The generous mission support from our congregations to the Northeast Ohio
Synod of the ELCA makes it possible for lives to be transformed.
Synod of the ELCA makes it possible for lives to be transformed.
“When I was first approached six years ago to consider standing for election to the office of synod vice president, to be completely candid, I really had no idea what a synod vice president did and wasn't sure that I was at all qualified.” These words of Bryan Penvose, our outgoing Synod Vice President, ring true in so many ears. God so often has more trust and faith in us than we do in ourselves. Bryan discovered
this as through the years he has found this office not just to be a “position,” but a true call. After winning the election, Bryan “quickly discovered [what was] to be a most wonderful time in ministry together with people across our synod and the entire ELCA.”
Bryan is now concluding not one, but two terms as our synod Vice President. “Whenever I speak with others about the office of synod vice president and even with other synod vice presidents, this is what I talk about - that serving in this office is a joyous and blessed call. Having the opportunity to serve alongside our bishop, synod staff, fellow synod council members, the rostered leaders in our synod, and
so many other amazing leaders across the church, has truly been a life's blessing.“
So often we aren't quite sure how our gifts and skills fit into God's hopes and dreams for the world. “I always wondered and prayed about where God might have a place for me in the church. I knew that God was calling me to serve somewhere and in some way, but I was struggling to discover exactly how God was calling me as a lay person to serve and just where the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit blessed me with might fit into the tapestry of God's church.”
Six years later, Bryan is thankful: “I give thanks to God for finding a place for me in doing God's Work with Our Hands, together, as God's church.” We give thanks that six years ago, Bryan listened to the still small voice of God. We look forward to who God might call next. Thank you for your partnership in this ministry we share here in Northeastern Ohio Synod.
In 2020, all aspects of congregational life were upended by COVID-19. Worship, education, fellowship, and outreach all had to be hastily adapted and sometimes greatly restricted, for the safety of members, staff, and neighbors. And as unemployment increased and families struggled financially, so did many of our churches. In an effort to help those congregations with the greatest need who also provide vital services to their surrounding communities, the ELCA created the COVID-19 Response Fund.
Advent Lutheran Church in Cleveland serves a community with high unemployment and high infant mortality rates. Advent’s Pastor Leonard Killings reports that, thanks to the COVID-19 Relief Fund, the congregation was able to continue operating its Lee Miles Hunger Center, fill holiday food baskets the congregation provides annually to needy families, and purchase winter coats for needy children. The congregation incurred both financial losses and additional expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this support from the wider church helps Advent continue its life-saving ministries. The people of Advent are grateful to receive the ELCA COVID 19 Response funds.
The ELCA COVID-19 Response Fund provides grants to congregations and local ministries serving communities with the highest health risks or economic impacts from the pandemic. The grants allow these churches and ministries to continue paying staff, and providing food, water, shelter, or health care to people in need. And they’re only possible because of YOUR mission support. Thank you for sharing your gifts to provide life-changing opportunities across our Church.
Going forward, we’ll be sharing more stories like these: examples of how your mission support funds vital synodical and churchwide ministries. If you have a story of how Mission Support funds have benefited a ministry near or far, please share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2019, St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Medina, Ohio said goodbye to Pastor Tom as he retired. Because of Covid, the call committee was finally able to start their work in the Spring of 2021. “We were where lots of congregations found themselves during this time,” said Jill Heck, Chair of the Call Committee. “We didn’t know how to get together to do the work of the committee, when and even if we could get together. Covid was quite difficult. It didn’t allow us to have the same access to each other that we were used to having. That slowed the Call Committee down.
During this same time, Rev. Mitch Phillips began his work at the Northeastern Ohio Synod office as the Assistant to the Bishop responsible for the Call or Transition Process. “Bishop Laura Barbins and I have been working on making the call process more contextual.” shared Pastor Mitch. “We want to be able to better respond to situations. Now we refer to it as the Transition Process because call is only a small part of it.”
When Pastor Mitch began his work with St. Matthew their position had been vacant for nearly 2 years. “They were eager to call a new pastor,” he said, “but their particular situation required finding someone who could manage a staff as well.”
“Once we got going as a committee, we were steadfast,” shared Jill. “We met once every two weeks initially. There were times we met weekly. It was really important for us to review the process in the Call Manual for the ELCA and learn it and understand it. We also wanted to act accordingly. It made a big difference because by doing so, we started with growing together spiritually before we started doing the work of the committee. Pastor Mitch helped us in this respect. By being together spiritually, our work flowed so much easier because people felt safe and secure in their relationship with one another. It was a really beautiful thing.”
The committee members worked diligently to ensure they represented what the congregation wanted while also understanding this was a partnership with the synod office. “That was very enlightening,” Jill said. “Hearing from Pastor Mitch the synod’s position with regards to the call helped make it about the greater church, not about a singular church.”
Jill, the committee, and the congregation are grateful to the Synod Office, and Pastor Mitch for the leadership provided to them during their call process. “Although he was new to his position, he was very knowledgeable about the Call Process and assisted the Call Committee from beginning to end. He always had time to answer our questions and give guidance on sensitive issues.”
“What Pastor Mitch did exceedingly well was to not only guide us administratively, but he was our Spiritual Call Committee leader as he continuously prayed for us and reminded us that we were doing God’s work. Over time, it was clear that his influence helped to mold us into an open, caring group of God’s faithful servants who recognized that we had the privilege to receive the Holy Spirit as we prepared our Ministry Site Profile, prepared questions for prospective candidates, interviewed candidates, and made the recommendation to our congregation.”
“The process at times was tedious and seemed like we were not making progress, but the thorough preparation resulted in the Call Committee being assured that God was in our midst and that the recommendation to call Pastor Steve Mahaffey was indeed God’s plan for St. Matthew. On February 27, 2022, the congregation voted to call Pastor Steve.”
Your mission support to the Northeastern Ohio Synod makes it possible for the synod staff to walk alongside congregations providing spiritual guidance, coaching, teaching, and process support. Thank you for your partnership in this ministry we share here in Northeastern Ohio Synod.