Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
I would like to share a few minutes with you today as I begin my term serving as Bishop. It is my delight to serve with you in the South Carolina Synod and I look forward to the ways the Holy Spirit will move through us and shape our mission together for the next six years.
It is very important to me that I have the opportunity to meet with our Synod Deacons, Pastors and Council Presidents to hear how they are experiencing ministry and mission across the state. For this reason, I have set aside significant time for zoom meetings this fall and I hope to have a conversation with leaders of each congregation across the Synod.
If you haven’t already, you will receive an invitation from my office to sign up for one of the time slots available, you will get that very soon. I can’t think of anything more important to me in starting this call than having conversations with you. I simply wish to listen to you; to hear your joys and your concerns and to pray together for our communities.
These conversations will help us all move forward together and will inform the directions we take for our ministry partnership. Please sign up for a time slot and then you will receive the link to our zoom. Each zoom meeting includes the leadership from each congregation. I already have 51 of these scheduled for September and I can hardly wait to visit with you.
These continue to be unusual times in our society dealing with Covid19 and best practices for moving through the fall 2020 season.
The issues of safety for all God’s children are at the top of our list of concerns, and our prayers.
I hold in prayer each of you who are discerning ways to share God’s word of hope with your congregations and communities, and I urge continued caution and precautions as you consider any movement to in-person worship services. I encourage you to collaborate and dream with colleagues about possible new ideas for reaching out, and finding ways that might be possible to assist one another with online presence as needed. I encourage everyone to consider the benefits an online presence has given us all in sharing God’s word broad and wide. How will you continue to offer that kind of presence when you also open your church doors? Some are already figuring this out. Please share your ideas with one another.
I also encourage all of our Pastors, Deacons and Congregations to be mindful of the stress and challenges being faced right now by families who are homeschooling and working at the same time, including some of our Pastors and Deacons; and all the children, youth, school teachers and school administrators and staff who are moving through new and challenging ways of learning and teaching this fall. Exercise as much Grace as possible with each other and with yourselves right now.
Please put them all on your prayer lists and look for ways to offer assistance if you are able. You might want to talk with parents in your congregations and school leaders to seek ways that congregations can ease the burdens of everything being done in new ways. Some things as simple as offering to read to children so parents get a little break, or sending cards and notes of appreciation to teachers and staff would be so deeply appreciated. Find out what the needs are and use this time to assist as you are able.
The past four weeks have been a whirlwind! I have been completing the responsibilities from the Assistant to the Bishop position including follow up from Assembly and meetings with the Candidacy Committee. I have been assessing our Budget and Mission Support as we moved through a spring and summer season affected by Covid19 and I have been meeting with staff members to hear their sense of call to ministry. In addition, the ELCA is going through a major restructuring of staffing and ministry priorities and I am listening to what that may mean for Synodical ministry too.
I would love to announce staffing to all of you, but determining the moving pieces of all of that requires more time. I would ask for your prayers for me in discernment, and for the amazing members of our Synod Staff as we work through all of the factors involved. I promise that the Synod staffing is also at the top of my list of concerns and I will have something to share with all of you soon. Let’s get a little further into this fall first.
Finally, I can’t thank Bishop Herman enough for the friendship and partnership we have shared over these years; for all he has taught me about leadership and grace, and for all the opportunities he has given me to serve this church as his Assistant to the Bishop. We have all been blessed by his faithful ministry and we wish him and Cindy all the blessings they so deserve as they move into this new chapter in their lives. Synod Council continues to hope and plan for a time in the near future when the Synod can honor their ministry with us through a retirement celebration. Keep on the lookout for more news on that too.
God bless your days and your deeds. You are in my prayers and in my heart!
The Rev. Virginia S. Aebischer
ELCA South Carolina Synod