A while back I was watching “Akeelah and the Bee” with four-year-old grandson Reed. Toward the end of the movie he looked up at me and with great concern asked, “Gramma, why are you crying?” With a huge lump in my throat and wet cheeks, I replied, “It touches my heart.” Now at some very unusual times (sad, happy, scary), Reed will look at me and say, “Gramma, does this touch your heart?”
It may be difficult for non-Italian Lutherans to understand, but Churchwide Assembly touched my heart. There was something every day that without warning brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. In fact, just remembering does it.
Day one – At every turn was a red-hatted ELCA Metro-Chicago volunteer anxious to direct me…at the hotel…to the shuttle bus…at Navy Pier during the registration process…finding my place in the massive Assembly hall. I was so proud to be an ELCA Metro-Chicagoan! When Bishop Hanson sounded the opening bell and pointed out that people everywhere had been invited to pray for me and my decisions, I feared that I might make a sobbing fool of myself.
Day two – I attended the Missionary Sponsorship Breakfast and was again filled with pride, hearing about how our church (I) is (am) making a difference in the world. Young missionaries such as Brian and Kristian Konkol live under adverse conditions, but thrive in bringing my love and the love of Jesus to far away lands. My heart was touched.
Day three – By now I just wanted to continue to live on the mountain top that had been created, wishing this could go on forever. I went through a pile of tissue at the re-election of Bishop Hanson and the introduction of his wife and daughter. I stepped out of my comfort zone this evening, and ventured alone into the ballroom of the Hyatt Hotel for a worship service by Good Soil. I had no preconceived notions. I had no idea what to expect. But I was overwhelmed by the grace present in the packed room. I’m sure there were also others there who came to learn and left filled with a sense of God’s unlimited love.
Day four – A highlight today was one I had been looking forward to, the presentation by Bishop Munib Younan. What a man of God! What a giant for peace! When peace and justice come to Palestine, people such as he will be the reason. Bishop Younan shows us all how the church can play a major role in political and social movements for the common good.
Day five – The Anniversary Banquet was a delight! Carlos Peña – Okay, I admit it! I love this guy! Who would ever think that the volunteer Vice President of the ELCA would be a perfect M.C. He was indeed. And whoever would have thought that there was such talent in Park Ridge?! The Bottle Band was terrific! A grand time was had by all.
Day six – I was very pleased with the way we completed business today, and especially proud of our Bishop Paul Landahl. He will be missed in his retirement. I wasn’t ready to come down from the mountain at the ringing of the closing bell, but now am even more inspired to bring the mountain to the everyday valleys of my life.
Opening worship…I didn’t sing or say a word. The very core of my being was touched! We Lutherans really do know how to do worship! Worship was a daily highlight for me. By closing worship on Saturday, I was gaining enough composure so that I could join in on the last verses of some hymns.
I’m mad about organization and order, and it became obvious from day one that our Bishop was not going to disappoint me. He led us through about ten pounds of paper with class and humor. (I was never bored! I brought some needlework along and was not even tempted to bring it out! ) Throughout the Assembly, voting members followed Bishop Hanson’s lead and showed respect for each other and the processes despite their passion on some of the “hot” issues. I was really proud of us.
Some favorite words: God’s Work, Our Hands…..Be a sent church, not a settled church.
Other favorites – the voting machines…the wonderful meals…the back packs…the insulated lunch bag…the treats from Metro-Chicago…my roommate from Massachu-setts…my seat-mates from Metro-Chicago…Lowell Almen— What a gift of God! I began to treasure every one of those satirical smiles!
The people I met. Not included in the ten pounds of paper or any agenda, was the absolute delight of meeting people from all over our church. At meal times…at worship… on the shuttle bus…walking between the Pier and the Hyatt …at hearings…at every opportunity I discovered interesting and joy-filled church-mates. I was ready to adopt a group of young people (could have been my grandchildren)—some delegates—some on Churchwide Council—who welcomed me into their thoughts and fun.
Bible study – I think Assembly planners must have said “we’ll have the best of our best” when it came to the studies. I only regretted that each session was too short, especially that of the awesome Pastor David Rhoads!
I give the Churchwide Assembly a rousing ten!