About 80 women from 23 congregations in the Caribbean Synod gathered in mid-January to talk about Women of the ELCA.
The event, held at Iglesia Luterana Buen Pastor (Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd), San Juan, Puerto Rico, was coordinated by Women of the ELCA staff with the help of Caribbean synodical president Carmen Maisonet.
It was part of a continuing effort of the churchwide organization to support the synod following the devastating hurricanes of 2017.
At its April 2018 meeting, the churchwide executive board extended a “time of grace” to the Caribbean synodical organization as Puerto Rico and other island residents recovered from the storm’s destruction. A “time of grace” relaxes governance expectations and offers churchwide support to the synodical organization and its congregational units. The Caribbean Synod includes 33 congregations in Puerto Rico, St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.
“It was a pleasure spending time with the wonderful ladies of the Caribbean Synod,” said Lisa Plorin, churchwide president for the 2017-2020 triennium. “After so much devastation from the hurricanes it would have been so easy to throw in the towel and shift their focus away from the Women of the ELCA–but they are a strong group–like Katie Luther!”
The day began with a focus on Katharina von Bora Luther who overcame adversities more than once in her life. Using the Women of the ELCA resource A Bold Life of Faith, Plorin and executive board member Lydia Davila of Puerto Rico invited the women to consider ways they have overcome adversities, especially around the hurricanes.
Next, participants discussed the governance structure of Women of the ELCA, the need for constitutions in every congregational unit, the definition of an active unit, regular offerings and Thankofferings.
In many cases, the congregational units and the synodical organization itself will be starting anew as they realign their ministries with Women of the ELCA. Many units and the SWO itself lost all documents during the hurricanes.
“How wonderful is it that this group of resilient women are ready and willing to start from scratch and rebuild what they had? It’s a model that everyone involved with the Women of the ELCA could follow to revitalize their own unit or synodical organization,” Plorin said.
I hope that every congregation will have a unit of Women of the ELCA. — Idalia Negrón Caamaño, bishop of the Caribbean Synod
Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director, spoke of the many resources available to all participants, including program resources in both English and Spanish, promotional brochures and identity items. Gabriela Contreras, director for meeting planning, served as translator.
Friday evening before the event, Plorin, Bushkofsky and Contreras met with the synodical board, assisting them in understanding their responsibilities and offering support as they lead the synodical organization during this transitional period.
Despite the challenges facing it, the Caribbean SWO held a convention in June 2018. A churchwide board member and a member of the churchwide staff attended the convention and spent additional days meeting with the women on Puerto Rico.
“My hope is that women get organized together,” said the Rev. Idalia Negrón Caamaño, bishop of the Caribbean Synod who supported the event by attending with at least two pastors and one deaconess. “I hope that every congregation will have a unit of Women of the ELCA.”
Photos by Linda Post Bushkofsky and Gabriela Contreas, clockwise from left, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, San Juan, Puerto Rico; participants in discussion; A Bold Life of Faith resource in Spanish