After the Reformation service concluded, it was time for celebration!
And boy, did we celebrate. There was an array of choirs and dancers and musical talent.
I think my favorite part of this was watching the boy dance – he was into it!
As the LWF Assembly Reformation service progressed, we came to Communion.
The question was – how do you get communion to 10,000 people? Sounds like a logistical nightmare if you ask me.
Yet, it worked. It helps that there were so many clergy who were willing and able to help out.
In all, Communion lasted about 30 minutes. Not bad really. And everyone received the sacrament.
When we entered the stadium for worship during the LWF Assembly, we saw many things. I want to highlight two in particular.
The first is the banner.
We were commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Luther’s face of course shows up. Along with the Luther rose. I think the most interesting thing is that the banner is surrounded by faces of people who are far different from the German peasants that Luther knew. It was amazing to see how Luther’s ideas spread far and wide – continuing to this day.
The other part of the banner to highlight is the theme message that salvation, human beings, and creation are not for sale. This is a counter cultural message even today and in many places in the world.
My only criticism of the banner is that I wish it weren’t in ALL CAPS. That actually makes it harder to read.
The second piece of messaging was the worship booklet.
The booklet was actually really well done and had worship for all the days of the assembly. The worship was great each day. Lots of various cultures and languages used. The music itself was well done. Again, the only criticism is the use of ALL CAPS. It takes away from the rest of the booklet, but only a little bit.
…at the LWF Assembly. One of the booths in the Assembly village gave visitors the opportunity to put a tab in their shirt and pose for a picture.
I did just that with my friend David who I met during my time in Finland. Considering that at the time of the picture I was just weeks away from being ordained, it was very timely – and as you can tell, we had fun too.
A few weeks ago I boarded a plane with several others from the seminary and we flew down to Windhoek, Namibia to go to the Lutheran World Federation Assembly. It was an incredible experience and a great way to finish up my seminary career. I’ll be posting pictures from the Assembly in the near future, but I while it is still fresh, I wanted to offer a few reflections.
First, I learned about (or better said, I was reminded of) the diversity of Lutheranism. That’s not hard to do when you travel halfway around the world to gather with other Lutherans. You see that Americans are just a small speck in this giant world. (A good lesson to be reminded of – something that only really see when you step out of the continent.) You hear that English is not the only language that people speak (another good reminder). And of course many, many Lutherans don’t look-alike either. All of this became obvious quickly when we came together for worship in multiple languages, heard people speak in four primary languages, and saw many people from about 90 different countries. It was especially evident with the election of the new LWF president – who happens to be from Nigeria.
Second, connections are important. We learned that there are approximately 75 million Lutherans in the world. That’s a good number of people, yet still not a huge percentage of the world. At the same time, when you come together at assemblies like this, you start to see that much like national gatherings, synod assemblies, and even congregations, there are a handful of people who are the most engaged and you see them everywhere. They are the ones you want to get to know for multiple reasons. They are the ones who can connect you with many other people. They are the people who get things done.
Third, worship comes in a wide variety. During the assembly, we experienced such a wide range of worship. It was great. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like everything, but that’s ok. It wasn’t about liking everything – I’m sure there were people who didn’t like what I like. That’s ok too. But it’s still good to experience different worship styles. The best worship was the Sunday commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was in a stadium and the sermon was very powerful. Worship lasted for four hours – but then again, when you have to commune 10,000 people, that takes about an hour.
Fourth, I want to go back to Africa. This was my first time to the continent and I loved it. I can’t wait to go back. I was exposed to a part of Africa that I knew very little about – which is why I wanted to go (I wanted to learn more).
Overall, going to the LWF Assembly was a wonderful trip, a great educational opportunity, and I’m glad I went. Next time though, I want to go as a delegate. Let’s see what happens in the next six years.
The last two weeks of my life have been unlike any other two weeks that I can recall.
Two Mondays ago, I left my home in the morning, met up with several other students, got on an airplane and traveled about 30 hours (flying time and layovers, etc) to Windhoek, Namibia. We were heading to the Lutheran World Federation Assembly there.
We stayed there for 7 days and then jumped on some planes last Tuesday and arrived back in Pennsylvania last Wednesday – tired and exhausted, but happy about the trip. I promise that I’ll be writing more about the trip in upcoming posts – along with some pictures too. I’m still processing the trip.
I got a nap (mostly because I don’t sleep well on long plane rides), got to use a real sauna, and got a shower. I was then ready for the senior banquet – a fun even for seniors at the seminary who are ready to graduate.
Then on Friday of last week there was graduation. A truly historical event in its own right. First, every graduation is historic because the graduating class is added to the history of the institution. Second, this would be the last graduation of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. The seminary will be merging with Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia come July 1 to form United Lutheran Seminary. It’s been a long road for LTSG. I’m proud to be a part of the last class. Again, there are lots to process here.
Then on Sunday I had my call sermon – and the congregation voted to call me as their pastor. Beginning June 26th, I’ll be pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran Church in New Kingstown, PA, USA. I’m pretty excited about this. And again, there’s plenty for me to process.
Because of all of these things, it’s taken me a bit longer than normal to get back to any type of routine with posting materials on social media and online. I haven’t been able to post a daily prayer or do my usual tweets about made up bible passages or do travel or theological posts here on the blog. I finally unpacked from Africa two days ago and I’m still working on going through the piles of paper on my desk to clear that off. I hope to start posting again tomorrow, but give me a little slack if I don’t – I’ll get there.
The next big thing is ordination – next Friday, June 2. Again, that will take some processing on my part.
And the biggest thing – figuring out the new normal. Classes are done, but I don’t start as pastor until the end of June. There is work that needs to be done around the house that I have been putting off for some time.
Let’s see what tomorrow holds. Blessings.
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Reflections On Faith and Values by Steve Harsh