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A Bishop’s Reflection

– Bishop Tracie Bartholomew

Rise Up! A fitting theme for the first Gathering I attended as bishop of the New Jersey Synod. This had been a theme in New Jersey following Superstorm Sandy, which leveled homes and businesses across our state. Rise Up was not a command to get your act together, but rather a promise that God in Christ lifts you from the depths of despair so you can soar with the wind of the Holy Spirit.

I engaged this Gathering in a few ways:

First, we supported a team who led Gathering participants in an experience of diversity. LoveStruck explored with Gathering participants how we live in a richly diverse world. I was proud to claim this team and admired their commitment to provide such a valuable experience. Certainly through their leadership, we were able to Rise Up and be the church God is calling us to be.

Second, I gathered on our Synod Day with over 500 New Jersians to sing, pray, study, and worship together. It was an inspiring time listening to testimony from high school students unafraid to claim their Christian identity and to share with their peers the power of God at work in their lives. It was a day for me to remember again just how powerful the Holy Spirit can be. Having this day at the beginning of the Gathering allowed us to connect in more meaningful ways through the week—especially when we scattered throughout Detroit for service. We were able to Rise Up together as the church in New Jersey!

Finally, I engaged the Gathering as a bishop of this church, which meant a lot of spontaneous selfies with random people, high-fives, being a target for clothespins, and otherwise feeling “on display.” There is nothing that compares to the fun (and silliness) of being on floor-level every night with colleagues singing and dancing. We certainly celebrated the many ways we Rise Up as God’s people.


Rev. Tracie L. Bartholomew serves as bishop of the New Jersey Synod.