This week is the National Workshop on Christian Unity. For over 50 years the Workshop has advanced unity and reconciliation among various Christian communities, and it is the only gathering of its kind at a national level in the world. The ELCA is always involved in the Workshop, and our synod is normally represented by Pr. Amanda Liggett. Health complications in a new baby have kept Pr. Liggett home this year, but because of our good relationship with the Episcopal Church in Montana the Rev. Valerie Webster will represent us as well as the Diocese. The National Workshop on Christian Unity promotes unity.
On the local level, some churches do round robins in Lent, across denominational or congregational lines. On the Hiline, east of Shelby, west of Havre, are 2 small congregations, Devon and Galata, linked with a third up north in the country. Instead of having 3 separate midweek services, SAM Cynthia Thomas is having one service in each of the three congregations on a different week. The challenge is for people to attend not only in their own congregation, but in the others. Lenten round robins promote unity.
We have 2 ELCA congregations in Butte, and one in Anaconda, 20 miles away. All three pastors resigned or retired in the last year, and all three congregations are looking for ways to do ministry effectively. So they are bringing together members from each congregation to share ideas on ways to share ministry. Talking with your neighbors promotes unity.
The ELCA has several full communion partners, and working together with them enhances ministry. Currently we have 4 cooperative arrangements with the Presbyterians (Hot Springs, Cutbank, White Sulphur Springs, Fallon/Terry); 1 with the Episcopal Church (Big Sky), and one with the Methodists (Lavina.), and we have had cooperative arrangements with the UCC in the past. And we work cooperatively in other ways: in campus ministry, with Freedom in Christ, with MAC and WIN. Full communion agreements promote unity.
First English in Billings is planning ahead for Vacation Bible School. In order to have a more effective outreach to more children, they are in conversation with Friendship House, a ministry with low-income children and teens on Billings’ south side. Sometimes thinking outside the box brings new vision and life. Working with other partners promotes unity.
In Lent, the Synod Staff are busy preparing for the Synod Assembly, a time when we come together as the ELCA in Montana and northern Wyoming. Together the Assembly will elect a bishop, vice president, treasurer and Synod Council. Together the Assembly will amend the constitution, adopt a budget, consider resolutions, and plan for our future together. The Synod Assembly makes it clear that the Synod is not “them,” it is “us.” All of us. Voting Members at the Assembly can take home information to share about the ELCA and the Montana Synod. The Synod Assembly promotes unity.
How is your congregation promoting unity this Lent and beyond?
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA