Guess who is at this year’s Metropolitan New York Synod Assembly? That’s right – me.
I arrived in the middle of the afternoon, the pastor at Trinity gave me a ride. The assembly is held in Tarrytown this year – at the Marriott Westchester. I arrived, checked in, and completely phased the hotel desk by paying with a check and showing a tax exempt form. Churches must be the only organizations in the world who still pay by check. I went to my room on the second floor which has a lovely view of a building retaining wall and sludge and quickly checked out the gym. After a short workout, it was back up to my room to get ready for dinner. I had to make sure my outfit would be perfect for the evening. I looked fantastic. I was also completely over dressed.
I am going to completely stand out in terms of fashion once I’m a pastor.
Dinner was pretty good (considering we ate in the hotel restaurant), the conversations were lovely, and I now find myself leaching the free internet in the lobby because I refuse to pay money to access it in my room. Instead, I’m keeping an eye out for any Lutherans that check in and see if I recognize them. And I’m still hoping that the bishop will stop by – I have a dream of drinking with an actual bishop and maybe I’ll make that dream come true this trip. We shall see.
I plan on twittering the assembly if I can and maybe posting pictures and daily updates. We’ll only be in session tomorrow and through early Saturday afternoon. With the recession, the three day assembly was cut to two. The business that needs to be done is not that exciting. My name will be nominated from the floor as a synod representative at the ELCA’s Church Wide Assembly. I don’t expect to win but it will be nice to have my name in the minutes. And it’s possible that I’ll be mentioned anyways since my candidacy for ministry was approved in February. Basically, I would like to be officially talked about and have it written down. I will give out bonus points if my old name and my new name are both recorded and future historians confuse me for two separate people.
The few resolutions of any note this year involve the recession – specifically a resolution asking that pensions not be cut as it was for some retired pastors in other synods. I understand why people would like their pensions to not be cut but I also have a hard time understanding where that extra money would come from if the pension fund lost money. Does this mean that the synod and ELCA pension funds are required to invested extremely conservatively, to the point where the snowball effect is barely noticeable? Or is this merely a call for the financial arm of the church (and, lets face it, when it comes to finances and the church, the conversation is never good), to better plan for events like the recession of 2008? I really don’t know but I do think that the resolution will not be as binding as people hope it’ll be.
There is also, I think, several resolutions about human sexuality and the events that happened at the last Church Wide Assembly but I expect those to be mostly ignored. I’m just really hopping for another serpentine vote this year – I would love to have to literally stand up to have my vote counted. It would be fun.
Besides the resolutions and the elections, I will be very curious about the budget, mostly because I like to look at charts. It seems, based on the long term plan of the synod, that we are going to enter the phase of our existence where our Synod is primarily financed by the sale of closed churches and their properties. This is…interesting to say the least. It implies that our church demographics have changed to the point where our cost of doing business is too high and that we are now entering a period where the MNYS of the ELCA might be shutting itself out of a future presence in city neighborhoods. With 210 congregations serving 70,000 members (with only 18000 average monthly attendance) and generating $25 million in member giving, the MNYS is still probably too big. But it is scary to imagine the sale of church properties permanently severing our physical presence in city neighborhoods.
Anyways, I’m excited to be here again. I hope that, once I’m ordained, I’ll be able to attend these things every year even if I have to pay for it (pssst – don’t tell my wife I wrote that). I’m a sucker.