Greetings PLUM Congregations in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus.
Fall has officially begun and I am officially a PLUM intern! It seems like just yesterday, when I answered God’s call to become a part of the Lutheran family and to live out my call as an ordained Word and Sacrament minister. PLUM has been a big part of that growth.
Since I began my time with PLUM last September, I have been accepted as an ELCA candidate for Word and Sacrament with the SWPA Synod. This summer, I completed my Clinical Pastoral Education training, a requirement for ordination, at the VA in Aspinwall. I also moved this summer and I am now residing in the St. Andrew’s parsonage that Pastor Beth so lovely cared for over the last 38 years. I hope I can continue to imbue the space with the same love and care that she gave it (big shoes to fill). Thank you to all the PLUM members who came out to help me. It was also an opportunity for my HOPE Lutheran of Forest Hills family to interact with my PLUM family. It felt like the loving arms of one family handing me over to another. I am truly grateful to both communities for the continued support and care.
On the family front, my daughter Jamila turned 21 in August and is in her final year of college at LaSalle University. My son Jaseem turned 20 in September and started at Thiel College, where he is playing football. So, if you haven’t heard my football stories yet, they are coming. My sister Karol continues to live in Regent Square, with her dog Maggie.
And, at PLUM, we are traveling through the Narrative Lectionary. Whew….I am tired just reflecting on all that change. But, at the same time, I am excited about what God is doing through our various ministries. I have been blessed to be a part of conversations on how to faithfully transition ministries through the closing of buildings while remaining responsive to God’s call in our communities. I have had the joy of engaging in a Tuesday Bible study at St. Andrew, in which the Holy Spirit has been revealing the drama, intrigue and shenanigans of the characters in Genesis. (Who needs soap operas when we have the Old Testament?) In the midst of the stories, we see God’s unmerited grace and favor in caring for God’s creation, despite our tendency to do things our way, not God’s.
In our larger communities, much is happening. The hurricane season is upon us as we witness Hurricane Florence’s impact on North and South Carolina, while our sister congregations in Puerto Rico continue to deal with the effects of Hurricane Maria, from the last hurricane season. The reports of wide-spread sexual abuse of children by religious leaders is eroding the trust of our communities at a time when many are questioning the role of religion. We are also witnesses to what God is up to in and around us. At the Assistant Bishops luncheon, pastors heard a presentation by Madame Jeanne Christian, from our sister synod in Madagascar. She shared about the Malagasy Lutheran Church ministries of evangelism and leadership development. I was particularly touched by their motto, “Go and bring one new person for Christ every year.” A number of examples of ecumenical leadership have taken place within our SYNOD, with Presbyterian Pastors serving in Lutheran churches and a Lutheran pastor serving in an Episcopal church, and vice versa. At the national level, the ELCA has elected and installed its first two African-American female Bishops.
As I reflect back on this last year, I am reminded how much has changed and what remains constant. God’s call on my life remains constant. The command to love God and care for my neighbors remains constant. Moving forward, I am called to listen and be attentive to the Holy Spirit unfolding of how to care for my neighbors – you – in loving and creative ways. To do so, I must be open to listening and learning from you. I believe that Bishop Kusserow’s description in the ECHO of how to communicate with each other captures this process well. According to Bishop Kusserow, what we should be communicating to each other are:
I look forward to what God has in store for us in this next year.
Peace and Blessings,
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773