NOTE: For information on the 2016 Western District Synod, visit the Synod website: www.2016wdsynod.org
It is quite amazing to witness Jesus’ hands at work. Where have you seen his hands at work, of late? Addressing that question is the core work of synod.
I continue to be captured by Scripture texts that refer to times when Jesus and the disciples went off by themselves immediately after a healing, sign or proclamation—and wonder if they are precursors to our synods. After the wedding at Cana, where water is turned into wine, John writes, “Jesus went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers and his disciples; and they remained there a few days” (John 2:12). What do you suppose occupied their time those “few days”?
From April 28 through May 1, the 2016 Western District Synod will convene at Mt. Morris Camp and Conference Center near Wautoma, Wis. for a “few days” to follow up those early conversation of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and disciples gathered with Jesus. Like our brothers and sisters in Canada and the Eastern District, we too will gather in “Capernaum”—though in the West we call it “Mt. Morris,” Canada says, “Van Es,” and in the East, “Moravian College.” Regardless of what we call the place, the work is the same – to resolutely attend to where Jesus is acting, including in and through our church.
In gratitude we will reflect back on where Jesus has been working. The stories are amazing:
- Every day, Auburn Homes and Marquardt Village touch thousands of lives with Jesus’ hands. They remember many who can no longer remember, because of memory loss. Safe housing watches over the able-bodied and those with limiting physical conditions alike, and most of those thousands are not Moravian. Auburn and Marquardt are amazing expressions of Jesus’ working hands.
- The Board of World Mission has a long history of organizing the church to be church. While our vision is the conquering Lamb, our mission is to follow. BWM staff will be with us as we look forward with gratitude, to how they will challenge us for work ahead as Jesus’ hands.
- Our emerging ministry in Milwaukee, Tricklebee Café, will join synod conversation for the first time. This ministry, rooted in our ecumenical identity, points to new ways of understanding our identity and purpose as church.
- In the same way we will give thanks for the witness of the above ministries (and others) as we focus on congregational life. Liturgies will incorporate stories gleaned from Annual Reports. Our hope is that each delegate will see their congregation in these acts of praise, confession, forgiveness and gratitude.
Meeting at a “spiritual home”
Mt. Morris Camp & Conference Center is, for many, a spiritual home away from home. Many of our Western District camps occur there, echoes of which can be heard throughout the year. With synod being held at Mt. Morris we will see the enormous blessings of this facility and experience some of the space limitations that currently exist. Patience from delegates will be needed in close quarters. How often the Savior has been patient with each of us!
Small groups at synod will focus on the results of a District-wide assessment that was completed through Landscape, a judicatory assessment tool developed and implemented by Holy Cow Consulting (see www.holycowconsulting.com).
While an enormous number of topics received attention by the 173 people who completed the assessment, two items jumped out at the District Board. One was “priorities – aspirations for the future” (noted below). The second was the phenomena of how a large percentage of responders are waiting for “what is next.”
Embraced by Resurrection
Finally, a few words about our synod theme, Embraced by Resurrection. Some things are ending in our church’s life, making way for the new things God is doing in our midst. About a year ago our Saratoga congregation was embraced by resurrection. A stranger called and offered to take the property off our hands because our church, as he said, “failed.” If only the caller knew! I don’t believe the Saratoga saints failed. Instead of investing their energy in a building, they concluded their time of ministry as a congregation and have now strengthened another congregation with gifts of hospitality and mission. They were embraced by resurrection and they are an inspiration to our District. n
Aspirations for the Future
The upcoming 2016 Western District synod will work with the desired aspirations for the future below. It is to be seen if the Synod sets a direction for “what is next.”
- Develop a discernment process to rethink how to be vital Christian communities (Moravian Churches) in our various regions.
- Take a leadership role in working with churches that are struggling. Improve the programmatic resources the District makes available to congregations to ensure that they are the most effective ways to do ministry in the church today.
- Equip pastors and other leaders in congregations to help members become growing, vital disciples.
- Equip pastors and other leaders in congregations with strategies that enable them to reach new members.
The Rev. James Hicks is president of the Western District. The 2016 Western District Synod will be held at Mount Morris Camp & Conference Center April 28-May 1, 2016. Coverage of Synod will be available on www.moravian.org. Photo above: a bridge on the footpath at Mt. Morris.