Scripture is rich with stories and imagery of chaos, which moves through nations and causes “the waters to roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46: 3). These stories and images may bring forth loud clasps of fear and roaring loss…but woven through these stories is the constancy of God’s hand and hope, which breathes a stillness in the roar of foaming water. “Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 breaks into quaking hearts with a call to stillness and a confidence that stirs our souls as we read beyond the comma and hear, “and know that I am God.” This is how we move confidently into transition and keep our hearts faithfully listening to the Spirit.
As we continue to respond to this time of anticipated transitions within the ELCA rosters, our Community has also experienced very real transitions within our staff. As we gathered for our 2015 Assembly we learned that Melody Ellington, our Director of Operations, would be leaving for a position with the St. Louis School District. We celebrated this opportunity for her…but our hearts were heavy in our sending. At that same time, we learned Sarah Hairston, our Communications Coordinator, would also be relocating…returning to her home in Tennessee. Again, our hearts were heavy as we gave thanks for our shared ministry and sent her on.
As the Board of Directors gathered in November, they knew there would be positions to fill as they came together. Added to the anticipated conversations was the unexpected news that Sr. Janet Stump, Directing Deaconess, would resign. With this news, Psalm 46 came clanging forth…but yet, breathing in the quiet stillness of God’s voice, there was confidence in reading past the comma: “and know that I am God.” Celebrating Sr. Janet’s discerning wisdom, pastoral presence and faithfulness in service, as a Community we send her with heavy hearts–confident in God’s hand guiding both her and the Community during this significant transition in our life together.
And so, with this many layered transition, the Board has acted to call upon the gifts of our sisters: contracting with Sr. Michelle Collins to serve as our Interim Communications Coordinator, Sr. LaDonna Olson to serve as Interim Bookkeeper, Sr. Anne Hall to serve as our Chaplain and Sr. Mary Julia McKenzie to serve as Interim Director of Operations. Our Community is richly blessed with gifted members, and we give thanks for each of these women, as well as for Sr. Krista Anderson, our Director of Vocation and Education, and Lorice Amlin, our office administrator, for their openness to share their gifts and serve confidently – motivated and sustained by the Spirit!
Even as the waters of change swirl around Word and Service ministry in the ELCA, and even in the midst of the transitions in the staff of the Deaconess Community, we as a Community are engaging in our own process of prayer and discernment, responding to a call at our 2015 Assembly to prayerfully consider membership, infrastructure and our never-ending response to God’s call to serve in response to Matthew 25.
While our committees have been tending to these anticipated transitions through attention to By-Laws, structure, membership, prayer and formation, our Community sought to delve deeply into our mission, asking questions as a whole and within each Sister’s own context. The energy created by this faithful work has allowed us to see that God is “doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) in our midst and calling our Community to be confident in our response to God’s call – stepping out boldly!