Bishop Eaton reminds us that being church means being church together. It cannot be a solo sport. We are so aware of the “togetherness” of being church as we approach the Synod Assembly. Pastors, Associates in Ministry and voting members from every congregation in the Synod are invited to gather annually, when the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. For people from smaller congregations the Assembly is an opportunity to be surrounded by a large group singing boldly. For people from larger congregations it is an opportunity to meet with people whose congregational experience is quite different. We all have gifts and experiences to share, and the Assembly is a perfect time to do it.
Some of the things that will happen at our assembly, together: We will install Pastor Mark Donald as Director of Christikon on Friday night during worship. All of us will witness and pray for his ministry as Camp Director. On Sunday morning, during worship, we will ordain Tonia Fisher to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. When we have these opportunities to participate in an ordination as a whole Synod, we are reminded that this is about more than just a single individual, more than just a particular congregation. When the clergy vest and wear red stoles and gather around the ordinand, we are church together.
We are church together when we recognize the 30 LPAs who have completed their training and are ready to serve. They come from all over the Synod, from congregations small and large, and they bring different gifts to being LPAs. This program, a staple in the Montana Synod since the 1990’s, is getting attention in other parts of the ELCA, and is being replicated. We are church together.
We are church together when we worship together, when we sing and pray and receive Holy Communion. We are church together when we have our “Procession of Promise” at the Assembly, bring forward our congregational intent forms that pledge our financial commitments together. We are church together when we hear the report of the Churchwide representative, and learn about what is going on in the ELCA across the church and across the globe.
Of course the assembly is not the only time that we are church together. Being church together doesn’t only mean physical proximity. If that were the case, we would have a difficult time in the Montana Synod, with our vast distances. We are church together because we are all part of the ELCA, because we are all part of the Body of Christ. We are reminded of that when we add the synod’s weekly prayers to our congregational prayers. We are reminded of that when we highlight synod ministries, in addition to congregational ministries. We are reminded of that when we share information about churchwide ministries, and ecumenical ministries.
We are church together whether we are next to each other or across the continent. I look forward to being church together with you next weekend at the Montana Synod Assembly. And if you are not going to be there, keep us in prayer. That’s what keeps us church together.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA