Every fall, the rostered leaders of the Northeastern Iowa Synod gather for a few days of continuing education, rest, renewal, and fellowship. This event is planned and organized by a committee of synod rostered leaders and is anticipated and appreciated by those who attend.
The gathering usually follows the same schedule. We gather on Sunday night for dinner and fellowship and then hear from the bishop about what is going on in the synod and the greater church. Bishop Ullestad always takes this time to affirm the work of the leaders and congregations of the synod and answer questions about what is happening in the church. This year the response of synod leaders and congregations to the widespread flooding was lifted up.
The bishop also called upon those rostered leaders who attended the 2016 Churchwide assembly to share some of the highlights. The outstanding worship and civil, thoughtful discussion of important issues were noted.
We ended the evening with Evening prayer, followed by snacks and fellowship.
Monday morning begins with prayer again. One of the highlights of the conference is getting to hear our colleagues preach. Pastor Nerdig preached on the ten lepers and how seeing Christ opens our eyes and heart to see those around us.
The main speaker was the Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis, Associate Professor of Preaching and the Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching. She is the author of John, Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentary, as well as a contributor to Working Preacher and Sermon Brainwave Podcasts.
“John as Homiletical Challenge and Homiletical Promise” was the topic.
Her task was to help preachers understand John better and help preach on this Gospel so that having heard the gospel, the hearer will be able to proclaim with Mary at the Resurrection, “I have seen the Lord!”
In other words, “Show em Jesus.”
Dr. Lewis’ presentations were excellent, very down to earth, packed with information and practical ideas of how to approach this Gospel in preaching.
The Fall Conference has always left a considerable amount of time on Monday afternoon for free time, giving attendees time to golf, sight-see, hike, swim, nap, or just hang out at the hotel. This free time can be challenging for some who feel like cost must be justified by scheduled time but the bishop and organizers of this event have always felt that rest and Sabbath are just as important to healthy effective leaders as is structured learning.
After a time of refreshment, we gathered again in the evening at the chapel at Wartburg Seminary for Eucharist, with Rev. Dr. Craig Nissan preaching. Followed by more refreshments and fellowship at the refectory.
Tuesday morning begins with prayer, this time with a powerful message by Rev. Anne Edison-Albright, Luther College Campus pastor, on the persistence of the widow before the unjust judge.
The rest of the morning Dr. Lewis went in depth with next year’s Lenten texts from John, again giving preachers some concrete ideas to work with for their sermons. (Yes, some preachers are thinking about Lent already!)
After a final blessing, those gathered were sent off renewed and refreshed to continue to the work of God, in the church and in the world.