BY REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Immanuel Lutheran Church in Niskayuna is about to have a change in leadership — sort of.
The Rev. Derek Lecakes was recently elected bishop and president of the Atlantic District of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is Long Island, New York City and roughly the eastern third of the rest of the state. One of his first tasks will be to help install a new senior pastor in the church where he has held that title for more than a decade.
“There will definitely be a step away from local,” Lecakes said. “So the time that I had to really do local stuff is now. I have to find someone to help fill that gap. There will be others who step up and help fill that position. I have to have more of an overview of all of it.”
Lecakes, who served as Atlantic District vice president for the past five years, was elected at a conference in early June by representatives from each church in the district. The conference meets every three years and is composed of one ordained representative and one layperson from each of about 100 churches.
Lecakes replaces David H. Benke, who was president and bishop of the district for 24 years. District leaders have to be re-elected during each conference, but Lecakes said most bishops keep their positions until they’re ready to step down, barring unusual circumstances.
Though Benke steps down Sept. 1 and Lecakes will be officially installed Sept. 12 during a ceremony at Concordia College, the responsibilities associated with being a new district president have already begun to creep into his daily life.
“I’ve put 1,500 miles on my car already,” he said after just a couple of weeks on the job. From the eastern tip of Long Island to the Canadian border through the “tall part” of New York, as Lecakes put it, is a nearly 450-mile drive.
“One of the goals that I have shared with my district is my hope to worship with each of the congregations over the next three years,” Lecakes said. He also hopes to visit all 22 preschools, 16 elementary schools and six high schools. In addition, Lecakes is now a member of the Board of Regents at Concordia College, a Lutheran school in Bronxville.
Among his priorities as bishop will be working with churches that have internal issues, as well as helping with celebrations, such as the 95th anniversary of one congregation in October.
Lecakes said he continued to learn about new responsibilities in the position, but also plans to carefully balance his obligations with his family life.
“Even though I have this new position, I still have to be father to my children and a husband to my wife,” he said.