December 23, 2021
We invite you to also share this video message
with your congregations!

Please note the synod office will be closed from December 24th - January 2nd and there will be no What Matters next Thursday.
A Christmas Message from Bishop Joy

I have a book in my office entitled, “God gave us Christmas” by Lisa Tawn Bergren. In this children’s story a young bear cub asks his mother who invented Christmas - God or Santa. Mama Bear indicates it was God, and that God is more important and easier to find than Santa. She tells the little cub that God is everywhere. The little bear cub is not so certain, so Mama Bear and the young cub set off on an adventure to look for God. They climb a mountain and slide down the snowy bank. At night Mama Bear points out God in the northern lights. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus is how God gave us Christmas. They come upon a huge lake and find God in the frozen lake and the power of a melting glacier. Jesus has the power of God. Jesus will be a powerful King. At sunrise they find God in the bright morning sun. Jesus is always with us, shining in our lives. They pass a little flower and find God in the beauty of the bloom. God lives where we do not expect. Christmas is about surprises. Finally, on their way home they pass a church. Inside they are singing about how God gave us Christmas when Jesus was born. The little cub asks if Jesus would have come for the mean or grumpy animals. Mama's reply is that Jesus is a present for everyone, grumpy, happy, mean or kind. God gave us ALL Christmas.

This Christmas may you know that Jesus is a present for you! You are included in the love of Jesus Christ; nothing will separate you from this love. God gave you Christmas.

Merry Christmas!
Bishop Joy
A Christmas Message from Bishop Eaton

The cross on Christmas?
In her December column for Living Lutheran, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reminds us that the cross is the true gift of Christmas: “All of our Christmas glorias are realized in Jesus’ glorification on the cross. We have peace. We have hope. We are loved. And not just at Christmas.” Read her column in English at and in Spanish at
A Christmas Greeting from our Missionary

A blessed Christmas to all of you as we rest in the birth of Jesus. Below I have a greeting to you about the Christmas season in Jamaica and at the United Theological College of the West Indies, where I am serving as your missionary.
May hope, love, joy, and peace be yours,
Carolyn Schneider

Is your congregation ready to take some steps (even small steps) toward renewal or revitalization? Are you ready to try some new things, share some ideas, gain a greater understanding of the broader mission, bring clarity about your own congregation’s mission, acquire knowledge on how to live that out in community, gain confidence to share what you have learned with the world, and find new allies from within a cohort of congregations? Then, you are invited to attend the 2022 Spring Session of the ELCA Vital Congregations Re-BOOT Camp.

This will be a four-session training. The training sessions will be held two times per day from 1:30-3:00 p.m. (eastern time) and from 7:30-9:00 p.m. (eastern time) on January 13th, January 27th, February 3rd and February 17th. You may choose the best time each day that works for you. All sessions will be recorded and available to all registered participants. Pastors and congregations are encouraged to come as teams of 3–5 people for a time of inspiration, learning, planning, sharing, experimenting, visioning, and implementing. NOTE: This training is for people who did NOT attend the Vital Congregations Re-BOOT Camp in 2021.

Registration closes on January 7, 2022. FREE Registration link:

Contact your Director for Evangelical Mission, Rev. Walter Baires
(608) 270-0201, for further information or with questions.
Your Portico Regional Representative, Jennifer Prinz, has a few important updates and wishes you a blessed Advent and a joyous Christmas. Please reach out to her if you have any questions at
Being Here Podcast – New Episodes
Being Here, a podcast that explores real world issues and topics important to professionals in the faith community, has added three new episodes. Join host the Rev. Melissa Pohlman, as she welcomes three new guests to share their experiences and points of view on navigating retirement; Christian conversations about racial justice; and creative approaches to innovative ministry. Being Here invites us to learn together, listen to each other, grow together, and move forward together — stronger, more resilient as a unique community.

ELCA Medicare-Primary Transition to Humana Prescription Drug Program
Steps members should take now:
  • Refill current prescriptions
  • Watch the mail for a new Humana ID card
  • Look up medication with Humana
  • Set up Humana Pharmacy mail-delivery account by calling 1-800-379-0092
  • Ensure local pharmacy is in network

Virtual Workshop Series on Retirement Readiness
Look for more information about 4 new webinars coming in January! 

Important Self-Care after the Holidays
After the holidays, when you have time to catch your breath, provides an opportunity for you to focus on your own self-care. Now is the time to block out some time on your calendar in January to schedule your wellness exam, review your retirement account, schedule an appointment with a Portico financial planner, and refamiliarize yourself with all that your benefits plan has available to you to help you be well in order that you can serve others.

Join us for community via Zoom at WELCA's next Boldcafe Monthly Dinner, Thursday, January 6 at 7 pm (CDT) with guest Erin Strybis. She will discuss what Scripture tells us about God’s love and how we can begin 2022 with an outlook grounded in grace.

Applications Open for the 2022
Contemplative Renewal Cohort
Increased demands and stress have marked the work of pastors over the last 18 months. Clergy who completed “Contemplative Renewal” had resources and companions that helped them maintain resilience and health.
Are you looking for ways to be renewed in your sense of call and more ready for the next set of challenges that the future holds? Would you benefit from time away to deepen your spirit?
A podcast about the ECCSR’s “Contemplative Renewal” is available at:
If you are an ordained pastor currently serving half-time or more in a congregational setting, you are invited to apply for the next cohort, to begin in July of 2022. Funded by a Thriving in Ministry Grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., this unique experience is available at no cost. Online applications may be completed at
Deadline to register January 31st, 2022
Call for Art

A Memorial for Survivors of Sexual Abuse in the Church
Open to artists working in the USA who are professional artists, 18+, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identification, military status, sexual orientation, marital status, or physical ability.

Holy Land Advocacy Committee
  • Rev. Nick Utphall, Advent Lutheran (Madison)

  • Steve Barrit
  • Bill Berkan

Pastors and Congregations in our Synod
  • Pastor Kalen Barkholtz and Members of Christ Evangelical (Sharon)
  • Pastor Michael Lee and Members of Common Ground (Lodi)
  • Members of Cooksville (Evansville)
  • Interim Pastor Wendy Moen and Members of Covenant (Stoughton)

Neighboring Synod
  • Bishop Mike Girlinghouse - Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod 
  • Bishop Bill Gohl, Jr. - Delaware-Maryland Synod 

Members Elected by Churchwide Assembly
  • Loren A Solberg, N.E. Minnesota Synod
  • Rev. Kjersten L Sullivan, Upper Susquehanna Synod
  • Loni Taylor, Montana Synod
  • Sonja Wolfe, Greater Milwaukee Synod
We give thanks at this time for the ministry of those who celebrate their anniversary of Ordination during this coming week:
  • Delmar Goetz, January 1, 1967, Retired Pastor living in Lodi, WI
  • Elisa Brandt, January 2, 1999, Pastor at St. Stephen’s in Monona
  • David Keesey-Berg, January 2, 1960, Retired Pastor living in Madison, WI

May these leaders continue to be blessed for service!
Synod Quick Links
View Resources
View Job Postings
Congregations In Transition
Contact Synod Staff
Ministries & Partners
ELCA Youth Gathering
As always we would love for you to continue to share your news. If you have something you would like considered for publication in What Matters, send it to us via email to Stephanie Bill, Communications Manager at The deadline for consideration of inclusion in the current weeks e-newsletter is 12:00 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday.
Care - Connect - Equip