Ruben-Duran-keynote

Detectives of divinity

The Rev. Ruben Duran, ELCA Director of Congregational Vitality, reminded the assembly of John 15:5 as he began his session on congregational vitality on Friday afternoon. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches, if you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” 

Pastor Duran explained that the churchwide expression of the ELCA is describing congregational vitality as communities of Jesus that nurture life-changing relationships with God, one another, and the world. He encouraged us to recall that “when we are connected to Jesus, then we find our life and our purpose. When we are connected to one another as branches, we find our strength. And being church together, then we branch out with confidence, providing Good News, providing a sense of hope for a broken humanity.”

Through wonderful diversity of ministry contexts in the ELCA, Pastor Duran reminded the assembly that we have been called to engage in society, and that through the Holy Spirit, God will guide our steps and direct our ways.

In order to create and sustain congregational vitality, Pastor Duran described a set of values and guiding principles that support our mission together as the Church:

  • Insistent in Collaboration
  • Supportive of Innovation and Creativity 
  • Intentionally Inclusive and Anti-racist
  • Radically Relational
  • Committed to Learning Multiplication
  • Ardent about Leadership Development

Pastor Duran explained that the North Carolina Synod is on the forefront of innovation in the ELCA, as we are guiding and leading our church in congregational vitality. Vibrant Youth Ministry, the innovative lay preaching program, and spirit-filled mission congregations are just a few signs of vitality within our synod. With joy, a clear sense of purpose, and ministries that seek relationships and partnerships in communities, Pastor Duran reminded us of the Holy Spirit’s work in and among us.

“The church is not dying, it is changing…We should be detectives of divinity to see what the Spirit is doing. The Spirit is blowing freely, calling people through the gospel, making all things new. Vitality is a gift to be shared.”

Story:  Deacon Katie Rivers is the Director of Discipleship and Faith Formation at St. Mark’s, Asheville.
Photo:  Ray Sipe–pastor, chaplain, and techno-geek.