By Courtney Olsen
Felecia Boone, elected Synod Council vice president at the 2018 Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly, brings a wealth of experience to the synod from her varied portfolio of 26 years of work with Hennepin County. “It’s been a way to serve people and deliver on the core values and the mission of the county: that people are protected, safe, healthy, mobile, and self-sufficient,” she says.
Boone’s heart for serving others translates into her work with her own congregation, Calvary Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, and with the synod. Serving her congregation has been a critical formational experience in her life: “I was always involved: I loved to be an acolyte, I loved to be the crucifer — I loved doing those things up front and being a part of the service. And becoming an assisting minister and a lector were and still are really important things to me. All of that has informed where I am today.”
“I want to make sure everyone is heard. I allow for a lot of silence.”
Her work with the synod began a few years ago when she was elected as a member of the Synod Council before moving onto the executive committee two years later. Then, a little over a year ago, she was approached by Bishop Ann Svennungsen asking her to consider running for vice president. After a few weeks of discernment, Felecia agreed to run. “I never really saw myself being involved in church at this level outside of serving on my own church council and committees and attending church,” Boone said. “It’s an opportunity for growth, both in my faith and personally, so I’m excited about it.”
LOOKING FORWARD INTO her four-year term, Boone’s focus is on equity and inclusivity within the synod. “The racial equity piece is huge for me,” she says. “We have got to do a better job of truly being inclusive. And not just racially; there are many other places where I see we can do a better job.”
One particular place she sees room for growth is in how the church handles particular traditions. She explains, “We need to get really clear on what is necessary for us to do worship and what we like because it’s what we’ve grown up with. Not everyone is a cradle Lutheran anymore. People are coming out of other faith traditions or they aren’t coming out of a faith tradition but they have a spirituality. Let’s really include people: if there is a reason that we’re doing something, we need to tell people why we’re doing it and not just assume they understand why we’re doing it. I want us to move past doing things just because we’ve always done them and I want us to really look outside of ourselves.
“One of the things I really want to work on from things I’ve been hearing, not just here but nationally, is that candidacy can be a really difficult process, especially for our young seminarians who are women of color.”
“If we want people to grow in their faith and remain with the church, we have to quit being so rigid. We can squeeze it to death and not get anywhere, or we can loosen it up a bit and see what comes. I think it’s in those times that we allow God to come in and do work on us, with us, through us for ourselves and others.”
There’s also a question of equity in the candidacy process for future pastors. “One of the things I really want to work on from things I’ve been hearing, not just here but nationally, is that candidacy can be a really difficult process, especially for our young seminarians who are women of color. I want to work more on how we can tighten that up so it’s an actual written process and there’s no chance of getting misinformation. Having a mentor is great, but if that mentor is not there for your good and is leading you down a path that’s not going where you want to be, then we need a process that’s written down so people aren’t depending on that relationship or they’re the third person in their family to do it so they already know the process. I want to formalize some of those things to help folks.”
BOONE ALSO FEELS STRONGLY ABOUT raising up leaders in the synod. “Not just pastors though,” she emphasizes. “We need pastors, we absolutely do. But pastors move around; your congregants stay and that’s what holds people together. You’ve got to have strong lay leadership for the in-between times. I want us to think through how we help raise up leaders who aren’t going to be pastors but are still going to be influential in the church and help us grow the church because they have those natural skills and abilities.”
“We can squeeze our tradition to death and not get anywhere, or we can loosen it up a bit and see what comes. I think it’s in those times that we allow God to come in and do work on us, with us, through us for ourselves and others.”
When it comes to her leadership, Boone stresses how important it is that everyone have a chance to speak: “I want to make sure everyone is heard. I allow for a lot of silence, and I want people to have a chance to say their piece and add to the conversation so that we’re making the best decision possible as a group. I want to provide that space for folks sitting around the table to say what they need to say because it’s not always the loudest voice that has the best idea. We need everybody to contribute.”
There’s a lot happening during Boone’s four-year term, namely the 2019 Churchwide Assembly, the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women, and a large number of bishop elections across the country. “It will be very interesting to see how all of that shakes out,” says Boone, “especially with the election of the first two African-American bishops this past cycle. We know that Bishop Ann has six years left in her term and then we’re electing a new bishop, so that is all interesting to think about what will happen here in our synod during that time.”