Stories from the Synod

Last week, St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco, CA hosted the 18th Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service of the San Francisco Interfaith Council. The community gathered under this year's theme of "Reimagining Thanksgiving", and welcomed Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mayor London Breed to the event.

A recording of the service is available here.

Special thanks to Bill Wilson for the photo.

Has your congregation decorated for the Advent Season? Last week, many congregations throughout the synod hung greens and decorated Christmas trees in their sanctuary. Pictured here are faithful volunteers at Trinity Lutheran Church in Porterville, CA who took on the Christmas tree decorating this year!

Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Reno, NV celebrated their 75th Anniversary at worship yesterday! We join Good Shepherd in celebrating the 75 years of ministry in downtown Reno and look forward to the next 75. You can watch the anniversary service here.

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) welcomed the Advent season at their community worship service last week, with Rev. Jeff Johnson presiding over the table.

Synod Vice President Simon Wong and Rev. Anita Warner of Advent Lutheran Church in Morgan Hill, CA joined church leaders from the western synods of the ELCA for a multi-day event exploring the future of the church, hosted by the Thriving Leadership Formation program.

Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Walnut Creek, CA hosted a Women's Advent Tea last week! Following a delicious tea, the women heard from guest speaker Lisa Vandewege and musician Kate Lamont. A wonderful beginning to the Advent season.

Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in San Jose, CA celebrated Santa Lucia at yesterday's worship service! Youth from the congregation participated in the serve and afterwards, Santa Lucia and her assistants distributed Swedish Saffron Buns to the congregation as they progressed to an International Potluck Luncheon. 

Bishop Claire Burkat joined St. Paul Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA for worship yesterday! Seminarian Andrew Ross preached as the congregation thanked him for his year with St. Paul, the choir sang during worship, and the youth ministry held a pancake fundraiser for the 2023 ELCA Youth Gathering. What a busy 2nd Sunday of Advent!

The Handbell Choir at Christ Lutheran Church in Visalia, CA is staying busy this Advent season! Pictured here is the group at a local performance. Blessings to all who bring the gift of music to loved ones this holiday season.

Send your ministry pictures to or (650) 302-0364 be featured in the Synod Newsletter!

December Children & Youth

Ministry Newsletter

Once a month, we send out an email to individuals throughout the synod who are a part of the Children, Youth, and Family ministry in their congregation. These emails provide important updates, share about upcoming events, and serve as a connection point for our vast synod.

Check out December's Newsletter here.

Handel's Messiah Sing-Along

at Grace Lutheran Church, Palo Alto, CA

Are you looking for a sing-along opportunity this Messiah season? Join folks from across the synod at Grace Lutheran Church in Palo Alto, CA on Saturday, December 10th for a Messiah Sing-Along!

With top-notch soloists and string ensemble accompaniment, we will sing the Christmas portion of Handel’s most famous work, plus the beloved Hallelujah chorus. Anyone who wants to sing, with no rehearsal but only a spirit of adventure, will be most welcome! Scores will be available for all who attend.

Installation of the Rev. Daniel Christian

at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Novato, CA

We join Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Novato, CA in welcoming all to attend the Installation Service of the Rev. Daniel Christian on Sunday, December 11th at 3:00pm. Rostered Leaders are invited to process at this service.

Questions regarding the Installation can be emailed to Conference 2 Dean Rev. Dave Miller at

Rev. Christian Chavarría January '23

Synod Visit

The beloved Rev. Christian Chavarría, Assistant to the Bishop of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church, will be visiting the Sierra Pacific Synod this coming January! Rev. Christian is currently scheduled to visit 5 different congregations throughout the synod - to preach, gather, and eat with you all. You are invited to join any of the gatherings! ⛪️

Rev. Christian also has a few free days in his schedule, and would love to visit with your congregation. Are you able to host Rev. Christian for a speaking session, meet-and-greet, meal, or something else? Email for more info.

Updates and Resources from ELCA Churchwide & Beyond

Registration Open for the Rostered Ministers Gathering 2023

July 17-20, 2023 in Phoenix, AZ

Registration for the 2023 Rostered Ministers Gathering is now open! "This gathering is an opportunity for you to remember, reclaim, rekindle, and revive yourself. We will gather with colleagues from across the church for fellowship, renewal, continuing education, worship, bible study, and refreshment for your spirit."

Early registration is available until March 31st, more information can be found here.

"God is With Us"

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton Advent Message

We invite you to read Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton's advent message, published by LivingLutheran. You can read the message here.

Youth Core Leadership Team Applications Now Open

"The Youth Core Leadership Team is composed of twelve high school youth from across the ELCA who have been identified as leaders in congregations and/or synods, and who desire the opportunity to dig more deeply into their own leadership and faith formation." Applications to join the 2023 Youth Core Leadership Team are now open! Current 9th, 10th, and 11th graders are invited to apply to a one year term. Applications are open until January 15, 2023 - pass this information to someone you know who may be interested in serving.

