This year we’re putting an emphasis on stories that highlight leadership and leaders from around the ELCA. “I’m a Lutheran leader” is an online feature that highlights the many ways people are leaders in the church. Bishop Eaton’s Leadership Initiative encourages all of us to seek out and mentor people who show a gift for ministry. To learn more about the initiative, go to elca.org/leaders.
Highlands Lutheran Church, Denver, Colo.
Deacon and assistant to the bishop for synodical life, Rocky Mountain Synod
Word and Service ministry is maybe one of the best kept secrets in the church. I didn’t even know it existed until eight years ago! I believe that as we live into this newly unified roster, God is inviting us into a posture of discernment and creativity, encouraging us to explore news ways of being church. The challenges we face as a church are many; the problems in the world often overwhelming. We need to be using all the tools in our toolbox, making new ones as we go.
In my work as a deacon, I’m passionate about being the “church together.” Through sharing our stories of God at work in our local contexts, creating space for community and hard conversations at our theological conference and synod assemblies, and supporting our five “glocal” church teams, I see the fruits of our work and witness through all our expressions of this church. I love that my work invites big visions and conversations that matter. With my teams, we make space for worship and discernment, challenge ourselves to more deeply repudiate the doctrine of discovery and work with ELCA World Hunger until all are fed.
As a deacon, I’m grateful for our campus ministries, care centers, advocacy offices, outdoor ministries and service-year ministries! They are our partners in the diaconal call to serve at the boundaries of church and world, meeting people where they are and equipping leaders for lives of service.
I encourage others to take leadership roles in the church through invitation and making space. I work with and need a lot of volunteers for our events and task forces, so I often will reach out to one of the local pastors and ask, “I need someone who is passionate about ELCA World Hunger; do you have someone who might help me out?” And sometimes I just make space for people to pursue their passions! We have a newly emerging team working on immigration justice because a young adult asked us for conversation around an issue he was passionate about. My role now is simply to make sure he has the right resources and support to do the work.
I see the future of the church grounded in ecumenical partnerships, creative models for congregational ministry that invite deacon leadership and the bold witness of our non-congregational ministries. I see energy building around collaborative ministries and ecumenical partnerships. As leaders, we need to offer new models for ministry, to invite creativity, new life and room for the Holy Spirit to do what she will!
I’m a Lutheran leader because now, more than ever, our world needs our bold witness to radical hospitality and active love for all creation. My deep longing is for a changed world, and I believe we as the church are called to be world changers!