Visiting church leaders

Visiting church leaders at St. John’s Lutheran Church in St. Donatus on Saturday, October 10 included (from left) ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Bishop John Roth, Bishop Michael Burk, Bishop Andrea Degroot-Nesdahl, Bishop Lorna Halaas, Bishop Amy Current and Bishop Alan Scarfe. (Photos courtesy of Bishop Michael Burk)

ST. DONATUS – While the pandemic has led to the cancellation of many events across eastern Iowa, it was also a unique opportunity for one very special event to take place at St. John’s Lutheran Church in St. Donatus last Saturday, as the Rev. Amy Current was installed as Synod Bishop of the Southeastern Iowa Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Following safe COVID-19 protocols, physical presence at the worship service was by invitation, but all were welcome to participate in worship digitally. There were more than 300 in attendance online. Bishop Current, a member of St. John’s, noted in her remarks on the occasion that, “As we were not able to gather in great numbers, I discerned that this is a unique opportunity in the life of the church to gather for Installation of the Bishop in a small town and rural congregation (that happens to have really great internet).”  

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton presided and preached at Saturday’s service. Other church leaders in attendance included Bishop Michael Burk, outgoing bishop of the Southeastern Iowa Synod; Bishop Alan Scarfe of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa; Bishop Andrea Degroot-Nesdahl of the Northeastern Iowa Synod; Bishop Lorna Halaas of the Western Iowa Synod; and Bishop John Roth of the Central/Southern Illinois Synod. Bishops from several other synods and pastors and church members from across the Southeastern Iowa Synod also participated in the service digitally.

Current was elected August 7 to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Southeastern Iowa Synod of the ELCA during an online Synod Assembly August 5 and 7 in West Des Moines. Rev. Current has served as vice president for admissions and student services at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, since 2011. She will be the first woman to serve as synod bishop in Southeastern Iowa. She succeeds the Rev. Bishop Michael L. Burk, who served since 2008, serving two terms as synod bishop, and is retiring.

Prior to her current role at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Current served as director for financial aid and stewardship formation, director for public communications, and interim director of the Center for Youth Ministries at Wartburg Seminary from 2006 to 2010. She also served as pastor of Maple Sheyenne Lutheran Church in Harwood, N.D., from 2003 to 2006, and as pastor of Golden Ridge Lutheran Church, Fargo, N.D., and Congregational Lutheran United Church, Gardner, N.D., from 1997 to 2001.

“The Southeastern Iowa Synod is already engaging in vibrant ministries centered on sharing God’s love through Jesus Christ.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to join with them in the role of bishop as we continue to share the good news to a world in need;” says Current.

St. John’s is the northern-most congregation of the Southeastern Iowa Synod, a network of 136 congregations, campus ministries, and other worshipping communities in 38 counties throughout central and southeastern Iowa, with over 88,000 baptized members. The last time St. John’s in St. Donatus hosted a synod-level gathering was the 1924 Iowa District convention of the Iowa Synod—the equivalent of a synod assembly today. That was also the last time the Iowa District or its successor bodies held such a district- or synod-level gathering in a rural location, before the formation of the old American Lutheran Church in 1930 which required larger facilities for district conventions, synod assemblies, and installations of district presidents and synod bishops. The use of technology for such an occasion to connect with those who were at a distance was not unknown even at that time; at that 1924 convention, greetings were sent to the Southern and North Dakota districts via telegraph.

More information on the Southeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA and full video recording of the service is available at seiasynod.org

About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.6 million members in more than 9,200 worshipping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. The ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.