End of Year Letter – December 1, 2021
Dear Beloved Saints in the Central / Southern Illinois Synod,
God’s rich grace be yours in this Advent season!
As we approach the end of 2021, I reflect on the goodness of God as we experience it through your faithful generosity to the ministry of Christ’s Church through the C/SIS and the broader ELCA. Your financial giving is fruit of the Holy Spirit alive in you, a gift that I never take for granted.
I do not need to rehearse for you the challenges that 2021 brought us, e.g., continuing ups and downs with COVID-19 infection rates, further strains on pastors, deacons, and lay leaders, deeper questions about the future of the church, and new inflationary pressures.
The Psalms give voice to our lament:
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God. (Psalm 69:3)
Yet, God is faithful, and we are blessed.
- Vaccines became available and COVID infection rates came down to levels at which congregations could responsibly provide some in-person gathered worship.
- The reach of congregational online worship and Bible study continues to go beyond our church membership.
- Despite a continuing slow-down in clergy mobility in the ELCA, five of our congregations called new pastors this year.
- Interest in Adult Faith Formation events offered by the synod has grown.
- Generosity within the C/SIS continued to blossom in response to our COVID-19 Special Appeal for Madagascar pastors and their families.
- We successfully held our 2020 and 2021 Synod Assemblies concurrently entirely online. Assembly action strengthened our synod’s ministry by leading us to deeper engagement with the Scriptures and by fostering new connections between congregations.
- We hired Mr. Michael Horn to be the synod’s Director of Communications. He will begin his service with us in January.
- The Synod Council had a generative Visioning Meeting in November. The Synod Council invites all of us to pray, study, and ponder “What future is God calling us to in the Central/Southern Illinois Synod?”
As we thank God for you and for the blessings that have sustained us during the challenges of 2021, we look ahead to the needs and opportunities of 2022. Your end of the year giving to our shared ministry in the synod will strengthen ministry across the synod, including:
- to move forward with the Director of Communications, who is 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.
I would like to close this letter with a portion of Psalm 126, as I did last year. The psalm directs our attention to the Lord as the provider of our Advent hope and our Christmas joy:
The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (Ps. 126:3-6)