Dear NT-NL Leaders:
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. -Luke 12:32
When reading this text in my mind I immediately hear the tune of ELW 764 (Have No Fear, Little Flock). A tune that brings for me warm feelings of singing it as a child. Nostalgic feelings that leads largely to positive memories, feelings of safety and the security that comes with knowing how that story already ends. A nostalgic mythology that somehow those times were simpler, or easier, the “good old days.”
As Bishop Mike Girlinghouse reminded us at our 2021 Synod Assembly nostalgia can be a powerful force. It can be a foundation that encourages us, or it can also be an anchor that keeps us static or drags us down. That anchoring often happens in communities, particularly when they are in grief. We long for an idealized past. But at its best, when we are honest that the past wasn’t so ideal, nostalgia can give us strength. It can remind us that we have been through difficult times and that in the midst of those times God has been present, God has been faithful, God has provided.
As we move fully into the second half of 2022 we know that things have dramatically shifted in our lives. Our institutions, congregations, and our own lives have changed too much. Patterns of behavior, our habits (including church attendance), have changed and we are not going back to an idealized 2019. We have lost dear colleagues and friends, most recently our beloved sister the Rev. Doris Harris. We must do the work of grief for the things that we have lost. But in that grief we can be comforted that God has yet been faithful. And that in letting go we can see God is about doing new things as well.
In 2019 our church voted to change the entrance rite for Deacons from commissioning to ordination. And this August 13th we will, for the first time in NT-NL, ordain a Deacon, jj Godwyn, to the office of Word and Service. August 18-22 we will welcome Bishop Moses Kobba Momoh from the ELCSL to our territory for the first time in his tenure as bishop. A wonderful opportunity to build our partnership and learn what the ELCSL is doing to build up people in their midst.
New things are happening across our synod. Pastors are being installed to new ministries. In July we hosted the first ever Multicultural Youth gathering in NT-NL. August 6-8 Latinx young adults from across the country will be gathering at Briarwood thanks to the leadership of DEM Irma Bañales. And as we move into the fall other new opportunities will arise to connect and share this good news of our God who walks with us always.
Jesus’ words “Do not be afraid” is both a comfort and a challenge. A comfort to know God is for you, a challenge to receive that word in faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit move boldly into God’s future. As you lead, know I am praying for you in this work and that we are…