In 2011, our synod began a strategic planning process. This process resulted in a plan, "For Such a Time as This: 2013-2023," that was overwhelmingly approved by our 2012 Synod Assembly. We began quickly to form committees that began their work in January 2013. Now, as we round out our fourth year of implementation, we’re focused on what we have accomplished and where we are headed.
One of the most popular and successful programs out of the Gathered Strategy Committee is the Capital Improvement Challenge Grants. Three rounds of grants have been awarded that fixed doors, sidewalks, and roofs, while replacing damaged walls, upgrading bathrooms, and renovating kitchens. In these three years $1,092,386 of grant money has been matched by $958,067 from congregations to make important and timely upgrades.
The Gathered Strategy Area Committee has also been behind pilot projects in Southwest Queens, Bronx, and Western Nassau Conferences. Each of these projects have looked at potential models for
congregations to find a revived and strengthened sense of ministry. They have also worked to help leaders to be equipped through leadership development grants. These grants have been offered for groups or individuals, and now, not just clergy, but lay leaders as well.
The heart of the Gathered Strategy is ensuring Word and Sacrament ministry in our area. Not only is our synod committed to this, but we are committed to vibrant congregations and leaders that will carry this ministry into the future.
The Claimed Strategy Area Committee has used these four years to help people to engage more deeply with the Lutheran tradition. They began a program emphasis that focuses on the means of grace – what Luther describes as the most important ways for us to connect to our faith. As our synod began with mutual conversation and consolation, we learned how to talk with one another and find places for grace-filled conversations in our everyday lives. Following this, we looked at confession and forgiveness. Truly, to be able to engage with this topic, we needed to start with conversation. Moving forward we are delving solely into the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the reformation before holding the years focused on the sacraments and preaching and proclamation.
In this anniversary year, we are poised to ask not just where we’ve been, but where we are headed –What will we say in this moment where the world is turned to us asking, "What is Lutheranism?" What does it mean to be a multicultural Lutheran Church? How will we respond as people of faith to the social issues in our world?
The Claimed Committee has shared in these questions and helped to prepare congregations through "Getting Started with Web Presence", studying membership and parochial reports, and looking for more ways to get our Lutheran voice into the media.
Finally the Sent Strategy Area Committee has been working to build on our networks with congregations and organizations. We recognize that we can’t always do it all, but can find ways to support those who do. One way that we continue to see this network is through the 20/20 Vision booklet and events hosted by the Sent Committee.
They also recognize the importance of working to equip our leaders and synod for justice work in our communities. In 2016 five Anti-Racism Introductory Trainings were offered throughout our synod. These trainings were a starting point for each of us to be knowledgeable and proactive in being anti-racist leaders and congregations.
"We’ve come a long way in four short years," says Synod Vice-President Maria Del Toro. "But it isn’t time to get comfortable. Now especially is the time to reevaluate our priorities. We need to look at what has worked and what has not worked."
In adopting the Strategic Plan, an important piece was that the governance structure of our synod did not change. Rather, we look at everything through the lens of the strategic plan. Each month, Committee Chairs and leaders meet to make sure that we are continuing to work together and know what other committees are working on. "The Strategic Plan Working Group is a way that we can ensure we are always collaborating," says Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo, "but that group is not itself a governing body."
In the coming months, we will be refreshing our strategic plan with a particular eye towards what it means to be the church "for such a time as this." This question has a renewed sense of urgency in an ever-changing society. These three committees, working with the Financial Management Committee are looking to refocus and prioritize the work of the strategic plan. Continuing to work with our strategic plan consultant, Tom Massey, we are learning how best to move forward together. An example from these conversations is already coming to fruition with the Congregational Council Trainings in February and March. The main focus of these events are to help congregation councils to understand their role as a leader and how to help their congregation be ready for a vibrant future. At our 2017 Synod Assembly, there will be further opportunities to discuss how we can work together in mission and ministry for the sake of the world.