2019 Assembly: Building Beloved Community

The 2019 Synod Assembly met Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4, under the theme Building Beloved Community.

Our keynote speaker was the Rev. Nicole D. Diroff, associate director of Interfaith Philadelphia. The Rev. Wyvetta Bullock, ELCA Assistant to the Presiding Bishop and Executive for Administration, was our churchwide representative.

Assembly Highlights

Inspirational Preaching

‘Are we willing to be transformed?’

The beloved community is like this: ‘God takes it very personally how we treat one another,” the Rev. Dr. Wyvetta Bullock said in her sermon at the Assembly’s Saturday Eucharist. “The compassion we express to others is our expression of our love for God.”

We’re called to share God’s love with our enemies, not just our neighbors. In the process our lives — and our ministries — will be transformed, she said. 

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Laments of a Death-and-Resurrection People

“It is time for our inadequate dreams to die in order for Christ to rise in us, and our church.”

This observation by one pastor to Bishop Patricia A. Davenport grounded the preaching, prayer and lament during the opening worship service of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod’s 2019 Assembly. Several preachers and prayer leaders explored the challenge and promises for the church today through the lens of the encounter with Jesus along the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35).

The service opened with a communal lament for changing times and missed opportunities,, and was woven together with singing verses of the hymn with the refrain: “It is well with my soul.”

“We say, that was then, and this is now,” but the implications of these disciples’ experience are relevant for the situation in which we serve God and the world, the bishop said.

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Passport to Understanding

Keynote speaker the Rev. Nicole Diroff, assistant director of Interfaith Philadelphia, shares her experiences in the beloved interfaith community.

“We are co-creators of our joint mission”

In her address to the Assembly, Bishop Patricia A. Davenport described how she has worked to learn more about the Synod, the congregations that compose it and the people who fill those churches—building relationships along the way.

“My basic principle for ministry, for mission, for vitality and for life is founded on relationship,” said Bishop Davenport. “My relationship with God is reflected in my relationships with others and it is in that vein that we lay our foundation for building Beloved Community.”

Bishop Davenport continued by opening a conversation about the Synod today. “I’ve been asked about my vision for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, and I answer that we set our vision together. We are co-creators of our joint mission and one of our blessings is the willingness to show up and dialogue,” she said.    

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Vitality Team Offers a New Vision

We are church in an environment that is “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous,” Synod Vitality Team co-chair the Rev. Bryan Penman told the 2019 Synod Assembly.

But by working toward what research has shown are key marks of vital congregations, SEPA congregations can become more connected and relevant in their communities, he said.

The life-giving practices for the church include:

  • Inviting and welcoming all
  • Worship in Spirit and Truth
  • Sharing faith and telling stories
  • Promoting healing
  • Showing mercy and doing justice by serving all
  • Practicing radical generosity in all things
  • Growing and connecting leaders
  • Rooting in their community
  • Creating change
  • Grounding in hope, and
  • Embodying God’s presence

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Thank You From Our Vice President

Vice President Tracey A. Beasley challenged congregations to increase Mission Support giving to offset a $100,000 shortfall in the 2018 budget. “I know things are tight,” she said, adding that if each congregation gave 7% of its regular giving to mission support, there would be more than enough synod staff, support for future professional church leaders, youth and young adult programs, the work of the Anti-Racism Team, and the many essential synod programs. “If you love all these things, you have to give to Mission Support.”
Our Vice President will visit congregations throughout the summer to personally offer thanks for mission support. She started off with thanks to these congregations: University Lutheran (Central Conference); Calvary, West Chester (Chester); Reformation, Media (Delaware); St. Paul’s, Doylestown (Lower Bucks), Trinity, Lansdale (Lower Montgomery); St. Paul’s, Olney (NE/NW Philadelphia); Trinity, Perkasie (Upper Bucks); and Grace, Royersford (Upper Montgomery).

2020 Budget Adopted

The Assembly adopted a budget for fiscal 2020 that anticipates total revenues of $3.33 million and expenditures of $2.88 million. The budget takes effect Feb. 1, 2020.

Finance Committee Chair Albert Glenn outlined one significant change to the 2020 budget. The synod regularly gives support to United Lutheran Seminary, including about $50,000 for tuition support for our synod’s candidates. A $30 million bequest to ULS allows the seminary to eliminate tuition for many students, so the $50,000 will instead go to a fund to assist current rostered ministers with significant student debt.



Mission Support Makes a Difference

Treasurer Janet Huber Neff, CPA, reported that Mission Support from congregations in 2018 totalled $1.798 million, about $70,000 less than budgeted.

“The bishop, the staff, the Synod Council would all like to thank you very much for your mission support,” Neff said. “We do understand that it is a sacrifice for you, and we want you to know how much it does for us locally, nationally, and globally.”


ELCA Churchwide Ministries

Greetings and thanks from the Rev. Dr. Wyvetta Bullock, our churchwide representative. 

ELCA Synod Assembly Video

Inspiring Youth Presence

We were thrilled with the turnout of youth leaders at our Synod Assembly — leading worship, manning the youth/young adult ministry and Brave New Church table in the mission center, and attending an overnight lock-in Friday night.
A special shout-out to the people of Advent, Harleysville and Pastor Mark Singh-Heuter for hosting the lock-in and providing a bountiful Saturday breakfast (center right picture).



  • Karl Richard



  • Gwendolyn King
  • Dwight Mason
  • Jennifer Phelps Ollikainen


SYNOD COUNCIL, Delaware Conf. Rep, Lay Male

  • David Ehret


SYNOD COUNCIL, Northeast/Northwest Philly Conf. Rep., Lay Male

  • Adam Clark


SYNOD COUNCIL, Upper Mont. Conf. Rep, Lay Female

  • Cheryl Detweiler


SYNOD COUNCIL – At Large Rep, Lay Male Young Adult

  • Dan Graeff


SYNOD COUNCIL – At Large Rep., Lay Female Young Adult

  • Ralen Robinson


SYNOD COUNCIL – At Large Rep., Lay Male

  • William Graham


SYNOD COUNCIL, At Large Rep., Lay Female

  • Suwah Davies


SYNOD COUNCIL, At Large Rep., Lay Male Youth

  • Tyler Emig


SYNOD COUNCIL, At Large Rep., Lay Female Youth

  • Hannah Malesich


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