This past weekend, a few of us from St. Mark–myself, Denise Darnell and John Kroschwitz as voting members of St Mark, along with Carol Kasabach as a rostered Deacon– gathered with hundreds of other members from across the New Jersey Synod for our annual Synod Assembly. It wasn’t quite the same this year, being entirely virtual (zoom), but it was a wonderful learning and worshipful experience. Those of us from St. Mark who participated gathered afterwards to debrief, and wanted to share some of the highlights with the congregation.
The Bishop’s Challenge
One of the main highlights was the introduction of the NJ Synod Bishop’s Challenge for 2021-2022, the “Jehu Jones Mission.” This challenge encourages congregations to educate ourselves on the issues of racial justice, accept our responsibility to respond in faith, and work to address racial inequity and injustice in our world. We, as a Synod, are being challenged to…
- Have conversations about race (specifically the African American experience) in our congregations and become more aware of our history;
- Commit to following the Bishop’s Challenge schedule of synod-wide events over the next year;
- Help raise $50,000 to support the lives of emerging leaders of African descent in our church today;
- Consider confession and lamentation for the uncompensated loss that underpins the African American experience in the United States;
- Help to create a better future for all by being a part of Christ’s Beloved Community.
More information about the Bishop’s Challenge will be forthcoming as the year unfolds!
Our church-wide representative, Rev. Phil Hirsch introduced the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s (ELCA) new restructuring, called “Future Church.” This new structuring of the ELCA is based on three priorities for our shared ministry:
- A welcoming church, engaging new, young, and diverse people.
- A thriving church, rooted in tradition and radically relevant.
- A connected sustainable church, raising the bar, together.
I look forward to being creative with you all about how we bring these ministry priorities to life at St. Mark!
Finally, as always it was nice to get to see and meet different people and learn about all the different things going on in our New Jersey Synod. The themes of inclusion and diversity were apparent, intentional, and appreciated. Despite all of the challenges the Church has faced over the past year and a half, the Holy Spirit was at work, and it’s time to celebrate!
Pastor Ian Hill