I will admit to being an “assembly geek” (for non-Lutherans, our synod assemblies are our annual business meetings). I love attending our synod assemblies: following the discussions, voting, hearing speakers, and seeing colleagues and laypeople I haven’t seen in a year.
I’ve also attended three Evangelical Lutheran Church in America assemblies (CWA) as a voting member (1991, 1999, and 2005). They used to be ever other year, but are now held every three years. I’ve enjoyed (almost) every moment of them. Still, I told myself after attending the 2005 CWA that I was done. Other people could and should go to the CWA, but I felt I no longer needed to attend. I didn’t even attend as a visitor at the 2013 CWA, which was just an hour away in Pittsburgh. By then, they were offering livestreaming of the plenary sessions, anyway.
About a year ago, Bishop Laura Barbins informed Pastor Phillips and me that she was planning to take us to the 2022 CWA. It was in Columbus, not that far away. This was going to be her first ever CWA, and she was excited. I begged and pleaded not to go (I actually didn’t, but doesn’t it sound more entertaining this way? 😉 ). I really didn’t want, or have need to go to another CWA, or so I thought. I was wrong.
It ended up being a blessing.
It was a blessing to be able to see people “in the flesh.” Some folks I had never met in person, and only saw on Zoom, were there and we connected. Others were folks that I hadn’t seen in ages, and/or never thought I’d see again, and there they were!
It was a blessing to watch the election of our new Churchwide Vice-president, Imran Siddiqui, who was elected on the fifth ballot. Mr. Siddiqui will hold the highest position for a layperson in the ELCA.
It was a blessing to be able to hear the discussions about the various memorials presented on the floor. A memorial refers to a a statement of facts addressed to the assembly accompanied by a petition. Sometimes they are a little tedious, but generally they address important issues that require attention.
It was a blessing to see and hear from our ecumenical and inter-faith partners. Christian leaders, a Rabbi, and an Imam were among those who spoke to us. I know that sounds like the beginning of a joke, but to hear greetings from so many different faith leaders was a time of grace.
It was a blessing to be present for the apology to Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina. The situation is complicated, but a large part of the grief being experienced there has to do with white privilege and ignorance of their traditions. The members of their community spoke in Spanish to us, and we could hear the pain in their voices and the sadness in their hearts.
The greatest blessings were the times of worship. The worship planning team did an amazing and wonderful job incorporating a variety of styles, liturgies, and music into daily services. Various musical instruments from different traditions were heard. Different languages were spoken. Did you know that there are over 35 languages spoken in public worship in the ELCA? CWA participants were invited to pray the Lord’s Prayer in the language of their hearts. The results gave me goose-bumps! You can watch these services at elca.org/churchwideassembly/ and the ELCA YouTube channel.
It was a blessing to hear from various churchwide leaders who shared their roles in our ELCA. One of my favorite people (I have a lot of favorites) is Vance Blackfoot, Director, Indigenous Ministries & Tribal Relations. I’ve been on a number of webinars with him and greatly appreciate his addressing the sins of our ancestors who tried to erase the indigenous people from their land. One way we can honor them is to acknowledge and give thanks for the original and ancestral inhabitants on which we currently live. I live on the original and ancestral homelands of the Erie and Kaskaskia peoples. You can find out more about past inhabitants at https://native-land.ca/ .
It was a blessing to be with the voting members of our Northeastern Ohio Synod. There were some folks I knew and others I got to know. We also can claim Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton as part of our synod. And we will always have the Cheesecake Factory!
It was a blessing to be at the 2022 Churchwide Assembly in Columbus, Ohio. Even though we needed to wear masks, self-test for COVID, and deal with the occasional technical glitch it was a blessing. In three years the CWA will be in (drumroll) Phoenix, Arizona. Whether I’m there in person or watching online, I’m already looking forward to it.
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