Siblings in Christ,
As we were unable to have an assembly this past weekend as hoped, the embedded video below has been prepared for you, which is part of what I would have included in my report of the bishop to the assembly. Over the course of the next few weeks, other videos highlighting other aspects of the synod assembly will be produced and shared. I give thank for you all that work you are doing. The text of the video is also included below for accessibility, as are the links included in the slide show.
It is also important to note that much of the success of the re-vitalized NT-NL Synod Stewardship team has been the product of hard work by Sandra Gass (member of Rejoice, Frisco). Sandra claimed the promises of her baptism on Wednesday April 22nd. Information about remembering her can be found at this link.
VIDEO SCRIPT 04272020 STATE OF SYNOD:
Siblings in Christ grace to you and peace from the risen Christ who goes before us.
The words of the disciples “we had hoped” in our gospel this weekend struck me. Indeed, in this time of the COVID-19 crisis there are many things for which “we had hoped” that will not take place. This weekend we had hoped to be at Paul Quinn College in Dallas for Assembly under the theme Crossing Borders. Moving beyond partisan focus on some borders towards awareness of all the boundaries defined by human constructs that divide us. Gathering again across the divisions in our territory to hear the good news that Christ, in his death and resurrection, crosses over those borders to unite us as one body.
Going to Paul Quinn in South Dallas, an HBCU and college of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) was a critical part of our theme. I grieve the loss of the hope and work put into this assembly by our co-chairs the Rev. Doris Harris and Rev. Jefferey Bergeron and our 50th anniversary of the ordination of pastors who are women team. I also grieve that we did not have the chance to worship Friday night together in the newly rededicated Richard Allen Chapel with our local AME Bishop Vashti Murphy-McKenzie preaching.
We had hoped for many things and our reality is now a constantly shifting landscape. In this time I have been asked several times “what is the state of the synod?” My answer of late has been “The Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod is strong, adaptable, faithful, and recognizing even more our interdependence. We are #InMissionTogether.”
I can say this not because of my work among you but because of the way you have time and again stepped up. To make hard decisions, find ways to gather, serve your communities in need, and be faithful to the gospel.
Over the past month plus leaders have made difficult decisions with ever changing advice and rulings. This is adaptive leadership in crisis and our NT-NL leaders have responded with grace, gratitude, and resilience. For that, as your bishop, the synod’s pastor, I am grateful.
We also should remember we have had a productive year together as synod. There are things we had hoped and worked for that have come to fruition. Leaders developed through PLMA and Secondary School of Latinx Theological Education. Stewardship education and discipleship showing results in 40 congregations increasing their mission support in 2019 vs. their 5 year average. Congregations engaged in intentional mission discernment. Synod council and MEF leaders are coming together to make us more responsive and adaptable. The state of our synod is strong which makes us prepared to reach out and support our partners.
We are part of a global communion as church and we have siblings in West Africa. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone has been tasked again to take up the role they served so ably and efficiently during the Ebola crisis. To teach their neighbors about hygiene, provide meals for those left hungry, and to live the gospel in their everyday lives. They need our help and sending supplies in this current crisis would take too long.
Bishop Momoh has sent us a detailed accountable budget for their education and outreach program. I have responded in faith that we in NT-NL can and will contribute at least $10,000 in the next 3 months and a total of $20,000 in six months for this work. This is in addition to the $2,500 in emergency funds we were able to send several weeks ago. If you or your congregation would like to contribute to this effort please send those funds to NT-NL and we will forward them on.
NT-NL also has responsibility to be stewards of our synod investment in Briarwood. After a successful 2019 we had high hopes for 2020. Yet since mid-March Briarwood has been closed, per county orders, to onsite programming. In previous years this dramatic loss of revenue would have resulted in layoffs and potential insolvency. We are grateful that is not the case today.
Instead Briarwood is adaptively changing to serve you. Leadership content and classes have been moved online, timely issues are being addressed, and the values of service first are being emphasized. To this end, if in person camping is possible, leadership has cut registration costs by 25% recognizing the potential financial hardship families may be under.
Briarwood is positioned to respond faithfully to this crisis because of your support. On May 16th the Briarwood gala will be held as an online experience. Your support of this ministry and its evangelical witness to our young people and our wider community would be much appreciated.
Over the course of the coming weeks and months we will be creating videos highlighting some things we would have done during our synod assembly. Highlights will include celebrating 50 years of the ordination of pastors who are women, our strong 2019 financial results, new ministries for young adults and youth and other hopes for 2020.
Crisis is a time that we can clarify mission. We currently have 2 congregations taking part in the LEAD Journey. We are now offering this mission journey to four more congregations at no cost subsidized by dedicated funds from the synod. For congregations ready to think critically about their future this is a great opportunity.
Resourcing you in this time is a priority of our synodical staff and I am so very grateful for each of them and their work. They have also responded adaptively finding ways to continue relationship building and support for our pastors.
Our dedicated webpage of COVID-19 resources continues to grow. These resources range from leadership content, information about online giving apps and worship resources, guidance on reopening worship, to information about the Payroll Protection Plan. This is something we do together and if you have resources to share please do so.
We are in mission together crossing borders that separate because Christ goes before us. This crisis has brought suffering, grief, and challenge. It has challenged us in our hopes. But it also offers us opportunity to prioritize and focus on proclamation of the gospel. Your synod staff is grateful for your continued prayers and faithful support. We do this work together and we do it following our Lord who crossed over many borders, even the border of death, to bring us life. God’s peace be with you and know you are in my prayers.
Links from Slide Show:
Briarwood Gala Online Event May 16th: https://one.bidpal.net/briarwoodgala/browse/donation
“Coming together” guidelines and resources from TX/LA bishops. https://www.ntnl.org/covid-19-gathering-guidelines-and-worship-resources-ingles-y-espanol/
Grief Coaching Webinar May 5th: https://www.ntnl.org/event/learning-coaching-skills-for-grief-and-loss/
Leadership Convocation Oct. 19-21: Religious Freedom in American History, Dr. Steven Stookey www.ntnl.org/event/2020-leadership-convocation
May 5th: Grief Coaching Webinar: https://www.ntnl.org/event/learning-coaching-skills-for-grief-and-loss/
NT-NL Young Adults: Online small groups are forming led by Avery Hawley (Briarwood) and Veronica Czutor (King of Glory, Dallas) YoungAdultsNTNLsynod@gmail.com https://www.facebook.com/groups/2369699966655810
Understanding our adapting role in COVID-19 as Leaders: https://www.ntnl.org/societal-chaplaincy-preparing-for-the-storm-to-come/