by Murray and Tracy Smith

Attending the recent opening ceremony of the 33rd Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELC-PNG) was an overwhelming experience – but not because it lasted approximately six hours or because there were an estimated 10,000 people present.

Instead, what made this event overwhelming was that for the duration those attending celebrated being together, renewed friendships, created new ones and prepared delegates for the important business of the church for the next two years.

The procession around the athletics track of Port Moresby’s Sir John Guise Stadium began at 9am on 9 January and featured almost 1000 people. The line behind ELC-PNG Bishop Dr Jack Urame included church administration staff, international guests, pastors and delegates. Many delegates were making their first visit to Port Moresby, so the atmosphere was electrifying.

Dance or ‘singsing’ groups introduced the national flag-raising with the national anthem, which was followed by Bishop Urame’s opening speech, greetings from guests of the Bavarian Lutheran Church and the LCANZ, and the appearance of Papua New Guinea’s Lutheran Governor-General, the Hon Sir Bob Dadae. A further highlight of the ceremony was the ordination of the first pastor from the Central (Port Moresby) District.

Dancing and singing continued throughout the day. The first break came after the day’s proceedings, when we were ushered into a room where guests and members of the church administration were offered a feast of pork, chicken, fish, sweet potato, taro, sago slab, cooked banana, greens and tropical fruits.

ELC-PNG church business was conducted over the following four days, with the synod theme – ‘As for my family and me, we will serve the Lord’ from Joshua 24:15b – featuring strongly throughout. Each day opened with worship or ‘Lotu’, including a half-hour Bible study. The ELC-PNG’s 17 districts each presented a report of its projects and activities.

Synod business was interrupted by the appearance of PNG Prime Minister James Marape, who gave an inspirational Christian message.

Church issues were dealt with by committees, which broke into small groups taking time in discussion before each presenting reports with recommendations to the synod.

Final reports were presented to the synod on 15 January and the synod convention concluded with a divine service including holy communion for 1000 people.

The closing ceremony included more ‘singsing’, an address by the Governor-General, closing remarks by Bishop Urame and a ceremonial passing of the synod shield from the current host district to the next synod host. After the formalities, we once again retired to the ‘feast’ room to share a final meal.

The next couple of days saw many visitors return home to all parts of PNG. It was truly an amazing experience.

Pastor Murray Smith is serving as an LCA missionary lecturer at the ELC-PNG’s Senior Flierl Seminary at Logaweng, PNG. He and his wife Tracy attended the ELC-PNG’s Synod 2022 as guests of the PNG church.

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