On Saturday 11 November 2017 the representatives of the congregations and of the pastoral collegium of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland gathered in their annual Diocesan Assembly in the Koinonia Centre in Helsinki. The venue filled quickly, as people from more than thirty congregations arrived to decide on common matters. The meeting began with lunch followed by Ad sextam. Prior to the meeting proper, the representatives were introduced to the policies of the strategic work in the Diocese. The standing committee received from the representatives a wealth of ideas for the further advancement of the strategic work.
This year the Diocesan Assembly had one major matter to reach decision on in addition to the regular agenda. The Mission Diocese resolved to sign an agreement of full ecclesiastical fellowship with the Lutheran Church – Canada. With the conclusion of the theological discussions during the summer, the Consistory of the Mission Diocese recommended to the Diocesan Assembly the approval of this fellowship. The Lutheran Church – Canada had approved this earlier in the autumn. This will further facilitate the ecclesiastical cooperation between our Churches.
Among the standard agenda items were the approval of the Mission Diocese Programme of Activities and the Financial Statement from 2016. In addition, the Plan of Activities and the Budget for 2018 were approved. Financially and in terms of activities, the work of the Mission Diocese has continued to grow. Goals were set for the coming year for the development of the organisation of the voluntary work and of the financial infrastructure.
On the Diocesan Council outgoing members (due to the end of their standard term limitations) opened up three positions for members and vice-members. For the following two-year term, the following have been chosen to fill these positions: Helena Sandberg from Vaasa (vice-member Pauliina Pylvänäinen, Oulu), Erkki Pitkäranta from Helsinki (vice-member Sami Koskela, Helsinki) and Anna-Kaisa Leino from Rauma (vice-member Ida Heikkilä, Kokkola).
At the conclusion of the Assembly, the first book of devotions published by the Diocese was introduced. Pastor Markus Nieminen, member of the editing committee, presented the book and its use in daily devotional life. The devotions include passages from every book of the Bible, from Genesis to the Revelation. The Bible passages are in chronological order, so that by reading the devotions and the chapters surrounding them each day, the reader completes the Bible in one year. Therefore, Just Say the Word: a Year in the Company of Jesus [translation of the name of the book] can also be a year spent reading the Bible. All representatives were handed their personal copies at the end of the Assembly.
The Diocesan Assembly is annually an intense event and by nature the place to reach decisions. However, there might also be a need to discuss and ponder upon Diocesan activities. Yet, long distances and the fact that congregational activities are focused on the weekends render these meetings too brief for these to occur. Especially those sisters and brothers who travel long distances to the meeting have a very hasty weekend as they wish to make it back to their home congregations’ Sunday morning services. The representatives did give feedback that currently there was not enough time to become acquainted with the background of the decisions and to prepare for the elections of persons before or during the Assembly. So the Diocesan Council and Chancellery received a great deal of homework regarding the improvement of activities and the decision process. Our young organisation has grown to the extent that clearer and more participatory processes are needed when preparing for the Annual Assembly. All in all, the representatives were left with a feeling of enthusiasm that, thanks be to God, the work proceeds and the activities of both the congregations and the Diocese continue to develop. Heartfelt thanks to all the participants and God’s blessings on the lives of the congregations!