Seven Moravians, both clergy and laity, from seven different congregations, reflect on the Southern Province Synod of 2018. Read their reflections below. You can find the official Synod 2018 summary from the Provincial Elders’ Conference on MCSP.org.
The Synod 2018 podium | Photo by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM
My first Synod. I was excited, nervous, almost burdened by the responsibility of what lie ahead; but I was ready. You see, we had been preparing for Synod for over two years. Our days at Synod were exhausting, beginning with communion at 7 a.m. and ending at 9:30 p.m. or later. Exhausting but wonderful, because God was present in small and in big ways. I was assigned a roommate who had graduated from the same small college as I had, both of us with the same major and many of the same experiences. What are the chances? A small thing, and yet…
Then there were the big things: a sense of community, that we were brothers and sisters in Christ, and we were greeted that way. There was evidence of the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we reached consensus on hard issues. “And in all things love…” was shown to our brothers and sisters, even those with whom we disagreed.
I’ll conclude with Jeremiah 29:11, a promise God made to his people Israel, but also a promise that the Moravian Church can claim even today: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Thanks be to God.
Judy Albert, Mizpah Moravian Church, Rural Hall, NC
The Rev. Andrew Heil, Rev. Tony Hayworth, and other Synod delegates worship at Synod 2018 | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM
My attendance and participation at Synod 2018 was the first of this kind since my transition from the Baptist denomination. Being able to have participated was a great opportunity, as I got firsthand experience of the mode of operation of a Moravian church business meeting of this magnitude. I learned so much over the three day period, and I am confident that what I have learned will aid in my development as I seek to serve God and my fellow brothers and sisters.
The high points of Synod for me were the worship sessions and the small group meetings. The worship sessions were thoroughly orchestrated and worship was intentional. The small group meetings allowed for bonding with each other as we shared in one common discussion. Although we may not have all agreed on a particular subject, there was mutual love and respect which was essential to the theme of Synod, “Living the Essentials With Courage for the Future.” The essentials of course are faith, hope and love. Additionally, to see a female being elected bishop was just an amazing thing for me.
My hope is that as the church moves forward, she will seek to hold the banner of Jesus Christ high, be the salt and light of this sinful world, and will not compromise the word of God.
Evette Campbell, Palm Beach Moravian Church, West Palm Beach, FL
The Revs. Carol Foltz and Tom Shelton embrace after Rev. Foltz is elected bishop. Rev. Shelton would also be elected bishop later that afternoon. | Photo by Mike Riess / Moravian IBOC
Synod 2018 was my first Synod experience as a pastor and member of the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province. I was overwhelmed by the overflowing presence of the Holy Spirit I felt and experienced through delegates’ personal testimonies and statements, as they shared on the floor in vulnerable and intense moments.
It also resonated with me watching Moravians of different congregations and backgrounds join around the table at meals and talk as if they had known each other their whole lives. As I traveled home from Synod 2018, I felt a sense of humility and compassion for the young adult delegates who began to find their voice and speak up. As a young person and young clergy, it can be hard at times to find a appropriate way to speak my thoughts, feelings, and desires on topics that could be different from those around me in the church. We often say we want the voices of the young people, but then when their voices do not line up with those in the church, the sense of wanting their voices suddenly becomes a faint memory.
The voices of the young adult delegates and the reception received from older delegates has given me more hope and excitement for the future of the Southern Province. Synod 2018 left me with the reminder that we can accept the differences age and opinion bring. With Christ at the center of our faith, nothing can stand between us as we move forward together with hope for the future of the church. Synod 2018 was a memorable experience in my first year of ministry and I look forward to being part of Synod for many years to come.
The Rev. Victoria Lasley, Associate Pastor, Fairview Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC
The Rev. Victoria Lasley helps lead closing worship for Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM
“The Lord is risen!” These familiar words from the Easter Morning Liturgy were the first words spoken at the 2018 Synod. It seemed fitting that we began our time together by praying this Moravian confession of faith. As we stated, in one voice, our shared belief in God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in the church, we heard stories of how different Moravians live out their beliefs with faith, love, and hope and were challenged to consider how we do the same.
