Grace to you and Peace,
As you gather this winter for your annual meeting, with the various reports from rostered leaders, council, treasurer and committees in front of you, let me share just a few words from our synod.
A word about the work of our Synod
Synod council developed a strategic plan in 2014 for its work with our 115 congregations and various church related ministries. The focus of the strategic plan is, “Strengthening Faith Communities for Service.” The three main work areas for the synod are:
- Build leadership capacity
- Operate as one team
- Practice love and service.
Build leadership capacity: No one congregation could train its own pastors and diaconal ministers. Building leadership capacity is perhaps the Synod’s most important work at this time.
Rostered ministers: We continue to need pastors and diaconal ministers for our faith communities. The Synod supports our key institution in this work, Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, in a number of ways. The bishop and a rostered and lay member work on LTS Board of Governors and on its various committees. LTS is living with a new reality with a smaller student enrollment today and into the foreseeable future. You may have heard that news that our Seminary is involved in conversations centering on partnering with an institution aligned with the vision of LTS (Luther College, Regina is one of the ministries LTS has engaged in conversation) or to possibly relocate into a ‘right-sized’ building. There is no definite decision at this point, but the Synods are involved with LTS in discerning how best to develop leadership for our churches.
Lay leadership: One of our leadership realities is that in many of our town and country congregations, there will not be financial capacity to call a pastor for a congregation—even for two or three congregations working together. The geographical distance and the expense involved in travel makes a wider area parish served by a solo pastor difficult as well. How do we address the needs of these under-served congregations? The Synod has been working on a way of addressing ministry needs through a particular form of lay leadership supervised by a rostered minister. Synod has approved one pilot project in which the bishop as synod pastor licenses a local ordained pastor as an area pastor to mentor a ‘designated lay minister’ to serve in the rotation of leading worship—including presiding at holy communion. The Synod is also supporting, with the other western synods, a Lay Academy to offer training for lay people (both those who are leading worship in the synod and for all interested in a deeper theological understanding).
Operate as one team: On a very basic level, synod acts as a ‘cooperative’ of congregations and ministries. Congregations provide benevolence to the synod so that the whole body is offered support. Very like our health care system, the healthy usually contribute the most, those that are struggling make the most use of the system. That is what benevolence is about. Congregations give to the synod so that their sisters and brothers across the synod have support when it is time to call a pastor or when it is time to handle a congregational issue or even when it time to deal with the difficult work of church closure. Otherwise our congregations are all on their own in the world. And ‘on our own’ is a hard place for anyone to live.
We are part of the national ELCIC team. Two Sasksynod members work on the National Church Council (NCC) and the bishop sits as an ex officio member of National Church Council. The bishop also works with the national bishop and the other 4 synodical bishops in the “Conference of Bishops” that both handles work referred to the Conference by NCC and works on developing ‘best practice’ from across our five synods.
Practice love and service: The Synod is striving to inspire congregations and ministries in practicing love and service. Bishop’s visits, visits of the pastoral team, the Sasksynod insert in the Canada Lutheran, the synod website (www.sasksynod.ca), broad email announcements from synod office, National and Synodical conventions, CLAY (our national youth gathering that takes place every two years)— all set out to widen our vision of the church beyond local boundaries and to inspire our people to live out the gospel in our own time and place.
We are living in interesting times. The Truth and Reconciliation commission stands before us calling us to live differently with our indigenous neighbors. An influx of migrants into our province—as many of us or our parents or grandparents were—is calling us as church to a ministry of hospitality and welcome for those who are now experiencing the struggle of being newcomers to our country.
Two words looking back on 2018
First, I want to thank you for your support and commitment to your local congregation. That truly is where the rubber hits the road for our synod—that is where the Gospel is proclaimed in word and sacrament and in acts of care and compassion.
Second, thank you for your support of the synod over the past year: for participating in convention or in events of the wider church, for serving on synod council or a synod committee; for remembering the bishops of the church in your public prayers, and yes, for your financial contributions to the synod. Our staffing level to support 115 congregations at synod office is lean. Our administrative team consists of a part time office manager, a part time executive assistant, and a part time finance manager—which combined make up just under 2 full time positions. On the road, thanks to a Special Initiatives grant from the national Church Extension Fund, we have been able to fund a pastoral team of two quarter time assistants to the bishop. Financially, we continue to meet our key commitments to the National church (20% of our income) and to our Seminary (15% of our income). Your financial support to the synod has been an important part of the vitality of the whole church. Many thanks.
Two words for the coming year
First, as you meet at your annual meeting this winter, we do ask you to remember the synod in your continued prayers and in your continued financial support. That line item in your budget is important for your sisters and brothers in the synod. Take a moment to consider how much your faith community is able to contribute. Decide whether that is a percentage of your general offering, or a set amount given monthly or periodically. Then, prayerfully commit to the whole synod what God has given you the ability and the will to give.
Second, I want to express my thanks to the Synod for calling me to this second term as your synod bishop. I had a powerful moment during convention this year. Throughout my first four-year term, I often missed the intimacy and the holy moments of life located in one place and with one people as a congregational pastor. But as I looked out over the convention gathering in June this time, having met many of the faces in one congregation or another, it hit me: “This is your congregation!”
So here we are. Together as people of God. Peace,
Please visit the Synod website for more information about our Synod — www.sasksynod.ca