Report from Synod Assembly

I have spent the last two days in our annual synod assembly. Brie, our competent and informed voting delegate--who also makes a killer mix cd, and I have listened, absorbed, shook hands and drank a lot of coffee. Humble Walk provided hand drumming for the opening worship. Rachel, Jason, Matt, Brie and I sat on the end of the stage at Prince of Peace Lutheran in Burnsville and made some noise, while Nate and the rest of the vocalists led the assembly in the Work of God. Things got really rowdy when five or six 16-foot angel puppets from Heart of the Beast entered. Whoa.

Through-out the day, we received quite a bit of attention. Bishop Rogness mentioned our Blessing of the Bicycles in his report. Then David Swartling, Secretary of the ELCA, mentioned us ("a sign of hope") in his address. Quite frankly, it felt weird to receive all this attention. And a little embarrassing--we are trying to keep the humble in the walk.

On Friday evening, I had a ten-minute window to talk about our community--and how Acts 1:8, the theme verse of the assembly, shapes our church.  Here is what I had to say about us:

 

 

The peace of the Lord be with you. (And also with you).

 

Greetings from the community of Humble Walk. We gather around Word and Sacrament every Sunday at 4:30PM. And then, flexing our Lutheran DNA, we have a potluck. Every single week. Come and be a tourist for a week—we welcome your presence.

 

Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

 

What stands out to me in this verse—and actually throughout the book of Acts is power. Power in Acts looks like healing, sharing, surviving crisis, boldness, inviting people into community and of course, telling the story. How is your congregation powerful?

 

Here is a list of assets of a powerful congregation:

Worship between 15 and 45 people each week, unless it's a major holiday and everyone is at Grandma's house.

Have at least 138 people follow you on Facebook, half of which should be church leaders in other congregations.

Have a website that generates upwards of 5 hits a week.

Make sure all of your physical assets fit into 4 Rubber maid totes so that they can be easily moved for others who rent the worship space.

Limit the staff to one part time pastor, preferably first call.

Locate the congregation in a urban, working class neighborhood, if possible, during an economic recession.

Annual operating budget should never exceed $38,000, none of which is guaranteed.

On any given Sunday, make sure half of your worshipping community are under the age of 7. Strive for more than half on special occasions like baptisms.

Make sure half of your congregational tithers get at least a dollar a week in allowance.

After worship, gather for a potluck. Be sure to put the vegetarians, carnivores and those with gluten allergies at the same table.

Keep your partner congregations and mission director on edge when you tell them, “We may never be self-sufficient.”

 

No. I did not steal this list from Rick Warren.

As church leaders, we go looking for power in strange places. The power isn't in the package. Or the sound system. Or the candle lit meditations. The sexy new Emergent style worship. The authentic programs. Or the ability to be small or big or surviving or mega. The slick power points. Or even calling a pastor with dreadlocks and questionable fashion sense.

What we are called to is finding our power in the most unlikely of places: the manger. A tiny baby, whose meekness ushers in revolutionary power. A revolution where weak are strong. The mighty are cast down from their thrones. And the lowly are lifted up. The hungry are filled and the rich are sent away empty. Revolutionary power where the least of these matter the most.

Our power comes from the scandal of the cross and resurrection. Where we die and rise with Christ. Where the dead are raised. Who in the heck cares what type of projector we have or which hymnal we are using---the dead are being raised!

That's the unlikely power that we get to glimpse in our faith communities. In your community. And in my community.

This is the power that we have to offer the world. We can beat each other up over all sorts of things. We can wring our hands that the church is declining in numbers. We can fly all around the country hoping to get the best training or implement the a cutting edge program.

Or...we can get to work in our neighborhoods. Yes, work. And it will be righteous, revolutionary powerful work that we proclaim. That the dead are being raised...in Jerusalem. In Judea. In Samaria. And to every nook and cranny of the Saint Paul Area Synod.