Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stein Auf Lutherans, Stein Auf

Trevor and I spent the May long weekend in Edmonton, at the tri-annual convention of the Alberta-British Columbia District of Lutheran Church-Canada. I HAD SO MUCH FUN. Comic Expo was a blast, but it doesn't even compare to the soul-satisfying feeling of worshiping and fellowshiping with people I know and love, and people I don't know but love anyway as fellow Christians. Trevor went as the voting delegate for our church, and I went as a volunteer, reporting for the convention newsletter.

It didn't start until Friday night, but we went up first thing in the morning to have lunch with one of our former youth, who's all grown up and just graduated from university now. There are lots of rewarding things about youth ministry, and one of them is becoming friends with and keeping in touch with your youth once they're adults as well, so that was lots of fun.

When we arrived at the hotel to check in, the first thing we saw when we stepped off the elevator was a big group of people in the lobby - who turned out to be our two former pastors and their families, and our current church staff. It was a big Foothills reunion that gave such a great start to the weekend. We spent a few hours getting unpacked, meeting people, hanging out with friends, and generally being more social in just an afternoon than I usually am in a year. :)

The first event to kick off the weekend was the opening worship service. I was a bit nonplussed when I found out that they'd actually moved an organ into the hotel for the weekend, but once I heard it, I understood. There's a pastor/organist in the district who I've heard about for years, but have never heard play, and always wondered what the fuss was about - I mean, an organ is pretty much an organ, right? Listen: if you ever hear that Lorne Manwiler is playing the organ anywhere near you, DROP EVERYTHING and go listen. When he started playing, I felt like I'd physically run into a wall of sound, and I kept looking up at the chandelier to see if it was rattling. Blew my socks off! And the singing...450 Lutherans belting out hymns with gusto is an experience that has given me a whole new appreciation for the hymn. I mean, I've always liked hymns, but generally on your average Sunday morning, they're not that exciting. Well, I have a whole new attitude about them now!

LCC President Rev. Robert Bugbee presenting the convention essay

President Bugbee (basically the equivalent of Lutheran Archbishop of Canada) preached the sermon, and one particular point convicted and has stuck with me. He mentioned that people are quick to write letters and complain when they're not happy about something church leadership has done, but don't usually take the time to be supportive and encouraging. Now, I don't usually write complaining letters to the church, although I certainly do a fair bit of mental complaining, but I'm going to make the effort to be more deliberately encouraging. Trevor and I are going to add Presidents Bugbee and Schiemann (the 'bishop' of Alberta and BC) to our regular list of people to pray for. Something I noticed about President Bugbee over the weekend was that he often prowled around the edges of the room while the business was going on, and I wondered if he was praying. He struck me as being very, very grounded and wise. Funny too, but wise and caring.

Saturday was a mix of business (elections and resolutions), devotionals, eating (the hotel had really good food) and fellowship. The business of the day ended at suppertime, and I spend the evening hanging out in the district office working on my newsletter articles, which was difficult, because the atmosphere in the office was too entertaining to block out! It was very educational - I've always sort of thought in an abstract way about district office being this stuffy place full of people in suits being very administrative and not very interesting.

Boy...was I ever wrong about that!!!! They ARE a group of professional administrators, but they're not in the least little bit stuffy, and they're incredibly interesting. They also did a phenomenal job of organizing a complicated conference, which, as far as I can tell, went off without a hitch. I'm very honoured that I was even a very small part of the team, and really hope they'll ask me to work with them again. President Schiemann was elected for a fifth term, and having never really met or interacted or heard him before (although I've always had the greatest respect for him), I was really struck by his sense of humour, humility, love for God and the church, and the fact that he knew my name. I mean, I was helping his office, so it makes sense, but my feeling of "wow, President Schiemann knows my name" felt like a metaphor for, and gave me a different appreciation, of the fact that God knows my name. I don't know if I can really put into words what a shift in perspective that was for me, but it was definitely awe-inspiring.

Sunday started with a worship service using the new style of contemporary music liturgy, which was really well-written. Nearly all of the people there had never heard it before, but it was wonderfully singable, and everyone picked it up really quickly. The pastor who preached the sermon quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which I thought was really applicable to how I was feeling about the weekend; "Christian community is like the Christian's sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim."

Our pastor at Foothills, Pastor Bode, was in charge of the elections and counting the ballots, and at one point, being tired of giving voting instructions in the usual way, he did something completely different. I don't have video of it yet, and it was totally unscripted and he talked too fast to type it out, but if "then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number that thou count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two excepting that thou then proceed to three." sounds at all familiar to you, you will appreciate the epicness of the moment. When/if I can procure the video, I will be sure to post it. I'm totally in awe that he managed to flawlessly and spontaneously paraphrase Monty Python to make it fit a Lutheran electoral process.

They knew that we were coming, so they baked a cake.

Sunday night was a banquet, the highlights of which were roasted red pepper and tomato soup, and chocolate cake. The low point, sadly, was the extremely tough Yorkshire Pudding. My Yorkshires are definitely better! The district awarded the annual Servant of Christ Award to an older couple who are very active in their church. They have four biological children, over 250 foster children, two adopted children, and are in the process of adopting a third. Crazy, hey? I can't think of anyone more deserving of an award, that's for sure. All those lives they've touched - the good consequences of their actions are mind-blowing. There was also music from an Edmonton singer/songwriter, Kelti Malone, and my friend Jennifer Jade Kerr. Jennifer's second cd just came out, and Trevor and I are part of a small group that sang the backup 'allelujahs' on one of the tracks - cool, hey? :)

New members of district committees being installed

Monday was more elections and business, into the early afternoon. It was a long morning, but really productive as a lot of resolutions were dealt with, with a minimum of angst. I was unexpectedly gifted with a pair of lovely clay mugs with the conference logo incised on them, which was thoughtful, but I felt a bit superfluous, because there were a LOT of people there who did a LOT more work than I did! But I do love mugs. :)

We lingered as long as we could after, but we had to get back to Calgary because I had school today. I also have a convention-hangover; my entire body is sore, but most painful of all, my eye sockets hurt. Trevor just got home from work, and I rolled my eyes at something he said, and whimpered. I think if I'm going to get my paper on Caesar Augustus written at ALL tonight, I'm going to need to take some hardcore Advil. It was also a very lonely day - after spending four days surrounded by people I love, and only once feeling annoyed with anyone (which is amazing, since for years I've had a really short fuse when it comes to large groups of people - clearly God has been working when I haven't been paying attention :) going back to school, all by myself, was a bit of a shock to the system.

Don't know what 'stein auf' is? It's a bit of a Lutheran inside joke that actually has its own Urban Dictionary entry: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=stein%20auf

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