What Good is the Convention?
For many of us the Synodical Convention that happens once every three year is a non-issue. Honestly very few of us care about the convention and what comes out of it. I get it! The convention is a very long way away from where live and breathe and have our being. It seemingly has very little impact on our daily lives or even on our church life.
So why a convention? Why spend such a substantial amount of money on such an inconsequential thing?
2023 Synodical Convention, Milwaukee, WI
Well there are several answers to that question. The first is rather dissatisfying but obvious; we are a legal entity and we meet in convention to fulfill the law (yawn). The second is just about as interesting; it is a matter of governance. We meet in convention to hold elections, change bylaws, and pass resolutions. The third is perhaps a bit more interesting but still a long way away from where we are; we meet for inspiration and fellowship.
Rev. Maschewski, Bishop of the Ev. Lutheran Church of Ukraine addresses the convention
Up to this point I have only confirmed your worst thoughts about our convention. But is there a way that we can redeem (so to speak) the time, effort, and expense of the convention. Is there a way that we can actually get something practical and beneficial out of our convention? Allow me to try and move us down that road a bit.
A picture of a bit more than 1/2 of the delegate seating.
Deriving benefit from the convention will require more work on our behalf; more than simply sending delegates to the convention. So, I have asked our two representatives from the Board of Directors to the convention, Rev. Phil Ressler and Rev. Dan Fenco, to catalog all the resolutions adopted at the convention that pertain to or require action from either congregations or the District. These two lists will then be presented to the Growth Council (meeting on 8/29) which will review and prioritize the resolutions for our purposes here in NJ.
For the District, those resolutions with the highest priority will begin to find their way into the District Work Plan. For congregations, the ranked list will be become an item for discussion with a District representative. The idea is that in these resolutions, congregations will find resources to help them with ministries they are already doing, or be inspired to consider new ministries.
There are so many resolutions that cover such a wide range of subjects that no District or congregation could do all of them. Congregations, in their discussions, will be invited to prioritize resolutions and pick a few to help them in their ministry.
My prayer is that, through this process, the distance between Synod and our congregations can be shortened; that the Synodical Convention can become more relevant to our congregational life. A second benefit I pray for is that congregations and District will receive the support and resources they need to be bold in mission and ministry.
Can we redeem the convention? I don’t know. That will be up to you and the effort you are willing to give to engage the process. It won’t take much on your part; perhaps just the acceptance of the District’s invitation to discuss and an hour conversation at your council meeting. But the results could be significant, not only in your relationship to Synod, but also in your advancement in ministry.
Holding Up the Prophets Hands: Worker Wellness and Congregational Leadership Training
Are you concerned for the health of your congregation? of your Pastor? They are related. One of the best ways to have a healthy congregation is to have a healthy pastor.
“Because of their passion and dedication, church workers are especially vulnerable to stress, burnout, and the assaults of the devil, who tries to destroy the relationship between the Church and her workers and among the workers themselves. How do we, as members of the Body of Christ, acknowledge the unique position we have put our workers in, and support them in their task.”
The quote above is taken from the back of Dr. Bruce Hartung’s book Holding Up the Prophet’s Hand. It makes us aware of a critical issue among us and hints at some of the solutions that will lead us toward healthy pastors and healthy congregations.
I invite you to come and hear Dr. Hartung address the members of the NJ District on Saturday November 4th, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at Somerset Hills Lutheran Church, Basking Ridge. Please see the article in the main body of this newsletter for more information on the content of the workshop and how to register.
Who is invited? Well, anyone who loves our Lord Jesus and cares about his church and pastors. But we especially invite Pastors and Church Workers, Elders, Church Leaders of all sorts, members of Women’s and Men’s groups, and others.
God bless you for loving, caring, and making this effort toward better pastoral and congregational health.
New Book Published by NJ District Pastor
Rev. Adam Carnehl, Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Randolph, has a new book that will be published and released soon. The title is “The Artist as Divine Symbol” and the work grew out of the re-working of his dissertation from the University of Glasgow. He is currently working on his doctorate at the same institution.
