“As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by mortals but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).
We are the living stones of Christ’s Church “built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20-21).
Living Stones, which Synod Council endorsed in December 2018, provided a framework for our strategic initiatives for the last three-year period (2020/21-2022/23). We provide renewed Living Stone initiatives for the period of January 2023 through August 2025, which Synod Council endorsed at its December 2022 meeting.
- Sharing the Story of Jesus: In response to the churchwide organization making vitality training free and online, our REVIVE team is providing online resources and consultation, and shifting our focus to sharing the story of Jesus.
- We will provide workshops, both in-person and via Zoom, to equip leaders to use the book, You Are Witnesses of These Things: Sharing the Story of Jesus. This will also be the focus of the 2023 Synod Assembly, which is themed “It’s About Jesus!” We will continue to support our Sudanese worshiping community and our campus ministry in Grand Rapids, and remain vigilant to opportunities for other synodically authorized worshiping communities. We will continue to actively pursue opportunities to engage Latino and Native American communities on the territory of our synod in the hope that we experience the love of Jesus through our listening to and learning from them.
- Call Process: We anticipate an increasing number of congregational vacancies as many of our pastors are approaching retirement and, in the aftermath of the pandemic, pastors are desiring to move closer to family, and congregations are seeking a change in pastoral leadership because of irreconcilable differences with their current pastor. We will need to attract candidates to our synod and help congregations re-calibrate their expectations to attract a pastor.
- Sustainability: Struggling congregations and synod ministries receive accompaniment and assistance to realistically assess their sustainability and, where appropriate, to either partner with neighboring congregations, both ELCA and full communion partners, or to move toward holy closure.
- Adult Theological Education: We will provide a six-week course via Zoom for adults (lay and rostered) in each of the next five “semesters.” Our first course on the Corinthian Correspondence with Dr. Walter F. Taylor, Jr. began January 10, 2023. We are excited at the overwhelming interest in the course. The Fall 2023 course will be on Luther’s Small Catechism and will be taught by Dr. Kit Kleinhans.
- Candidates for Public Ministry: 20 candidates for rostered ministry are identified, accompanied, and supported. With the elimination of the first call “draft,” the first call pastors we receive in our synod will be the ones we produce. We have generous scholarship money available for seminarians and need to find ways to better identify and invite people, especially young adults, to consider a call to public ministry.
- Rostered Minister Debt Reduction: Rostered ministers are relieved of some measure of educational indebtedness. This is the most successful of our original Living Stones initiatives. The program will continue as long as there is a need and available funds.
- Saying Thanks: Congregations leading and growing in their mission support of our synod, together with individuals committed to the Living Stones financial initiative, are honored and thanked at Mission Support Dinners.
- Welcome: Our synod makes a renewed commitment to discuss ways to welcome all God’s people.
- Building on the 90 people who participated in the Introduction to Social Justice course and the group who participated in the White People Doing their Work course, we will develop and implement a plan for helping our Synod address racial justice.
- Our Ministry with Persons with Disabilities Task Force will offer additional training and consultation with congregations. The Task Force is also applying for a holy innovations grant to help us address issues related to ministry with persons who live with disabilities.
- We will encourage and facilitate our synod’s participation in the churchwide review and revision of the ELCA social statement, “Human Sexuality Gift and Trust.” Our “Open Hearts, Open Church” Task Force is available to consult with congregations considering becoming Reconciled in Christ.
- We will continue to support Living Water Ministries, and their summer camps and other youth events, as the foundation for youth ministry in our synod. We will also work to help our synod better understand that our primary way of supporting youth ministry throughout the Synod is through Living Water Ministries.
- We will encourage and facilitate our congregations’ participation in the 2024 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans, including MYLE, the tAble, and the Young Adult Gathering.
- Living Stone Contributors:
- Synod Council and I are very grateful for the commitment and generosity of individuals who financially contributed to the original Living Stone initiatives. We are even more inspired by those who have communicated their intention to continue to financially support our synod directly, in addition to giving to their congregations. We understand that these are financially challenging times for congregations and families. Therefore, rather than set a goal, we will provide regular invitations and opportunities for individuals to contribute directly to the work of our synod and these initiatives.
Give to Living Stones:
- Send a check to the Synod Office (P.O. Box 517 Dewitt, MI 48820). Checks should be made out to the N/W Lower MI Synod and designed Living Stones Initiative. Your check and bank statements can be used to support this tax deductible giving.
- Donate online