Midwesterners are not known for putting themselves forward or pointing out their accomplishments. We just keep moving and do what needs to be done.

Every once in a while, however it’s not a bad idea to just take a moment to take a look at how far we’ve come. This can be helpful especially when facing new challenges.  If we look at what challenges we’ve already faced it can give us confidence to face new ones.

Bishop Ullestad, in his report today gave us an opportunity to look at some of things we have accomplished.  As we look forward to a new agreement between the ELCA and our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, we recall how far we have already come with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

As Bishop Ullestad points out “Because of the work of the ELCA, families no longer need to be divided because of a 500 year old division in the church –no other Lutheran church body in this country can say that”

As we face unprecedented change in church and society today, the Bishop in his report reminded us that the Northeastern Iowa Synod has never shrunk from taking risks in new and exciting ways.  We are a Synod of firsts.  Just look at some of our firsts:

  • First synod allowing each congregation to elect a youth voting member to the synod assembly in addition to their other voting members.
  • First synod to have two youth on the boards and council.
  • First synod to give Synodical Women’s Organization president and Men in Mission president a vote on the synod council.
  • The first synod to develop a daily devotional in partnership with Augsburg Fortress, “Bread for the Day,” which is sent to all rostered persons, call committees and their councils.
  • First to provide youth ministry resources on a CD Rom.
  • First and only synod to have a staff person sent by our government to Brazil to share with their government the Barnabas Uplift project as a way of eliminating poverty.
  • First and only synod to have a staff person on the Iowa Department of Human Services Board of Directors who is now the chairperson of that Board.
  • First synod to initiate the Hay lift to Texas.
  • First synod to have a flattened structure giving creative programmatic responsibilities to Conferences.
  • First synod to create a synod structure based on networks (2011) in response to the LIFT Task Force report.
  • First synod to have Colleague Groups.
  • Only synod whose staff person assisted the churches in Namibia in creating a historic covenant of relationship.
  • First in the state to create an expanded campus ministry to become an area young adult ministry in partnership with local congregations.
  • Pilot synod for the Malaria Campaign.
  • Initiator of the social statement on genetics, the first social statement to pass without amendment and with the highest percentage of approval.
  • First to have DEM use social ministry to introduce the nations to Jesus Christ.

The purpose in pointing out all of these firsts is not to pat ourselves on the back.  It is to remind us that risks and challenges is nothing new for us.  It is how we roll here in the Northeastern Iowa Synod.  We have nothing to fear when we move ahead toward the future.   It’s not a bad idea to remind ourselves of that once in a while.

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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.

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