The last week of September is always a full one, as the three Texas Synods have traditionally held a joint retreat for all of our first call pastors and deacons. The ELCA requires three years of continuing education for all new pastors. This year our retreat was hosted by the TX/LA Gulf Coast Synod at Lutherhill in LaGrange.
The theme was about engaging the “other” in sometimes difficult conversations and engaging our congregations in understanding and welcome. Our main presenter was Robert Smith, our Briarwood Executive Director. He was also joined by pastors Lenny Duncan (via Zoom) and Vance Blackfox. There was much deep conversation and learning throughout the week.
But there was even more fellowship and relationship building. Our group has grown from one to 14 first call pastors in our synod over the last couple of years. Much of this is due to Candidacy programs that help us to train and prepare pastors who have been raised up from our own congregations. Some is due to assignment of new pastors here in the ELCA process. A few of them have moved into the synod due to spouses’ jobs. They’re all a gift to the church!
May the end of our time, we had a service of blessing for those who were attending their third and final fall retreat, so next year our numbers will shrink a bit again. But there will be a few new faces to take their place. That’s the way of the church. Always someone new. Always fresh ideas to share. Always being blessed by new energy. Thanks be to God!