Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Smoky Mountain Reflection Dec 2012

            Greetings in Christ and happy Advent! as I ponder what pre Christmas reflections I should share with you in this, my final reflection of the year.  I find myself a bit excited and even eager to share with you about some of my recent travels.  Specifically a visit to All Saints Lutheran Church in Charlotte North Carolina and Kings point Resort in Storm Lake Iowa.  The purpose for both of these trips was a mixture of continuing education and resources and networking for our congregation.

            That being said lets jump into the first trip report.  The trip to All Saints Lutheran in Charlotte was about three and a half hours so I got up early on Saturday the 27th of October and headed over the mountains while catching up on my issues etc. programs.  The lecture series "How to Read the Old Testament: Jesus at the Center" started at 11 with Rev. Dr. Andrew Steinmann, Professor of Theology and Hebrew From Concordia University Chicago.  He is one of the worlds foremost scholars in Aramaic.  The title of His lecture was "The Messianic Promise in the Book of Genesis".  He walked us through many of the events in Genesis unpacking  the messianic overtones contained in them.  After a nice German lunch of brats and potato salad we went on to the next lecture titled "No More Peak-A-Boo Jesus" presented by Rev. Jeffery Pulse from Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) Fort Wayne.  The reason for the title is that most modern scholars look into the old testament to see if they can find hidden glimpses of Jesus in the text, when in reality all of the old testament points directly and indirectly to Jesus. I also gained some keen insights on motifs and thematic threads that run through out Gods word.  Next we heard from Rev. Dr. Paul Raabe From Concordia Seminary Saint Louis, on "Reading the Old Testament: Jesus as the fulfillment." In this lecture he walked us through the many typological similarities between the life of Christ and many of the Old Testament narratives. Finally the Rev. Dr. Peter Scaer of  CTS Fort Wayne tied it all together in His presentation "Jesus: The End, Fulfillment, and Continuation of the Old Testament" He focused on how Christ is a complete fulfillment of the Old testament and connected the dots in essence from the previous lectures touching on the Gospels but focusing primarily on Luke and Acts. This was 4 hours well spent even though I spent over 7 hours in transit there and back and I look forward to applying these insights to sermons and bible studied in the coming months.

            Then the following week on November first I got up early in the morning and flew to Omaha Nebraska followed by a drive up to Storm Lake about two and a half hours away. The purpose for this trip was participate in The "National Rural and Small Town Mission Conference" This confrence was organized by our Synod Office of National Mission (ONM).  After opening worship led by the president of Iowa District West Rev. Paul Sieveking we then went into a Bible Study led by Rev. Dr. Brian Saunders, President, LCMS Iowa District East this was the frist of four sessions that covered the book of Ephesians, focusing on St Pauls use of the phrase "In Christ". We then went into our first plenary session. "In Christ for Church" this session was to be led by Rev. J. Bart Day, Executive Director, LCMS (ONM). but he was responding to Hurrican Sandy as part of our synod disaster response team so the opening session was presented by Rev. Dr. Lee Hagan, Interim Director, Rural and Small Town Mission (RSTM) and he did a great job of helping us understand how the (ONM) is working to support the work of (RSTM) congregations as we witness to the Gospel and share mercy in our communities.  I then attend my first sectional where I met with the staff of the newly forme (ONM) and learnd how RSTM, Urban ministry, 72 Partners, and Registered Servic Organizations (RSO's) now all work together in the (OMN).  I then attend my second sectional Rural Ministry 101 presented by Rev. Ray Smith, where we discussed the cultural barriers for those moving from urban areas to small towns and rural settings? the uniqueness of rural culture. After an evening buffet we went on to an evening session which was a group discussion on focusing on the many blessings and challenges facing small congregations in rural and small-town communities and our hopes for the future. 

            Friday's first plenary session was "It’s Okay to Be Small" by Rev. Dr. Lee Hagan, Interim Director, (RSTM) He discussed how Small congregations have exactly what they need and more importantly what the world needs. this session provided inspiration and encouragement for seeing our congregations in terms of what they have, as provided from God, rather than in terms of what they lack. This Gospel-centered perspective provides great encouragement for corporate witness and acts of mercy in our communities.  My third sectional was Rural Resources led by Rev. Dr. Lee Hagan, and Amy Gerdts, RSTM Project Coordinator in this session we Meet with the (RSTM) team and learned more about the array of resources available to help support our
congregation.. The next Plenary session was "Asset Mapping: Energizing Congregations for Ministries that
Matter by Luther Snow, Author of “The Power of Asset Mapping” this session alone in my opinion was worth the trip and I plan on using this methond at our next anual planng meeting. He shared with us new ways to strengthen our congregation for ministry.  He taught us a procdess that helps identify physical, institutional, individual and community assets that are already in place. we came away with tools and skills to energize our congregation in the planing process. Snow is the creator of Asset Mapping, the in-person method for positive group collaboration that is very popular. Snow is a nationally recognized speaker in the field of rural development and has worked with numerous Lutheran agencies.  Our next plenary session was "Country Strong:Tapping Hidden Strengths for Rural Congregational Development" In this session Luther Snow,
shared how to discover what works for congregations in rural areas and small towns.  Models of congregational development are often devised in urban areas and then applied, with limited success, in rural settings. But there are unique advantages and opportunities in rural life that are often overlooked or underappreciated. Snow, a positive rural development pioneer, helped us learn how to recognize our unique local strengths and tap them for appropriate and powerful impact in our own communities. Sectional four was a session on congregational partnerships led by Luther Snow, in this session we built on what we learned in the asset-mapping process, we  looked at how congregations can use their individual strengths to collaborate with potential partners and engage the community in new ways. There is great potential for congregations to work together for the purpose of serving communities and reaching the lost. Sectional five The Community of Christ: It’s More Than Just Me!
led by Rev. Gene Ernst, LCMS Pastor Emeritus from Columbus Indiana. This session examined community within and outside the chruch.  That evening we had a Banquet with the featured Speaker: Rev. Dr. Matthew
C. Harrison, LCMS President.

            Saturday, our final Plenary "Witness, Mercy, Life Together in Rural America" by Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, LCMS President. President Harrison presented the emphasis for the church and demonstrated its unique relevance for rural and smalltown congregations. I howeve had to head bact to the Airport misson the last few minutes of this presentation.  Although I missed the closing panel discussion and the closing worship I feel this trio was well worth the time and resoruces used to get me there. I look forward to making use of some of these great insigts and practical processes in our future together.

Have a blessed advent
Pastor Portier

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