The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, visited Altoona earlier this week to attend the 2011 First Call Theological Education gathering for Region 8.
The annual First Call workshops are held for rostered leaders and clergy in their first three years of ministry.
The Rev. Gregory Pile, bishop of the Allegheny Synod, based in Altoona, said although pastors serve as interns before taking a church, sometimes they encounter surprises or situations they have not experienced during their first few years of ministry.
The gathering gives them an opportunity to discuss these issues with others and to learn.
About 300 people, including bishops from eight synods in western and central Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia, attended the three-day event held at the Blair County Convention Center.
Hanson said he sees ELCA churches as being reformed and renewed since 2009 when 500 congregations out of 10,400 nationwide left the denomination after the general assembly approved ordaining clergy in same-gender relationships.
Addressing the decrease in membership that some churches are experiencing, he said there is a danger in nostalgia.
"It's easy to long with for the previous era," Hanson said.
He said nostalgia is different than memories and living in the present. The church has to use its imagination and find new ways to be the church, he said.
When he was addressing the ministers, Hanson said he noticed that some were sending tweets on their phones, and he believes that is a good thing.
"People tell me that I give them hope for this church," he said. He said he was only God's instrument and that "God gives us hope."
"God is trustworthy and faithful," he said. "The Holy Spirit is up to some pretty amazing things."
Nancy Gable, dioconal minister and coordinator for ministry leadership for Region 8, said the gathering was held for renewal, fellowship and Bible study and similar events may be held in the future.