As the Synod did the work of examining and overseeing the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Province – electing new leadership, calling bishops, and considering proposals – the essentials of faith, love, and hope were very evident. Although we had many differences of opinion, we were able to share those differences while remaining united in our love for our Savior and our love for each other.
“The Lord is risen indeed!” These familiar words from the Easter Liturgy were part of our closing worship for Synod. It was appropriate that we began with the Easter Morning Liturgy and ended with the Easter Liturgy, for these two prayers encompass all of our faith, they share our love, and they proclaim our hope. My prayer since Synod has come from the words of that closing liturgy: “For we are convinced that neither death, nor life, not angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Rev. Joe Moore, Associate Pastor, New Philadelphia Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC
IBOC Executive Director, Mike Riess, and Southern Province clergy play music during a free moment at Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM
It was a great learning experience for not only the business side of our Synod, but also the spiritual side of my life. We not only got a lot of work done for the Southern Province, we also had a lot of powerful worship services involving some wonderful pastors and leaders from all over the Moravian Church.
Our work actually started last fall when I was assigned to the leadership committee and during some of those meetings, we spent a lot of the mornings and afternoons trying to streamline processes. I also learned how incredibly busy it is as we went from worship services to committee meetings and back to Synod-wide business meetings where proposals are voted on and passed.
It was fun to be a part of several such proposals that made it to the floor of Synod, to get to read one such proposal aloud on Sunday, and watch as it got voted on and passed. This really sends a powerful message to all of us. We are listened to when we are sent as representatives of our respective churches and that we have a strong voice in the PEC and the Southern Province.
John Nelms, Board of Trustees member, Clemmons Moravian Church, Clemmons, NC
This year’s Synod, my first Synod, was a time of anxiety for me. I knew of the pressing issues and the contentious conversations that would likely take place. I did what I could to prepare myself for committee and plenary session and was certainly witness to some challenging moments.
What I did not expect to see was the Spirit at work throughout the entirety of our time together. It began with the warm sense of welcome I felt upon my arrival, continued through the election of our newest bishops, and was most apparent during the most stressful times.
Despite our differences, moments of disagreement were regularly followed by outpourings of love. This showing gave me solace and stands as an example of how we as Moravians are called to share our message by living out the essentials we proclaim.
Our church is not defined by the differences we sometimes find in one another, but rather it is defined by the unity and the brotherhood we share in Christ.
With most of my anxieties at bay, I returned home with a renewed confidence in our church. As we work to discern our mission in this world, may we continue to listen to the moving of the Spirit.
The Daily Texts for the day following the conclusion of Synod, April 23, summarized my experience appropriately: “Cast out all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Zach Routh, Grace Moravian Church, Mt. Airy, NC
Newly re-elected PEC President, the Rev. David Guthrie, offers closing remarks at Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM
I left Synod 2018 with two overwhelming feelings: exhaustion and hope. I knew the weekend was going to be a long one, and I expected many tough discussions to come before the delegates. Truthfully, I was preparing for the worst. In the end, the final decisions (and especially the process to get there) made the sometimes-endless meetings worth it.
There were a lot of emotions, a lot of tears, and certainly some disagreement along the way. But through it all, the words spoken by our brothers and sisters were spoken with love and respect. We were constantly reminded that, even though we have different views, we have one incredible thing in common: our love of Jesus Christ. It was this essential, the one that Moravians speak of so often, that allowed us to move forward in unity. I certainly don’t take that for granted.
One important observation I had – something that surprised me throughout was the number of young people representing their congregations and agencies. We hear a lot of talk about the average age of our membership (not often in a positive way). This Synod was a reminder that we have great leaders, including a lot of active and committed young people, who are willing to challenge the church and lead us into the future.
This gives me hope.
Eric Vernon, Calvary Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC
See the official Synod 2018 summary from the PEC at MCSP.org [LINK]
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