Friends, this past week has been intriguing and inspiring, challenging and cherishing, filled with awe and touched with fear. I do not think I am alone when I say that I met the most interesting people at our picnic on Sunday and throughout the week at Vacation Bible School.
• Ten year olds were asking deep and theological questions during the story rotation, while teenagers, not directly affiliated with our church, waited patiently to help us tear down and clean up after our very well attended and wonderful community picnic and concert.
• Conversations happened between the members of Casa de Orecion and Bethel, invitations were offered and accepted, and relationships were built. Not to mention the great start Casa Minnesota had last week as they gather to worship down the hall, right now, as we worship here.
• And in Pittsburgh, the 2013 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA made history by, after 5 ecclesiastical-Holy-Spirit-led-ballots, electing the first woman to become the Presiding Bishop of the entirety of the ELCA, beginning this November.
• AND, and the same group, who did not re-elect Bishop Mark Hanson, who (as you know) has served our church grace-fully and faithfully for the past 12 years, that same group of people cannot thank Bishop Hanson enough for his service and his leadership. And honestly, neither can we.
It seems, that in the midst of this past week, we have been given a glimpse of things that are changing. As we, here at Bethel, have consciously and intentionally amplified God’s grace and reached out further and further into our surrounding communities, our ministry is being noticed. People are beginning, again, to know our name and recognize our logo. And, and they are starting to believe that when we say all are welcome, we really do mean it! Thanks be to God!
And on a national level, 1000+ ELCA Lutherans met in Pittsburgh this week to discern and pray together about some incredible things. Meeting and worshiping under the banner of “Always being made new” our national church in assembly passed and approved things like
• A new social statement on criminal justice
• An immigration reform memorial
• Supported employment protection for people of all sexual orientation and gender identities.
• Elected a new Presiding Bishop and a new Secretary
• Recognized Mary, the mother of Jesus, in new and honorable ways, calling her “God-bearer” and recognizing the change she proclaimed in singing and sharing her faith in the words of the Magnificat, which we will hear later in the service.
Again, immersed in the theme “Always being made new” our church in assembly also
• Called us, all of us, to engage in voting rights reform to ensure equity and access for all eligible voters in our country
• Our national church will be intentional about writing and providing resources for pastors to minister to same-gender couples and their families
And, believe it or not, these are just the highlights of our church in assembly this past week! God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit has once again burst into our world to make all things new! I look forward to sharing Bishop Svennungsen’s report from Churchwide and I encourage you to check out the news releases and minutes of the Assembly on line and in our newspapers! http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Communication-Services/News/Releases.aspx
With you, for Christ,