When Accompaniment Becomes a Calling
As part of a synod-wide visioning process, about 150 people attended sessions held at six congregations in July and August. Trinity, Lindstrom; Redeemer, White Bear Lake; Augustana, West Saint Paul; St. James, Burnsville; Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Roseville; and Arlington Hills, Saint Paul served as generous hosts. During those gatherings, lay persons and rostered leaders had an opportunity to participate in two hour sessions that included prayer, hymns, Bible study and table conversation.
The scripture that framed the discussion for the visioning process was Luke 5:1-11. In that text, Jesus calls some fishermen to trust him in new and profound ways. The image that caught our imagination in session after session was the image of being called by God to “put out into the deep water”. People heard in that a call to try new forms of ministry, a command to be courageous and go where we have not gone before, and a powerful assurance that it is God who has gone before us into such uncharted waters.
The central question threading through the visioning process was this – Where do you sense God calling us to be more deeply present as a synod? The responses generated in those round table discussions took many forms. Some sensed God calling us to obedient discipleship and renewed teaching of the faith. Others heard an invitation to be more intentionally connected to nearby neighborhoods or to other congregations. Several discussions focused on issues in our wider world – hunger, racism, gun violence, homelessness – that we could address together as congregations. Still other participants named a specific geographic location where ministry and mission is needed as people who really get the grace of God. All those insights will help us formulate a vision for our common work as a synod.
But why bother with vision in a synod that is already busy with many projects and mission work? A clear statement of vision helps us focus our common work in the always changing landscape around us. It helps us see the need for initiatives we will launch and may, in fact, help us see things we need to stop doing as a synod. Just as important, however, is the way that a vision process is permission giving. Naming and claiming a synod-wide vision encourages congregations to try new things and to imagine fresh ways of joining our way of “walking together” as people of faith.
This fall a brief statement of the synod’s vision will be drafted and shared with congregations. It will include 3-6 themes that will guide our mission outreach and our synod-wide work for the coming years. It will be like a hand-drawn map we can use to step forward into the deeper places of faith, public witness and service.
I am grateful for all those who have contributed to this map-making process. I am confident God will guide us as we take our own bold steps today.
Yours in Christ’s service,
Patricia J. Lull, Bishop