News and Resources from the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


A Statement from the Central States Synod about the Events in Ferguson, Missouri

By: Rev. Roger Gustafson, Bishop of the Central States Synod

Tonight’s announcement of the Ferguson grand jury decision has angered some and pleased others, assured some of “the system’s” validity, and convinced others of “the system’s” corruption. People have taken to the streets – some to express frustration at this particular decision, others to pursue their own agendas – but none of those who have engaged in violence has honored Michael Brown or respected the wishes of his parents, who have called for calm and the peaceful pursuit of justice.

During the three months of deliberation by the grand jury as to whether white police officer Darren Wilson should be charged in the death of black citizen Michael Brown, the emotions and reactions have flowed. Underneath the surface responses, however, people who are guided by the Gospel of Jesus Christ might suspect that deeper rhythms are at work.

God’s creation continues to groan in labor pains, as Paul wrote (Rom 8:22), and bracing against injustice of any kind is one expression of that groaning. We routinely ask for God’s kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done (Matt 6:10), and we’re grateful for signs of their coming. Just so, we shouldn’t be surprised when their absence becomes painfully obvious. It’s for us to construct cultures and policies that honor God’s intent for equal valuing of all people. As Michael Brown’s father urged us all tonight, don’t let his son’s death be in vain; rather, get moving toward greater tolerance and understanding and appreciation, wherever you are, whomever you’re with. Michael Brown’s life deserves to be honored by our best efforts.

Originally posted on the Central States Synod website on November 24, 2014.

Information for transformation: Congregational Vitality Project Part I

By: Rev. Judith VanOsdol, Director for Evangelical Mission

Vital congregations bear witness to God’s transforming power. Our synod is one of five pilot synods across the ECLA that form the Congregational Vitality Project. The Congregational Vitality Assessment is a listening tool that invites participants to share their perceptions of how the congregation is connecting with God, with one another, and with the world.

Our synod’s four Regional Renewal Teams have worked arduously throughout 2014 leading the process in our synod. To date, over 85 congregations, roughly half of the congregations of our Synod have used the CVA. This process includes: an all congregation survey, receiving feedback from team members with congregational leaders, and follow up from that process. (For information on the CVA, see the FAQ)

Information is not transformation-follow up is necessary! Recently the project interviewed congregational leaders from 44 congregations in pilot synods to see how congregations used the survey. The study found that leaders of congregations in every synod agree that the survey is helpful but its impact is greatly increased with follow-up interventions. Those congregations who used the information to facilitate follow-up steps to begin a process of renewal were more likely to experience improvement in their overall health.

The CVA project will go on Hiatus from mid-December to February of 2015. Therefore, if you have ordered the survey, but not taken it, or are waiting to send in results, congregations have until December 15th at the latest to send in survey results of the current version. Following the hiatus, we will launch version three of the CVA, ready to order from your Regional Renewal team in February, 2015.

In Part II, we will illustrate some of the critical factors that impact congregational vitality. Blessings of joy and peace!

A Word of Appreciation form the Bishop

By: Rev. John Stanley Macholz, Bishop

“Thousand, thousand thanks shall be…” The words of the old hymn don’t begin to convey my gratitude to all of you who sent cards, Facebook messages, emails and made phone calls as well as offered prayers across the church on my behalf following surgery. Your presence via these various means sustained and held Lin and me prior to, during and following surgery to this very day.

The surgery went extremely well, pathology reports came back completely negative and, despite a few minor setbacks, I’m well on the way to recovery. This Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) will mark four weeks since the surgery. I’ve been working a bit from home and will return to work full time, easing back in, on Monday, December 1. I look forward to getting back to the call and tasks at hand and the future that God holds out for all of us in what I believe is a bright and hopeful future for this synod and the ministry to which we are called. Thanks for your companionship on this journey.

Farewell and Godspeed

By: Rev. John Stanley Macholz, Bishop

This edition of the Upstate Update is Neal Fischer’s final with us. As you may know Neal and Michele are heading south to the South Carolina Synod where he will continue his good work there, as well as in other places as he’s called upon, to assist congregations, synods and the larger church.

Neal has been a gift and blessing to us these past six years, giving shape and form to our communications and process, updating methodologies and leading us into the brave new world of social media. His constant presence and tireless work have been a blessing to us and to all. Join me in giving him thanks for all that he has done in our midst as we wish him well in his new future.

With Thanks

By: Neal F. Fischer

I wish to share with you my heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to serve the last six years in my role on Synod Staff. My last day with the Upstate New York Synod will be November 30th. On December 1st, I start in the role of Director of Communications with the South Carolina Synod.

This call to serve the Church as a communicator has been a tremendous opportunity for me. I am deeply grateful to all who have supported my efforts to improve communications in our synod. Your encouragement and patience has helped me to grow and improve. Thank you for your partnership.

My wife, Michele, will be finishing her current call at the end of December. We will then be working together on a fresh start. I remain committed to helping the Church communicate better and look forward to new challenges.