by Sister Michelle Collins
Day 1 of the 2016 Churchwide assembly was a dynamic start to what will be a very interesting week. After some flight delays (which surely didn’t affect only me), we made our way to the Convention Center in New Orleans. The theme that I saw show up throughout the opening worship service and the first plenary was an invitation to be open to the Spirit. Bishop Eaton’s sermon called out the importance of us as people of faith to reclaim a living, active, personal (but not private!) relationship with Jesus–not a theoretical Jesus, but the REAL THING. The National Lutheran Choir did an amazing job leading music that was both rich and diverse. As someone with roots in East Africa, I very much cherished that the gathering hymn was “Njoo, Roho Mwema” (“Come, Holy Spirit).
As I wandered the meeting space and ran into people whose lives have crossed paths with mine in other contexts, I was reminded how powerful it is that we are church together. It’s so easy to get caught up in the individual stress and reality of ministry–both good and challenging. But this week, for the next 5 days, we are together. We will worship together, plan and make decisions together, eat and enjoy fellowship together. We will be encouraged to broaden our thinking, deepen our understanding, and expand our vision about who God is, what God is doing in our communities, and what God is calling this church to be about.
Bishop Bill Gafkjen, bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, gave a compelling introduction to the big decision I am praying about and considering this week: the proposed changes to the Word and Service roster. I was struck by the complex history of how the ELCA has managed Word and Service ministry. He called us to focus on the way that having a unified roster, being called ‘deacon,’ will HELP us as a church move forward in proclaiming the gospel and serving our neighbor.
It is humbling to be part of this assembly this week. I can feel that the Spirit is here among us. Let’s do this thing!