Thursday December 17th I journeyed up to the NT-NL Synod, ELCA offices at Briarwood Leadership Center to do work that needed to be done on site. During this pandemic I have largely deferred the office space to staff who need to be on site to perform their tasks. But occasionally there are things I need to do in person.
I also had the opportunity to finish up a few video projects in the chapel. A greeting for First Lutheran Church, Waco Texas and my portion of the staff video Christmas card which warranted a call to SAWL Nicholaus Chove to help me say Merry Christmas properly in Swahili. I also took a selfie with my flat nativity in my office for the young people who sent it to me from Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Allen, TX. I also feature this in my Christmas Eve/Day sermon offering.
Early afternoon I connected with other bishops as we spent some time in conversation and then listening to a presentation on the Gospel according to Mark by Dr. Richard Swanson from Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD. He challenged us to engage Mark in the context of both patience and action. That church is not just to comfort us but to feel ourselves being stretched taut by the story in our impatience for God’s action in the world. And in feeling stretched gain empathy for those marginalized in our midst who have been waiting for justice. A good message to contemplate in the midst of a season in which we so often just want the comforts of Christmas we have known.
Yesterday, Dec 16th, Dr. Robert Smith, Director of Briarwood and myself met with leaders from the Lutheran Foundation of the Southwest to receive the annual distributions from the funds they steward for the ministry of NT-NL and Briarwood. These funds, made available by planned gifts, provide resources for mission and leadership formation over and above congregational mission support.
In encouraging news we heard from Robert that although Briarwood has had a difficult year due to Covid-19 the difficult decisions made by leadership and the board to contain costs mean these funds would actually be applied to ministry in 2021. Providing needed resources to prepare for what we hope will be onsite camp and retreat programming this summer and beyond.
In 2020 we have all been stretched, some to our breaking point. In so doing we have learned and grown, grieved and rejoiced. As we come ever closer to God’s great promise and change, given in the Christ child, it is good to be #InMissionTogether #NTNL #BWTX #LSFW #CTSAllen