By Bishop Ann Svennungsen

There are a varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
Just as the body is one and has many members, so it is with Christ. 
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
(1 Corinthians 12)

At our office, there is no time when the above words ring truer than in the weeks before synod assembly. It’s an “all hands on deck” time – and, praise God, each set of hands brings unique gifts and hard work, all for the sake of the common good.

As we transition from paper agendas to smart phones, one staff member is preparing an assembly app and electronic voting system. Another is finding the best cinnamon rolls for break. Still others are:

  • finding ways to compost and recycle – and recruiting volunteers for the task
  • preparing to fill the screens with powerpoints, videos, and live camera feeds
  • registering congregations and contacting those who’ve yet to register
  • developing “down to the minute” agendas
  • writing sermons, budgets, reports, and the all-important “fun interludes”
  • preparing table conversations on immigration and racial justice
  • inviting the brightest and best keynoters and musicians – and working with them to amplify our theme: “Real Presence: in the neighborhood, with our neighbors.”

The gifts each staff member brings are unique. If you asked me to prepare the assembly app, we wouldn’t be meeting for another six months (if ever).


THIS WEEK, Karen Ohm was called away by the illness of a family member. She is where she is called to be – with her loved one. Still, without her, we are incomplete. Every gift is needed. Fortunately, God is providing a person from outside our staff who can do the work for which she is uniquely qualified.

It is interesting, isn’t it, that assembly preparations vividly illustrate our need to be church together? If we are to raise up leaders, build life-giving Christian communities, foster gracious invitation, and work for just and healthy neighborhoods, we certainly need to be “all hands on deck” with an astonishing diversity of gifts.

“Assembly preparations vividly illustrate our need to be church together.”

The synod office wouldn’t even exist without the offerings that come from the generosity of individual disciples, and without congregations budgeting for “church together” through mission support. We do not take these gifts for granted – and we strive to steward them faithfully. Together, we prepare pastors and deacons; start new congregations; foster networks of work for racial justice, eco-justice, and compassionate service; accompany congregations through times of growth, loss, transition, and celebration.

We are incredibly blessed in the Minneapolis Area Synod with gifts beyond measure. I pray that our assembly this weekend is a time to see anew what “all hands on deck” truly and amazingly looks like.