End of Year Letter – 2020
December 9, 2020
Dear Beloved Saints in the Central / Southern Illinois Synod,
God’s rich grace be yours in this Advent season! With ultimate gratitude to God as we near the end of 2020, let me thank you for your faithful generosity to the ministry of Christ’s Church through the C/SIS and the broader ELCA. Your financial giving is appreciated and is a sign that God is moving among us.
What a year 2020 has been. I have heard it said many times, “I will be so glad to be done with 2020.” At the same time, 2020 may be the year that forms our future Christian witness more than any year in the previous twenty.
There is good reason to lament 2020. We have not been able to gather in our sanctuaries to lift our voices together in singing to God, to receive Christ’s body and blood in the assembly of believers, and to enjoy in-person Christian fellowship. We have lost congregational members to COVID-19, we or family members have been struck by the virus, we have wearied of being isolated in our homes and separated from those we care about.
Yet, the Holy Spirit continues to enlighten and sanctify our ministries.
- Our congregations have discovered that, for the sake of the proclamation of the gospel, they are able to generate sweeping change in conducting worship and Christian education, when that is necessary.
- The reach of congregational online worship and Bible study goes beyond our church membership.
- The pandemic prompted a new opportunity to connect congregation council presidents and parish council presidents for generative Zoom conversations.
- Despite a three-month drought in clergy mobility in the ELCA last spring, this year eight of our congregations have called and received new pastors.
- Generosity within the C/SIS blossomed in response to our COVID-19 Special Appeal for Madagascar pastors and their families. More than $20,000 was given and has been sent out to our companion synods.
Please join me in gratitude to God for the dedication and work of our Synod Council.
- The Synod Council strengthened our synod’s ministry by leading us to deeper engagement with the Scriptures and by fostering new connections between congregations.
- The Synod Council’s Statement in response to the brutal and unjust killing of George Floyd and the establishment of a C/SIS anti-racism working group strengthened our witness to constructive anti-racism.
- To deepen its role as trustee of the synod’s mission and ministry, the Synod Council has added two meetings per year dedicated solely to tending to the vision of the synod.
As we thank God for you and for the blessings that have sustained us during the challenges of 2020, we look ahead to the needs and opportunities of 2021. Your end of the year giving to our shared ministry in the synod will strengthen ministry across the synod, including:
- to move forward on the Synod Council’s goal of providing staff focused on digital connections with disciples across the synod and being able to give technical assistance to congregations that are currently without an online presence.
- to fund stewardship and evangelism training for congregations, pastors, and deacons, and to maintain our constant efforts to seek out high-quality interim pastors and called pastors.
If you can, please consider additional giving that would continue the financial partnership with our two companion synods in Madagascar. That is especially important now since the Synod Assembly offering is a major source of this support and there was no Synod Assembly in 2020.
Psalm 126 is the psalm assigned to this coming Sunday – a fitting Scripture for 2020. The psalm directs our attention to the Lord as the provider of our Advent hope and our Christmas joy:
3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (Ps. 126:3-6)
S. John Roth
Bishop, Central/Southern Illinois Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America