Dear Friends of St. Paul,
Today was long and exciting, with ballots, voting machines that reminded me of TV remotes, (you click to vote), good worship, music, prayers, reports from our wonderful partners in ministry like Camp Calumet, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran World Relief, and Lutheran Social Services, a moving presentation by a Liberian woman who now lives in our country, and is advocating for malaria relief in Africa. Bishop Payne recieved at least four standing ovations, and I’m sure that will continue throughout the week-end. She is well-loved, and our affection for her has been well-earned. She’s a wonderful example of a non-anxious, thoughtful, compassionate, and wonderfully skillful leader.
I arrived yesterday, to help with preparing the large meeting space for our Assembly, and joined members of our Worship Team draping, sewing, hanging brightly colored cloth strips to resemble pillars of fire (a.k.a. the Holy Spirit), and generally setting up. People started trickling in toward the evening. We heard that there was a funeral for a slain police officer here in downtown Springfield the same morning that Assembly began, and the Synod advised voting members to get here early. By 10:00 a.m. the Mass Mutual center was filled with Lutherans from all parts of the New England territory. We are a small enough Synod that most of us know each other, and if we didn’t know each other, we hugged anyway.
If you are interested, you can watch proceedings on the Synod website. Just follow the links from the webpage: http://www.nesynod.org, OR try this link . After the second ballot, our candidates were down to seven, and we heard their thoughtful answers to 8 questions posed by the Conferences of our Synod. Questions ranged from a recalling a time each candidate had to completely trust God (one candidate answered: “right now!”), to what their strategies might be to increase the financial health of our churches in an era of shrinking budgets. I came away from their discussion thinking that each were strong candidates in their own right, and that we would do well as a Synod with any one of them. I’m hoping tomorrow that the Holy Spirit will continue to be present with us. I certainly felt God’s gentle presence with us, a mantle of peace in our proceedings, as well as the passion for Christ’s church and mission, evident in the partners’ reports, and presentations. I have always been proud of the New England Synod, and honored to be a pastor in this territory, and I felt that again today, and tonight.