As we gathered in Columbus, Ohio, where the first constituting convention was held in 1987 – and where the Reverend Herbert Chilstrom was elected as the first presiding Bishop of what was to become the largest Lutheran denomination in the USA – here are some reflections of those elected to the 2022 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Illustrations by Kelly Wilkerson
I was moved by the inspirational music during the services on Thursday and Friday, especially learning that the Synod Assembly’s music director was Ryan Hostler from Our Savior Lutheran Church, Vero Beach.
I was surprised by the 86 memorials (resolutions) and how passionate people were on getting these memorials adopted.
One of the most rewarding parts of attending the CWA was the chance to learn more about the ELCA and how thoughtful and intentional our church’s denomination is with the way we engage with our communities.
I’m thankful I got to meet more people from our synod. I made so many lovely connections!
This was my first time at CWA. While preparing for ordination, the candidacy committee strongly urged me to understand how the ELCA is structured and governed. So, I thought I would show up as an observer. At the last minute, one of the voting members came down with Covid and all of a sudden I’m sitting in the hall as a voting member! To be honest, I was lost and not nearly as prepared as I would like to be, but that became an invitation for me to ask a lot of questions. The first day, as I met people, I asked what they were passionate about for the church. It was a great question and people openly shared what was important to them and their congregations. As the week progressed, I talked to people on committees, our bishop, and other voting members about the items before us. I could see the Holy Spirit work through our meetings and discussions. The church is alive and God continues to work in and through us. If you are reading this from home and have never really explored the work of the wider church, I urge YOU to explore the ELCA and Florida-Bahamas Synod websites and learn about the work of the church in all three of its expressions – congregations, synods and churchwide.
This was my fourth time at a Churchwide Assembly – yeah, I am a church geek. I served as a voting member in 2009, went to the Grace Gathering in New Orleans in 2016, then as Synod Staff in 2019 and now in 2022, as the Synod VP. I was incredibly moved to spend time before the Assembly started with the 65 Synod VPs and 66 Bishops along with the Churchwide Council. What a wonderful opportunity to network and connect with these really fine leaders of our church…so humbling.
Being part of the Churchwide Assembly was such a positive experience for me. I am thankful to God and everyone in the Florida-Bahamas Synod for this opportunity. It felt amazing to be a part of something so much bigger than me, to have an opinion, and to vote on matters of the church. Getting to hear other people’s opinions was very powerful for me too. I also enjoyed eating meals with people I knew and with new people. It was a wonderful social side to the assembly and a favorite part. The assembly will have a forever impact on me and my faith life.
Renew, Reconcile, Respond. These are the three words I think describe my experience at the Churchwide Assembly. I was reminded that the Church is constantly being renewed. This was especially evident in my interactions with the young adult voting members and in our worship together. Our God is in the business of reconciliation, and our Church is called to be agents of reconciliation. Yet it was the Church who was on the receiving end of grace and reconciliation at this assembly. Church, we are called to respond to the grace we have received from God. We are called to respond to God’s action in the world. At the Assembly, we responded by passing amendments, voting new representatives, etc. These things may not seem like they are earth-shaking, but they are some of the small ways that we are responding to God’s grace, mercy and work in the world.
Rev Nicole Eastwood – Vero Beach – Rostered Minister SE Mission District
As I reflect back at my week participating in the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, I am challenged to find the right words to adequately express the experience. To arrive at the Assembly feeling like a congregation member and to leave feeling like you’re part of the WHOLE church is just amazing. The interactions with such a spiritual and diverse group of people were incredible. The Assembly takes worship to the next level. It was also humbling and reassuring to see a truly reconciling and healing Church…one that is not afraid to admit error or mistake. I have always felt truly blessed to be Lutheran, a member of the ELCA, and part of the Florida-Bahamas Synod and the Churchwide Assembly reaffirmed that many times over!