MIAMI, FL (SZS) — This past week, September 4-10, the Slovak Zion Synod gathered in Assembly aboard the Carnival Splendor, originating in Miami with ports of call in Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel before returning home.
The theme of this year’s assembly was: “We are Church Together — For Such a Time as This!” as we built on the story of Esther, a story with which our synod throughout its history has found various affinities. Mordecai’s words to Esther, urging her to reveal her Jewish identity to the King of Persia and save her people from a great genocide, became words calling our Synod and its members to be mindful of God’s call upon us to courageously respond as God’s witnesses in a hurting world in need. Bishop Wilma S. Kucharek inaugurated this theme as she addressed the assembly in her sermon during the opening service of Holy Communion. Mordecai is telling Esther that this is a critical moment, and that this event is a pivotal time in history. He wants Esther to consider that God has put her here, in that place, in that position, for this specific purpose. “Have you ever considered that God may be seeking to use your particular gifts and abilities at the times and in the places you find yourself, in a way that can only happen through you and no one else? Can you, like Esther, put yourself in the hands of God for such a time as this?”
Enrichment at this synod assembly fostered deep contemplation of where God can be seen in our day to day lives, as well as what God calls us to do: The Rev. Melissa Kuemmerle built on the foundation of our theme this year with an interactive workshop entitled: “For Such a Time as This: God sends artists, writers, poets and makers.” The Rev. Thomas S. Drobena delivered a powerful bible study on the story of Jonah. The Rev. Marjorie Keiter led this year’s Faith by Foot wellness bible study on the jogging track. In addition to these well-received features of this assembly, the assembly continued its sub-themes of previous years, including a focus on elements of wellness and their effect on the healthy witness and mission of the church, as well as spiritual enrichment and worship opportunities, including Night Prayer each evening and prayers for healing and anointing on the final evening.
The work of the assembly included reports from the Bishop, Treasurer, and other chairs responsible for ministry and mission in our synod, as well as various reports from the ELCA, and a video address from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton. The Assembly also spent time discussing “Called Forward Together in Christ for the Sake of the World: A Consultation Paper on Future Directions of the ELCA,” one of the discussion items from this year’s ELCA 2016 Churchwide Assembly. The assembly discussed the upcoming preparations for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation coming up in 2017, and spent time outside of the sessions reflecting on the words of Luther’s Small Catechism as they committed to spending the next year in the study of Luther’s Small Catechism.
The Synod Assembly recognized new elections and anniversaries with a Service of Blessing and Sending as these honorees and all the baptized vowed to be faithful servants of Christ in their congregations and communities “for such a time as this”:
- The election of Andrea Micovsky (by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly), of Nativity Lutheran Church in Windsor, Ontario, to serve a six year term on the ELCA Church Council
- Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Stafford Springs, CT, celebrating 100 years of Service & Ministry
- Dr. Martin Luther Lutheran Church in Muskegon, MI, celebrating 100 years of Service & Ministry
- The Rev. Hans-Fredrik Gustafson, celebrating 55 years of Ordination
- The Rev. Kenneth Michnay, celebrating 50 years of Ordination
- The Rev. Rastislav Micovsky, celebrating 30 years of Ordination
- The Rev. David Jones, celebrating 25 years of Ordination
- The Rev. Michal Misina, celebrating 15 years of Ordination
- The Rev. Silvia Misina, who was unable to be present among us, celebrating 15 years of Ordination
Our plenary sessions provided us with several sea days in which to attend to the business and mission of our church. And, with a new ship and a new itinerary, this year’s assembly continued to provide ample opportunities for fellowship to engage each other when not in session, whether on the ship or off during port days.
Stories were shared of how voting members and guests had spent time in port observing how they could respond to the needs of a wider world, and how fellowship with those from other congregations provided opportunities to share with each other best ministry practices and life in their various congregations; in addition, being the church together on a ship presents its own witness to others, both churched and unchurched, passengers as well as staff: we are a church on the move that goes to where the people are in order to engage others in their own context. This year was certainly no different! We go together, as unique individuals gifted by God and called to mission, yet one in Christ; we spend our time out across the ship, making known to all on board who we are, and where our faith is. We are Church Together — For Such a Time a This!