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TORRINGTON, CT (SZS) Since November, the people of the Slovak Zion Synod have been involved in the formation and raising up of the children of God of all ages, while preparing for the birth of Christ.

On All Saints Sunday, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Little Falls, NY, observed Children’s Church. On that day, worship was tailored for the children of the congregation with special songs of praise as well as their active participation in the Service of Holy Communion. Bishop Wilma S. Kucharek was present for the event, sharing a children’s sermon with the young and young at heart, as well as officiating at the liturgy with the Rev. Joseph Famulare, Holy Trinity’s pastor, who serves in the Slovak Zion Synod from the Episcopal Church.

In November, our Bishop joined other bishops of the ELCA at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN in addressing the formation of future leaders and ministers of the church. During their time together among the faculty, staff, and students of the seminary, the bishops discussed the mission needs of the church and how these can best be addressed by the seminary, synods, and ELCA as they partner together in preparing candidates for ministry in the church.

The month of November also highlighted the formation of candidates for the ministry in our companion church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Slovakia. While in Slovakia, Bishop Kucharek met with the new seminary leadership of the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Comenius University in Bratislava, including Dean Milan Jurík, Vice-Dean David Benka, and Vice-Dean Maroš Nicák; they discussed past accomplishments and future goals for the partnership between our Slovak Zion Synod and the seminary. Bishop Kucharek also attended an award ceremony at Comenius University, which included awards to university educators and students in various fields, including to Lutheran theological educator Maroš Nicák.

Student interviews took place in Slovakia for those interested in participating in our Synod’s 2019 Summer Trainee Immersion Experience in the United States. Since our Synod continues to provide sponsorship and support for the formation of these future pastors and leaders in the Central European Lutheran Church, congregations are encouraged to participate by contacting the Synod Office if you are able to host a seminarian in your congregation next summer.

A visit was made to the residents of the Agape Home for Seniors in Svätý Jur, Slovakia. Since the senior home has already reached capacity, a planned expansion is underway, and retired bishop and seminary professor Július Filo pointed out the status of the construction project. This Lutheran social ministry, established to meet the needs of retirees no longer able to live on their own, has also been an on-going project sponsored by our Synod.

As December got underway, the Advent Season saw a shift from an emphasis on the Christian formation of those made children of God through our baptism into Christ, to an emphasis on the theme of preparing and awaiting the only-begotten Child of God, Jesus.

At Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church in Riverside, IL, a Štedry Večer Christmas luncheon was held for members and friends from area Slovak congregations. This luncheon was reminiscent of a traditional Štedry Večer (Christmas Eve) meal, including oplatky/oblatky, bobalky/opekance, traditional Slavic food, and the singing of Christmas carols. Words of greeting were given by the Rev. Dennis Lauritsen, pastor of the host congregation, and Vera Borysek, representing the Ladies Altar Guild which hosted the event. Bishop Kucharek brought greetings from the members of the Slovak Zion Synod and led those gathered in the traditional Slovak language devotions, prayers, and season’s wishes.

The Ladies Altar Guild of St. Peter and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Blue Island, IL, under the co-leadership of Vicki Dieska, hosted a festive party to welcome the coming Christmas Season with food, fellowship, and exchange of gifts. In addition to members and friends of the congregation, in attendance were the Rev. Marjorie Vander Wagen, pastor of the congregation, the Rev. Karen Knutson, retired pastor of the Synod and former pastor of the congregation, and Bishop Kucharek of the Slovak Zion Synod.

Special events which have taken place elsewhere in the Synod include: Christmas parties (Holy Trinity, New York City; Holy Trinity, Stafford Springs, CT); a Pancake Breakfast with St. Nicholas (Holy Trinity, Trumbull, CT); special Advent evening devotions (Dr. Martin Luther, Muskegon, MI; Holy Trinity, Trumbull, CT; Holy Trinity, East Pittsburgh, PA; Dr. Martin Luther, Brooklyn, OH); Holiday concerts (hosted by Trinity, Chicago; Holy Trinity, Trumbull; Sts. Peter and Paul, Riverside; and Dr. Martin Luther, Brooklyn, OH – which also included a special display of over 40 nativity scenes); and Church-made holiday treats such as oblatky, klobasa, and baked goods (Nativity, Windsor, Ontario; Dr. Martin Luther, Brooklyn, OH).

In addition, events such as Christmas caroling, flowers and gifts collected for the home bound and those in need, Christmas pageants by the youth, and special worship opportunities for Christmas Eve and Christmas have, or will be, occurring during December.

As we await with joyful anticipation the birth of the Christ Child, may we continue in our growth and formation as the adopted children of God, always reaching out to include others in that fellowship we share in Christ.