calendar May 10, 2019 in Assembly, Bishop, Bishop messages, Communications

Bishop Davenport: “We are co-creators of our joint mission”

2019 Assembly logo

Bishop Patricia Davenport, the Fifth Bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA, opened the Synod’s 2019 Assembly (her first as Bishop) with a reading from Psalm 34: 1-3.  “… O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt God’s name together.”

From the excitement of her election at the 2018 Assembly, to August’s “boot camp” where she learned the do’s and don’ts of being a bishop, to her October installation, to this, her first Assembly in her new capacity, the Bishop shared her memories of the past year. (Scroll down to watch video of the bishop’s address.)

“The Holy Spirit showed up!” said Bishop Davenport of her installation—an exclamation that was appropriate for each of her experiences in 2018, including attendance at the Conference of Bishops and meetings with seminary presidents; serving on various boards; and learning from her mentors, Bishop Sam Zeiser (Northeastern PA Synod), and her SEPA predecessors, former bishops Roy Almquist and Claire Burkat.

Throughout the past 10 months, the bishop 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 just before inviting attendees to take a few minutes to addressing three questions with those seated nearby:

  • Who do you say that we are as the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod?
  • What are the needs of your local community?
  • How can we, as God’s beloved community, meet those needs?

Congregants were asked to consider what brings them joy or concern. Where they are challenged or energized. Where are opportunities to serve that give hope and bring new life?

Over the course of the last year, Bishop Davenport has visited many congregations, often just showing up unannounced, sitting in on meetings, having one-on-one conversations and learning about the peoples’ fears of churches closing, pastoral transitions, and societal upheavals, and hearing their positive comments about re-establishing partnerships between urban and suburban churches.

“What can we do to help? What can we do differently to bring relief, to glorify God, strengthen our witness and be a blessing in building the Beloved Community?” she asked.

And as congregants shared their comments …

  • We are all connected.
  • SEPA accepts us all based on the spirit within us all.
  • We all face similar needs, in spite of our diversity.
  • The Synod is a bridge between the diverse congregations.
  • We are able to knock down barriers and labels that divide us.
  • Our commonalities are greater than our differences.

… the Bishop promised to continue the conversation and work to accomplish the mission together. “AMEN to your desire to be God’s hands and do God’s work,” she said.

“It is a privilege to serve in this position. … What give me strength for today and hope for tomorrow are your zeal and excitement of how the Holy Spirit is moving in your communities of faith, and your prayers,” said Bishop Davenport, who ended her address by reiterating her commitment to building and maintaining relationships. “I listen and learn from others … together we are the Lutheran tribe of the Beloved Community.”