2024 Synod invites Western District to “Survive, Revive, Thrive”

Survive. Revive. Thrive. As the theme for its 2024 Synod held in late April, the ideas of surviving, reviving and thriving provided a platform for more than 80 delegates to discuss and plan for the future of the Moravian Church Western District.

Meeting at Mt. Morris Camp and Retreat Center in Wautoma, Wisconsin, representatives from congregations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan Indiana, California and Illinois came together, in person, for the first time since 2016. The Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller served as chair for this Synod.

Survive, Revive, Thrive

“Our theme was ‘Survive, Revive, Thrive,’ said  Bruce Nelson,

Synod delegates bless outgoing WDEB President Bruce Nelson and his wife Nan.

outgoing Western District president, who has served since 2016. “This was not seen as a progression from surviving to reviving to thriving but rather as a continuum where we are sometimes in thriving mode, sometimes in survival mode and sometimes in revival mode. This applies not only to our churches and our district but also to many of our relationships and to us as individuals.”

The Rev. Dr. Riddick Weber, associate professor of Practice in Pastoral Ministry at Moravian Theological Seminary, delivered the program sessions for this Synod.  Riddick introduced attendees to the concept of liminal space and talked about how many of our churches are in that space, providing much food for thought and some interesting conversations in small group sessions. (Ed. Note: Riddick’s presentations are currently being edited for sharing on Moravian.org.)

Throughout the four-day gathering, delegates learned about the engaging work going on in places like You Belong in Green Bay, Wis., Tricklebee Café in Milwaukee, Wis., Roots Moravian Church in St. Paul, Minn., Common Grace in Madison, Wis., along with progress by provincial and district agencies and ministries like the Board of World Mission, Moravian Ministries Foundation, Moravian Archives, Mt. Morris Camp, the Moravian Western Christian Education Commission and others.

Electing leadership

Completing one of the core functions of Synod, delegates elected new leadership for the coming four years during their time together.

The Rev. Jason Andersen, former pastor of Christian Faith Moravian Church in DeForest, Wisconsin, was elected as the president of the Western District Executive Board (WDEB). As president of the WDEB, Jason will serve as the chair of the WDEB and will serve as a member of the Northern Province Provincial Elders’ Conference (PEC). Outgoing president the Rev. Bruce Nelson, who had held the role since 2016, will conclude his term June 12.

Other members of the WDEB elected include the Rev. Marian Boyle Rohloff, pastor of West Side Moravian Church in Green Bay, Wis.; the Rev. Kerry Krauss, pastor of Sister Bay Moravian Church in Sister Bay, Wis.; Steve Heroux from Watertown Moravian Church in Watertown, Wis.; Ivy Summers from West Side Moravian Church in Green Bay, Wis.; Linda Schaefer from Sister Bay Moravian Church in Sister Bay, Wis.; and JoAnn Keller from Hope Moravian Church in Hope, Ind.

Bishop Kay Ward leads the installation service for the newly-elected Western District Executive Board.

The incoming WDEB was installed in a service on the closing day of Synod. Moravian bishops, including the Rt. Rev. Paul Graf, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Kay Ward and the Rt. Rev. Dr. Amy Gohdes-Luhman led the service, blessing the newly-elected board in their work to come and charging Synod delegates to support and pray for the WDEB.

The WDEB acts as the executive board of the Western District Synod during the intersynodal period. Its primary roles are to oversee the boards and institutions of the Western District, supervise pastoral changes, manage District funding, advise congregations and to help extend the work of the Church within the District. The newly elected board will serve through the Synod of 2028.

Rev. Jason Andersen’s first day as District President will be Monday, June 17.

Legislating for thriving

The 2024 Synod also developed and passed a number of resolutions aimed at preparing the Western District for surviving, reviving and thriving into the future.

Several resolutions laid the groundwork for increasing the participation of youth in the decision-making of the church. In those resolutions, delegates directed the incoming Western District Executive Board to explore ways to add more youth delegates to upcoming synods and offer voice and vote to those delegates under age 18 on all matters except those with financial implications.

Delegates also passed legislation that aims to develop strategic plans

The Rev. Dr. Riddick Weber leads a presentation session.

rooted in the mission, vision and values of the Western District; establish processes for assisting and supporting potential licensed lay pastoral candidates; promote emerging Moravian ministries, new faith communities and recruiting leaders in the district; encourage a task force to help congregations implement ways to stabilize and revitalize their ministries;  address advocacy and acknowledgement for sexual abuse victims; and re-focus the Moravian  Western Christian Education Commission to the Western District Congregational Enrichment Commission.

Worship and fellowship

The gathered delegates weren’t just there for the business of Synod.  Meaningful worship services, led by pastors from across the district, focused on the theme of Synod.  Opportunities for individual and group conversations abounded.  And meeting in the beautiful natural surroundings of Mt. Morris offered chances for reflection and fun.

“We did the work of the synod but perhaps the most important thing we did was to renew fellowship,” said Bruce. “In the Book of Order paragraph 909 it states, ‘The purposes of the district synod shall be as follows: (a) to confirm and renew Christian love and fellowship…’ After not being together in person for a district synod for eight years, one of the things we enjoyed was just being able to see one another in the flesh. There was much fellowship that took place. We were able to see old friends and meet new ones.”