Upper Susquehanna Synod Launches Advocacy Team
Upper Susquehanna Synod launched its Advocacy Team, approved by Synod Council in September, with its inaugural meeting Oct. 22.
Bishop Barbara Collins shared her dreams and expectations for the team, reflecting on the advocacy of synod hunger leaders and hopes that the synod might grow from that to advocate in other areas of ministry as well. Part of the team’s work will be to grow leaders who, in this time of division in the public square, can help the church “fill the space differently.”
Ministries throughout the synod are already engaging in service – feeding the hungry, assisting migrants and refugees, helping restore to community those who have been incarcerated, providing relief from disaster and accompanying families and communities suffering from the opioid crisis, environmental degradation, economic abandonment and more. The team will help disciples to harness what they witness to bring awareness and hope.
“We can change perceptions in the community by reaching out and encouraging those in the congregations to be a part of being the church on the front line,” Collins said.
“I’m excited that our advocacy team is moving forward,” said the Rev. Lisa Barnes pastor of United in Christ Lutheran Parish, Mount Pleasant Mills and Richfield.
“As a people brazen enough to believe in a covenant God, we are making a commitment to be who we’re called to be as a community of the faithful in the Upper Susquehanna Synod. Each of our team members come with unique expertise, and their own passions in specific advocacy areas. My hope is that, with an intentionality to our efforts, we can provide the resources and support our faith communities need to not only continue their service-oriented ministries, but to reform the systems that created a need for those ministries in the first place.”
“My, our, hope would be to effect lasting change, not just for one or two, but for all,” said Mindy Bartholomew, a lay leader at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Milton.
At its first meeting, the team began a strategy for sharing the stories and insights from ministries of service throughout the synod, as well as educating congregations and communities about systemic issues underlying needs congregations are addressing or might be able to address. Also in its work, the team hopes to help congregations develop, build and strengthen relationships with community partners, promote civil discourse and connect them with ministries of the wider church: ELCA Advocacy and LAMPa, ELCA World Hunger, AMMPARO, Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and others.
“It is such a gift to see these passionate leaders in the church, living into the ministry of Jesus, and to learn how LAMPa has been aiding them in their discipleship, when we don’t always get to see or hear about that,” said LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale, who was present for the team’s first meeting. “I left Lewisburg grateful and eager to help share the stories of God at work in this synod – to give us all hope and to help shape public discourse and public policy for the common good.”
According to the action of synod council in approving the initiative, “This team encourages congregations to ensure they receive and distribute communications from the various advocacy organizations and that they are especially aware of issues affecting their communities.”
Other team members include Terry Brown and The Rev. Karl Runser, both synod representatives on LAMPa’s Policy Council, The Rev. John Yost of 4 Bells, Millmont, and The Rev. Ted Cockley of St. John, Montgomery, and the Rev. Craig Miller, Assistant to the Bishop and Director for Evangelical Mission.
Upper Susquehanna Synod includes the counties of Mifflin, Montour, Juniata, Snyder, Union, Northumberland, Columbia, Lycoming, Clinton and Tioga.