Last Sunday, May 5th, I had the opportunity to participate in the rite of Affirmation of Baptism for my nephew/godson. It was a wonderful day. The joy of the festivities of seeing these young people affirm their baptismal faith made it also an appropriate day to wear a special pectoral cross.
The NT-NL Synod, ELCA has a beautiful pectoral cross that I wear to represent the office of bishop in this synod. It is not mine but is mine to wear as I serve in this office and I take that responsibility very seriously.
However, I chose not to wear that cross last Sunday as I have also been entrusted with the care of another pectoral cross. In 1958 the late James Avery, a legendary Texas craftsman, was created a pectoral cross for the president/bishop of the Texas Conference of the Augustana synod, one of the predecessor bodies of the ELCA. A replica of that cross was made and gifted to my home congregation of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in honor of Pastor M.L. Lundquist who served in that office from 1954-1962 (at that time the president of the conference was also an active parish pastor).
When I was elected bishop in 2016 the people of Gethsemane entrusted me to care for this cross and display it in my office as a reminder of our heritage of faith here in Texas. Typically it hangs on my wall as I wear the cross of the NT-NL. However, on this day I chose to wear the Avery cross. I did so for a couple reasons.
1) James Avery died this past week at the age of 96. He was a legend in Texas and especially in his hometown of Kerrville, TX. He created jewelry and altar appointments and furnishings for congregations across Texas and now the world. The connection of wearing this cross to honor him on the week of his death seemed appropriate.
2) My nephew/godson who affirmed his baptismal faith had befriended the great-grandson of M.L. Lundquist while attending Vacation Bible School at Gethsemane. As a result my parents made sure he was in attendance this weekend for this celebration.
We are connected by our heritage to those who have gone before. This heritage can sometimes feel like an anchor, weighing us down, but it is also a foundation upon which to build. We have a heritage of faith and it is vital that we honor that heritage while also looking forward to proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to all people. #NTNL #AugustanaSynod #JamesAvery #InMissionTogether