On Tuesday, January 28, Bishop Michael Pryse of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada visited our Ministry Area.
Our Ministry Area includes the congregations of Holy Spirit of Peace Anglican-Lutheran Church in Mississauga, St. Philip Lutheran Church in Etobicoke (Toronto), Augsburg Lutheran Church in Brampton, and our congregation Grace Lutheran Church in Oakville. The venue for our time together was Holy Spirit of Peace in Mississauga. The pastors of our congregations wanted this to not just be a meeting, but also an enjoyable, informative, and thought-provoking event. Since Holy Spirit of Peace has a weekly seniors’ group that already meets, the pastors decided to piggyback on their event. Ardie Archer, Wolfgang Hartmann, and Pastor Rick attended the gathering. As we arrived, we had an opportunity to chat with the members from the other congregations. Then we all spent about 15 minutes doing some chair exercises.
While the lay participants were having fun socializing and playing games , the pastors met with Bishop Pryse in another room. Just as pastors engage in and are responsible for many different areas of ministry, the same is true for bishops. One role of the bishop is to be the pastor of the pastors. Their time together began with a brief service of Holy Communion. After worship, each pastor was asked to share a prayer that they find meaningful. The conversation about prayer also included an opportunity for the pastors to share personal and ministry concerns and joys. The clergy of our Area Ministry appreciate these pastoral “check-ins” from the bishop. It is truly a supportive element of their ministry.
The entire group reconvened for a pizza lunch. Some members of the host congregation made delicious salads and desserts. Following lunch, the bishop engaged the entire group in conversation. He began by sharing highlights from his past week. His past week included:
- presiding at a reinstatement/installation worship service for a pastor who had to leave the ELCIC in the 1980s due to a policy against practicing LGBTQ persons from serving as pastors. That policy was changed in 2011, where the ELCIC no longer bars someone from serving based solely on sexual identity or orientation.
- attended two public functions at Martin Luther University College.
- ordained two women as pastors in the ELCIC.
The bishop commented that these events were good, that they are examples of God doing new things in the church and world today. The bishop then opened the floor to questions. Both lay members and pastors asked questions. The questions all seemed to focus on the future of the church. Bishop Pryse stressed that the church needs to evolve. He shared some examples of how the church is beginning to do that. He spoke highly of the full communion relationship that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has with the Anglican Church of Canada.
In the end, it seemed that everyone came away with a feeling of hopefulness, acknowledging that the church is not yet fully embracing it but that many positive strides have been made and that God is with us as we journey faithfully into the future. We have to change the data that we collect and share, because that statistical data is no longer relevant to our world today. Average weekly attendance, average giving per member, categorizing people as members or not is not meaningful for the mission of the church. A better statistic is the number of individual lives have we touched. It doesn’t matter if they are a member, financially contribute, worship at a set time or place or of the same faith or have no faith.