The book distributor’s description reads
In critical yet appreciative dialogue with four different art critics who demonstrated theological sensitivities, Adam Edward Carnehl traces an ongoing religious conversation that ran through nineteenth-century aesthetics. In Carnehl's estimation, this critical conversation between the John Ruskin, Walter Pater, and Oscar Wilde, culminated in the brilliant approach of G. K. Chesterton, who began his journalistic career with a series of insightful works of art criticism. By conducting a close reading of these largely neglected works, Carnehl demonstrates that Chesterton developed a theological aesthetic that focuses us on the revelation of God's image in every human being. In Chesterton's eyes, only those made in God's image can produce images themselves, and only those who receive a revelation of truth are able to reveal truths for others. Art is therefore a rich and symbolic unveiling of the truth of humanity which finds its origin and purpose in God the Divine Artist.
When asked if this book might be the first of several Pastor Carnehl responded playfully, “Hopefully… I just have to write them.” Another book subject he would like to write about is “Lutheranism and Spiritual Direction” since he holds a Masters in that area as well.
If you would like to learn more or order the book please follow this link https://wipfandstock.com/9781666763072/the-artist-as-divine-symbol/
Initiative for Ministry Development (IMD) and NJDU
After a summer break, our NJDU congregations reassembled for their 4th session of NJDU. The subject was Communication Strategy and Experience Design Theory. A robust review of the previous three sessions refocused the churches and prepared them for new work on congregational communications and giving attention to designing meaningful ministry experiences.
These congregations are embracing the process and well on their way to formulating effective ministry plans and bringing about meaningful change.
For congregations that chose not to participate in Small Church Clarity or started but did not successfully complete it, there is opportunity for a limited number of congregations to recycle through the program. Please let me know of your interest.
We are coming up on the 1 year anniversary of the ministry plans completed by some of our SCC congregations. Let’s remember that the ministry plans we make are not set in stone. They are meant to be revisited and updated yearly. Summer and early September are a really good time to revise your ministry plans. The good news is that, since you have done the hard work already, all you need to do is tweak the plans you have! A little work now will keep things fresh and save you a major overhaul later.
We are currently in the planning process for the 3rd Phase of IMD that will feature follow-up seminars/workshops to SCC and NJDU. Stay tuned for more great training and resources.
District Short Clips
My Official Visits are currently scheduled out through December with the exception of one Sunday in October. These visits are scheduled by invitation. If you have received an invitation but have not yet scheduled your visit, please do so. Later this fall I will schedule for the first quarter of 2024.
Rev. Peter DeMik has accepted the call to Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Ridgewood. He and his family are in the process of moving to Ridgewood from Laurel, MD. His installation will be on Sunday September 24th at 4:00 pm. Pastors and congregations of the NJD are invited and encouraged to attend.
Holy Trinity, Somerset and St. Paul, Closter are preparing for their 1st Call List.
The NJD Spring Pastors Conference will be on Thursday October 26th at King of Kings Lutheran Church, Mountain Lakes. Rev. Dr. Richard Serina, Associate Executive Director of the CTCR and former Pastor at Christ the King Ringwood, will be our speaker. He is one of the primary authors of the CTCR document on the Order of Creation which will be our subject. This conference will better equip our pastors to understand and teach about the nature of the pastoral office and the role of laypeople in the congregation. Registration for pastors can be accomplished through the link in the article in the main body of this newsletter.
The Outreach Council, in moving toward completion one of its goals, has asked our Circuit Visitors to include as part of their fall agendas the reading and discussion of the book “The Autopsy of a Deceased Church”. Our prayer is that, with all of our pastors reading and discussing this book, we can have a greater sense of what a healthy congregation is, recognize the signs of being unhealthy, and lead our congregations into greater health. Ask your pastor if the reading of this book by your congregational leadership might be helpful for your church.
Starting in September we are moving into another ministry year. Doing ministry is a critical element of our congregational life and faith. But let’s remember that doing ministry must be preceded by planning ministry. Doing ministry well is dependent on planning ministry well. Be sure to spend at least one meeting this August/September to plan your ministry. Then by prayer, your faith in action, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit may God grant that people will be connected to Jesus and grow in faith.
The LORD with you,