Synod Assembly Updates

Electronic Giving Pilot Project Update

14:31 01 June in Synod Assembly

By Ron Walrath, Project Coordinator

As Project Coordinator of the South Carolina Synod Electronic Giving Project, I am reporting on the project’s beginnings, goals and results to date. Initial findings indicate that there was a pent up demand for electronic giving in project congregations. Year-over-year electronic giving in project congregations increased 34% in congregations that added credit and debit card processing to existing electronic check services and electronic giving transactions increased by 61% in those congregations. Also noteworthy is that 2/3 of the dollar increase has been via electronic check and only 1/3 via credit or debit card. Results have been widely mixed with one congregation experiencing a 103% increase in electronic giving dollars while others have been flat or even slightly reduced. A full report will be provided after the project ends December 1, 2017.

The project is a Growing in God’s Mission Initiative. The Stewardship of Life Institute, Gettysburg, awarded the South Carolina Synod $3,000 to pay the cost of VANCO Payment Solutions charges. The award is paying the charges for twelve participating congregations for one year.

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Faith Practices – Healthy Lifestyles

19:14 24 May in Synod Assembly

By Pastor Lisa Isenhower

On Monday afternoon, Rev. Paul Aebischer from Portico Benefits Services led a discussion around healthy lifestyles for about 20 participants. He opened with a reflection on John 5:1-18, which relates the story of Jesus’ healing of a paralytic on the Sabbath. Participants discussed this healing miracle, focusing on Jesus’ question to the man: “Do you want to be made well?”

This question was a springboard for conversation about those things that keep us from engaging healthier eating and exercise habits. Many observed that even congregational fellowship can be a barrier to healthy living when so much fellowship revolves around sharing food, and many of our favorite shared foods are not the healthiest ones. Several members of the group shared small but helpful ways that they or their congregations are encouraging and adopting healthier lifestyles.

Participants also viewed a fascinating film called “How Wolves Change Rivers,” which relates the amazing story of how, when wolves were reintroduced to the environment at Yellowstone National Park to reduce the deer population, the whole environment was transformed. Plants and animals that had been missing from the environment for many years, returned. This transformation, known as a tropic cascade, has profoundly changed the landscape of Yellowstone. This story of a small change leading to much larger—and even surprising—changes in the environment offered hope and encouragement for participants looking to make changes toward healthier lifestyles.

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Teaching Moment: Small Catechism

18:13 24 May in Synod Assembly

By Pastor Lisa Isenhower

Rev. Dr. Wayne Kannaday decided that, after such a powerful Assembly, he felt moved to do something different with the third teaching moment, the third of the three “doors” of the small catechism. “I have thrown my notes away,” he said. Instead, he led the assembly in reflecting on the motif of the door and its role in our life of faith. He observed that the we are born of a door, the door to the empty tomb—the stone—rolled away. The Lutheran movement began with a door, the door of the castle church in Wittenberg where Martin Luther posted the 95 theses.

Kannaday asked hearers to reflect on the doors to their own congregational churches. Do they swing in both directions, both to gather people in and to scatter disciples out into the world? He related the story of some friends who traveled to Wittenberg in the spring and then found themselves in Prague on Easter Sunday. They wanted to worship on Easter and found an English-speaking Lutheran church there. About 30 people from their group, some Lutheran and some not, went to experience Easter. The group was greeted at the church by the pastor, who asked “what kind of Lutheran are you?’ When he found out the Lutherans in the group were members of the ELCA, he did not permit them to take communion. Kannaday suggested that the “welcome” sign on that church door had an asterisk at the end, denoting that not all were welcome. He pointed out that an asterisk looks like a cross that has been “x-ed” out. What if our sign said Welcome*? Do our church doors have a sign on them that says “Welcome* . . . except.”

Finally, Kannaday pointed hearers to the poster of the Cranach altar piece at the town church in Wittenberg. Kannaday noted that Cranach’s genius was that he painted the faces of real people from the Wittenberg community. Thus, Katy Luther is the woman on the front row holding one of the Luthers’ sons. Luther is preaching, pointing to Jesus, preaching the Gospel. Through Cranach’s use of perspective, we, the viewers of the painting, are a part of the congregation also—we are included among the listeners, pointed to Jesus. The one face in the painting that is not pointed to Jesus is the face of Magdalena, Luther’s daughter, who had died. She is looking at us as if to ask, what are you going to do? What sign is on your door? What sign would Jesus have us put on our door?

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Elections: 2017 Synod Assembly

18:07 24 May in Synod Assembly

By Rev. Lisa Isenhower

With no ecclesiastical ballots at this year’s assembly, the elections process ran smoothly and quickly. Jean Knight led the assembly in mastering the Quizdom voting devices. Once all devices were working and equipped with fresh batteries, Pastor Mike Watson, Conduct of Elections Co-Chair, led the assembly in voting to fill 12 positions in the SC Synod.

