News and Resources from the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
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A Farewell from Marie C. Jerge, Bishop

Dear Resurrection People of the Upstate New York Synod,

There are many symbols of the Office of Bishop that have deep meaning for me. One is the synod’s pectoral cross. I will place it around the neck of Bishop-elect John Macholz at his installation, as it was placed on mine by Bishop Lee Miller twelve years ago. This cross was purchased at the start of the ELCA and modeled on the ELCA Presiding Bishop’s pectoral cross. Several synods have the same design or similar design. Our synod’s is unique in that at its center is a New York State Garnet (the NYS Stone) instead of the usual amethyst. As I have worn it on visitations, people, especially children, have often commented on its size and weight. It is a reminder that one cannot take the Office of Bishop lightly.

Another sign of office is the crozier. The one I have carried is not carved or fancy. It is not embellished with precious metals. It is a plain wooden staff, reminiscent of the crook carried by shepherds, used to prod, protect and rescue the sheep. This one was handcrafted, not for worship rituals, but for a December party celebrating St. Nicholas Day. Someone fashioned it to go with Bishop Edward Perry’s St. Nicholas costume. It has been “lost and found” more than once, but we can thank Pastor Jack Printzenhoff for rescuing it in a garage sale and putting it to use for a time in Christmas pageants in western NY, before it found its place of honor in the bishop’s office.

What I have most appreciated about this particular crozier is that it is a sign of resurrection all its own. It was originally a broomstick, re-fashioned and re-shaped for its new purpose, much like we are reshaped and remolded as we grow in Christian faith after baptism. It also serves as a reminder that although the Office of Bishop is one of oversight, it is not a place of high rank or honor, as much as it is one of humble serving. And Lord knows there is always plenty of cleaning up to be done.

I am deeply grateful for having had the privilege of wearing the cross and carrying the crozier for a time. I am also thankful to God for all the partners in mission with whom I have walked and worked – those within the Upstate New York Synod, as well as those across the church and around the world. I have done my best in these 12 years (and more) to be an example of servant leadership. Where I have failed I ask forgiveness. Where I have succeeded I give God the glory. I trust that along the way some lives have been changed by the good news of Jesus Christ crucified and risen.

I am humbled and moved by the many expressions of thanks and good wishes that I have received in recent weeks. I give thanks for the gifts that have been given in thanksgiving for my ministry in your midst, especially those that will support the Synod Mission Fund and the ELCA Campaign’s global initiatives. To quote St. Paul,

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of the Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:3-6

On September 6, I will pass on the cross and the crozier to John as they were once passed on to me. I pray that he will receive them with a sense of their history and a sure and certain hope in the gracious and transforming power of Jesus Christ. I will be praying for him and I ask that you do the same. And I trust that God will bless him in his serving as God has blessed me in mine.

Grace and peace,

Marie C. Jerge
aka “Mama” Bishop

A PDF version of this letter suitable for printing and posting is available here.

Global Friendships

By Rev. Marie Jerge, bishop

In August 2003, I was privileged along with several others from the Upstate New York Synod to represent the ELCA at the 100th Anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ.) It was my first visit to our companion synod and changed my life. To kick-off the celebration, the ELCZ dedicated a brand new church building in Shurugwi. It was there that I met Gracious Moyo. He was a Deacon who had been sent to Shurugwi to build up the congregation and complete the building project. It was understood that as soon as this was accomplished, he would head off to seminary for his official training to become a pastor of the church.

