April 24, 2020
Easter Season
Dear Siblings in Christ,

The Coronavirus health crisis has upset our lives in so many ways, we are sorry to bring you news of yet another inconvenience.

Our annual Synod Assembly that had been scheduled for June 6 will instead take place sometime later. Meeting last Saturday, our Synod Council voted on a plan to delay our annual Synod Assembly business day because of uncertainty over the course that COVID-19 will take.

Our annual assembly brings together hundreds of people in an enclosed space. Health officials cannot predict with certainty when such large gatherings can take place safely. Since our June 6 assembly could be canceled at the last minute, the Synod Council agreed on a process to move it to a later time.

The Synod Council had earlier voted to postpone the Synod Assembly “Days of Edification” that had been planned for May 16 and May 30.

The Synod Council’s action raises interesting questions and concerns, some for which the answers are still being formulated.

When will the Synod Assembly and the Days of Edification take place? And where?
No dates or locations have been set yet. Plans will be made paying strict attention to government guidelines and recommendations, so no decisions can be made at this time. The Synod Assembly Planning Committee and synod staff will be working on this as the crisis unfolds. Please await an announcement.

What if our congregation has already registered its voting members and paid the registration fees?
Not to worry. Those registrations and fees will simply be applied to the assembly when it is held.

What if our voting members cannot attend the rescheduled assembly?
Not to worry. Congregations may select alternate voting members to take their place.

If we haven’t registered yet, should we do so?
Yes. Registration will stay open.

The synod constitution and bylaws require that the assembly take place between May 15 and June 30. Constitutionally, how can it be rescheduled?
The Synod Council has approved a parliamentary process to “officially” open the Synod Assembly during the required timeframe, but then immediately adjourn it to a later time. So, when we gather, the assembly will actually be reconvening a meeting that was officially opened in June. It’s a clunky process, but it passes legal and constitutional muster.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requires our synod, since we are incorporated, to meet annually. Will the plan meet the state’s legal requirements?
Yes. We are working with legal counsel to ensure that our process will conform to state law with regard to advance notification and transparent action.

What about memorials and resolutions that the 14 synod conferences may intend t o bring to Synod Assembly? Conferences usually meet in advance of Synod Assembly to vote on them, but because of the public health emergency only one of the 14 conferences actually met this spring.
Conferences will be able to meet and vote on memorials and resolutions in advance of the Synod Assembly. This may be accomplished via technology if necessary.

Similarly, those spring Conference Assemblies were supposed to gather to elect or re-elect conference secretaries. What happens to those people?
Conferences may elect or re-elect secretaries when they meet later this year. Bishop Dunlop is asking conference secretaries to continue serving until that time. If any should decline, interim secretaries will be appointed, or the positions will simply be left vacant.

What about elections that are scheduled to take place at Synod Assembly, including v ice president, Synod Council and the Consultation Committee?
The current office holders are being asked to continue serving until elections are held. Vice President Lucinda Bringman has agreed to continue serving until two months following the assembly, which is the constitutional time frame for new officers to assume the office.

When will we know the dates, places and other details for the rescheduled Synod Assembly?
We hope to have the details ironed out as soon as possible, but that may depend on the course the virus takes . In the meantime, Bishop Dunlop, our synod staff and lay leaders thank you for your understanding and patience in this time of crisis that has upset our lives in so many ways.

How can the rest of the Lower Susquehanna Synod help?
Doctors tell us that this medical emergency will be with us for some time to come. The only question is how severe it will be and what pattern it will take as it winds down. Medical experts cannot tell us with certainty when life will resume with a semblance of normal.

Please do all you can to remain healthy and virus- free, following the best advice of medical and governmental authorities. Staying healthy ourselves will help “flatten the curve” and reduce suffering.

Please pray for our world as this pandemic runs its course. Pray that God and God’s people will be with those who are ill, have lost loved ones to the virus, or are suffering financial hardship because of job furlough or layoffs.

Please pray for and help our needy neighbors by supporting food banks and other charitable outreach in our communities and congregations. Congregations may continue or increase their efforts by applying for money in our synod’s Disaster Response Fund (COVID-19 is a disaster) and Hunger Grant Program . Additionally, ELCA World Hunger is offering Daily Bread Matching Grants .

Please remain connected to your congregation as much as possible through telephone and digital means and support your church with your prayers and financial offerings. Please pray for your ministers, our synod and churchwide leadership, and for God’s church worldwide.

Blessings in Christ, 
Lucinda L. Bringman
Vice President
Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA
                       900 S. Arlington Ave. Suite 220B                     
 Harrisburg, PA 17109