Download a printable Assembly summary for your bulletin or newsletter.
Our Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod met in Assembly, more than 500 strong, May 3 and 4. Featured presentations by Bishop Claire Burkat and Pastor Jay Gamelin of Lexington, SC, inspired and challenged leaders to focus on making disciples in and out of church and to listen to the changing world around them, then take some risks to connect with people not connected with the church. We also saw numerous examples of how congregations, the Synod and the ELCA work together to “show” Jesus to our communities.
Throughout the Assembly there was a spirit of unity and energy for God’s mission.
In two keynote presentations Jay Gamelin sketched out how the church has moved from a “tell me about it” culture into which we could speak doctrine and theology to a “show me” world, where many young people hunger to know what it looks like to live a life of faith. Connecting in this emerging culture means letting go of the volume of our words and getting comfortable with showing Jesus through images, experiences and actions.
In a culture that prizes authenticity, Gamelin urged leaders to be real and vulnerable. “To show people Jesus we have to be ready to be woundable,” he said. The church needs to bury the “idol” of taking care of members and focus on forming disciples through worship and prayer as well as study, and through equipping relationships as well as teaching.
Gamelin and musician Justin Rimbo also led a workshop for congregational worship leaders and musicians that drew more than 100 people on Saturday.
Videos of the keynote presentations are available online for you to share in your congregation.
In her sermon on John 12:20-21, Bishop Burkat noted that when Philip is called by Jesus, he begins seeing the world through “Jesus-colored glasses.” Immediately he invites his friend Nathanael to “come and see” Jesus’ powerful teaching. Later, visiting Greeks notice Philip’s faith and ask for direction: We wish to see Jesus. “And your church has everything it needs to be a Philip-community, inviting others to come and see,” the bishop said.
The bishop continued exploring the text in her address, asking us to consider who the “Greeks” are in our context – the people outside the church who are looking for Jesus. What are the imaginative, incarnational ways that we are being Jesus for them and inviting them to come and see?
The bishop called on congregations to try one new, big thing to reach outside their congregation and show Jesus this year.
At the Assembly we bid farewell to vice president Pat Robinson, who has served in that role since 2001. “Under her leadership, this church has navigated some very difficult years,” Bishop Burkat said. Robinson “leads with great wisdom and humor. She has a contagious love for Jesus.” In her last report to the Assembly, Robinson said “I tell others I belong to the greatest synod in the ELCA…I leave you with hope for your future. We’ve had to do with less, but we are doing more.”
The Assembly elected Tracey Beasley, a member of Reformation, Mt. Airy, to a six year term as vice president. A former member of Synod Council and the executive committee, Beasley serves on the candidacy committee and is active with the African Descent Lutheran Association, Philadelphia Chapter.
The Assembly began each day with worship and the agenda was sprinkled with prayer experiences in a variety of styles. The opening worship began with bells and streamers floating high above the assembly, with hymns, guitar-led choruses and chanted psalms giving a flavor of the breadth of Lutheran worship. Saturday morning prayer gave people the opportunity to try many ways of prayer – through singing, touching the waters of the font, laying on of hands, and praying together with partners.
The Assembly agenda and the Mission Center displayed the wide range of ministries we engage in as Lutherans.
We heard of new initiatives at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, learned how the ELCA Mission Investment Fund provides congregations and individuals with safe vehicles for saving while building and renovating churches, and saw a video showing how the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is always being made new.
Our Synod’s youth-led Malaria Campaign has exceeded its goal for the 2012-13 school year by more than $20,000 – and the school year isn’t over yet. So far more than $120,000 has been raised in the local campaign launched at the bishop’s conference gatherings last fall. “Swat team” educators will be happy to visit your congregation to raise awareness of the ELCA’s efforts to eradicate malaria.
The Mission Planning Team offered a taste of resources being developed to help congregations encourage a culture of mission. The team will launch a website in September with ideas, resources and video stories to inspire congregations and help teams listen to the needs of their communities and hear what God is calling them to do, and put that information together to take action to show Jesus to their neighborhood.
“The children come first,” missionaries Tom and Susan MacPherson told us, live from Tanzania via Skype. At Irente Children’s Home in our companion North East Diocese, they aid in may ways, from teaching English class, to collecting manure for the gardens, to acting as tour guides for English speaking visitors. They’ve become full members of the community and “substitute grandparents” to eight Peace Corps volunteers in the area. Synod Council recently approved sponsoring the MacPhersons for a third year, with your support.
The Reformation 500 Team reminded us that 2017 will mark the 500thanniversary of Luther posting his 95 Theses on Wittenberg church doors. The team has started a Facebook group to hear what congregations would like to do to celebrate this milestone, and has posted resources on the web at ministrylink.org/luther2017.
There are more than 40 teams and networks that participate in the ministries of the Synod, and many of those teams were represented at the mission center, including the Stewardship Resource Team that helps congregations revitalize their giving programs, the Faith Formation Team that offers consultation and resources to help congregations deepen faith formation ministries (at www.faithinbloom.com), and the Mission Mingle initiative that seeks to link congregations to take on mission projects. The Tanzania Companionship Team and SEKOMU Coordinating Team, the Youth Ministry Network and Malaria Campaign, and Urban Mission Partnershipswere also present.
Many of our ministry partners also participated, including Lutheran Charities,which supports our local social ministry organizations. Many of those agencies were present, including Diakon Lutheran Social Services, KenCrest, Liberty Lutheran’s Lutheran Congregational Services affiliate, and Silver Springs-Martin Luther School. We also learned from Bear Creek Camp, Journey in Faith-Via de Christo, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa), Seafarers and International House, and our educational partners, the seminary and Muhlenberg College.
As the ELCA celebrates its 25th year, it is living into its mottos – “God’s work. Our hands.” and “Always being made new” – in triune relationship with God, each other and God’s world, said the Rev. Neil Harrison, director of renewing evangelizing congregations, representing the ELCA churchwide organization to the Assembly. He celebrated the dedicated ministry of retiring Synod Vice President Pat Robinson, and many other Synod leaders who serve the ELCA. He also thanked the Synod and congregations for more than $1 million in mission support that helps make these and many other ministries possible.
The 4 million members of the ELCA will have an opportunity to celebrate one church, freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor, on September 8, 2013 with “God’s work, our hands” Sunday
The Synod invested nearly $300,000 in mission programs in 2012, despite the continued decline in partnership support from congregations, Treasurer Janet Neff told the 2013 Assembly. Of our 160 congregations, 74 maintained or increased their mission giving in 2012, and 29 met or exceeded a tithe (10%) of their regular income. Thank you for your continued prayerful support!
The Assembly approved a balanced budget for fiscal 2014 that includes sending 50 percent of partnership support received to the churchwide organization. “We are committed to being a robust, changing church, but not a diminished one,” finance committee chair Rev. Christopher Weidner told the Assembly.
Congratulations to our rostered leaders celebrating 50 years of ordained ministry: Rev. Donald Hagey, Rev. David Krewson, Jr., Rev. Richard Hess, and Sister Katherine Homburg.
Congratulations newly approved and assigned leaders to SEPA Synod since the 2012 assembly: Ruth Bullwinkle, Alexander Martini, Allison Wilcox, Leila Ortiz, Alina Gayeuski, and Tim Ness. Welcome!
Contact Bob Fisher, Assistant to the Bishop for Mission Interpretation, at 267.323.3743