In July 2014 – eleven years later – I was delighted to again spend time with Pastor Gracious Moyo, this time in Rochester, NY. Our joy at re-connecting was palpable. It is such a gift to be part of a church that nurtures such connections across cultures and continents. In the intervening years, he completed his seminary training, served a congregation in Harare and for the next two years he will pursue graduate studies at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. En route, he spent a month hosted by Rick and Beth Walker of Bethlehem, Fairport. Beth is the chair of our Global Mission Team. He attended Confirmation Camp at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Camp, Bible Study groups, and acclimated a bit to life in the US before heading west. Please hold him in your prayers, especially as he lives for 2 years apart from his wife and family. The Global Mission Team is hoping to bring him back to Upstate NY during the course of his sojourn in the US. For more information about Gracious and opportunities to learn more about our companion synods in Zimbabwe and Zambia – contact Beth Walker at rbowsend@rochester.rr.com

Current Violence in the Holy Land

Almighty God, all thoughts of truth and peace come from you. We remember before you this day our brothers and sisters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and their Bishop Munib Younan. Strengthen and support them in this difficult time. Watch over all Palestinians and Israelis who live in that holy land and kindle in the hearts of all your children the love of peace that there may be an end to the violence. Guide with your wisdom the leaders of the nations, so that your kingdom will go forth in peace and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of your love through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. An adaption of a prayer for peace (ELW p. 63).

bishop younanDear Partners in Mission,

On Thursday I received a letter from ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton asking me to invite all the congregations of the Upstate New York Synod to pray on Sunday, July 20, 2014 for our brothers and sisters in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) in light of the current violence in Gaza.

She also asks that her letter to Bishop Munib Younan, of the ELCJHL be read in every congregation and that there be a time of silence observed that we might pray for peace in Palestine and Israel.

Bishop Eaton has been in communication with Bishop Younan, who says that this is the thirteenth war he has seen, but that that this one is causing him the greatest concern. Therefore, he is asking for our prayers. For more information, take time to read a statement by Bishop Younan and the ELCA News story as you are able.

In January 2009 when the ELCA Conference of Bishops visited Israel and Palestine, violence had also erupted in Gaza. Though we did not visit Gaza, the tension and fear was palpable. It was an amazing privilege to walk with these people of deep faith, courage and hope during the time of violence, waiting daily for news reports, and changing our itinerary to be sure that the Bishops would be safe. Please join me on Sunday in praying for peace for these Christian brothers and sisters and for all people who live in this war-torn part of the world. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Grace and peace,

Marie C. Jerge
Bishop, Upstate New York Synod, ELCA

Staff and Deans Focus on Transition

Bishop Marie Jerge and Bishop-Elect John Macholz gathered with the Synod Staff and Conference Deans for some time apart at Notre Dame Retreat Center, Skaneateles. Jennifer Cornish Genovese helped us to reflect together on healthy transitions. David Preisinger led us in a time of Biblical reflection and sharing our faith journeys. We began the orientation of the new Deans. We reviewed the new Resource Book that has been six months in the making, to assist the Deans and Staff in their work with congregations and clarifying their roles in times of pastoral transition and call process. We worshipped together, shared in the Eucharist, played together (you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen the physical prowess of this group playing Frisbee and bocce!), and went out for ice cream. Perhaps the most touching moments came when Bishop Jerge invited the Deans and Staff to offer Bishop-Elect Macholz words from Holy Scripture as a foundation for this new calling and then together we prayed for him. Bishop Lee Miller had invited the Executive Committee to offer the same gift to Bishop Jerge twelve years ago. This time apart is funded by Health and Wellness fund and assists us in functioning more fully as a team.

We Give Thanks for a Special Gift

By Rev. Marie C. Jerge, bishop

We give thanks for congregations that share generously when they have received special gifts or bequests. Atonement Lutheran Church, Syracuse recently received a bequest and sent the Upstate New York Synod $20,000 earmarked for support of Horizon Internships, a program which provides for internships in both urban and rural contexts. Horizon Internships are a partnership program between a congregation, synod and the churchwide organization, with each partner contributing approximately one third of the cost. Atonement has had Horizon Interns for many years and they have now provided a way for synod support to continue for years to come. We are grateful for their thoughtfulness and creativity in funding the development of leaders with special training in urban and rural contexts.