A trip to the Triennial
Ronda Meier was one of four St. Paul women who traveled to the Twin Cities for the Women of the ELCA Triennial Gathering. Here are a few of her thoughts from the experience.
I was so honored to be one of the women who got to go to the Women of the ELCA Tenth Triennial Gathering. I enjoyed the company of Jan Lloyd, Judy Skogman, and Wynne Schafer. Being new to the Women of the ELCA and the Lutheran church, this event was very uplifting. I heard many stories and explored what it means to be “All Anew.”
Women came from every state and 12 countries, a total of 3,300 participants.
The first night was the opening worship. The ceremony was beautiful with a purple-lighted ceiling and a procession behind the cross with butterfly balloons. I saw women from different nationalities and walks of life sitting next to each other sharing the excitement. Women read scripture in different languages.
The speakers enlightened me.
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton: She is the first woman Lutheran bishop and the presiding bishop of the ELCA. Her sermon was about the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus knew that she had been looking for love and acceptance all her life. As she began to believe he could be the Messiah, she forgot her shame and called everyone to meet him. Jesus gave her a new beginning. She became the messenger of hope for her entire community. In Jesus, we can find a new beginning.
Leymah Gbowee: She is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and peace activist from Liberia. She led an interfaith movement of prayerful and persistent women credited with bringing peace to her civil-war torn country. She formed the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa Foundation using her Nobel earnings. The foundation had two students who graduated with master’s degrees, four with graduate certificates, three with bachelor’s degrees, and three with high school diplomas. She talked about how being “Anew” is not an event, but a way of life – getting up every day spirituality refreshed to go out and touch people’s lives. When God calls you to be in someone’s corner, you cannot be there partially. Anew means changing the things that need to be changed. God is calling each of us to be in the corner, to align one with one another, because it is the only way to change this troubled world. We need to get out of our bubble and be aware of our surroundings. We need to listen to people’s stories and help them in times of need. We need to get involved instead of just sending a check.
Rev. Alexia Salvatierra: Alexia is a national leader in areas of poverty and immigration. She bought up many situations where people were hurt by injustice and how it was the social norm. We need to merge mercy with justice, she said. Ask yourself how the world breaks your heart. We must use everything that is given in the name of compassion. We need to get involved with unjust system in our communities.
Rev. Angela Khabeb: She preached the Sunday’s sermon: “Christianity is not comfortable.” Is it just okay to be nice? When someone is being bullied or insulted, are we just nice and ignore the situation, say it is not my problem. We need to be good and speak up to support those in need. We must stand with those less fortunate. One person’s problem is your problem. What does it mean for God’s word to die inside of you? Could it mean that we must release the God we have created? The God we have fashioned in our own image? That God needs to die – the God we’ve got all figured out, the God who votes like we do, the God who looks like we do, who talks like we do. When we have God all figured out, then God belongs to us and not the other way around. But when that seed dies in your heart and begins to take root, then you belong to Jesus. The seeds of God’s love are intended for all.
I also went to some education workshops. My favorite was You Are Not Alone: Facing Shame with Faith, Courage, and Love. The workshop was based on Dr. Brene Brown’s work on shame. Shame is the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging. We explored how faith, courage, and love can provide an antidote to shame. Women shared the shame they had held onto for many years.
Our last night was listening to the National Lutheran Choir Concert at Central Lutheran Church. The church had colorful stained-glass windows and massive archways. It looked like churches in Europe that I have seen on television. The massive organ surrounded us with beautiful music. When we left the church the bells were ringing in the 139-foot bell tower.
I am grateful for my life. When I was little, I had a school to give me an education. I do not have to carry immigration papers with me at all time for fear of being deported. I have food and shelter. I have health, family, friends, and my church for support. I am Anew. I will be aware of my surroundings, to look for and listen to people in need. I will stand up for the unfortunate and be activist for justice. I will be good instead of being nice.