TORRINGTON, CT (SZS) — With autumn comes the changing colors of the leaves and a growing chill in the air. However, while nature may be slowing down for the winter, many of us are picking up our pace as we resume our work and school schedules. The same is true in the life of the church – in our Synod and congregations. However, major milestones and observations have been occurring not only in our own ministries, but in those of our partners in Christ as well.
The Slovak Zion Synod was present for the historic installation of the Rev. Patricia Davenport as Bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod and the Slovak Zion Synod are both in Region 7 of the ELCA. Bishop Davenport was elected on May 5 to serve a six-year term as bishop of her synod, making her the first female African American to be elected an ELCA bishop; she succeeds Bishop Claire Burkat who has retired. She previously served as Director for Evangelical Mission in her synod, and as assistant to the bishop during her predecessor’s terms in office. Her installation took place on September 22, just a couple miles from the Philadelphia campus of United Lutheran Seminary on Germantown Avenue. Bishop Kucharek was among the bishops who laid hands upon her in blessing as part of the installation service. Pastor Marjorie Keiter of our Lansford congregation, St. John the Evangelist, and other synod well-wishers were likewise in attendance.
On September 23, Bishop Kucharek joined members of Holy Trinity Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church on 20th Street in Manhattan at a festival celebrating Slovak heritage that was held on the fairgrounds in New Brunswick, NJ. The morning hours of the festival featured ecumenical participation in a Roman Catholic Sunday Mass and a Lutheran Divine Liturgy, both of which were conducted in the Slovak language. Pastor Michal Mišina of our 20th Street congregation participated as the Lutheran celebrant. Also in attendance was the Slovak Ambassador to the United Nations, His Excellency, the Honorable Michal Mlynar, who delivered remarks on behalf of the Slovak UN delegation; greetings were also read from the Slovak Consul Generals of both New York City, as well as Washington D.C. The festival featured folk music and dance performed by several Slovak schools in the region. Ethnic foods and souvenirs were also available.
Our Synod was also represented in Puerto Rico on October 6, at the installation of Bishop Idalia Negrón Caamaño. Bishop Kucharek was among the bishops who laid hands in blessing upon her newest colleague, who was elected on June 16 to serve a six-year term as Bishop of the Caribbean Synod, succeeding the Rev. Felipe Lozada-Montañez. The Caribbean Synod is an ELCA partner synod of the Slovak Zion Synod.
Following the installation of Bishop Negrón Caamaño, Bishop Kucharek joined our sisters and brothers of Nativity Lutheran Church in Windsor, Ontario. On October 7, Nativity Lutheran celebrated 90 years of Christian fellowship and service as a congregation. Also celebrated on that day, was the 25th anniversary of the Rev. Rastislav Mičovsky and his family coming to serve the Nativity Lutheran congregation. Following the Sunday anniversary service, a celebratory luncheon followed, with traditional Slavic foods and pastries, handcrafted from scratch by our own members.
Newly-minted bishops are not only found within the ELCA, but abroad as well. On October 16th, Jan Hrobon, the newly elected bishop of the Western District of one of our companion churches, the Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia (ECAV), met with Bishop Kucharek. Bishop Hrobon was elected to serve a six-year term, and has already begun fulfilling his duties and executing his office, with the date of his installation service yet to be determined. Bishop Hrobon and his wife were here in the United States, on what was originally (prior to his election) intended to be a simple vacation. In addition to the Hrobons visiting with Pastor Micovsky in Windsor and others, the bishops shared a lunch together with Pastor Michal Mišina of New York, and discussed the beginning of a renewed partnership between our churches in the future. Bishop Hrobon, prior to his election as bishop of the Western District of ECAV, was a past participant in our Student Immersion Program in its early years. At that time, he attended classes at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (now the Philadelphia Campus of United Lutheran Seminary), and also visited a number of synod congregations, including Holy Trinity in Torrington, CT.
Autumn schedules included a number of meetings and conferences, including a meeting of the Conference of Bishops and the Executive Board of the Women of the ELCA, where Bishop Kucharek serves as Advisory Bishop on behalf of the ELCA Conference of Bishops. It should be noted that the ELCA Conference of Bishops meeting included the addition of six recently elected women bishops, bringing the current total to seventeen. In addition, the Muhlenberg College Board of Trustees met in October for their Fall meeting; Bishop Kucharek of the Slovak Zion Synod, Bishop Davenport of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, and Bishop Samuel Zeiser of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod are the three bishops who serve as trustees on the board of this Lutheran College.
Reformation Sunday included special as well as solemn observances across our congregations. Holy Trinity, Manhattan dedicated a processional cross and honored the many years of ministry of the Ladies Altar Guild. St. John’s, Charleroi observed Reformation Sunday with a special communion service. At Holy Trinity, Trumbull, CT worshippers remembered their former pastor, Pastor Emeritus Hans-Fredrick Gustafson, as a service of committal to the columbarium at the church was conducted following the Sunday Eucharist. Pastor Kathleen Mills and Bishop Kucharek presided at this solemn observance of Reformation Sunday, which was attended by both parishioners and friends of Pastor Hans. Special choral and instrumental music, as well as tributes at the committal and the luncheon were also given by family and friends in his memory.
Our autumn schedules have been in full swing for barely two months. Yet, as we enjoy the beautiful colors of the autumn leaves, let us reflect on all the beauty that ministry and community in Christ brings us, as we work together, celebrate milestones together, solemnly remember those dear to us, and renew our baptismal call to service in Christ in our world.