Editor’s note: This year The Lutheran asked synod communicators to provide a highlight of their synod assembly. What made a difference to participants? What was the most important part of the assembly? Responses received by presstime are included on these pages. When provided, a Web address for more information is included.
Alaska, April 24-25, Fairbanks, Alaska. The assembly was enriched by three laypeople who detailed the deepening of their faith as God walked with them through traumatic medical injuries, petrifying family struggles or deep emotional distress. They testified to God’s rich love and faithfulness in securing them through these trials and God’s provision of faithful friends and family who also helped sustain them. Many at the assembly found parallels to their faith walks and were spiritually encouraged by the stories. —David Dunlap
Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana, April 25-27, Dallas. During the “University of ¡Samaria!” participants encountered today’s Samaritans: outsiders and issues that make us uncomfortable. They heard about institutional racism from Joyce James, a consultant on racial equity and systematic oppression, and learned about incarcerated people and those who are bullied or experiencing family violence. They met people ministering to veterans, those opposing the death penalty, Muslims and peacemakers. Gay and lesbian friends, including musicians Jason & DeMarco, taught about welcome. Principal Jose Huerta held up Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, where students are no longer suspended. —Ann Hafften
Southeastern Minnesota, May 2-3, Rochester, Minn. Bishop Steven Delzer unveiled the synod’s six-year initiative “Enough Food for All.” The goal is to collaborate with congregations and organizations in the region to end food insecurity in Southeastern Minnesota by 2020. On Saturday, participants chose from eight hunger-related workshops. —Emily Carson
Minneapolis Area, May 2-3, Ramsey, Minn. The assembly was divided into five sections to consider how we are sent: with curiosity about our neighbors, grounded in God’s word, sensitive to what God is already doing, listening deeply, and with courage then to speak. Actors from The Theater of Public Policy (T2P2) listened to the main speakers and participated in short table discussions with voting members before offering back to the assembly what they heard—with a humorous edge. —Bob Hulteen
Northeastern Minnesota, May 2-4, Breezy Point, Minn. Winston Persaud, a professor at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, continued his teachings begun last year from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, focusing on baptism. Scott Jacob, synod director for evangelical mission, led the group in mission planning. Catherine Anderson, synod coordinator of youth ministry, and Chris Manisto, a pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Princeton, Minn., led a discussion on “Framing Life Biblically.” —Marilyn Hull
Western Iowa Synod, May 2-4, Sioux City, Iowa. Highlights included thought-provoking forums and discussions on social justice issues, including the Peace Not Walls campaign (the means by which the ELCA implements its strategy for engagement in the Holy Land conflict). The ELCA Glocal Musicians and the Trinity Lutheran Church (Sioux City) Worship Band provided stirring and inspirational music. Nearly 30 youth, most of whom were voting members, participated. In addition to lending enthusiasm and a representative voice, they spent time together in study, prayer and activities. —Ann Onnen
Southwestern Texas, May 2-4, Austin, Texas. Almost 400 participants jumped in to “God’s Missional River,” participating in the synod’s missional vision and learning what it means to be a missional church. Voting members committed to partnering with the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest, Austin. The assembly offering of $137,025.39 was designated for Water for Africa to buy a personal filtration system for people who don’t have access to clean water. —John Dellis
Arkansas-Oklahoma, May 2-4, Tulsa, Okla. Under the theme “Jesus Walkers. Living Discipleship Today,” the assembly included reports from the “Multiplying Talents Project.” At last year’s assembly the synod gave each congregation $70, $100 or $130 to be multiplied during the year and brought back in 2014. Many congregations spoke of finding excitement and a love in giving. The $5,000 investment has returned more than $16,000 for synod and churchwide mission and ministries—and not all congregations have sent their “talents” back yet. —Laura Bunch
Bishop Jim Gonia (left) and Joan Kuehn, associate in ministry at First Lutheran Church, Colorado Springs, Colo., pray a blessing of dedication for the new Rocky Mountain Synod Lutheran Center in Denver.
Rocky Mountain, May 8-10, Denver. The synod’s Lutheran Center was dedicated. Four years ago, Valley Lutheran Church in north Denver closed after 53 years of ministry. The renovated and expanded facility features conference rooms, synod staff offices, a labyrinth courtyard, water-wise landscaping and 80 solar panels. In his dedication sermon, Bishop Jim Gonia said, “As people of faith our new eyes help us see that every death offers God the opportunity to raise new life.” —Kent Mueller
Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, May 8-10, Baton Rouge, La. First, you make a roux, which serves as the foundation for a variety of delicious dishes. The synod came together to strengthen their faith foundations and add some spice to the assembly. Yet this was more—it was an opportunity to enter into a vibrant community asking, “How do we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength?” To explore this question, they participated in immersion experiences in the city. —Andrea Martinez
Eastern North Dakota, May 10-11, Grand Forks, N.D. Campus ministry, Bible camps, and other worshiping communities and partners updated the assembly on their mission fields. A panel gave an update on the synod’s companion, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Central African Republic. —Maren Jystad-Spar
A helper dog in training was a big hit with many participants of the North/West Lower Michigan and Southeast Michigan synods’ joint assembly.
