Last week we said goodbye to Administrative Assistant Susan Smith. This week we say hello to Colter McCarty. If Colter sounds familiar to you, he should. He has been our "Tech Guru" for the last year and a half, and has visited numerous congregations and ministries to assist with their technology needs.
Colter will be taking over the administrative assistant position being vacated by Susan Smith, and combining it with his tech consulting for the synod. His new position will be "Administrator of Information Technology." You can expect some changes in who does what in the office, but with the same friendly and helpful service you have come to expect.
Colter grew up in the Church. He is a lifelong member of Bethel Lutheran in Great Falls, where he works with the youth group. He attended the University of Montana, and is a candidate for the Associate in Ministry program in the ELCA. Colter comes to us from Bethel Lutheran, where he was the Office Manager.
Colter starts the first week of September. Please welcome him.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
This month we say "Goodbye" to Susan Smith, who has served as Administrative Assistant in the Montana Synod office since 2008. Anyone who has phoned our office, registered for a Synod Assembly, participated in the LPA program, gone through candidacy, sought a lay license will know Susan. She is cheerful and helpful, and very loyal to the Synod. We will all miss her.
Susan's youngest child has graduated from high school, and her oldest has a 1 year old daughter. So Susan and her children are moving to Texas to be closer to family, especially the granddaughter.
When Susan Smith first came to work at the Synod office, we weren't sure how to handle having two Susans. Would either be willing to change her name? Would either allow a nickname? No. So two Susans it was. We coped with the confusion by using last names. "Montana Synod, this is Susan Smith." "Montana Synod, this is Susan Hedahl." And now we wonder how we ever got along without "Team Susan."
We say "farewell" to Susan Smith, and thank her not only for being part of "Team Susan," but also for being part of "Team Montana Synod." And we wish her Godspeed, and blessings on her transition.
Susan will complete her time with us at the end of August. So you have time to say "Thank you and goodbye."
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Tomorrow ten women head to Bolivia for a companion synod visit. At the request of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bolivia (IELB), this group of women is going to meet with Bolivian women of the IELB in Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and La Paz/El Alto. Empowering women has been a goal of the IELB for many years. Pastor Presidente Humberto Salazar, who was killed in a tragic car accident, worked hard to find ways to improve the status of women. The retreat center on Lake Titicaca, funded in large part by Montana Synod individuals and congregations, was his inspiration, as was naming it after a Montana woman. (It is called the Obispa Jessica Crist Retreat Center.)
In 2008, I was privileged to ordain the first two women in the Bolivian church. I have their photo on my desk today. As the relationship between the IELB and the Montana Synod deepens, we learn to share our gifts and our needs. The church asked for us to send a group of women on our next visit, and that is what we are doing. Our delegation includes a teacher and a banker, an engineer and an artist, a retired military person and an educator, an attorney and some pastors. Some of our group speak Spanish, some have traveled widely, and some have never left the US. All are members of ELCA congregations, active in church and community.
We are not going to Bolivia to fix anything. We are going to listen and pray, to share and learn. We will meet with groups of women and hear their stories. We'll share experiences of child-rearing and balancing family and work. We'll talk about domestic violence and racial discrimination. We'll share the good news with each other, and pray for each other.
Companion synod relationships are all about accompaniment, about mutuality. Anyone who was at the Synod Assembly this year will remember Justin Eller's eloquence about what accompaniment is and is not. It is being sisters and brothers in Christ together. And that is what we are going to Bolivia to do. No more and no less.
Those of you at the Synod Assembly will also remember that our Assembly offering was to help build a water system for cattle in a church-owned farm in the low country near Brazil. That project was the result of another request from the IELB, to send someone who understood cattle. We did that in 2013, and Jim Dickey determined that the cattle would be more productive if given more water. So he designed a system which the church endorsed. And we raised $13,000 to build it. Thanks! There's another part to the story, too. The proceeds from the cattle go to the church in nearby Cobija, where the mission is children at risk.
I ask you to pray for this group of women going to Bolivia, and to pray for the IELB. Watch for updates along the way.
The delegation: Cindy Ellis Bey, Sandra Blosser, Mait Board, Mary Campbell, Jessica Crist, Gloria Lannen, Susan Leaverton, Lin Olson, Alvina Olstead, Stacey Siebrasse.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA