The work of Synod
Under the leadership of Synod Chair Rick Santee, delegates worked to do the business of the church for the next four years. Each of the 35 congregations of the District sent pastors and lay delegates elected by their congregations. Representatives from agencies working with the District, interprovincial ministries and other guests were also on hand to participate, but were not voting delegates.
This Synod focused on the work of a dozen committees, each charged with a different topic. Synod committees were organized to address issues that face congregations and the district as a whole, especially in how they help nurture healthy congregations.
Delegates spent much of the meeting time during this Synod in committee work, focusing on joint board training and development; lay leadership training and development; evaluation, assessment and measurements; visioning and “new ways of being church;” ecumenical relationships; senior care/senior ministries; youth care and youth ministries; adult education, stewardship, missions & evangelism; care of pastors; and communication and sharing best practices.
Grounded in Ephesians
Prior to Synod, all delegates were asked to read and study Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. When sending delegates to their committees, the Rev. Jim Hicks, president of the Western District Executive Board (WDEB) charged delegates to keep Ephesians in mind throughout the work:
“As you gather in committees and introduce yourselves, do so as one rooted in the words from Ephesians,” said Jim. “Come into relationship with your committee members by talking about experiences where you’ve seen God dwelling in you, talking about times someone said truth when you needed to hear it, times when you saw with your heart, times when you no longer felt like a stranger or alien. How will your committee work — and Synod as a whole — be different if rooted in Ephesians?”
“Act with humility, with gentleness, bearing each other in faith and love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of Peace,” continued Jim. “I know there will be disagreements — please disagree where necessary — but also please let us practice this faith and offer ways to our communities to get through the difficulties ahead of us.”
Epistles of hope
From this committee work came a series of Epistles that encourage and charge the District, congregations and church members to build up the body of Christ.
Some of the Epistles set forth projects and work to be completed either by the committee or the WDEB. For example, the Committee on Joint Board Development and Training committed to assemble and create Joint Board training resource kits to help meet the need for growth, nurturing and training of elected leaders essential to the health of congregations.
Along the same lines, the Lay Leadership Development and Training Committee put forth a proposal to establish a task force to research resources and implement programs for the development of lay leadership in the district.
To help meet the need for educating congregations on issues involving aging services, the senior care and ministries committee established a new District Committee on Aging Services and recommended the Northern Province do the same.
Offering ideas and encouragement
Additional Epistles summed up the views of the committees and offered ideas, encouragements and commitments for ongoing efforts. For example, the committee working on the Care of Pastors, Leadership and Recruitment, offered a broad array of ideas to assist congregations and the District in keeping pastors healthy, engaged, and learning, while highlighting ideas for encouraging those who may have gifts for ordained ministry to consider the calling.
The Adult Education, Stewardship, Mission & Evangelism committee recommended improvements and strategies for the Moravian West Christian Education Commission (MWCEC) to be more effective in its ministry. The Youth Care and Youth Ministries Committee offered steps to support and strengthen the District’s work with young Moravians. The Ecumenical Relationships Committee brought forth suggestions to promote unity with brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations at the congregational level.
The Communications/Best Practices committee encouraged congregations to understand, catalog, celebrate and share their best practices and what makes them unique, and develop and implement a communications team to help congregations tell their stories.
And through its Epistle, the Visioning/New Ways of Being Church committee offered insights, ideas and encouragement for congregations to grow and thrive again, despite challenges and difficult realities. They encouraged fellow Moravians to strive to provide service opportunities which are attentive to the deepest needs of surrounding communities, and to “be willing to be light in the darkest places of our world.”
As these Epistles were presented, all delegates were encouraged to take them back to their congregations, share them broadly, and work to put the ideas and work into practice. To read all the Epistles presented, visit www.wdsynod2012.org.
The Business of Synod
Along with the committee work, Synod completed a number of other important tasks. The Western District budget for 2012 and 2013 was approved; a line was added to the budget that would cover vouchers for the upcoming youth convocations. An impromptu offering was then made by Synod attendees that raised more than $2,400 for assisting youth with 2013 Convo.
The Synod also elected the Western District Executive Board to serve for the next four years (see accompanying story). In addition, representatives to the Board of World Mission, Marquardt Village Parent Board, Marquardt Village Foundation Board, Mt. Morris Camp & Conference Center board and the Moravian Western Christian Education Commission were elected by Synod.
