The 2014 Assembly was in session from November 16-23, 2014 aboard the Carnival Dream; the itinerary began here in New Orleans, LA and made calls in the ports of Key West, Freeport, and Nassau before beginning its return route.
This year’s assembly included such well-received features of last year’s assembly as offering interactive new takes on bible studies, focus on elements of wellness and healthy witness and mission, and provide engaging enrichment and worship. The assembly also featured a variety of worship opportunities, including an Ecumenical Festival of the Eucharist with the Anglican Church at their Cathedral in Nassau on New Providence Island. The assembly included a continued focus on wellness in all its aspects, including wellness-oriented bible studies and other opportunities for those physically able, designed to strengthen the overall endurance and health of our church’s lay and clergy leaders. Our plenary sessions have provided us with a total of 18 hours to attend to the business and mission of our church. We saw the re-election of our Bishop, the Rev. Wilma S. Kucharek, on the first ballot, with 97.7% of the vote. And of course, this year’s events continued to provide ample opportunities for fellowship, with a new ship and a new itinerary, to engage each other when we’re not in session: on the ship, or off on the islands.
Among the participants of this year’s assembly, was the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Rev. Father T. Conrad Selnik. Presiding Bishop Eaton shared words with the assembly, regarding her gratefulness for our continued support of our mission abroad as part of the ELCA, as well as her heartfelt appreciation for our Synod’s continued ministry. Bishop Eaton noted our unique identity as a non-non-geographic Synod, and stated that she believed we are the “one place in this church…[where] it’s not about where the church is.” She went on to express gratitude for our unique takes on and experiences in global mission, saying “If there was not a Slovak Zion Synod in this church, we would have to create one…This church would be greatly diminished [without this Synod].” Participants found ample time to enjoy the various venues and highlights the ship offers, and were encouraged to do so. They came back each morning refreshed and ready to engage the mission of the church. Past cruise ship assemblies have had many return with stories of how they had spent that time in fellowship with those from other congregations, sharing with each other best ministry practices and life in their congregations; in addition, being the church together on a ship presents its own witness to others—of a church on the move that goes where the people are. This year was certainly no different!
The popularity of an Assembly conducted on a ship can be attributed to the ability of this venue to facilitate fellowship among the participants, provide for a variety of services to accommodate a multitude of needs, as well as the added benefit of being a witness to those on the ship, both churched and unchurched. These benefits, in addition to the added value of being cheaper per person and overall a more cost effective setting, are the basis of the unanimous decision of last’s year’s assembly in affirming the benefits and recommending the ship venue for future assemblies. This is what makes such an assembly especially appealing to its participants.