Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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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


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