Learn more and apply here!

Western States Youth Gathering: Registration Prices Increasing Soon!

As the busy Advent Season begins, we share a friendly reminder that registration prices for the 2023 Western States Youth Gathering increase January 4, 2023. Get ahead of the busy season and secure your youth group's early-bird registration by registering today here.

Office of the Bishop Weekly Recap

A recap of the last two weeks in the Office of the Bishop:

  • Gathered for a monthly Synod Council meeting.
  • Led a First Call Theological Education (FCTE) gathering in Davis, CA.
  • Attended a meeting of all 65 Synods and 7 ELCA Seminaries.
  • Attended the Sierra Pacific Synod Youth Committee (SPSYC) Elementary & Middle School Retreat as an Adult Advisor to the Committee.
  • Synod Staff gathered for an in-person meeting in Davis, CA.
  • Gathered all Campus Ministry folks in the synod for a meet-and-greet zoom meeting.
  • Gathered the Conference of Deans for their monthly meeting.
  • Finished interviews for the Director of Finance position.
  • Visited The Belfry Campus Ministry at UC Davis for an interfaith event.
  • Attended a Call Vote at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Sacramento, CA.
  • Continued property work on the Synod Office.
  • Made pastoral calls to synod leaders.
  • Met with Call Committees at multiple congregations throughout the synod.

Spirit-Centered Moment

This cross was painted by Pastor Christian Chavarría, Assistant to the Bishop in El Salvador. It depicts the care for the most needy among us as outlined in Matthew 25. It is also a true depiction of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church in action, living out the Gospel.

A Reflection based on Matthew 11: 2-12

Written by Deacon Linda Rube

St. James Lutheran Church in Redding, CA

I recently had the privilege of visiting our Companion Synod in El Salvador to learn more about what the Lutheran Church is doing in El Salvador and to see how my congregation, St. James in Redding, might be a part of that ministry through a sister parish relationship.

I admit I went with preconceived expectations, perhaps like those in our Gospel text who went out to see who this John the Baptist character might be. I expected to find a humble, poor people whose simple faith was inextricably woven into their daily lives. And we were, indeed, welcomed warmly by Salvadoran Lutherans who were devoted to their faith. But I must humbly confess that I found their faith to be much more complex and nuanced than I (in my innate white sense of superiority) had expected. What surprised me most was how singularly passionate our Christian neighbors were about living out the Gospel that called them to serve the most needy among them—not just those in their churches, but all those in their communities who suffered from poverty, gang violence, health issues, environmental issues, lack of economic security, immigration concerns, and human rights violations. Perhaps I should not have been so surprised to witness their dedication to following Christ into the neediness of the world, given their experience of the Salvadoran Civil War and their historical quest for basic human rights for the poor. This is where their faith leads them. I want to know more about this faith.

As Jesus suggests in the Gospel lesson, perhaps I should have expected to encounter prophets on my trip, for that is, indeed, who I found in El Salvador: A church raising up leadership with strong prophetic voices to lead this church into God’s future, with a central focus on proclaiming the Good News to the poor and acting on God’s call to action on behalf of those who need it most. The church in El Salvador is truly alive in the Spirit. I look forward to a growing relationship with them as we walk together and learn from each other what it means to follow Christ in the places where we live.

Connect with Synod Staff & Your Conference Dean

Bishop Claire S. Burkat

Interim Bishop, Sierra Pacific Synod

Deacon JJ Godwin

Executive Assistant to the Bishop

Debbie Cook

Finance Assistant Contractor

Rev. Manda Truchinski

Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership & Strategic Organization

Catherine Slabaugh

Communications & Connections Coordinator

Rev. Dr. Dawn Roginski

Interim Assistant Director of Evangelical Mission

Rev. Ben Colahan 

Dean, Redwood Mountain Conference 1

Rev. Dave Miller

Dean, Bridges Conference 2

Rev. Dr. Gabriele Schroeder

Dean, Capitol Valley Conference 3

Rev. Charlane Lines

Dean, Sierra Nevada Foothills Conference 4

Rev. John Kuehner

Dean, San Francisco Peninsula Conference 5

Rev. Cristina Beauchemin

Dean, El Camino Real Conference 6

Rev. Dr. John Valentine

Dean, Mt. Diablo Conference 7

Rev. Mark Price

Dean, Sierra Central Valley Conference 8

Rev. Jodi Golden-Lund

Dean, Central San Joaquin Conference 9

Rev. Cindy Beck

Dean, Interim Ministry

The Sierra Pacific Synod Office resides on the unceded land of the Ramaytush Ohlone People.
To learn more about their tribal history, we encourage you to click here.
The Sierra Pacific Synod is a Sanctuary Synod and a Reconciling in Christ Synod.
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