I am deeply blessed to serve as the CEO of Lutheran Services. I have been invited to write in a more personal way than I normally would and to share some insights into my experience and insights regarding the church in which I serve, and how I see the activity of Grace in the church.
Bishop Mark has spoken a number of times about Psalm 137 whereby the Psalmist asks, ‘How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land’? (Ps 137:4). It has become something of a signature message for him. In turn, given his role as teacher and leader, it is a message to us all who belong to and serve within the church.
Some of you may know that I am Catholic who as a younger man was a teacher of theology and religious education. In my service as the CEO, I see church through the eyes of a sojourner or a pilgrim in a foreign land. The land is very familiar is most ways and yet different in others. What I see is remarkable and encouraging and edifying.
I am passionate about Lutheran Services having a clear Lutheran Identity. Lutheran Services draws from, expresses and adds to the life and mission of the church God has – and continues – to fulfil His covenant with the Lutheran Church. The service delivery of Lutheran Services is an expression, or the fruit, of the whole work of the church: proclamation, sacraments and service. To focus on the fruit and not acknowledge the tree makes little sense.
Likewise, discerning the work of Grace in how our services have developed also means being alert to where the Spirit may lead going forward. Whilst the types of services may grow and develop, the essential elements need to be embraced and retained. I am committed that all staff in Lutheran Services, whatever their own faith and circumstances, understand the purpose, nature and mission of the church. Our vitality as a service means the involvement of intergenerational generous communities (congregations and schools), a focus on those of greatest need and applying the church’s ethical values in terms of care, support, suffering and healing.
I see a church with a clear, succinct and unbridled proclamation of the Gospel of Grace. You don’t just ‘have it on the books;’ you talk it and live it. For me its both wonderful and challenging. I see local congregations who care and cherish their experience of church. I see a church that respects the voice and role of lay people in the governance and leadership of the church (quite different from my own tradition).
Of course, the church I see has challenges and issues like all churches and like all organisations everywhere.
In closing I want to return to Psalm 137. As Advent commences, let’s remember that Jesus was born as a displaced person; not quite in a foreign land but certainly not in the comfort of home. Jesus is the reminder that as Christians we are all sojourners and pilgrims looking for a home. Pilgrims are on a spiritual journey with their eyes open for the signs of God at each stage of the journey.