The comments of pre-identified pastors represent their opinions only. —Synod Council Executive Committee.
The Rev. Harry Schenkel
Responses to the Document "Listening for Leadership"
Using the descriptions on the "Listening for Leadership" document (Bishop Profile, page 3) share specific examples of how you have served in a PASTORAL role in previous calls, experiences, and leadership:
For the past 25 years, the center and foundation of my calling in the Ministry is living in and sharing the love and grace of Christ Jesus. At the heart of this is preaching and teaching. I am so thankful and blessed to be serving in the ELCA for the past 10 of those years. Since coming over to the ELCA I have personally seen and experienced what it means to be part of a church body that takes seriously living the Gospel and pronouncing God’s love and forgiveness. This has helped heal me at those times when the struggles of life have been overwhelming. As a result of this, my pastoral ministry has become even stronger and more effective. My constant goal is that the church be a sanctuary (a safe and welcoming place that shelters all of us from the evils of the world). Prior to my serving in the ELCA, I would have to “look over my shoulder” and wonder if I would face consequences for participating in ecumenical endeavors in my desire to pastorally care for parishioners. I rejoice that now, as a part of the ELCA, I have the freedom to work together ecumenically in doing what is right and serving God’s people in whatever the situation may be.
Using the descriptions on the "Listening for Leadership" document (Bishop Profile, page 3) share specific examples of how you have served in a BRIDGE BUILDER role in previous calls, experiences, and leadership:
Bridge building has been a constant throughout my ministry. Most recently, I have had to deal with the closure of Long Island Lutheran Day School as a partner on our campus and our ministry. This left a big void in our Youth and Education Buildings as well as our outreach and connection to the community. Within a year of this loss, by God’s gracious leading hand, we have partnered with two groups that will continue to strengthen and grow our connection and outreach to the community. YDA – Youth Directions and Alternatives – has moved into our Youth Building and has partnered with St Paul’s to serve the junior and senior high youth of the greater Northport community. In the fall of 2019, The School House will offer an innovative approach to preschool and elementary education, as we welcome them as a partner on our campus. These are just two of the most recent examples of how God has called me to be a bridge builder.
Using the descriptions on the "Listening for Leadership" document (Bishop Profile, page 3) share specific examples of how you have served in a LEADER role in previous calls, experiences, and leadership:
Leadership by service is what pastoral ministry is all about. I believe a pastor is most effective as a leader when the pastor rolls up his/her sleeves and gets down and dirty side by side with those they serve. Over the years I have held many different leadership positions. I have supervised six vicars, led pastoral conference planning committees, and chaired the Reformation 500 Gala Committee, just to name a few. Most recently, I served for four years on the MNYS Synod Council, including three years on the Executive Committee. Until it closed, I served on the board of LI Lutheran Day School. Currently I sit on the board of YDA -Youth Directions and Alternatives and continue to offer service to the synod in other various roles.
Using the descriptions on the "Listening for Leadership" document (Bishop Profile, page 3) share specific examples of how you have served in a ADMINISTRATOR role in previous calls, experiences, and leadership:
I once heard it said that good administration is good pastoral ministry. Though it isn’t spoken about much in Scripture or the seminary, administration is a necessary part of serving the church and the people of God. Over the years, as I have served in larger churches, I have seen how my role as a pastor has demanded more and more attention to details and administrative matters. From insuring that the church is a safe place through background checks and good policies to managing multi-staff ministries to overseeing finances and stewardship, effective pastoral leadership today must include strong administrative skills.
A common theme in all the roles referenced in the previous section is the idea of bringing all congregations and conferences together. As Bishop, how will you use your time and staff to help congregations and conferences who may feel disconnected from the synodical offices and life of our synod?
The desire for more mobility and visibility of the bishop came through loud and clear in all four quadrants of the synod during the Town Hall Meetings. As bishop, I will work hard to be “on the road” a great deal of the time. I would like to try to attend conference meetings and hold regular Town Hall Meetings. I will explore ways in which media and technology can unite us. Currently, at St Paul’s, we record and upload to YouTube the weekly Gospel and Sermon. Each week an average of over 40 people watch this. It is like having another virtual congregation. Maybe something similar could work effectively for the Synod. I would also like to examine the idea of regional assistants to the bishop or deployed staff. In today’s day and age where technology allows us to hold virtual meetings with little effort, I do not believe that it is necessary that the synod staff and office always be located in one place. It may be possible to have satellite locations that could serve a variety of different uses for our synod’s work together. I will also work diligently to see that the staff reflects the great diversity of our synod, our region, and our liturgical culture.
Congregational vitality and mergers are a primary area of focus. As congregations face a loss of members, youth, and income, what role do you see the Bishop having regarding issues of congregational vitality, mergers, strategic planning, and congregational renewal? Give any examples in which you ministered to people in a congregation in transition.
