prayers for ukraine (2/25/2022)

A pastoral message in response to the Ukraine invasion.  Click HERE to watch it, or click HERE for a print version.

We have been hearing from an Advent worshiper who is from Ukraine and has family there; we will post messages as we receive them. Keep praying. 


Back in January, I volunteered to be Advent’s representative for the SEPA Synod Gathering that was held this past weekend. The idea that regular church people can help to elect a bishop is not something I had given much thought. As the weekend got closer and the weather got far nicer, I started to dread the idea of spending two days indoors, when I had so many other things to do. But, I talked myself into it: show up, see what happens and maybe go home for lunch.

What I observed for the past two days was far different than I expected and far better than anything else I could have been doing. The SEPA Synod is a dynamic and diverse group of Lutheran churches. Bishop Davenport is beloved and has led us well, through the past six years. The pastors and lay people who attended with me are passionate about God, their faith and our church. Everyone was friendly and inviting and I struck up conversations with strangers easily. We honored pastors with 50 remarkable years of service and had young people pray, sing, and deliver sermons.

What I think you should know as a congregation is that the 7 final candidates for bishop all spoke for 5 minutes on Saturday morning. It was moving to listen to them share that they recognize the challenges that affect the churches in our Synod. They are impacted by church attendance, the isolation we all feel, the political climate in our world. We are not alone in facing these challenges, but we are led by impressive leaders who need us to support them if we are to grow the SEPA church. Our church is making a difference to so many people from Philadelphia to Harleysville, but we need to show up to continue this.

I would encourage everyone to pay closer attention to the next few months in the SEPA synod. The energy level is high and there are ways that we can be involved to rejuvenate our churches. We passed a motion to start a Care of Creation ministry at the Synod level. From bike racks, gardens, road side cleanup or electrical audits, there are ways we already do this and ways we can do better. This is something that may appeal to younger people in our congregations. We take care of people, let’s also care for God’s kingdom, for our earth.

I felt most touched when the elections were over and everyone clapped and cheered for our newly elected bishop, Bryan Penman. I wish you could have all been there to feel the Holy Spirit working. I did not see one person react badly that their candidate did not win, although the voting was not unanimous. Everyone stood up and cheered, with a united front. This is what our church needs. This is how we serve others. We may not always agree, but we can work together.

In our diverse congregations. we may worship differently, but we worship the same God. The message of the past two days is one of acceptance, unity and hope. By the energy that newly elected Bishop Penman has for our church, AND by his emotional response to the vote, I can already assure you our new bishop is going to be a strong leader with great ideas. There is a place for everyone at the table now. Invite someone. Show up and see what happens, it will be worth it.