By Jonathan Linman
Proclaiming the Gospel – for Such a Time as This
Even now, many of us may still be enjoying the afterglow of our various Reformation 500th Anniversary observances of 2017, perhaps especially the culminating Commemorative Eucharist and Festive Reception which took place in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on All Saints’ Day last year. Our Reformation 500 initiatives were a centerpiece of our Synodical strategic plan’s goal to deepen Lutheran identity for the sake of boldly communicating the gospel message in the 21st Century. Such faith identity formation has been a programmatic emphasis of our Synod since 2014, when we introduced and explored Mutual Conversation and Consolation as a Means of Grace. Recall that during the 2015-2016 program year we focused on Confession, Forgiveness and Reconciliation. Next we spent two full program years from 2016 into 2018 on Reformation 500. Now as we embark on this new program year in 2018-2019, our focus will be “Proclaiming the Gospel – for Such a Time as This.”
What are the challenges and opportunities when it comes to preaching in our day? How is preaching ministry different today than in previous generations? How is it the same? What does it mean to proclaim the gospel in a Lutheran key today? How can we understand proclamation more expansively to include occasions and experiences beyond the monologue sermon, such as music, drama and other forms of the arts?
The theme of “Proclaiming the Gospel – for Such a Time as This” will be the theme for our various synodical retreats, including the Retreat for our Deans (September 12-13, 2018), the Synod Deacons Study Day (Lent, 2019), the Candidacy Retreat (April 6, 2019), as well as the Synod Council Retreat (June 14-15, 2019).
Notably and quite significantly, our Bishop’s Retreat for pastors and ELCA rostered deacons (October 30 – November 1, 2018), will take up the theme of preaching for our day, when renowned preacher, professor, author, and bishop, William Willimon, will be our keynote speaker and a preacher for this annual event. Worship at this retreat will also experientially explore music, drama, dance and other visual arts as forms of gospel proclamation.
Also, look for the possibility of a major event in the spring of 2019, with a preaching revival experience on a Friday night, and a festival of workshops on the next day exploring many aspects of the ministries of proclaiming the gospel, culminating in a liturgy of Holy Communion that features various forms of proclamation.
Our hope for these events is straightforward: that God’s people in our Synod, including pastors, our various deacons, and our faithful laity, will come away from our various events with a renewed sense of the vital importance of ministries of proclamation, along with practical strategies for how to renew these ministries in their local ministry settings. We pray that through our renewed ministries of proclamation God’s people will discover deepened faith via the liberating experience of the gospel so that they will be strengthened and encouraged for our mission for the sake of the world – for such a time as this.