With the COVID restrictions having been lessened, the Synod was able to host its Church Councillor’s Retreat at the beautiful FELS.
For those who have not been there before, words cannot really do this picturesque haven any justice. Set snuggly into a hill just outside of Paulpietersburg, the view to and from FELS can take one’s breath away. And it is here that councillors, including the pastors of the FELSISA, had the privilege to meet and discuss various matters and concerns arising in church life, especially focusing on the unique challenges provided by the COVID pandemic.
After everyone had arrived and settled in, the retreat started with a presentation on the synodical finances. Even though Eskom did not want to play along and organised load shedding at this very moment, the councillors where not kept in the dark about the finances due to some quick thinking (and a lot of candles).
After the presentation, a devotion was held before we started with dinner, a braai, which was being hosted by the Wittenberg congregation. The cornucopia of sausages, meat, pap, sides and drinks had everyone in a great mood, so that the rest of the evening was spent talking, laughing and generally everyone just enjoying the company. One should not underestimate the power of this feast in building fellowship and the importance of such an event at a retreat. Especially during these COVID times, any time where we can celebrate and strengthen Christian fellowship is to be treasured.
The following morning started with a devotion that set the minds on the topics to come: Stewardship. Stewardship, also being the theme of the synod for this year, was then discussed in a presentation and a Bible study focusing on the fact that God created us to be stewards and that Christ has freed us from sin to be stewards.
The subsequent presentation dealt especially with the Corona problem and how, after having had churches closed for such a long time, one could incentivise congregation members to participate in the Divine Services regularly. It was very heartening to see how many things were already being done in the various congregations, with each congregation being more innovative than the next. Everyone agreed that there is no quick fix option; various reasons exist why people stay away, and these require various approaches. A common factor to these approaches seemed to be that we should be more hospitable, building up relationships in our congregations, so that we could identify and deal with concerns before they become problems. We should never underestimate the power of Christian fellowship. God did not put us in this scary world alone. We have the whole church as our brothers and sisters who can help us and also who we can help.
After a closing devotion (and a lovely lunch) I am sure that everyone left with some new thoughts on how to better serve their congregations.
Vicar Werner Straeuli