Dear Partners in Mission:
This week of our national day of Thanksgiving, it is appropriate even in a year like 2020 to give thanks. To do so we must first, as people of Law and Gospel, acknowledge the griefs and losses of this year we have suffered. Also, while we may be tempted to romanticize the first Thanksgiving, acknowledge the grief that many of our Native and Indigenous siblings feel during this week and learn more about ELCA Native and Indigenous communities and the repudiation of the doctrine of discovery. Yet despite these realities, we give thanks. First and foremost for God’s abundance in our lives, and also to for one another. In the past couple weeks, I have met with many of our conferences and pastors via zoom. In those conversations, we have had remarkable and open sharing of the joys and sorrows of our lives together in ministry. It is heartening to see colleagues comfort, resource, and be good news to one another.
This past weekend, we also gave thanks for 50 years of the ordination of pastors who are women in our church. What a joy to be able to celebrate a half century of saying yes to the gifts of women in ministry while we also recognize the challenges, barriers, and work yet needing to be done to continue to fully include and embrace the gifts of all who God calls to ministry.
We give thanks while we also live in an increasing pandemic. While the possibility of a vaccine for Covid-19 is looking all more likely in 2021, today the reality is that infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising again to levels we have not seen since the summer. If your congregation is gathering in person, please revisit our recommendations and consider halting in person worship for a time if you do not feel you can do this safely for all present. Please also be wise and care for family and neighbor as you consider Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings.
As we look forward to 2021, it is essential we recognize, in the midst of challenge, all that we have for ministry. 2020 has forced us to make challenging decisions, it has stretched us in ways we never anticipated, and we have learned from this work. In 2021 we will need to apply that learning in our work. To be wise stewards of God’s resources for mission, to let go of some things we have been doing, and to see how we are called to live into the ELCA Future Church priority of connecting with new, younger, and diverse communities. I am heartened in this by the work of our NT-NL Young Adult ministry team as they have found ways to gather in person and also online throughout this fall. An example of starting something new even in the midst of pandemic.
This Thanksgiving week, know that I give thanks for you and that we are called, in thanksgiving to God, to share the good news with others. The news of abundant life with God through Christ that spills over into our lives working for justice and peace. Serving Christ by serving, as we heard in our gospel this past weekend, the least of these in our midst. May God bless you this Thanksgiving and know you are daily in my prayers.