Reflections on Synod Assembly from Allie Papke-Larson

From Allie Papke-Larson comes this reflection on attending the Grand Canyon Synod Assembly this summer. Papke-Larson is Program Coordinator for Lutheran Campus Ministries/Canterbury Episcopal Campus Ministries at Northern Arizona University and Youth Director at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Flagstaff.


I have to admit; this was my first Synod Assembly since I was 14 years old and living in Northern Minnesota. Going into the assembly I was looking forward to experiencing, and really meeting, the Grand Canyon Synod (GCS) for the first time.

As a new member of the synod it was apparent to me that GCS is going through change and transition, first with the election last year of our first female Bishop, Bishop Deborah Hutterer; the creation of the position of Bishop’s Associate for Candidacy and Faith Formation held by Rev. Jacqueline Pagel, as well as minor changes, such as new music being sung throughout the assembly, intentionally fitting well with the Assembly theme “Sing a New Song.”

What really gave me a feel, however, for this new synod I now have a home in, came through the two breakout sessions I attended. Both were focused on transitions that our nation is going through; and it was promising to see that the GCS is having conversations in line with what our nation is struggling with.

The first session focused on what the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is doing to be neighbors to our asylum-seeking brothers and sisters from South of the border. Coming from the North Woods the reality of refugees, folks seeking asylum, and the tremendous controversy over the U.S./Mexico border always felt so far off and distant; however, sitting in that break out session I found myself fully surrounded and immersed in that reality. It is has been a continuous re-awakening for me to remember just how close the boarder is and how much strife, confusion, and opportunity to serve it creates. The breakout session made it clear how large the immediate need is for Lutherans to act on their belief that Christ is in the stranger at our door, at our border.

The second session I attended fit well following the first; how do we have politically charged conversations in our congregations without polarizing our members? How can we open our hearts and minds to the stranger that might be sitting in the same pew on Sunday morning? This session brought home the idea that we all need to be part of the conversation, and we all need to give each other a chance to voice concerns and fears.

As a newcomer to the Grand Canyon Synod, it feels promising that this could be a community willing to participate in the challenging call to struggle with and be in the world; to see Christ in the people around us, not just the people like us.