The following were elected to serve on the SC Synod Council:

  • Andrew Boozer was elected to serve as a lay male council member from the Northern area.
  • Pastor Maria Miller was elected to serve as an “at large” clergy member.
  • Pastor Andrew Isenhower was elected to serve as a clergy member from the Central area.
  • LaTynia Taylor was elected to serve as a person of color/language other than English council member.
  • Ron Redd was elected as a lay male “at large” council member.
  • Kathleen Cartledge was elected to serve as a lay female “at large” council member.
  • Diane Wicker, whose name was placed into nomination at the assembly on Sunday, May 21, was elected to serve another term as a female member of Synod Council.
  • Rachel Mims was elected to serve as the Youth (Grades 8-11) “at large” council member.

In addition to Synod Council elections, Sig Huitt and Deb Poole were elected to serve on the Mission Endowment Fund Grant Committee. Linda Wells was elected to serve on the SC Lutheran Retreat Centers Board. Pastor Susan Crowell, who was elected by the Novus Way Board to serve as a member of that body, was ratified by the assembly for that position.

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Bible Conversations

17:18 24 May in Synod Assembly

By Rev. Michele Fischer

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.”

Ruben Duran spoke to the South Carolina Synod Assembly on Monday, May 22, about how we can be prisms, bringing out the God-colors in the world around us. He shared with us a story about his granddaughter and how she opened a door that Ruben and his wife had not been able to open on their own.

Ruben and his wife are very welcoming people. They always try to know their neighbors. A few years ago, a new family moved into the neighborhood. Ruben and his wife made overtures to welcome them, to get to know them, but the family seemed content to keep their distance.

Then last year, Ruben’s four year-old granddaughter came to visit. Exploring their backyard, she found a hill that was suitable for rolling. And the little girl began to roll down the hill, giggling and begging her grandfather to join her.

Ruben, not wanting to disappoint his adoring granddaughter, began rolling down the hill with her. She laughed even harder crying out “Grandpa, you’re not doing it right.”

The giggles and laughter did not go unnoticed, and it wasn’t long before they had an audience, the neighboring couple with their three year-old child.

And it was this moment, this silliness brought to them by a child, that finally opened the door to relationship. The young couple admitted to Ruben that their child was a miracle. She had nearly died at birth, and even now had continuing health issues. And at a time when they most needed the support of family, they found themselves estranged.

In the past year, Ruben, his wife and their neighbors have become friends. Their once reclusive neighbors now have support, prayers and new friends, all because of a four year old who wanted to roll down the hill at her grandfather’s house.

Ruben left us with two questions:

Where is God’s light most needed in our communities?

How can we become prisms to bring out the God-colors in the world around us?

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CALLED FORWARD. Together in Christ. A breakout session led by Rev. Ginny Aebischer

17:13 24 May in Synod Assembly

By Michael Kohn

The churchwide expression of the ELCA has been engaging synods, congregations, and individuals in a strategic listening exercise designed to give clarity to where we are and want to go as a church. Rev. Ginny Aebischer helped demystify that process for a group of eager participants at the 1017 Synod Assembly.

Pastor Aebischer began the session with a Speed-Dating-With-The-Bible exercise where participants got to know one another better while listening intently to Bible passages. Fun and thought-provoking, the exercise put the group in a frame of mind for dealing with the questions of what is really important as church together.

Using a second process of table discussion and sticky notes, each participant had the opportunity to articulate what was important at the local level and what ministries in individual congregations were most important and done well. After pinning the thoughts on the wall and reading the results, the group then began to see how SC’s thoughts matched up with what is being discovered churchwide.

The overlaps were interesting and encouraging. This exercise would be a fun process to replicate in congregations, and Rev. Aebischer at the Synod Office (803.765.0590) can advise on how to make this happen. The document “Called Forward,” is likewise available through the Synod office and recommended for congregational use and study.


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Young Adult Thirsty Thursdays

17:05 24 May in Synod Assembly

By Rev. Brad Bellah

We were led in a session about reaching out to Young adults, where we were told about a ministry entitled “Ya’ll (Young Adults Live my Lutheran).”

This group created a Thirsty Thursday Group, which meets the 1st and 3rd weeks of the month. An important rule they observe is to honor their time together by trying to never cancel their gatherings! There is no agenda, no Bible study. They simply gather for fellowship, share their “Highs and Lows,” and pray for and with one another.

This looks like a wonderful and meaningful ministry that other congratulations may be able to use to reach out to young adults in their congregation and wider community.

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Teaching Moment #2 from Wayne Kannaday

08:58 23 May in Synod Assembly

By Rev. Lisa Isenhower

On Monday, Rev. Dr. Wayne Kannaday let the assembly in considering what Luther’s Small Catechism says about the Lord’s Prayer. He pointed us to Luther’s explanation of the second and third petitions of the prayer, where we ask that God’s kingdom might come and God’s will might be done. Luther’s words there remind us that God will bring the kingdom and God’s will is being done, but are we interested in being a part of God’s will being done? Are willing to let God’s will happen through us?

