Assistant to the Bishop/Director for Evangelical Mission
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28
As your Director for Evangelical Mission, I am called to stir the missional waters between our three expressions: churchwide, our Metropolitan New York Synod and our local congregations. One of my key roles is to cultivate more space for us to live into our giftedness by sharing God’s generosity amongst cultures and communities.
This past year has laid bare many new ways in which we are being called to become a different church. A church more confident about who we are and what God’s purpose for us is. A church deeply rooted in authentic relationships to live the Gospel, to love all people and to serve God’s children together.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America exists in a disruptive context. Leaning into this shift but centering our values in Jesus and our connection to one another is no small feat but we continue to be church.
We are Lutheran.
We are church together.
We are church for the sake of the world.
I pray that we continue to hold tightly to our core values and loosely to everything else.
1. Christ centered, community connected
Inclusion is an investment. People feel bravest when they are prepared, informed and supported. Additionally, inclusion also requires us to be vulnerable as Jesus’s propensity was for the most vulnerable, underprivileged and marginalized. Much of my work this year has been in the context of holy listening to the vulnerable.
In order to continue our accompaniment, partnership and support for congregations and leaders post Covid-19, I represented our Metropolitan New York Synod in various Working (Care) Groups comprised of DEMs and ELCA churchwide leadership seeking to a.) listen and honor stories coming from our ministries, b.) to learn important lessons from their resilience and faithfulness, and c.) to help connect congregations, synods and the ELCA churchwide office in common strengths and partnership.
This work resulted in our Synod receiving over $65,000 in grants from our Churchwide organizations that directly benefited multiple congregations and leaders largely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, we should be clear that the need for assistance doesn’t necessarily mean “vulnerable” in the sense that a ministry is not self-sustaining. The importance of listening to our most vulnerable siblings continues to help us think differently about vitality and recognize the ingenuity that is ever present in the face of God.
2. Stewardship & Evangelism
Traditional stewardship is difficult to practice. Stewardship efforts look different within individual contexts but even in the midst of challenges and tensions, our generosity continued to manifest itself in new and existing ways, here at home and across the globe.
In 2021, our Metropolitan New York Synod increased its commitment and shared 53% of all Mission Support with our Churchwide partners. Notably, as we give, Churchwide also sends us partnership support for our Synod’s mission in the form of grants, services and resources – including yours truly! Thank you for your continued partnership.
Every dollar is a declaration of values, energy, and intention. Being good stewards also means we continue to sharpen our education and foster healthy relationships with money, time and our collective giftedness in ways that align with our values. We are created in the image of God, and God is generous.
I look forward to our continued work together as we invite purpose within our generosity and create informed options for our future together.
3. Toward Missional Vitality
Values inform our goals but they are not goals themselves. Values give us handles for a changing world and are a tool for decision-making. Seeing ministry through the lens of vitality has been an exciting and promising direction for the future of our changing Church.
In collaboration with the Congregations Task Force, we have a wellness tool to discover and assess where our ministries are on the road to becoming warmer congregations. Intentionally rooting our relationships in collaboration, creativity, innovation and a passion for learning in and among diverse contexts led to our Cooperative Ministry guide with the purpose of providing guidance as we ideate and navigate missional purpose, legalities and next steps toward new opportunities or toward completion of ministry that continues God’s mission in different ways.
Our future together will most definitely look and feel differently than today but our church will be better together.
State of the Synodically Authorized Worshipping Communities (SAWCs)
- The Christ Center at Transfiguration, in Harlem led by Rev. Perucy Butiku strengthened their ministry by opening their digital doors and connecting with others in Synods as close as New Jersey and Maryland and as far as California giving way to a new hybrid ministry directly impacting the heart of Harlem. The ministry is reimagining ways to utilize their physical space to build on more and strengthened connections with less.
- All Saints/ Todos Los Santos, in Woodhaven led by Rev. Leticia Alanis is entering a new an exciting time of bold growth from an Ecumenical partnership with shared space into a hybrid ministry transitioning into a physical space all its own. Drawing deeply from its spiritual well, these leaders have stepped into servant leadership as a response to God’s grace and continue to grow their organizing and missional skill sets as they enter this exciting new stage of ministry in the heart of Woodhaven.
- Mision Latina de Ascension/Ascension Latino Ministry, in Deer Park led by Rev. Patricia Avila, paved the way with a prayerful spirit and a full heart within this year of forced learning and allowed this community to make massive inroads within Suffolk and Nassau counties as well as numerous Latinx countries. Understanding the value in relationships, Mision Latina de Ascension was able to provide leadership training to a network of leaders far and near to retool necessary skills for the future of ministry. Further, they have partnered with local governments to provide advocacy around immigration reform as this work is integral to its core values.
- Jehu’s Table, in Brooklyn, embraced new leadership as Rev. Kelsey Brown has been leading them since June 2020. The Holy Spirit brought this spirit of Joy in the middle of a global pandemic and Jehu’s Table has been reenergized as they too have grown into a hybrid community. Utilizing social media and youth leader driven efforts, they are closing the space between the physical and the digital. Rev. Kelsey makes it a point to be present with articles for our Lutheran New Yorker and for Pride celebrations ensuring that Jehu’s Table is always at the intersection between Jesus and Justice. Jehu’s Table is humbly “a church in Brooklyn” but is openly engaging their mission to be THE welcoming, inclusive and outward facing church in Brooklyn.
- The Park Church Co-Op, in Brooklyn embraced their new role as Metropolitan New York Synod’s first permanent Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community. This bold step of the leadership toward sustainability opened the doors for Rev. Jacob Simpson to serve as their Pastor since July 2020. Rev. Simpson has built on relationships within Greenpoint inviting folks to know Jesus through the Park Church community. The creation of a partnership to house people temporarily experiencing homeless to hosting a Christian themed Artist-in-residence, their model of Cooperation (Co-op) is proving not only how creative these leaders are but has lowered barriers to entry and has helped Park Church grow in these trying times. Their future work looks to fully embrace diversity by becoming a Reconciled in Christ (RIC) ministry.