gotten us! Isn’t it time for a new way of living in our world and with our faith?
I leave you with this thought: there are no easy answers, only a willingness to constantly seek what God is up to next in your community, your church, our world and then trust what you do is sufficient for the sake of the Gospel of new life Jesus brings us each day of our days.
Blessings as you reside together in that Spirit,
January 09, 2019
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