Dr. Kannaday asked us to consider what we are doing personally when we are scattered out into the world of our work and life, or what our congregations are doing in our gathered ministries together to be an answer to the very prayer we are praying for God’s will to be done.

At the end of our conversations around those questions, Dr. Kannaday led the assembly in praying that we will allow God’s will to be done in our lives, work and play; in our church labors, in our church service, our church worship, but also in our daily walk. We prayed that God’s will might be done in Charleston, in our SC Synod, in our nation, in our families, and in our hearts.

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Monday Night Worship Service

08:36 23 May in Synod Assembly

By Rev. Michele Fischer

One of the highlights of any South Carolina Synod Assembly is the opportunity to join together with Lutherans from across the synod to share in Holy Communion. This year’s Holy Communion service was held at the recently renovated St. Matthew’s Church in downtown Charleston.

With a full choir and bell choir, more than three hundred people gathered to hear the Word, share in the Holy Meal and were sent back out into the world.

The service began with a rite of Thanksgiving for baptism, where Pastor Karen Hawkins managed to ensure everyone was blessed with the sprinkling of water as a reminder of our baptism. Lessons were read in both Spanish and English. Bishop Herman Yoos preached about our call to go out into the world. Citing Luke 9 from The Message, he reminded us that we do not need any special equipment to go into the world; we are the equipment God needs, and he wants us to go forth with God’s message.

He also shared a story from the trip to Japan that he and a delegation from the synod took to Japan in March. One of the days, they toured the city of Nagasaki, one of the two cities devastated by a nuclear bomb at the end of World War II. Over 80,000 people, men women and children were killed instantly. It was an exhausting day, physically, mentally and spiritually. When they had finished their tour, Bishop Yoos simply wanted to go back to the hotel room and rest. But there was one more stop on their itinerary.

The weary travelers entered a Nagasaki Lutheran Church, a small congregation of fifteen people, and were greeted by an amazing feast. After the meal, their hostess presented each of the travelers with a hand carved cross. This woman had an incredible passion for ministry and hospitality. She not only welcomed these Americans warmly; She would sing hymns in the street, and had a sign inviting people to join her for free coffee and conversation.

Bishop Yoos invited us to reflect on what would happen if we treated everyone we met in the same way their wonderful hostess treated others.

We were blessed during worship to have two representatives from the Ingelsia Evengelica Luterana de Colombia join us. The Rev. Angelica Bernate read the reading from 1 Peter. Bishop Altahualpa Hernandez presided at Holy Communion.

It was wonderful to have two of our three companion synods remembered during worship with the reflections from Japan and the participation of our honored guests from Colombia.

Thank you to the wonderful musicians and planners, and all who served during the service for such a powerful time of worship and prayer.

Bishop Herman Yoos’s sermon.

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Gullah – Geechee tour

08:02 23 May in Synod Assembly

By Rev. Michele Fischer

One of the faith practices offered on Monday afternoon at the South Carolina Lutheran Synod Assembly was a two hour history tour, focusing on the Gullah/Geechee community.

Gullah is both a language and a culture. The word Gullah is used interchangeably with “Geechee”. Officially recognized as a language in the early part of the 20th century, Gullah is a creole language based in English, with over 400 words and phrases borrowed from various African languages.

Gullah is found primarily in the southeastern United States, along the coast lands from Jacksonville to South Carolina. The language is heavily influenced by African grammar and syntax. Once viewed as uneducated, research in the 1940s proved its close relationship to the original slaves brought here from West Africa.

For many years, the residents of James Island, Johns Island, Wadmalaw Island and Edisto Island were mostly African Americans, and part of the Gullah culture. Fifty years ago, many of the residents were fishermen or farmers. Interest in seaside homes and development has changed the demographics, and the Gullah culture is threatened by the development and gentrification.

The Africans who were brought here as slaves brought with them the knowledge of growing rice. Rice was unfamiliar to most Europeans but quickly became a lucrative crop. For over 90 years, Charleston was one of the richest cities in the country because of the rice crop. Slaves who were brought in to farm the rice were frequently worked to death. Once a slave was sent into the rice fields, he or she had an average of seven years of life remaining.

In 1822, Denmark Vesey attempted to lead his fellow slaves in a revolt. Unfortunately, the plot was discovered, and many of those involved in the planning were hanged.

Our tour also stopped at the James Island Presbyterian Church cemetery. A grave marker for Samuel “Goat Cart Sam” Smalls is there, memorializing the real life man who inspired the opera Porgy and Bess. The real grave for the disabled man is unknown, but a marker has been placed in the cemetery to honor his life. In homage to the Jewish tradition (opera composer Ira Gershwin was Jewish), visitors often leave a stone on the marker.

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