Message from Bishop Gronberg
(Published January 1, 2021)
Dear Partners in Mission:
366 days ago, January 1, 2020, we had no idea we would experience the most significant disruption to our work in the church any leader in living memory has experienced. Despite warnings about the potential of the virus, we could not have understood the magnitude and duration of what we have experienced and are experiencing. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost to Covid-19, political turmoil, regular worship and discipleship ministries disrupted now for almost a year, individual financial and vocational futures in doubt, outdoor ministries financially hobbled, congregations’ sustainability questioned. These have been, and will continue to be, difficult times. Yet in the midst of this, we have also seen great adaptation, learning, and innovation. New ways of being church together and hard but essential questions being asked about what the purpose and mission of our church is.
As we look towards 2021, with hope for a vaccine, it is clear we will not return “to normal” even when Covid-19 is no longer the threat it continues to be. The status quo did not and will not hold. As such it is vital that we, as leaders, spend time in discernment and prayer about how God is leading us into this future. The Holy Spirit is and has been at work in our church as she always has been, but now, more than ever, how do we listen more intently to her call? Most of all, how do we continue to be Lutheran witnesses in the territory of NT-NL proclaiming a gospel of grace, welcome and invitation, of freedom given by Christ for the sake of the world.
To do this we will be offering a number of opportunities for NT-NL leaders to engage in conversation and discernment, to learn techniques and tools for navigating systems, and prayerfully working with God and one another in order to forge a faithful future the coming year and beyond.
- January 7: 1-2pm Systems Theory and Anxiety: A primer and reminder of systems theory to get you ready for 2021.
- January 25-26: Bonhoeffer – Reception and Resistance. An opportunity to engage with leading Bonhoeffer scholar Dr. Michael DeJonge and connect our context to that of Bonheoffer’s.
- Feb 5-6: NT-NL Synod Council and Deans meeting. To engage constructively how our conferences can be more intentional in shepherding our congregations in this time.
- Feb-May (dates TBD): Follow up conversations on systems and leading change in systems.
- April 23: NT-NL Synod Council and Deans meet to continue strategic conversations and how to support congregations by conference.
- April 24: NT-NL Online Assembly. Bishop Mike Girlinghouse will keynote our time speaking about his book Embracing God’s Future Without Forgetting the Past.
- Summer 2021 Briarwood Programming: “Crowded Table” A theme resonating our longings for gathering and the reality that tables will look different now yet still full of God’s abundance.
- Oct 18-20: NT-NL/Briarwood Leadership Convocation. Hopefully in-person, a time to gather, and continue to think critically about how God is calling us to mission.
- Ongoing: Coaching services are available to you in English and Spanish through NT-NL and ELCA Coaching.
All of these gatherings are intended to connect with overarching issues of systems, context, and engaging mission. We cannot avoid in 2021 the reality that our context has radically changed. The great disruption of 2020 will impact our lives in the church for decades to come. Yet by God’s grace, we know we have a timeless message of justification, being made right with God, by grace through the gift of faith given by the Holy Spirit. That we proclaim Law and Gospel and have a faith that can and has adapted to disruptions throughout our history.
As our communities look towards the future, it is essential that these Lutheran distinctives drive our mission. We are called to proclaim to people God’s desire to be in right relationship with them. A desire so strong God sent Jesus, the son of God, to live, die, and rise so we and our communities might not fear disruption, even death. Because through death comes life.
Already in the second half of 2020 we have seen congregations recognizing their status quo is no longer sustainable. The disruption of Covid-19 has accelerated systemic issues already in place. Your synod staff has walked with those communities to assess their priorities and future. And in some cases helped find ways to faithfully end Word and Sacrament ministry in a particular location to release assets to serve God’s people and world. My goal in 2021 is that we are more intentional with all our congregations to assess honestly the context and system in place and how God’s mission is being accomplished through that work. To take seriously enough our mission to be honest about where we are, and where we are going, and listen to God for guidance on how we accomplish that together.
2021, I pray, is going to be a year marked by intentional and communal discernment in all of our congregations and ministries. We have been disrupted, we have and will continue to experience great losses, we have achieved things we never thought we would be able to or even need to. God is and will be faithful to us in NT-NL and across our church. This New Years day know that you and yours are in my prayers and that we continue to be about this work…
Hear My Voice: A Prison Prayer Book
In this COVID-time, our opportunities to volunteer and visit with those incarcerated in our local prisons and jails have come to a standstill. But the prison ministries of our congregations need not stop. The ELCA has published a prayer book for God’s people in prison: Hear My Voice: A Prison Prayer Book. This book would make a marvelous Christmas gift not only for people in prison but also for your loved ones and friends. Read more about this resource, and how it has supported prisoners and their loved ones, on the ELCA Worship Blog.
Shoulder to Shoulder 10th Anniversary
The ELCA is a founding member of Shoulder to Shoulder, an interreligious campaign working to end discrimination and violence against Muslims in the United States. As the campaign recently marked its 10th anniversary, we are joining other faith communities to renew our commitment toward building a country where all people are treated with respect and dignity. Learn more about the campaign and sign the Shoulder to Shoulder pledge today.
Featured Resources for January | Recursos Destacados de Enero
Save the Date
Saturday, March 13
This conference will be held online and is designed to build vitality in congregations with fewer than 50 people in worship. However, congregations with greater than 50 will also find it helpful. The focus is on spirituality, leadership, and community connections.
Recent Blog Posts
(https://www.ntnl.org/new-first-call-process-resources/ – published Jan. 4)
Where in the world is?
Due to the rising cases of COVID-19 across our territory since November 2020, the bishop and staff will be engaging in no non-essential travel or in-person meetings through at least the beginning of 2021. For previously scheduled and essential meetings, the staff will wear masks anytime they are near people, either inside or outside a facility. All synod business will continue to be conducted online.
Pastor Totzke – Jan 10: Emanuel, Dallas
With the ever-changing guidelines and recommendations in our world right now, as we maintain physical distance in social solidarity, please keep in mind these events may be moved online, postponed, or cancelled:
- Jan. 6: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders – The Sacred Work of Grief, Part 5: What We Expected and Did Not Receive with Rev. Solveig Goodin-Nilsen, Zoom
- Jan. 7: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Jan. 7: Interim Pastors monthly meeting, Zoom
- Jan. 7: Systems Theory and Anxiety workshop, Zoom
- Jan. 9: Public Witness Team meeting, Online
- Jan. 13: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders – Discipleship and Civic Engagement with Amy Reumann (ELCA National Advocacy), Zoom
- Jan. 14: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Jan. 20: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders – Growing Young: Warm Relationships with Rachel Alley and others, Zoom
- Jan. 20-23: 2021 ELCA World Hunger Leadership Gathering, Online
- Jan. 21: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Jan. 25-26: 2021 Tri-Theological Conference, Online
- Jan. 27: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders – Showing of Welcome Strangers documentary, Q&A with Sarah Jackson (Casa de Paz) and others, Zoom
- Jan. 28: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Feb. 3: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders – The Sacred Work of Grief, Part 6: The Places That Have Not Known Love with Rev. Solveig Goodin-Nilsen, Zoom
- Feb. 4: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
Access our full online Calendar here. Updates made regularly.
Do you have news or announcements to share? Please submit to Jason (firstname.lastname@example.org) for consideration for upcoming NT-NL News.