Church nerds is what we who arrived several hours before the doors to Rockefeller Chapel opened for Bishop Eaton’s Installation called ourselves.   There was some anticipation and anxiety that there would not be room for all who took the pilgrimage to this momentous occasion.

In the end there was room for all but I would not have given up the experience of spending time with all the wonderful folk who gathered early.


photo_2 (6)


We had seats up front but I actually could not see much of what was going on.  It didn’t matter.  We could hear, we could sing, we were there and part of the celebration.  It was a joyous, spirit filled worship that lifted up all that is 1wonderful about our historic liturgical tradition as well as incorporating other musical and ethnic traditions.  Like bagpipes!  It combined the dignity of the ancient liturgy with joyous clapping (on the right beat even).

These kinds of gatherings remind me of how being part of the church makes the world small as I met friends from Facebook  people who knew people I knew, and reconnected with friends from years ago.

The synod bishops processed in to “I Go to the Rock”  but instead of sitting up by themselves as a group, they joined the people in the pews.

If you didn’t walk away from this worship grinning there is something seriously wrong with you.

I first made plans for this journey because I was so excited about it being the installation of the first woman presiding
bishop in our church.  But when the music and worship began,  it wasn’t about men or women or Jew or Greek or slave or free.  It was about celebrating the church.
It was about, as Bishop Jessica Crist so wonderfully preached,  “Sowing the seeds”. We sow the seeds.  As I like to say, “Just show em Jesus”. God takes care of the rest.

We’ve come through some tough times in this synod.  And as our Bishop Ullestad likes to say, we’ve come out smaller, but stronger.  We are a new synod. And it is time to sing a new song.

In the Psalms when it says to sing a new song, they are not talking about contemporary worship.  To sing a new song is to put away the songs of lamentation and sing the songs of celebration for what God has done.  “Making All Things New”.
It’s not just about a new presiding bishop.  It’s about a new attitude, a new perspective.  It’s about looking ahead and embracing the future God is leading us into.  God never leads us backward, only forward.
If you missed it, you can watch the celebration it on Livestream.



The ELCA is an amazing church.  We have good theology, we have a great liturgical tradition, and we do great work in the world.  Perfect no, flawed and always falling on the grace of God, yes, but that is what is so wonderful.

This is just my humble opinion but to me our missional task  is not to try to make our church a better imitation of other churches, but to lift up all that is good about our own tradition and do what we do well even better.  I think we need to stop apologizing for our church be proud of who we are.

Let’s show em how we “show em Jesus” in our proclamation, worship and work in the world.

By Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson,
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




, ,