Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is a synod assembly?

The Arkansas-Oklahoma synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America gathers in assembly this weekend for its annual synod assembly. I'm enough of a church geek that I love going to synod assembly, and wouldn't miss it for the world. Because of our move and new call, it's a new synod for me, so I look forward to meeting new colleagues in ministry from across the two states, as well as voting members from the 60 or so congregations that make up our synod. It is also bitter sweet, for I will miss all the colleagues and friends we made during eight years of ministry in South Central Wisconsin.

I invite your prayers for our assembly. There is way more of spiritual import going on in a synod assembly than may be first apparent, and the support of prayers undergirding such a gathering is essential. On the surface, such a gathering looks like a bunch of people driving to Tulsa to stay at a hotel and conduct church business. And it is that.

But what is really happening in synod assembly is profound and amazing. Christians from across our two states join together Friday evening for Eucharist. Together we receive Christ's body and blood, and hear the Word of God proclaimed. Over the course of the weekend, we mutually console each other, pray for each, worship some more, attend seminars, conduct holy conversations in the back of the room and in side hallways, practice wisdom and discernment, and in the case of this particular assembly, elect a new bishop.

It is this last event that likely garners the most attention. People wonder who it will be, and how one is elected. I'm so new as to be clueless on the first point, and on the second, I can say it includes many ballots interspersed with prayer, and speeches by the candidates once we get the field narrowed to a few.

But what interests me about our election of a new bishop is the spiritual gift it represents. A bishop is a sign of unity. Like the pastor in a congregation who is a sign of unity, the bishop is a sign of unity for the synod. I don't alway comprehend or fathom what unity is or how to attain it, but I know it when I see it, and where true unity and love prevails, there is God.

My prayer for our assembly includes these petitions: that we be united in faith through the sacraments and the election of our new bishop; that we be energized for mission by the Holy Spirit; that we practice hospitality one with another; that we learn something new; that we are guided by the wisdom of God in our decision-making; and that we carry news back from the assembly that enlivens and inspires each of our congregations for mission in God's world.

This weekend, would you pray for that with me?

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