The 2016 Synodical Convention was held from 8th-10th September at the Kirchdorf congregation in Wartburg.
The topic of the convention was “Liberation through commemoration.” Formal proceedings started off with a Divine Service on Thursday evening, in which Pastor Thomas Beneke introduced the topic of the convention in his sermon on Ephesians 2:17-22. He reminded us that although looking into the past can be painful as it reveals our past sins, history also shows us the many wonderful things God has done for us. He has made us His children in baptism. He forgives us our sins because of Jesus, also the sins of the past. So we are freed to reach out to our neighbours and serve them in their current needs.
On Friday morning Pastor Nathan Mntambo opened proceedings with a scripture reading and prayer, after which Bishop Dr Dieter Reinstorf welcomed all present. Prof. Dr Werner Klän (from the Theological Seminary in Oberursel, Germany) presented a keynote address on the topic “How to Cope With Hurt and Grief in Personal Life, in History and in Church – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).” He introduced the topic of his paper with general remarks about trauma and about pastoral care to the grieving. He then used examples from recent German history (like the Second World War) to illustrate the effect an event from the past has along with the resulting trauma – not only on the generation that experienced the trauma – but on the following generations as well. After listening to the paper, the convention broke up into groups to discuss questions on the paper. Representatives of the groups reported back. It became apparent that we need to do a lot of work in regard to reconciling and dealing with the past.
Bishop Reinstorf placed his report under the verse 2 Corinthians 5:19: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” After Bishop Reinstorf presented the spiritual reflection of his report, another round of group discussions followed. What the discussions highlighted was the difficulties still to be faced, and how to bring about the reconciliation that we all agree must take place. In his response, the Bishop made it clear that whatever path we want to follow in our efforts to achieve reconciliation, it has to be decided on by the members of the FELSISA and not by the Synodical Council alone. He stressed, however, that space has to be made for dialogue with our sister church, the LCSA.
During the rest of the day, we listened to and discussed the numerous reports of the different organisations in the FELSISA. Greetings from numerous church bodies, local and abroad, were read. The first lot of proposals were discussed and voted upon. The day closed with a devotion by Pastor Hiestermann. Afterwards we were spoiled with a lovely braai. Thanks to the Kirchdorf congregation for all their preparations, the lovely food and for hosting us!
The Saturday again started with a scripture reading and prayer by Pastor Nathan Mntambo. Pastor Dr Karl Böhmer held a presentation called: “Intentional Forgetting and Intentional Remembering: Past and Present.” He used the example of August Hardeland (a Superintendent of the Hermannsburg Mission in the 19th Century) to show us that intentional forgetting is not a good way of dealing with the past. Intentional remembering of the past “supplies us with a framework for allowing for the development of the identity of the church, and it makes for more constructive interaction with others about it. And this understanding comes […] as a liberating experience. This is why I speak of liberation through commemoration.” (Quote from his paper). The convention again broke into groups and discussed questions related to the presentation.
Some more reports followed. The Financial report, the Pension Fund report, the report on the Lutheran Cooperative Bank, the reports on the structure of the FELSISA, and the 2017 Reformation celebrations all underlined how many lay members of the FELSISA play an integral part in the functioning of the FELSISA, and they do so on a voluntary basis at that! Thank you to all for the effort you put into our synod and into your congregations!
After some more proposals were resolved, the closing service took place at the Our Saviour congregation. The sermon was delivered by Pastor Jacob Corzine. There we were also served with lunch. We thank the Our Saviour congregation for their hospitality too.
Overall, it was a busy, but fruitful couple of days. We ask God to guide our Synod on its way forward as we serve him by continuing the mission of the church.
Pastor Dr Heinz Hiestermann, Greytown