|HFASS Seminarian Amy Hanson and I|
Last night I had the privilege of attending the installation of Bishop Jim Gonia as the third ever bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA. Bishop installations don't happen all that often, so getting to not only attend one, but to put on my alb and join the procession with about 180 other leaders in the synod was pretty incredible.
Two things really stuck out to me during the course of the service. The first was that the church world is incredibly small. Bishop Gonia is married to the Rev. Kim Gonia, who was a senior at LSTC during my first year there. And on top of that, both of them had worked with the pastor at the church I grew up with in Madagascar through the ELCA Global Mission unit. It was particularly awe-inspiring to support the bishop at his installation when we have some pretty strong connections to the same people.
The other thing that stood out to me in such a way was during Bishop Hanson's sermon. Among his list of wisdom, he talked about what he hears when he goes to preach and speak at places around the country. He spoke of often hearing depressing things, like declining membership, aging members, decreasing resources, etc. These are all things that scare a seminarian who is making this call his career. But, said Hanson, Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians did not shy away from these realities which the church faces. And in the face of these realities Paul reminds us that
therefore since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:1Indeed, it is only by the mercy of God that we are engaged in ministry. I think that is true of much of life...because of God's great mercy in the world we are doing what we do, we are proclaiming the gospel because of the mercy of God. We are caring for the poor among us and in the world because of the mercy of God. We are doing God's work with our hands because of the mercy that God has for us and for the world we serve.
Something to think about as I prepare for rostered leadership in this church...that it is only through God's mercy that I am called to this ministry.
(apologies for the lack of "how to" instructions for installing a bishop, but if you're curious...see here)