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September 2012 Archive for Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Finding Faith in an Age of Terror

 

This time of year, in a culture facing terror of all sorts, many people are wanting to find faith. I think a better way to approach this is to be in places where faith can find us. I’m not simply writing to invite you to a mosque or synagogue or church – although it would be great to see you there. I’m inviting you to places where people of faith gather. And, just to be clear, those are by no means restricted to houses of worship.

 

To be sure, there are plenty of those places available. On Christmas Eve I expect churches to be full. And I expect many who will sing "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful" will be those who are simply wanting to be faithful, if only for an hour…or wanting to be more faithful because of what they are fearing. And that will be true not only of the Lutherans I represent.

 

The faith we seek to make available to people, the faithful community we will enter, are gifts from God. This faith and these people are marked by certain characteristics we need for the common good.

 

You may know that Lutherans are completing a year of grand celebrations surrounding the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. What I am hoping is that in the coming years we will move from that historic grounding we have commemorated toward greater cooperation with people of faith in ecumenical and inter-religious movements.

 

There is a great commitment among leaders of various communities of faith to engage progressive advances at the grassroots level, to promote tolerance, and to encourage people to flourish in a new and needed age of community. The amazing strides between Lutherans and Roman Catholics point to this.

 

There is a strong desire and willingness to work on welcoming all people in a spirit of generous hospitality. As a Lutheran I can say that many of my tribe are engaged in ministry with the LGBTQ communities. In our own Synod here in Metropolitan New York, we are working to address the systemic racism which is America’s original sin. We are strongly speaking out in opposition to the anti-Semitism and Islamophobia all around us. We are engaged with faithful people in our own country and around the world in addressing the abuses of power we see every day.

 

There are remarkable efforts at offering God’s welcome to immigrants and asylum-seekers and refugees, though we certainly look for more such opportunities in the face of governmental resistance. We will work actively to participate in inclusive welcome, as our Lord Jesus was himself a refugee.

 

There are local congregations in which people of faith are welcoming people of all races and nations, one of the great gifts of the amazing communities in which we live. We are striving to welcome the stranger without fear but with the same kind of faith that our ancestors experienced when they reached these shores and were welcomed by the first nations people.

 

There is a commitment to practicing a faith that is intimately connected with "peace on earth," the gift of wholeness that is truly the meaning of shalom.       

 

There is, in our churches and in many other religious communities, a welcome to the open table of God’s Reign where all can gather together.

 

And while we do not have all the answers, of course, we are faithful in responding to the terror all around, knowing that God is with us and guiding us into a new day of faith when war and hardship and suffering and oppression will be no more.

 

This is pious language. True words. What I am calling the synod I serve as bishop to do is to put these words into action for such a time as this. And I invite you to join me as faith discovers us together again and again.

 

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod

 

 

 

Looking back and forth

Sep 17, 2012

Every September I do my impression of the Roman god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. I am keenly aware that it feels like New Year’s Eve, facing back and facing forth. 

As I look back, the Synod Assembly in May is the center of my thoughts. It was a remarkable event at which we approved norms for analyzing the viability of congregations, approved a process for electing the bishop, and adopted a strategic plan that will guide our life together in Christ for the next decade (at least). But what was most amazing about the assembly was the spirit of love the pervaded our hard work and wonderful worship.

Strategic planning has been very present to us since then. The chairs of the three writing committees (for Claimed, Gathered and Sent), our consultant Tom Massey, and the Executive Committee have been very busy, under the leadership of Vice President Maria del Toro. At the same time, there has been a very hopeful process of planning for Latino ministry in Manhattan which will, I am sure, have impact on our multicultural mission. I am grateful to our Executive Committee for their graceful leadership. And I am likewise grateful for new members of the Synod Council who recently joined the Executive Committee for an orientation to our work (as well as all of our Synod Council).

Our staff participated in another great visitation during these months, with our friends in the Brooklyn Bridges and South Shore Brooklyn Conferences. (And I even had a guided tour of Brooklyn from Pr. Ken Simurro.) This summer our staff also said farewell and Godspeed to Ms. Mary Tennermann and Pastor Gary Mills; we are thankful for their ministry with us. 

I have had ongoing conversations with leaders of the United Methodist Church (including participation in their ordinations), the Presbytery of the City of New York, and the bishops of the Episcopal dioceses of New York and of Long Island. These strengthening ecumenical ties are very encouraging and hopeful.

It was a great pleasure for me to visit Koinonia and our Pinecrest Leadership School, both treasures of our synod which I will continue to encourage people to use. It was likewise a pleasure to have interaction with candidates for rostered leadership and prospective pastors for congregations of our synod.

I participated in the Immigration Summit sponsored by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in Minneapolis, the wonderful ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans, and the Urban Leaders Institute (another part of our synod which I encourage all of you to explore).

It was a great honor to preach and preside at the 150th Anniversary of Christ, Ellenville. The same weekend, Lois and I were with the good folks of Atonement, Saugerties; St. Paul, West Camp; Christ’s, Woodstock; and Trinity, Immanuel and Redeemer, all in Kingston, for their annual joint worship at the river. It was fun, to say the least, and I am grateful that there are many now-familiar faces among these wonderful people. It was also a great honor to receive an award from the Arab American Muslim Association at their Ramada Iftar in Brooklyn.

Most recently, Lois and I gathered with other Region 7 bishops and their spouses to say goodbye to Bishop Margaret Payne of the New England Synod. And last Sunday, I presided at the Rite of Closure for St. Thomas, Bronx. Both were bittersweet services, to say the least.

There were times of refreshment this summer. Even though I preached every day for two weeks (!) it was a delight to be part of the community at the Montreat (North Carolina) Conferences on Worship and Music sponsored by the Presbyterian Association of Musicians. We also had a wonderful family reunion (with Lois’ family) in Colorado which included our entire family. And it’s always good to be with our children and grandchildren! 

Looking forward, now, I will be less verbose. 

The staff of Lutheran Social Services of New York and our synod will meet to get acquainted and explore how we can work together.

I will preach and preside at the 100th Anniversary of St. John’s, Lynbrook, the 150th Anniversary Mass and Jazz Vespers at Saint Peter’s, Manhattan, the 90th Anniversary of First, Throgs Neck, and the Organ Rededication at St. Jacobi, Brooklyn, in the next few weeks.

I will be part of an ecumenical consultation of judicatory leaders considering what our full inclusion and welcoming GLBTQ members of our churches means for us. And, that same week, I look forward to participating in the annual Appeal of Conscience Foundation Dinner.

On September 29 I will represent our synod at the installation of Bishop James Hazelwood of the New England Synod.

I am honored by the invitation of the Church of Finland to speak at their annual pastor’s conference in Helsinki in early October. I will be giving a lecture on "why worship matters" and a workshop on preaching and community there. Then Lois and I will have a few days of visit in St. Petersburg where we fully expect to cross one item off our "bucket list": a visit or two to The Hermitage.

It has been a very busy and very exciting time.

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

disaster relief
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