Pastor CeCee Mills preaching a powerful word to those gathered.
Photo credit: Katherine Nagy
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Hickory, was again the host for Synod Gathering Worship on Friday evening, once more an occasion for celebration. Rostered ministers—pastors and deacons—serving in Specialized Pastor Care calls (chaplains, military chaplains, pastoral counseling, and clinical education) were robed and joined in the procession.
Pastor Lucille “CeCee” Mills, assistant to the bishop, preached a powerful word using the text of John 20:1-18, the story of the road to Emmaus. Speaking of the men walking on that road, Pastor Mills stated, “In their grief, they could not imagine that Jesus could be present with them. Beloved, in the darkness, whatever it is that you’re going through….God understands that in the midst of it, you can’t even see Jesus right beside you. But let me tell you this: 365 days a year, Jesus is right there!”
And, compelling us, she continued, “If we are really following Jesus, if we are following Jesus’ example of what it means to be resurrection people, we have to be preoccupied with those who are not here. Even the ones that get on our nerves!”
Using many resources from the new hymnal All Creation Sings (ACS) allowed us to experience and learn new hymns, including the Hymn of the Day, the refrain of which spoke so well to both the ministry of those in Specialized Pastoral Care as well as the decades of Deacon Tammy Jones West’s faithful service in this synod and this church:
“See my hands and feet,” said Jesus, love arisen from the grave, “Be my hands and feet,” said Jesus, “live as ones I died to save.” —ACS 939 Touch That Soothes and Heals
The Specialized Pastoral Care rostered ministers were invited forward for public commemoration during which they were recognized and applauded for their faithful ministry.
The worship concluded with a Farewell & Godspeed for Deacon Tammy Jones West as she has retired from her work in our synod for the past 27 years, serving in the areas of youth ministry, leadership, as well as many others. Bishop Tim Smith spoke poignantly about Tammy’s faithful ministry, about her failure at retirement (moving into a new position only two days later!), and about our wish to send her off with blessing to her new position as ELCA Youth Gathering 2024 Interim Director. Tammy’s tears of gratitude were matched by many in the pews. Bishop Tim invited us to join in a refrain together: “We love you, Tammy!” What a joyous sending for a beautiful person!
Our sending hymn was Go My Children, with My Blessing; we were sent with the message of promise and hope.