The Rev. Ruben Duran addresses the 2019 NC Synod Assembly.

Pancake bubbles and the Holy Spirit

Do you see the bubbles in your pancakes? Bubbles help us to know that the pancakes are slowly rising and browning, ready to be turned over. Ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) resembles pancake bubbles, slowly bubbling up and out into the world, as God’s people work together to proclaim the Gospel. The Reverend Ruben Duran, ELCA Director of Congregational Vitality, offered this pancake-bubble metaphor and shared with the assembly that the Holy Spirit is working in the ministry happening in the churchwide expression, our synods, congregations, and the world.

In a video, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton shared her thanks for congregations being the hands and feet of Jesus; engaging in hard issues our communities face. She encourages us to daily live out our faith, doing God’s work, and sharing the message of hope and peace to those who feel disowned and disempowered.

Following the video, Pastor Duran shared that in 2018 the North Carolina Synod was generous in participation and mission support to ELCA World Hunger, Lutheran Disaster Response, the Campaign for the ELCA, and the ELCA Fund for Leaders.

Duran then shared a new direction and goals of the ELCA. Known as Future Directions 2025, these five goals direct the way the ELCA lives out its faith, its values, and its mission in the upcoming years. The ELCA strives to:

  1. Be a thriving Church that is passionate about sharing the Gospel.
  2. Equip all people for their baptismal vocations, leaning into the call as part of the community of believers.
  3. Be a welcoming and inviting church that embraces diversity and gifts of its people.
  4. Be visible, committed to working ecumenically and with people of other faiths for justice, peace, and reconciliation with communities around the world.
  5. Be a well-connected and sustainable Church.

Along with the Future Directions 2025 goals, two priorities are identified by the ELCA: Leadership and Congregational Vitality. These two priorities are set to help us become church together, by building up faithful leaders and passionate congregations sharing the Gospel. Amid population changes, justice and advocacy work, and community dynamics, the church is no longer the same. We must move beyond the mentality of “church in a box” and move into being the “church in the world.” Instead of church being the place where people go to get services, much like a gas station—filling up when empty—we must move into an identity that embraces ministry as a witness and parable of the kingdom; equipping and sending people out into the community to proclaim God’s redeeming Word.

As God’s people, we are claimed by God, gathered together in word and sacrament, and are sent into the world to listen, accompany, share, and serve. The Holy Spirit is at work while Jesus builds the church, using us as his hands and feet. Jesus continues to make all things new and will continue to do new things in and through the ELCA. Trusting in the promises of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, we are church together and are better together.

Story:  Deacon Susan Jackson serves as the Youth and Family Coordinator at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Wilmington.
Photo:  Sara Cox is a member of St Martin’s Lutheran Church in Albemarle.