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N.C. Synod of Lutheran Church meets in Greensboro

Submitted

SALISBURY – Almost 500 voting members and guests from congregations of the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) gathered for the May 31-June 1 assembly in Greensboro.

The assembly theme was Congregational Vitality, which points to one of the four vision statements of the synod, “God calls the NC Synod of the ELCA to cultivate and celebrate vital congregations.” The theme was lifted up in a variety of ways over the course of the two days.

The Rev. Dr. Timothy M. Smith, bishop of the N.C. Synod, began with a light-hearted video helping to pin down the definition of a vital congregation. Is it a congregation with “butts (in the pews) bucks, and busyness?” Perhaps the meaning is more along the lines of the always-right children’s sermon answer: Jesus! In truth, vital congregations are communities of Jesus that nurture life-changing relationships with God, each other, and the world.

Examining life-changing relationships with God, Deacon Tammy Jones West, assistant to the bishop, facilitated a panel discussion of members of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in High Point. Pastor Jennifer Krushas and members Joy Joseph and Eileen Roberts spoke eloquently about the ways their congregation has found to foster spiritual engagement across the generations.

With a focus on life-changing relationships with each other, Pastor CeCee Mills, associate director for evangelical mission, led conversation with Skip Downs of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Hudson and Christy Williams of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Lenoir. Those two congregations have recently entered into an agreement of yoking; they offered opportunities for both learning and laughter.

Finally, attention was turned to life-changing relationships with the world. Pastor Bill Milholland of Lutheran Church of Reconciliation, Wilmington, recounted the ways he experienced God in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. From across the church and beyond, love, prayers and donations poured into the affected areas of the state.

To conclude, Deacon GeoRene Jones, coordinator of social justice and advocacy ministries, as well as Lutheran Disaster Response, invited those affected by the hurricane to stand while others encircled them, lifting them in prayer.

Additionally, the assembly heard from Bishop Smith’s report on some of the major work of the synod during the previous year, and from the Rev. Ruben Duran, ELCA director for congregational vitality, as he spoke further on congregational vitality and again with the ELCA ministry report which included greetings to the assembly from ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.

A definite highlight was worship on Friday night with the assembly gathering at First Presbyterian Church for a service of Holy Communion and to honor the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women of color in the ELCA. In particular, the six women who serve in the NC Synod were celebrated.

The location of this year’s assembly was particularly poignant in that the first woman of color ordained in the ELCA (or any of its predecessor bodies), the Rev. Earlean Miller, served her first call at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Greensboro. Notably, three of the ordained women who were celebrated — the Rev. Brenda Bynum, the Rev. Lucille “CeCee” Mills, and the Rev. Beverly Wallace — are all daughters of the Prince of Peace congregation.

Business of the assembly included the election of synod council members, the approval of a budget and compensation guidelines, and the adoption of several changes to the synod’s constitution.

Rostered ministers celebrating significant anniversaries were recognized, as well as those retiring, those who were new to the synod, and seminarians assigned to the synod.

N.C. Synod Vice President Diana Haywood offered final remarks in which she asked the assembly to use Bishop Smith’s example of the bottom line of congregational vitality — it’s all about relationships — as a refrain for her remarks. As she highlighted all the reports, opportunities for learning, ministries lifted up, collaboration between congregations and communities, completion of all business and much more, the assembly responded to each enthusiastically, “It’s all about relationships!”

Additional stories and details of the 2019 NC Synod Assembly can be found on the synod’s website: www.nclutheran.org/assembly-news/.

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