Vision Series 4: Let the River Run

Living at the “convergence of opportunity, need and change” the Oregon Synod voted May 11, 2019 to call the Rev. Laurie Larson Caesar to the office of synodical bishop. Congratulations to our new Bishop Elect!  She will assume her office August 1, 2019.

The picture to the left is of the former Elwha Dam in Washington State. It was removed in 2012 to restore natural fish habitat and it is the largest dam removal in U.S. history (click on photo for video.) Assistant to the Bishop Susan Kintner made reference to this achievement in her Mother’s Day Synod Assembly sermon May 12. This removal is a good example of the convergence of opportunity, need and change. Salmon runs have been strengthened. Indian lands restored. And a source of cheap, hydro electric power has been sacrificed. That is to be expected. There are always trade offs when needs and opportunity collide.

What I remember most from Rev. Kintner’s sermon, however, was a side note. She stating that once the dam was broken the river could no longer be guaranteed to stay in its banks. Such is the challenge and beauty of the wild. Yet, surely there is no joy like seeing salmon fight their way upstream to fulfill their God given calling! So it is in our lives, and so it will be in the months to come.

As a synod we now embark on a new journey. I had frankly hoped to serve as your bishop a while longer and kayak the wild waters of the new with you. But that’s okay. This call makes sense as we are indeed at a pivotal time of transition.

Bishop Elect Laurie and I had lunch last Thursday. We have committed to each other to meet weekly from now through July 31 to attend to the various opportunities of transition. My staff and I are committed to doing all we can to make this shift as seamless as possible. At the same time, learning the rhythms of a new job at this wonderful convergence will be challenging for our new bishop. Our synod has lots of balls in the air and some will certainly drop. That’s okay, though. Most balls bounce, and I know you will care for one another as the river flows around our feet.

Over the next month we will attend to matters of staffing, of stabilizing our grant supported ministries, and continuing the work of transition in congregations. August 4-10, 2019 Bishop Elect Laurie and other members of our synod will be off to Milwaukee, WI for our ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The office of bishop is much more than just our wonderful work here in Oregon. Bishop Elect Laurie will now share in the leadership of the larger church, involve herself with universities and seminaries of the ELCA, and be a liaison for us all with ministries such as Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Community Services. I am thrilled for her, and for us all, as I know we will be will served and well represented.

Also at our Assembly last week we called Greg Shea to the office of Synod Vice President. Greg is a current Synod Council member and participant with our Mission Table. He is a gifted leader and careful thinker. Greg and our new Bishop Elect will certainly be a pair to draw to, and Greg will also be traveling to Milwaukee for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Debby Chenoweth, who now finishes 8 years of service as our former Synod Vice President, has been a gift to us all. She has certainly been a joy for me to work with. Thank you Debby. Thank you Greg. Thank Bishop Elect Laurie.

As for me, I am finding peace in the singular focus and call to get our new Bishop Elect ready to serve. Come August 1 I will hand over the keys to the synod office and head to the hills. Gretchen and I are looking forward to some welcome relaxation and recreation. Come fall I will see what the Spirit has in store. Retirement is not yet my goal. Continued service is.

Next month will be the last of what I have planned as five monthly letters about vision and transition for the synod. We will know more at that time about ministry direction, needs, staffing and our hopes and dreams. Please be patient. For now I ask that you keep Bishop Elect Laurie and our new Vice President Greg Shea in your prayers. These are exciting times, but I am not at all sure which banks the mighty Elwha might yet choose to challenge.

Just watch for the salmon!

Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke