A Message from Tita Valeriano, Director for Evangelical Mission & Assistant to the Bishop
by Kathye Hamm
“Communities of Jesus that nurture and invite others life changing relationships with God, one another, and the world.”
Description of Vital Congregations, Conference of Bishops 2018
It has been just more than three years since I began this call as the Director for Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop in Sierra Pacific Synod. That was also the same year when Congregational Vitality was introduced and unfolded. I needed to learn a lot not only about the task and responsibilities of being a DEM but most especially the exciting shifts in the values and goals of the Congregational Vitality to widen and deepen the support of existing congregations and Synodically Authorized Worshiping Community New Starts (SAWC- New Starts). Since then, many more opportunities to partner with congregations have been piloted, implemented and celebrated. These new and exciting ways to be a church together, hopeful and prayerful, have brought us to more intentional engagements, collaborations, learning from one another, and taking risks together to live into innovative expressions of what it means to be church today. Looking back on these three years I can see so much work of the spirit.
Being a reforming church, we as church continue to respond to our context, including continuing trends in membership and diversity and the data from the innovation survey. Our church as whole set new criteria which were set and affirmed by the Churchwide Council as the new future church direction:
- Prioritize the engagement of new, young and diverse people.
- Unite all expressions of the church (congregations, synods and the churchwide organization) into one church—together.
- Align decision-making, accountability and leadership where best suited.
- Operate in agile, flexible and speedy ways.
- Act based on data and measurable impact.
- Eliminate silos and divisions.
In our synod, our expression of Congregational Vitality is described as “communities of Jesus that nurture and invite others to life giving relationship with God, one another and our neighbors/the world.” We have been blessed to have the following ministries under the guidance of the Witness Discipling Team that support this vision:
- New Starts and Strategic Ministries Our Synod has 9 Mission Congregations (Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community)
- Synod Vitality: ACTS for Vitality is a Transformational Ministry invitation from and initiative of our Synod for existing congregations.
- Holy Innovation Initiative: an invitation to innovation in collaboration with multiple synods and other institutions. The Asian Lay Evangelist Program is a collaboration with four other synods, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, and ELCA Asian Ministry Desk. The program has 7 classes which just started last April 23-24, culminating in January 2022. Our Synod has 11 lay leaders from four congregations who registered.
- Anchor Churches. An Anchor Church is one congregation willing to partner with one, two or several congregations (which may include one or more new starts) or other ministries. They learn, collaborate and resource one another to move together into the future.
- Other Collaborative Ministries
- Lay Planter/Evangelist is a training in partnership with the United Methodist Church. For the pilot cohort, our synod sent two trainees from two congregations. For now, this is by invitation only and the next batch of training will be in Spanish. Preparation for the next English cohort is underway, please let me know if your congregation is interested.
- Growing Young Initiative, borne out of an extensive research that was published in the book Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies to help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. You are invited to check it out and study it on your own or in a cohort with other congregations nearby.
- Synod Coach Network Being accompanied in doing ministry by a trained coach is very important. We are currently establishing our Synod Coach Network that will promote, guide and facilitate the work and ministry of Coaches and why it is very much needed in our ministry together.
The Stewardship Discipling Team is an active partner with the Witness Discipling Team. We are truly STILL a Church Together and through the power of the Holy Spirit we become more resilient in the face of challenges we are in right now. This work in new and renewing vital congregations cannot be done without this transforming power of the Spirit through ALL of you and the whole church!
April 20, 2021
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April 06, 2021