Being a Steward … of One Final Reflection

            The Allegheny Synod has a new bishop!  Pastor Michael Rhyne of the Geeseytown and Newry Lutheran Churches in the Upper Juniata Conference was called through an election at the twenty-seventh annual assembly of our synod.  In the next several months he will be transitioning into this ministry of the Bishop of the Allegheny Synod.  Naturally our focus is one of rallying behind him and offering our gifts, talents, and time in support of this one who is our new shepherd and leader.  I am counting on The Lutheran Letter editor to introduce him to you.

            Meanwhile … I have begun to get questions like … “so what are you going to do after August 31?”  Good question!  Thanks for asking.  My quick, and I guess somewhat flippant, response has been, “Nothing.”  Well, of course, neither Barb nor my kids and grandchildren will give me that much space; nor will life.

            However, I am looking forward to some time wherein I will pick and choose some of the elements of what I will do each day.  Retired bishop colleagues tell me it will take several months, even up to a year, to ‘decompress’ from the busy, constantly scheduled life I have been living for twenty-one years.  I guess I will find out!  I am hoping to finally complete a workshop in our garage to replace the one in the basement, get back to refinishing antique wooden furniture, get my hands in the soil of a garden, read a stack of material I have not gotten to peruse, pursue my new model train interest, be present more readily in my family’s life, serve in the community in some ways, be active in my local parish where I am a member, maybe do some singing in a choral group, and … oh, yes I dare not forget or I will be in “big trouble” … I am going to work on Barb’s ‘honey-do’ list that I have occasionally sought to address, but has, nevertheless, grown over the past 21 years!

            What I will NOT be doing in the immediate future is being involved in the life of my present parish – the Allegheny Synod.  Pastors who have retired while I have been in the office can attest to the fact that I have told them to “stay out of their parishes for at least a year and give their successor some time to get established”.  So, what was important and essential for the pastors of this synod, is also important and essential for me.  Meaning this bishop, me, is telling myself to stay out of life of the Allegheny Synod for a year as Bishop-elect Michael Rhyne establishes his presence and ministry with you. 

            Is that Bishop Gregory Pile’s personal rule?  The specifics of one year is, but S14.14 of the Synod Constitution says of ministry, “Ordained ministers (that is me) shall respect the integrity of the ministry of congregations (or in our case the synod) which they do not serve and shall not exercise ministerial functions therein …”  After one year Bishop-elect Rhyne and I can discern if and how I might be involved in the life of the Allegheny Synod.  This new chapter of life will most certainly be different for me, but I am eagerly anticipating embracing it.

            Looking back much of my ministry has been joy-filled, positive, exciting, and challenging.  I would be less than honest, though, if I did not admit there were some very lonely and painful and sad moments during those past twenty-one years.  Yet God through the presence of the Holy Spirit walked with me and guided me in those darkest times.  The Holy Spirit also provided you in my life in some amazing ways in those moments, helping me stay grounded and faithful. 

In closing, let me say THANK YOU for welcoming me into your congregational communities, for inviting me into your lives, for your support, for your care and concern for me, and for your faith-filled partnership in telling and living the story of Jesus and his love together for two plus decades.  You have been a blessing to me and to the people of these Allegheny hills and valleys.

Bishop-elect Rhyne … as you begin your ministry in the Allegheny Synod, I personally cannot promise you much other than my support.  What I can tell you is that the God who called you to this work will be with you … always; and this people you have been called to oversee will surprise you at moments with their love, their veracity, and their faithfulness.  God bless you as you live and serve … together!

                                                                        +Bishop Gregory R. Pile