Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
and I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep your teaching;
I shall keep it with all my heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for that is my desire.
I trust you all had a blessed, restful, and safe Labor Day holiday weekend. I am thankful for the week that I spent on vacation and feel refreshed and rejuvenated and eager to return to the ministry to which God has called me.
Last Friday, September 1, 2017, marked my third anniversary as bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod. It's the mid-point of the call and, as is customary when one reaches a milestone, I took some time to reflect on what has taken place in the previous year as well as look forward to what's ahead. So much came to mind that my heart was filled with gratitude.
I am grateful for each and every one of the 56,000-plus faithful people of God who make up the 170 congregations of the Northeastern Ohio Synod. It is you who are the witnesses to God's presence on earth and who carry out God's mission in the twenty counties of our territory. You are our synod's most valuable resource.
I am grateful for the youth of our synod. Your presence brings hope and encouragement to those who are fearful for the future of the church. My profound desire is to see the old and the young united in vision and in ministry such as what the prophet Joel envisioned: "...your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions." [Joel 2:28]
I am grateful for each and every one of the 200-plus rostered ministers of word and sacrament, and word and service. It is you who are called to serve the people of God in our synod; and lead them in praise and worship of our Lord, and in carrying out God's mission. I am especially encouraged by those rostered ministers new to our synod in the past three years, who have brought an infusion of energy, vitality, and a fresh perspective to the blessed work that we do.
I am grateful for those of you who have taken a leadership role in our synod by serving on synod and congregational councils, committees, commissions, tables (task forces) and otherwise volunteer your time to do the blessed and challenging work of guiding God's people.
I am also grateful for the efforts of the seven Conference Deans, who are the "boots on the ground" of our territory and serve as an extension of our office, keeping their people informed and engaged in the blessed work of ministry.
I am grateful for those who serve on the Lutheran Center team - specifically, Assistant to the Bishop, Pastor Karl Biermann; Resource Specialist Karen Kaufman, Office Administrator Sony Gilroy, and Administrative Assistant Marilyn Matevia. I mention them by name because, on a daily basis, they support the work of our office and partner with our congregations in their ministry.
There are others who serve contractually - Pastor Laurie Miller, Deacon Mary Ann Schwabe, Mary Ann Sima and accountant Joy Hacker, without whom we could not function effectively.
And lastly, I am grateful to God for the support and guidance I have received during this time in office. I have often mentioned a copy of Luther's sacristy prayer that hangs on a wall in my office, which I refer to each day, and with which I will close out this reflection:
Lord God, You have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in Your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon Your Word. Use me as Your instrument - but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all. Amen
Tuesday, September 5, I have the distinct privilege of being invited to St. John's Cathedral to witness the solemn installation of the Most Reverend Nelson J. Pérez as the 11th Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
Thursday at noon, I will be in Youngstown to celebrate the anniversary of Bondage Busters, an after-school youth enrichment program that has met for several years at Martin Luther Lutheran Church. These youngsters engage in Bible Study, learning and recreational activities. This program is a powerful witness that has enhanced the community that surrounds the church and beyond. You can learn more by watching this video.
Saturday at 10 a.m., I will be with the good people of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Cuyahoga Falls to install their new pastor, the Rev. James Steingass.
Sunday, I will be in Loudonville to preach and preside with the good people of Zion Lutheran Church.
This Sunday, September 10, is also the third annual "God's Work, Our Hands" Sunday. Many of you as congregations, will engage in service work to make a positive change in your communities, to build and deepen relationships and share God's love. If you're taking part in some activity, I'd love to hear about it. Send me an email so we can share what you've done.
In the meantime, may the presence of the Holy Spirit dwell in you, that you may be a sign of God's love and forgiveness in your community and in the world
+Bishop Abraham Allende