Among the business of legislation, elections and committee work, Synod delegates also participated in two conversations that will have an impact on the Northern Province as a whole in the coming years.
First, the delegates heard a presentation by the Revs. Dawn Volpe and Matt Kapp about the Northern Province restructuring effort. The Province’s restructuring activities are driven by legislation from the 2010 Provincial Synod that seeks to review and recommend the best possible structure for the Northern Province. Following Dawn and Matt’s presentation, delegates took time to discuss three key questions, the answers to which will help shape the next steps in the restructuring committee’s work.
Synod delegates also continued the Holy Conversations begun last year to discuss the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy in committed relationships. A large group session, led by committee members Rev. Gary Marsh and Bishop Kay Ward, discussed the committee’s work to date and introduced the opportunity to continue conversations with Synod delegates. For some, this was the first opportunity they had to participate in the process, while others shared thoughts from sessions they attended in 2011. Human Sexuality Task Force members Amy Gohdes-Luhman, David Piper, and Paul Peucker also assisted in the conversations. The task force was established at the 2010 Northern Province Synod.
And delegates participated in discussions and Bible study with the Rev. Susan Nienaber of the Alban Institute. Susan gave presentations about the challenges facing all churches today, led Bible study sessions about Ephesians and served as chaplain of the Synod.
A new way of doing Synod
The 2012 Western District tried something new with the distribution of reports, information and the final work of Synod. Traditionally, all materials were printed and mailed to delegates of Synod. This year, the planning committee found ways to make the distribution of this material totally electronic, limiting the use of paper and saving more than $2,000 in printing and mailing costs.
Spearheaded by Synod committee members Jeff Brandt and Aden Ward, delegates were presented with materials that were e-mailed or were downloadable from a special Synod website. All committee work, when completed, was submitted electronically and shared online. Printed copies were prepared for the few who were not able to access information via computer.
As a result, the Synod floor was aglow in the light from laptop screens, iPads, and tablets. Information and documents under discussion were projected onto two large screens, allowing all in attendance to see as well.
Worship at Synod
As with any Synod, worship played a central role in the weekend’s events. Worship leaders Staci Marrese-Wheeler, Mike Eder, Paul Graf, Kay Ward, Andrew Shenk, Amy Gohdes-Luhman, David Piper and Peg Chemberlin each brought different perspectives and styles to the worship services. Music also played a big part, celebrating and punctuating happenings during Synod.
Each worship service had the words of Ephesians at its core. A particularly moving part of the worship services was on Saturday morning, when delegates and others were welcomed to reaffirm their baptism. Moravian traditions were apparent in the Lovefeast held on Saturday evening and Holy Communion served Sunday morning. The new WDEB members were installed and blessed on Sunday morning.
And to celebrate the idea of Moravians telling their stories — a theme that ran throughout the Western District 2012 Synod — Rev. Jason Anderson wrote new words to the hymn “I Love to Tell the Story” (MBW 625). The second verse goes, “To each God’s grace was given; to each God’s call is plain/To put our gifts in service; to share and share again/To be the church God promised, to a world divided, torn/God’s Unity of purpose — reconciled, reborn/Moravians have a story; we share it for God’s glory/and tell our old, old story/in new exciting ways.”
Words describing Synod
Following three days of meetings, conversations, worship, committee work and fellowship with other Moravians, the 100-plus delegates and guests of the Synod returned home with a feeling of optimism and strength for the Western District.
At the close of Synod, delegates recognized the work of the Synod Planning Committee, including Staci Marrese-Wheller, Eric Renner, Judy Andersen, Jeff Brandt, Aden Ward and Amy Gohdes-Luman. They also highlighted the contributions of John Hauser, Synod Secretaries Karen Buchholz and Teresa Holzhueter, Beth Behrend and Mike Barnes for all their work.
As part of the final Plenary session, those in attendance were asked to offer one word that described how they felt following the Synod experience. Those words included, “Love,” “Inspiration,” “Renewed,” “Energized,” “Grateful,” “Renewal,” “Hopeful,” and “Exhilarated.”
The now-completed Western District Synod 2012 exceeded the first three purposes of a Western District Synod: To confirm and renew Christian love and fellowship, to stimulate and strengthen the work of the Lord and to assemble and distribute information concerning the work of the District, the Province and the world-wide Unitas Fratrum.
For photos, Synod documents and more about the Western District 2012 Synod, visit www.wdsynod2012.org.