North/West Lower Michigan, May 15-17, Detroit. Under the theme “Justification, Justice, and Joy,” members committed to combat racism’s power by encouraging anti-racism training for all rostered leaders and exploring ways to make this financially possible. The theme continued as workshops addressed the diverse concerns of congregations and communities worldwide. As the assembly met in Detroit along with the Southeast Michigan Synod, excitement grew for the ELCA Youth Gathering that will be held there in 2015. —Laura Kunz
Southeast Michigan, May 15-17, Detroit. The assembly committed to address racism in all of its forms, provide anti-racism training for rostered leaders and interested individuals, and seek ways to fund the training. Meeting with the North/West Lower Michigan Synod, participants heard from Kurt Hendel, a professor at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, who referenced Lutheranism and justification; Judith Roberts, ELCA program director for racial justice, who spoke about justice; and Heidi Hagstrom, director of the ELCA Youth Gathering, who gave an update on the event. —Robin McCants
Northeastern Ohio, May 15-17, Akron, Ohio. Ecumenical and ministry partners, rostered leaders and congregational representatives brought greetings and spoke to the assembly about relationships, activities and ideas for ministry. —Judi Wise
Northwest Washington, May 16-17, Everett, Wash. The theme “Joining God’s Parade” reminded us that God is already at work in our communities. We were invited to imagine that Jesus is knocking at our church doors, beckoning us to go into our neighborhoods. We were helped to see that many traditions aren’t sustaining the church. To be vibrant and relevant, we must be responsive to a changing culture. We need to continue to live out the theology of grace, be culturally savvy, and encourage one another to creatively step outside our walls. —Rena Connell
St. Paul Area, May 16-17, Burnsville, Minn. Congregations gathered under the theme “Wing Our Words.” David Lose, a professor at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., provided the keynote. The assembly’s work was grounded in song by The Fleshpots of Egypt, a bluegrass band from Luther. —Beth Helgen
Southwestern Washington, May 16-17, Tacoma, Wash. Under the theme “Hospitality: All are Welcome!” Melanie Wallschlaeger, synod director for evangelical mission, asked worshipers to share their congregations’ hospitality stories. People wrote up their stories and emailed photos, which were hung on a clothesline strung down the center aisle. We received 97 photos and more than 170 stories of hospitality. —Allison Ramsey
Paul Oman paints the resurrection scene during the Saturday worship service at the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin Assembly. In the foreground are some of the thousands of diapers collected for the “No Child’s Wet Behind” drive for families in need.
East-Central of Wisconsin, May 16-17, Green Bay, Wis. Congregations were asked to pray for and explore other ways to support Christians who are being persecuted in South Sudan and other countries. Church members also participated in an exhibition of their art. —Paul Heykes
Northwestern Minnesota, May 16-17, Moorhead, Minn. The assembly resolved to form a partnership with Vibrant Faith Ministries as it explored the theme of “Faith at Home … At Home in Faith.” It celebrated ELCA World Hunger and Malaria Campaign giving and the completion of The Hunger Ride, a 200-plus mile bicycle tour of the synod to educate about hunger and poverty. —Matthew Bishop
Oregon, May 16-18, Portland, Ore. The assembly centered around the good work that congregations are doing and the new synod strategic initiatives of “Equipping Leaders,” “Vital and Vibrant Congregations,” and “God’s Mission in the Local Context.” In place of a keynote speaker, attendees heard compelling stories from synod leaders and were engaged in deep conversation and biblical work. —Ryan Marquardt
Eastern Washington-Idaho, May 16-18, Spokane, Wash. The theme was “Living in Hope.” The words of Jeremiah 29:1—“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you a future filled with hope”—were inspiring as we implement recommendations from “The Way Forward” task force. This group is reshaping the synod office structure to better meet needs. Heidi Torgerson-Martinez, director for Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM), led worship, connecting us with the program through participants’ stories. We connected with our own YAGM, Kevin Beebe, via blogs on Facebook. —Gib Dominguez
Northwestern Ohio, May 16-18, Sandusky, Ohio. More than 1,200 participated in “Growing as Disciples” at the Kalahari Waterpark. Voting members attended the assembly, families shared in faith formation, youth participated in servant events and a lock-in, and adults immersed themselves in discipleship training. Rachel Kurtz and Agape began the weekend in concert. Jamie Nabozny, a safe school advocate, shared his anti-bullying message. —Sherry Krieger
Northern Great Lakes, May 18-19, Marquette, Mich. Among the honorees at the banquet were three pastors who collectively have been ordained for 165 years. For Rell Spickerman (50 years,) Bob Sutherland (55 years,) and Ingmar Levin (60 years), their common theme was thanksgiving to God for the many blessings of ministry. Adding to the celebration was the piano entertainment of Doug Norquist, pastor of Community Lutheran Church, Palmer, Mich. Attendees joined in singing “Worship, Welcome, Witness,” a hymn Norquist composed based on the assembly theme. —Sue Shallow
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