If you read my sermon in my previous post, you saw that I was able to attend a gathering at St. John's Lutheran Church in Summit, NJ (which is up north, not too far outside NYC), at which the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) spoke for about an hour about the "state" of the ELCA, and then answered questions from attendees. There were church members and pastors from all over the state there. One of the parishoners from my internship congregation went with me. We both appreciated the opportunity, and were impressed by Bishop Hanson. Though I was able to meet him once before at an event in Chicago for Fund for Leaders scholarship recipients, this was the first time I heard him speak at length in person. I wish I could've recorded it. It's obviously too much to write about here, but the biggest blessing for me was probably that I was re-energized for ministry and renewed with hope. Appropriate for this season of Advent. ;) I also got to ask him a question, and spoke with him briefly after the event. On a related note: the Bishop was part of a tv special that aired last year around Christmas called "In God's Name" which featured 12 of the world's "most influential religious leaders" and it will be available on DVD as of December 16th. I thought the documentary was fascinating, and that Bishop Hanson represented the ELCA (and Christianity) very well, and I highly recommend it to everyone.
The theme for the December issue of The Lutheran magazine is ecumenism (different denominations working together). One of the reasons I chose to attend the Lutheran seminary in Philadelphia (as opposed to one of the other 7 ELCA seminaries) is because of their emphasis and value placed on ecumenism. Many students that attend the seminary come from other denominations and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn with and from them. I wanted to highlight a few quotes from this month's articles...
"Maybe there needs to be both a fading of lines and a coloring of lines. When we look at the great brokenness in the world -- disease, poverty, climate change, slave labor and all that diminishes the human soul and body -- it seems that the great witness of the church universal should be to join together to be God's healing power in the world. But we need not become an institutional body called The United World Church. Perhaps instead we become the church by learning, growing and rejoicing in whatever church body we call home. It's good to have a home. But a home isn't nearly as rich if it isn't in blessed relationship with its neighbors." Tim and Chamie Delkeskamp
"In a world in which unity too often becomes the demand for uniformity and diversity becomes the occasion for distrust and divisions, we are bold to declare that both unity and diversity are God's gift. ... In every context throughout the ELCA, let us ask, What can we be doing with others for the sake of the gospel and the life of the world?" Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson
Along the lines of ecumenism, the area clergy association (which is not just Christian pastors, but regularly includes a Rabbi and Iman as well) has been meeting to plan for a gathering to celebrate the life and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It has great potential to include many faith groups as well as civic groups. I look forward to seeing how it all comes together.