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A Word to Begin

“O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.” (Psalm 26:8)

Last night as our family was sharing dinner, my wife turned to me and asked, “Well, does it feel like the night before your first day of school?” With the asking of that question, she could not have hit the nail more squarely on the head. As I went to bed last night and as I woke up early this morning for my first day as bishop, my stomach was filled with those proverbial butterflies — a mixture of anticipatory excitement over being a part of all that God is doing across our synod and a healthy dose of fear and anxiety over the overwhelming amount of stuff I simply do not know and need to learn.

It is a feeling I remember experiencing oftentimes at this time of year as the congregations I have served began their annual gearing up for Rally Day and the kick-off of all their fall ministries. It was joyfully exciting to see ministries like confirmation and Sunday School and choir preparing to resume after their summer hiatus and, yet, at the same time, it was also stressful trying to make sure all the pieces were in the right places and all the preparations were complete for things to start up again … just like beginning a new school year and just like beginning as bishop.

As I begin, let me first express my sincere thanksgiving for the ministries of those leaders in our synod for whom today marks the first day of their retirement: Bishop John Roth, Pastor Ken Sandlin, Pastor Maureen Stein, and Pastor Ken Tegtmeier. I am most grateful to each of them for the faithful ministry to the gospel that they have shared with us and with the larger church throughout the years.

Secondly, as I begin this new call, I am happy to share that Jennie Ruth will be continuing in her role as synod bookkeeper and Michael Horn will be continuing in his role as director of communications. In addition, I am grateful that Pastor Elise Eklund Rothfusz has agreed to remain in her role as director for evangelical mission and congregation resources coordinator on a transitional basis at least through the fall. Also, I am very excited to share that Kim Zemaitis also began today as our new full-time executive administrative assistant and will be in the office Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM-4:30 PM. Kim brings a wealth of administrative experience and is eager to use her gifts to serve the mission of Christ’s church in our synod. Kim’s e-mail address is kim.zemaitis@csis-elca.org. I am hoping to share information about an additional ministry staff position in the near future.

I hope many of you have already signed up for our upcoming Fall Theological Conference September 18-20 at Lake Williamson Retreat Center in Carlinville. This conference is for all rostered leaders and those available for Synod Authorized Ministry in our synod. This year’s theme is “Playing with God, Catching Hope” and will be filled with lots of fun surprises! Our featured presenter is the Rev. Dr. Sarah Nye, an ELCA pastor and coach specializing in Mission Development and Congregational Vitality. If you have not yet signed up, a reminder that the registration deadline is Monday, September 11. To register, go to CSIS-ELCA.org/ftc23. We would love to have you come and play with us!

I am so very excited for the privilege I have been given of partnering with each of you and the congregations you serve as, together, we live out the mission God has entrusted to us in our Central/Southern Illinois Synod. Together, we are leaders of hope — a hope that is grounded in nothing less than the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. School is now in session. Let the learning begin.