This article was written for the Southwestern Washington Synod of the ELCA’s March Newsletter, I hope you enjoy it here, and I invite you to check out the newsletter from our synod’s website when it becomes available!
Southwestern Washington has been my synod for the majority of my life. I actually grew up in an ELCA church in Bonney Lake. It was there that I grew in faith, there that I left faith, and there that God brought me back.
And it was at that church where I had first felt called to ministry. Now, six years since the moment I called Allison at the synod office to ask about candidacy, I’m a pastor in the same synod that I grew up in. I am so thankful to be doing ministry in the same synod that walked alongside me through so much of my life. I am forever grateful for the relationships I have with the leadership of our region, and for the support I received when I was just trying to figure out why exactly I needed to learn Greek.
Unfortunately, although I was supported emotionally and spiritually throughout the process, our synod was not able to support me in my seminary education financially at the time. I was grateful for the financial support of my home congregation, but even their generous giving just barely covered the cost of my books.
I managed to finish my Master’s of Divinity in three years, but it was three years that had me working multiple jobs while participating in classes and field work, as well as a surprising amount of student loan debt.
My three jobs helped me to pay for my apartment and my bills. My church helped me to pay for my books. But a postgraduate education, seminary or not, does not come with a small price tag.
And so last year during our annual “Bishop’s Eucharist” (a worship service with Bishop Jaech and the pastors in our area), we were first introduced to the Deep Roots New Life campaign, and honestly I felt a sense of hope.
I am thankful that our synod is recognizing our call as a region to lift up and support our leaders and our congregations, not just emotionally and spiritually, but financially as well.
The congregation I serve is already experiencing benefit from our synod’s Deep Roots New Life focus. We have been part of our synod’s “Imagine Project” since last year. We have been participating in this season of renewal within our church, and have been excited to see all the surprising and unimaginable ways God has been at work here.
So, after some conversations with my spouse, we decided that as a family, we wanted to pledge and to give monthly to the campaign along with our other regular giving. Because the goals, the mission of this campaign, speaks to us.
The mission of Deep Roots New Life speaks to us as seminary graduates, who hope that candidates in our community can receive support that wasn’t available to us. Knowing that these scholarships might make the difference for those who feel called but are unsure if they can take on the debt.
Deep Roots New Life speaks to us as a family, because we know all too well the financial stress of student loan payments, and are hopeful that our synod may help to spare leaders of those additional pressures.
And honestly this campaign speaks to us simply as people who love our church, and who love the ways in which God is working in our single congregation, in our larger conference, and in our larger synod. We are hopeful and excited to see the way our monthly pledge can be used to bring new life to the churches in our area.
We chose to give to this campaign as a family, because our experiences, our ministry, call us to participate in this mission, and as we are drawn to the deep roots of God’s love for us and for the congregations and leaders in our synod, we are excited to see what new life our financial giving might help bring.