Tumbling in the Sand
Tammee told me that I needed to write an article for the newsletter about the synod assembly. It’s nice not to have to think about what to write sometimes … but now I have to figure out how to write it.
The Naugatuck Lutherans sent five voting members—Nancy and Don G., Brett B., Jay M. and myself—up to Springfield, MA for the synod assembly this year. We had quite a full agenda to accomplish, including the election of a new bishop (check out his new blog: Bishop on a Bike), multiple new representatives to synod council and several important synod committees, and voting members from our synod to go to church wide assembly. We also reviewed and passed several resolutions. And we heard lots of reports and incredible news from all of our partner ministries doing work around the synod, the United States, and the whole world. And, on top of all that, we celebrated the ordination of four new pastors and the commissioning of one new Associate in Ministry.
In addition to all of this wonderful stuff—which was filled with energy, the work of the Spirit, prayerfulness, worship, hope, and respect—we did something really important: we said thank you to all of those who have served the synod so well over the last years and we said good-bye to those who, like Bishop Payne, are probably going to be leaving their current position over the next year or two of transition.
All the while we were in the process of discerning the future as a synod and unpacking the working of the Spirit in our midst, we honored the past and where we have come. There were many beautiful moments filled with stories, laughter, tears, and hugs as we said goodbye to a Bishop who has served this synod incredibly well over the last 12 years (a Bishop who I am personally grateful to for appreciating my blunt honesty and still thinking that I had a place in this synod, btw). There were many moments that were touching as we said good bye, but probably the most memorable was when we sent Bishop Payne off with a rousing round of “Bishop Payne’s Going Back to the Farm (eieio!)” led by the synod staff.
I can’t help but be struck by the beautiful way that this assembly modeled a healthy way for a church community to be about transition. Even as we were listening to the whispering Spirit in the visions for the future by the candidates for bishop—which could well be summed up by the bishop-elect’s “favorite” seven words: “Why don’t we try it this way?”—we were honoring what has been, thanking those who’ve done so much, rejoicing in the life we’ve lived together, and recognizing and holding up what good is going on in our midst right now.
I think there is this tendency at times of transition to either glorify the past to the point that we can’t hear the voices calling us to a new vision of the future, or we belittle the past, seeing it as somehow what the future must react against. I don’t think either is appropriate.
Rather, I think that the past, the present, and the future hold God’s gracious presence and blessing and as long as people are involved in it, the past, present, and future will also always be in need of reform. So, we are called as people of faith to honestly lift up and give thanks for the good, the holy, and the promising over all times and in all time; and, at the same time, we are also called to critically explore what does need change (sometimes radical change), what we perhaps need to repent for, and where we can grow more fully into the vision that God is calling God’s church to as we move on.
Peace and all good,