This spring, our new synodical bishop, Deborah Hutterer, invited all interested lay and rostered leaders (i.e. pastors and deacons) from synod congregations, by conference, together for conversation about the future of ministry in our synod. During the spring conference meeting for our conference—the Capital Conference, Bishop Hutterer reported on the top three priorities identified by the synod council—after extensive conversation with lay people and clergy from all over the synod:
In the Grand Canyon Synod, congregations have historically isolated themselves from one another, replicating the independent, autonomous culture of the Southwest. In order to “connect people,” our bishop and the synod council would like for the congregations of the synod to partner in ministries instead of competing with other congregations or operating independently of one another.
The congregations of the Capital Conference are leaders in these types of connections, and here at Grace, we have built strong connections with many of our sister congregations through CALL (Confirmation Among Local Lutherans), WELCA, Campformation, Pancake Breakfast, GLOW, Grace Room, Heat Respite, special worship services, sharing an intern with Faith in 2015-2016, pulpit exchanges, sharing a table at PRIDE and Rainbows Festival with Faith, hosting NAUM, Cursillo and Tirosh, Diakonia, and food drives for Mount of Olives Food Closet.
One way that the clergy of our Capital Conference congregations identified might help us work together better is by knowing what is going on at our sister congregations. To that end, starting this month, you will see a 2-page Capital Conference newsletter attached to the GraceVine each month.
As congregations, we are not in competition with one another. Different congregations embrace different traditions, different styles of worship, different service activities. By and large, the differences themselves are neither good nor bad, just differences. More than anything, different communities engage different people. When we find the place where we belong, we stay there. And I want everyone to belong somewhere. Still, if you find yourself wanting to participate in an activity at another congregation, that’s okay! That’s wonderful! You will be a blessing to that community as you partake in ministry, AND if you feel drawn to make a connection between that other community and our own for the sake of the gospel, please do!
I am more and more convinced that the Christian church is traveling back to its roots—its ancient roots. At the time of Peter and Paul, churches were simply communities, not institutions, and people belonged to their community. People gathered in their house churches on Sundays, the house church closest to wherever they lived because, of course, they walked there. Every other day of the week, they lived in community with the people who were part of their church, sharing the dailyness of their life together. Far from being competitive, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians and Philippians about how different communities helped other ministries just as we do today, receiving help from our ministry partners and giving help in return. As we live into the priorities of the Grand Canyon Synod to communicate Jesus, connect people, and create possibilities, I pray we see the whole landscape of what the Holy Spirit is doing around us and connect with others following Jesus.
With love for each of you,
By the way, with this article, I am not preparing us for any particular growth in relationships or joint ministry opportunities, just sharing the priorities of our synod.