It’s time to start talking about nuts and bolts — the reality of what it might look like to affiliate with the ELCA! We’ve had tons of conversation about what denominations are, how we’re linked to the wider church, and why the ELCA might be a good match for us. Now it’s time to start taking a look at the nuts and bolts involved in this decision — how it will look and what it will mean.
First, a few important things. Pastor Jack Horner, the Assistant to the Bishop for Evangelical Mission, is the pastor responsible for guiding us through this process. Pastor Horner will be visiting St. Lydia’s on Sunday, April 10. We’ll worship together, and he can answer any questions. He’s also very kindly offered to take part in a Community Conversation, and has offered us two dates that work for him: Wednesday, May 11 or Thursday, May 26. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know which day would work for you.
Okay, so now to the good stuff. Pastor Horner and I feel that, at this point, St. Lydia’s should consider becoming a SAWC: a “Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community. Here is a definition of a SAWC:
A Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community (SAWC) is a gathering of people around practices of the faith that is not be ready to become a fully self supporting congregation. The Church however wants test the mission field and begin the ministry in that context. Examples of SAWC’s are ethnic specific communities often with lay leaders, emerging worship communities that are trying new models, or regular worshipping communities in camping or school ministries.
The SWAC is formed upon approval by the Synod Council after recommendation by the Synod’s Mission Strategy Table and Outreach Committee. The SWAC begins the process of creating and adopting a simple constitution (may be modified from the model constitution) and legally incorporating, and receiving an ELCA congregation number. SAWC’s receive oversight from the Director of Evangelical Mission (Pr. Jack Horner) and the Outreach Committee, who provide partnership grants to be used for salaries. As a part of an interdependent church and to model generosity the SAWC agrees to give at least 10% of its regular giving in Mission Support for the work of the wider church.
Having read this, you might have any number of questions. I’ve outlined some answers below, and Pastor Horner will be able to give you even fuller answers in person!
Would being a SAWC mean a change in our worship or identity?
No. Being a SAWC would simply put us in relationship with the ELCA.
How would we be connected to Trinity Lower East Side?
Right now, St. Lydia’s is legally a “ministry” of Trinity Lower East Side. We use Trinity’s tax exempt status. If we became a SAWC, we would get our own congregation number, and our tax exempt status would be linked to the Synod.
How would we be insured?
Currently, St. Lydia’s falls under Trinity’s liability insurance. If we were a SAWC, the Synod would cover our liability insurance.
Would we get any money if we were a SAWC?
Yes, we would be eligible for some modest funding — enough to significantly help with our budget.
What does it mean that 10% of our regular giving goes to the wider church?
This means that 10% of our giving will be given as a tithe to the ELCA. Half of that 10% goes to support the denomination, and the other half goes directly to heal the world from hunger, illness, poverty, and disaster.
Wasn’t there another option — becoming a Mission Development?
Yes. Being a Mission Development would make us eligible for more funding. It also means a significant application process that Pastor Horner and I feel we’re not quite ready for! A Mission Development would be an option for St. Lydia’s in the coming years.
If we’re considering worshipping someplace other than Trinity in the near future, how does that effect all this?
It doesn’t. A church’s denominational identity comes from their denominational ties, not from the building where they worship. Right now we worship in a Lutheran building and are a ministry of a Lutheran Church. In the future, we might rent from a Methodist or Episcopal church, for instance, and worship in their building, but we’d still be tied to the ELCA.
What’s all this about creating and adopting a constitution?
Churches in the ELCA generally have constitutions, which are based on a model constitution provided by the church. The constitution is quite broad. I’ve asked Denise to take a look at the constitution with her lawyer’s eye, and talk to us about what it would mean for us at our next community meeting, which will take place in June. We’ll want to be sure that the constitution is flexible enough for us to govern ourselves in a way that is consistent with our theology. If you’d like to take a look at the model constitution, it is attached.
When will St. Lydia’s have a governance system?
Governance systems are usually put in place during the third year of a church plant’s growth — so we’re right on schedule to start that process next year. Creating a governance system is the next big piece of work we’ll have to do together. I’m interested in creating a system that reflects our theology and provides a structure for healthy decision making.
How are we going to make the decision to affiliate or not?
I’m not sure yet what the process will be for making the actual decision. I do feel that it’s important that we hear from everyone who regularly attends Lydia’s, and that, if we do decide to affiliate, the buy in is close to 100%. This is a decision that we should make as a community.
So that’s probably plenty to reflect on for a little while! Lots of love to you all, shoot me any questions or thoughts you might have in response, and I’ll see you Sunday!