“ON THE WAY…TOGETHER“: REFLECTING ON THE RESTORED MINISTERS GATHERING – Sr. Michelle Collins

Like many others, I had my own set of expectations of what the Rostered Ministers Gathering would be in Atlanta.  I hoped it would be a time to lift up Word and Service ministry.  I hoped it would be a time to build relationships and networks.  I hoped it would be an opportunity to enjoy fellowship with colleagues.  It was many of these things…and more.
True to the theme, it was an opportunity to focus on the mutual call to the Gospel we all share, regardless of our roster or context for ministry.

Through worship, Bible study, keynote speakers, workshops, active learning experiences and time for fun and fellowship, this theme was lived out.  Grounded in the narrative of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, which is a text I have been reflecting on in my own spiritual journey these days, I was reminded of the power of coming alongside one another in the midst of times of turmoil and transition, and how in the midst of that community and those relationships, Christ shows up in ways that are surprising and unexpected.

As I ran into colleagues—both pastors and deacons—whose lives have crossed paths with mine in various ways, and as I met people whose lives had been impacted by the Deaconess Community, I was struck by how much richer my own journey has been because I do not journey in isolation.  Whether it was a former synod staff person who was instrumental in my initial discernment, those from my current synod with whom I am in ministry, or Sisters from this Community who consistently support and encourage me, it is a blessing to be on a journey together.

I was able to claim the ‘Young Rostered Minister’ title for probably the last time…the next time this event happens I will have aged out of that designation.  But it was encouraging and uplifting to gather the day before the full event started with pastors and deacons who are finding their voice and identity as leaders in this church. It was another reminder of the varied ministries through which the Spirit is indeed at work, and it was a powerful reminder that the Kingdom of God is broader than any age bracket.

This event reminded me that the journey is not over.  As leaders, there is more to be done in our understanding of our shared call to Word, Service and Sacrament.  As a church, there is more to be done in our commitment to grace, justice and equality. As rostered ministers in the ELCA there is more to be done in creating a space and culture where all are welcome and our gifts are strengthened and developed.  As a deacon, there is more to be done in my own ongoing awareness of God’s presence in my life and ministry.  But we journey together, and through the power of the Gospel and through the gifts given through Jesus, our hearts continue to be stirred.