A letter to the New England Synod

This letter went out yesterday to all the rostered leaders of the synod.  I thought I'd share it with all of you. I've added visuals here to make it more bloggy oriented.

July 31, 2012

A message to rostered leaders of the New England Synod from

Bishop-Elect James E. Hazelwood

Dear Colleagues, Congregations and Collaborative Cohorts,

I trust and hope you are all having a relaxing and enjoyable summer here in New England.  I’d like to take this opportunity to write to you about a few matters.

First, I am grateful for your vote of confidence in me as your newly elected bishop.  The weekend of June 8, 9 & 10 may be a distant memory for some of you, but for me it remains a vivid reminder of how the Holy Spirit can work among us in surprising ways.  As you may already know, I begin my call on September 1, and the installation service is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on September 29th at Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester, MA.

Since early June, I have begun the process of transitioning from my current call as pastor of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Charlestown, RI.  I can tell you that saying goodbye to this community I have served for nearly 20 years, has not been easy.  And yet, I am pleasantly surprised at the maturity with which the people of St. Andrew are moving through this time. I have also been spending time transitioning into the office of bishop. 

Bishop Margaret Payne and I have begun a series of conversations, which are intended to help make as smooth a hand-off as possible.  I am immensely grateful for these meetings, but even more so for her dedication and leadership as our bishop for these past twelve years.  She has been an exemplary servant and leader here in New England, as well as across the wider church.  I have always believed that following a gifted leader, while more challenging, sets the stage for healthy long term progress.  She has placed us in an excellent position for our future as God’s people here in New England.

Second, I’ve had numerous enquiries and suggestions regarding what I should attend to first as I begin this new role.  I am grateful for your ideas, and welcome them. As I announced at the assembly during the question and answer period, it is my number one priority to spend the first year connecting with the people and parishes of this synod.  My stated goal in that moment of Q & A was to visit every congregation in our synod within one year. While some have suggested that this goal is not possible, and I should consider revising it – I remain committed to this goal.  Why?  I believe in understanding one’s context before initiating any goals, vision or priorities.  The value of knowing who we are together should not be underestimated.   In the words of one colleague, I am approaching the office of bishop in the same manner a mission developer gets to know the culture and context before starting a new mission. 

Obviously, there are not enough Sundays in a year to permit a visit during worship with every congregation in the synod.  Some visits may include an informal conversation with a pastor, others a structured discussion with a council, still others may be a meal with parishioners. If you or your church would like to arrange something, please feel free to contact me via Lyn Morin at 508-791-1530 or lmorin@nesynod.org.

In addition to more informal gatherings, I am also planning several opportunities for more structured time.  The first is an initiative called Bishop-in-Residence. I want to thank Pr. Bill Bogholtz for this suggestion.  I will travel to and reside in a region in our synod for a period of about five or six days.  This will be a time for me to visit congregations, engage faith explorations, meet in people’s homes for meals, lead worship, etc.  I have begun planning the first of these with the three deans of the Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine conferences for the week leading up to the first Sunday in Advent. (November 28 to Dec. 2)  We are working out the details, and more information will be forth coming.   A second initiative is Bishop-in-the-city, a concept borrowed from Pr. Keith Anderson.  I am working with lay people from Redeemer, Woburn, MA in planning the first of these for Wednesday, October 17 in Boston.  The idea is to intentionally go where people from our congregations work.  The event is designed for lay people, but anyone is welcome.  We will be having lunch together in Boston, and I’ll be engaging in conversation about vocation and ministry.  We will engage these two ideas, evaluate, adjust and then take them elsewhere in the synod.  If you are interested in being a part of these future events, please let me know.

Third.  Another popular question has been around the area of staffing for the office of Bishop.  As you may know from the budget that was approved at the synod assembly, financial restrictions have forced us to reduce the synod staff by one half time position. So we begin together with fewer resources at our disposal.  Over time these challenges need to be taken into consideration as we make staffing plans.  In the nearer term, I have asked Pastors Ted Asta, AliceKerr Laird and Tim Roser to remain in their current roles for a transition period.  During that time,I will be analyzing our current needs as a synod.  This analysis will include many conversations with people throughout the synod, the deans of the conferences, members of the synod council, as well as my own sense of priorities in the area of mission. Pastor Lisa Hazelwood will be stepping away from her position for the time being, to focus attention on the transition process at St. Andrew Lutheran Church.  The Doing What Matters process will continue with a leadership team under the direction of Kim Bergstrand.  I will be taking the initiative to make changes to our communications team, as Sister Virginia Strahan, Kathy Read, and Pastor Tim Roser conclude their responsibilities in the communication area on August 31 Barbara Lamson, Cathy Schlichte, and Lyn Morin will also continue for this transition period.   I believe taking the time to plan carefully, and with intention, is the wisest move at this point in time.

In the area of communication, I want to announce to you that I have already begun actively communicating via my newly established website and blog.  You can view this site off of a link from the current synod website or directly at www.bishoponabike.com.  I am an active practitioner of the wide array of technological forms of communication, and I invite you into the conversation.  In addition, I am developing an online e-newsletter, which will be a supplement to the NES news.  If you would like to subscribe, simply go to my website and look for the newsletter section to sign up.

Finally, I look forward to serving you as your bishop.  These are challenging times, but I also believe that these are times for us to begin exploring new ways of doing and being the body of Christ.  I look forward to engaging in mission with you.



In Christ,

James E. Hazelwood, Bishop-Elect

New England Synod