Unfortunately, as we know, death and loss are the stark reality of our sin filled world. Yet, the hope and promise of our faith is that God is the Lord of Life, the one who brings life from death! As bishop, I would like to explore ways in which we can better care for congregations that are nearing the end of their ministry. I hope to be able to work closely with congregations to help them identify ways that they can commend themselves to neighboring Christian congregations. I would like to explore with the FMC and the Synod Council ways that a portion of the proceeds from the closure of congregations can be directed by the remaining faithful of that congregation towards other ministries to which they can commend themselves and their future care. I also believe that in the years ahead, we will find ourselves with new and better opportunities to work ecumenically in serving the Christian church at large. Sometimes less is more. I believe that we can better serve one another and utilize our resources when we can come together to create fewer stronger and better equipped ministries than dividing our energies across several, less healthy, ministries. I firmly believe that the bishop should be immersed in being the primary visionary for this task, especially as the bishop ministers to congregations during vacancies.
Faith formation is a vital part of congregational and synodical life. Children, youth, young adults, adults, and diaconal formation are especially important. As Bishop, how would you encourage and strengthen faith formation? Provide examples of faith-formation efforts you have led.
Over the past few years at St Paul’s we have worked very hard to connect to our community “cross-generationally”. This required that we begin to look at things differently and really embrace the idea of the church as a mission station and not a member club. This started with a fundamental change in the structure of the church office. Gone was the tradition model of a church secretary, as it was replaced with what we entitled an “Outreach Director”. This person came with experience and an emphasis on marketing. Through her leadership and service, the church was strengthened in its understanding of how we all have a role in welcoming one another and making the church a safe place. We also redefined “outreach” as not only being that which we do in the community, outside the doors of the church, but also reaching across the generations that we have within the church. Now on a regular basis, children and adults partner together in activities. Intentional projects and efforts are designed to create cross- generational working and learning. The successful future of faith formation for our synod will depend on our ability, as a synod, to do the same thing.
What is your understanding of our synod’s current strategic plan, and how would you advance that plan as Bishop?
Knowing our identity and purpose is at the heart of being human and one of the great gifts of our faith. By our Baptism into Jesus, we come to know the great value our Creator has placed upon us and in turn, we become part of our Lord’s Great Commission. Our Synod’s strategic plan is an extension of our common baptismal identity and it is good stewardship of the gifts and talents that God has given to us. As a member of the Synod Council I came to see first hand what a blessing and gift the strategic plan is to our work together. The structure and intent of the strategic plan is strong. As bishop I will work hard to better communicate the desires and the effects of the plan to the synod at large, while at the same time critically evaluating the plan on a regular basis.
What do you see as the principal challenge of our synod in the next six years, and how will you approach and address it?
I have spent my entire life and ministry in this Metro NY Synod geographical area. I was baptized at Faith, Syosset. I graduated from Long Island Lutheran High School. I went to college at Concordia, Bronxville. I have seen all aspects, both positive and negative, of serving the Lutheran Church in this area. I rejoice because we have a great many blessings as a Synod. Our diversity, our metropolitan location, our cooperative relationships both inside and outside of Lutheranism, our ecumenical relationships, and the role and involvement of deacons and laity are all great gifts and strengths that set us apart as the MNYS. But for these gifts to be their most effective, we must continue the work of HEALING. Over the last year, we have collectively, as a synod, come to see the evidence of nearly 20 years of struggle within our synod. As bishop, I will work unceasingly with my passion for pastoral ministry to promote healing and trust within the synod. I will work hard to continue to support our social concerns while tempering the political feelings and emotions that sometimes further alienate and divide us from one another. We are first and foremost citizens of the kingdom of heaven, all other earthly labels and agendas take a backseat to that. It is only in Christ that we truly find the solution to the world’s ills. It is only in Jesus that we find our refuge and strength. When this is primary and at the heart of all we do and communicate as a family of faith, then healing will lead to a deeper trust, and that trust will lead us to a deeper unity.
As Bishop, what steps will you take for self-care? How can congregations be a support for the office of Bishop? How will you, as Bishop, also encourage self-care for pastors, deacons, and synod lay leaders?
Over the course of my ministry, especially in the aftermath of my divorce, I came to more deeply understand the importance of being whole and healthy as a pastor in order to effectively care for others. Self-care is a priority for my ministry. I am a member of LA Fitness and can use any facility in the nation (which is important for a mobile bishop). I make an effort to sweat (on purpose) 4-6 days a week. My wife and I also own a travel trailer and use it regularly to give us a little escape time in the midst of the demands of life and the ministry. We often “commute from our camper” so that we have those moments. I also try to take advantage of continuing education opportunities on a regular basis. Congregations can support the office of Bishop by having a willingness to be open to God’s bigger plan by looking beyond the immediate and the local, and trying to discern their place in God’s larger picture. I will encourage self-care by leading by example.