On the Way Rejoicing

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [1st Thessalonians 5:16-18]

THANK YOU! With your benevolence (also called mission support) – the financial gifts you and your congregations share with our synod and our church, from your heart, out of your faith in God, for the good of all of us – you are making a real difference!

Want some concrete examples? In 2024, we continue to advance our exciting Synod initiatives of “LICENSED LAY MINISTRY” (LLM) to train and deploy lay people; as well as “6261 MINISTRY COMMUNITIES” where teams of congregations work together for shared ministry. [See our synod website, www.godslove.org, to find out more about these.]

Your gifts are also making it possible for us to make a few significant changes in your Synod staff that will EXPAND the ways we can love and serve God, our neighbors, and our call to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. And these changes can happen, with no need to increase our current spending plans or budgets. They all come from being led by the Spirit; being smart with the generous gifts you give; and being faithful in our financial stewardship – along with seizing new opportunities to make new alignments and offer new assignments for our existing staff members.

Thanks to Pastor Wolfe Blatt

First, we want to express our gratitude for the past three years of service given by our synod’s Director for Events and Communication, PASTOR LAUREN WOLFE BLATT. She led us through two online Synod Assemblies and one large, in-person Assembly; redesigned and launched our Synod Website in 2021; and managed weekly and monthly publications – all on a very part-time basis, while serving as a full-time pastor, most recently serving two congregations. Moving out of these events and communication roles will free her to focus on finishing her Doctor of Ministry degree from United Lutheran Seminary, and working on new directions and projects with her congregations. She will also help us make a smooth transition as Stacey Burke takes on more communication roles (see the next announcement below). Thank you, Pastor Wolfe Blatt, for your service and creativity, and your passion for the gospel!

Communication and Growing Young Coordinator

Good, clear, timely communication is key to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. This synod is full of powerful stories to share. And with the new launches of LLM and 6261, we need good and steady communication to keep these initiatives going and growing.

To cover increasing and vital communication needs and opportunities, we are promoting a current staff member, MS STACEY BURKE, into a new role as “Communication and Growing Young Coordinator.” Stacey joined Synod staff in August of 2021 as part-time “Contact Supply Coordinator.” Then in April 2022 she added the new role of “Growing Young Coordinator.” As she moves into this new opportunity, she will continue coordinating Growing Young, and she will move away from the role of Contact Supply Coordinator. We are currently planning to find a new person to cover those part-time responsibilities. Our goal is to make this change with no disruption in support for our congregations in transition who need assistance with finding supply ministers for Sunday mornings.

Associate of the Bishop for Berks County (East and West Berks Mission Districts)

Our Synod has more congregations in Berks than in any other county. For the past three years, PASTOR RACHAEL DIETZ has supported those congregations and leaders as the “Associate of the Bishop” for both East and West Berks Mission Districts – while at the same time serving as “Executive Associate for Leadership” for the whole synod. By February 1st, we will be realigning her responsibilities, so that she can focus more of her time on her other roles: Candidacy (the calling and forming of candidates for ministry); First Call Education (training and supporting pastors and deacons in their first calls); Mobility and Transition (helping congregations find pastors and deacons); and Stewardship.

Pastor Dietz gains that increased focus because she is handing over the role of “Associate for Berks County” to PASTOR DREW NEIDIG, who joins our staff on February 1st. Pastor Neidig spent much of his adult life working in finance and accounting before hearing a call to ordained ministry.  With the support of his family, especially his wife, Sara, he graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (now United Lutheran) in 2017.  He also has a Master’s degree in Management & Leadership from Western Governors University.  A native of Brooklyn, New York, he and Sara moved to Pennsylvania in 2018 to take his first call, serving as pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church, Laureldale. He then discerned a call to interim ministry (serving congregations in transition to the next called pastor). He has served three interim appointments in our synod, at Hope, Bowers; Trinity, Robesonia; and most recently, Trinity, Reading. We welcome Pastor Neidig and give thanks for his gifts!

We are beginning these transitions at the start of our new fiscal year, February 1st. It may take a month or two as everyone makes transitions into their new roles. But the goal is to serve and praise God, and to support you in your ministries and your mission to spread the gospel and bring God’s life and love to all. We follow Jesus together, as he calls us and builds us up for GROWING YOUNG, GAINING STRENGTH, and GOING BEYOND DEATH TO LIFE!

Serving Christ Together,

Bishop Christopher deForest (he/him)

Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America