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+Bishop Thomas Aitken's

Pastoral Message

7/2/20


 Dear Synod:  Grace, peace, and courage through our brother and Lord, Jesus Christ.

 As many of you know, each week I worship with you. You are doing an excellent job of being the Church, in the midst of the pandemic the world is living in. You have enriched my faith with your creative and faithful electronic worship services that have included the opportunity for me to pray with you during the prayers of your congregation. Thank you good and faithful servants! Know also, that any of the various sermon or faith study  videos our Website are available for your congregation to use for the sermon or message when you might want to use it for your congregation.

 The Covid-19 pandemic is still with us, and will be for a long time. I ask that you be very smart as you continue to update procedures for the future with your SMART TEAM. Some of you have sent to our office a copy of your SMART TEAM plan. Thank you. Continue to send them so that others who may not be that far along, can use them and contextualize them. We do better as a synod when we collaborate.  Send them to sarah.roe@nemnsynod.org. Please take the time to listen to the latest video update “The Next COVID-19 Phase” from our friend, Dr. Michael Osterholm, PH.D, MPH, of Univ. of Minnesota’s Center for Disease Research and Policy, whose updates I continue to post on our Synod Facebook and Website. Dr. Osterholm is a Lutheran here in Minnesota, who is widely respected as an epidemiologist scientist who understands the dilemma our congregations are faced with these days of planning and thinking ahead. Be aware that a Minnesota Department of Health update on infections etc. by County is also available: mdh@public.govdelivery.com 

 Your synod council voted to postpone our annual Synod Assembly back in March.  The council took this action in the hope that the pandemic would peak and then diminish soon enough to allow a “traditional” synod assembly—a mass gathering of voting members all in one meeting space, tending the business of the synod including the election of a new synod bishop. As an update, our Synod Executive Board has met numerous times, and our Synod Council has met over via electronic means. As the council pondered possible courses of action, the concept of holding a “remote” synod assembly emerged as a possibility that would allow voting members to participate from their homes or local congregations - avoiding a mass in-person gathering where the coronavirus could quickly spread, while still transacting the pressing business of our synod and concluding the bishop election process that was already underway when the pandemic hit. Working with legal counsel both from our ELCA and with our own Synod Attorney, a letter went out today following a vote by the Synod Council, to the voting members of the 2019 Assembly to vote to allow amendment of our Articles of Incorporation so that such electronic, remote Assembly could occur.  By the end of July, we will know if approval is given for the Synod Council to move forward with a date for a remote, shortened Synod Assembly.  Details of registration will then be sent out to the voting members for this new kind of Assembly. 

 Like you, our Synod Office practices safe gathering procedures, both at the office and with regard to any in person invitations we may receive from you. We continue to have limited staffing at the office. There is at least one person in the office each day, and we work cooperatively to notify each other when more than one person is in the office. Staff may accept, at their discretion, to do safe, outdoor presentations where the SMART TEAM of that congregation or of the inviting community has set up their clear plan of safe gathering with all rules posted in plain view and when the inviting group takes the lead in making sure all participants know and follow the safety regulations.  Remember if you have any questions contact us at info@nemnsynod.org and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

 There will be several (small gathering) ordinations this summer which I am overjoyed to preside at! Again, these will be outdoor, with masks, physical distancing, and  with a very limited number of people. Across the ELCA these ordinations are done safely and most include electronic participation of some kind for others to witness.

 I continue to inform and challenge myself of white privilege and racism through colleague conversations, seeking out persons of color, good books which I’ll post on our Website. This is an opportunity for us to awaken to the claim of God on our attitudes, our framework for a Christian life-style that focuses on Jesus' way of life, which has become ours in baptism. More on the Anti-Racism team that is being built up later. We have decisions to make every day about how we will address the real issues that face our personal lives, yes, but also our corporate life as the Body of Christ: Say something that clearly addresses the language and content when a relative or friend says something racist or something that does not come from the Christ inside you.  

 Scholarship checks were just made out to our Seminarians. Thank you for the ministry that continues on so well.  Our staff continues to make personal check in phone calls to our Rostered Leaders. Let us also continue to seek ways to come alongside each other. It’s not wrong to find humor and fun, even in very serious times. Work delightfully with other congregations in our community, share resources, videos, and faith formation opportunities so that we can in fact grow closer together. We do well to think about more than our own immediacy in our own congregation. We have a golden opportunity to lead forward, with confidence in Christ, or to lead back to a recent past, that is not going to be replicated. Be strong in the power of the Holy Spirit which is in you.

With love and gratitude for all of you,

+Bishop Thomas M. Aitken

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