No isolation within the community of faith
In September of 2010 I began serving as one of their pastors. Good Shepherd is considered a "large" congregation in the ELCA, even though it is in one of the more rural synods of this church.
The banks of the Missouri River and vast rolling prairie near Bismarck are a long way from the streets of Chicago or the endless entertainment attractions of Orlando, Fla.
Western North Dakota can sometimes feel a little isolated from other parts of the world. For worshiping congregations like Good Shepherd, feeling isolated in our worship life can at times be a greater challenge than a long North Dakota winter.
Making the connection
How does a community of faith in western North Dakota connect with others in worship across the ELCA or with worship gatherings that happen around the world?
This is my first Churchwide Assembly. I am thrilled beyond words to be part of the worship leadership team this year. And I’m thankful for the way in which worship is central to our gathering.
When we talk about worship in the church, it often becomes a conversation around which style of music is best or how liturgy is properly led. Don’t get me wrong, conversations like these are important but, I think, often miss the point.
Worship at this year’s Churchwide Assembly isn’t about lifting up one musical or liturgical style over another. Worship at this year’s assembly began at the baptismal font and remains rooted in our baptism.
Rooted in baptism
On Monday afternoon, the assembly’s worship began with an Affirmation of Baptism. During this affirmation we asked God to help and guide us as we renewed the following promises:
• to live among God’s faithful people;
• to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper;
• to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed;
• to serve all people, following the example of Jesus; and
• to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
These promises unite us deeply and intimately as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Hopefully they not only guide our worship this week but also renew and restore us as we are sent back to our local communities of faith ”Freed in Christ to Serve,” as the theme of this year’s assembly so beautifully lifts up.
Our week of worship and ministry together in Orlando began with a communal Affirmation of Baptism. I hope and pray that we don’t leave these baptismal promises in central Florida, but that we allow them to go with us.
As I return to western North Dakota later this week, renewed and restored in the promised freedom I received from God in baptism, I’m freed in Christ to serve. And you know what? I’m not alone in that freedom.
I’m not isolated in western North Dakota at all. I’m deeply connected in worship with brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the ELCA who daily seek to live among God’s faithful people; to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper; to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed; to serve all people, following the example of Jesus; and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. Thanks be to God!
Craig Schweitzer is a 2011 graduate of the Theological Education for Emerging Ministries program at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif. Craig and his wife, Wendy, are the over-scheduled parents of 10-year-old twin daughters.