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Paul Roellchen - Pfohl
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Pastor’s Note Guiding Light – October 2013
“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35, NRSV)
Ah, October! A month that can give us some beautiful autumn days when it seems that nature is making one last, glorious stand for life. October also can present us with miserable weather strongly hinting at what comes our way for the next several months.
In the Christian calendar, October is an opportunity to celebrate the earth’s abundance with Thanksgiving. Add the Lutheran focus on Reformation Sunday, and we have the significance of being put right with the Creator of life and all things through God’s own intervention and grace in Christ Jesus, assured to us through faith (Ephesians 2: 8).
So, are we thankful? I don’t just mean on that particular Sunday or two during the tenth month of the
year. Are we thankful on a daily basis for the creative grace provided us by a loving God --- a God who travels with us through good times and bad, who knows more about each of us than we will ever understand, who encourages us with hope and strengthens us with faith and surrounds us with opportunities to love and be loved? Are we thankful?
Bishop Michael Pryse recently spoke about our psychological approach and response to life’s situations. He noted that many Christians and congregations see their moments and circumstances from the view of want; their lives and responses to life have the attitude of “a glass half empty”. They bemoan diminishing church attendance and stewardship (in all of its aspects: time, talents, treasures) and lose heart about their lot ever changing. Their psychology is one of self-fulfilling failure.
Then there are those individuals, families and congregations who understand the giftedness of their lives, even through difficult circumstances. Their glass is at least half full, and they intentionally look forward to quenching their thirst in thanksgiving through faith that God will see them through hard times and creatively inspire them to keep on growing in their experiences of His grace.
Forward with Christ!
Pastor Svante Olson
Confirmation and the Learning Cycle
Our traditional period for seeing our young people through the process of Affirming their Baptism deserves some creative consideration. I wonder if we are placing the cart before the horse in how we progress with our youth to give them the greatest possible benefit from what has been a two year learning curve starting after our grade six Sunday School year? There are several reasons for this question:
1) Ages twelve through fourteen are years of high energy and lack of attention. This is natural, and often confusing and exasperating for both teachers and students, let alone parents;
2) Youth at that age prefer activity and social interchange with shorter attention spans than the content of Confirmation classes (Bible knowledge, catechism, etc.) is often ready or able to provide without very considerable planning and preparation by teacher(s);
3) Many of our young people have not had the advantage of learning through a Sunday School program the basic stories of the Bible or Christian beliefs. We have to admit that we, as parents, have not as a group done well at fulfilling the promises we made at our child’s baptism about encouraging and guiding our children into the life of the church. Yes, there are wonderful exceptions to that, but I can tell you that about fifty percent of today’s Confirmands have little or no history in church school programs. Yet, they are
expected to have a basic knowledge of scripture, for example, in order to make best use of their time in the affirmation of baptism process. We need collectively to do better as adults for our children; and,
4) I have discovered over my years in ordained ministry that the involvement of parents in the Christian education of our youngest family members is vital to excellent results with the children. Sunday School is not a drop-off centre. Our young people need greater exposure to what we adults do in worship to better appreciate what church is about. Our current system/timetable does not encourage that. For example, children should be in worship and participate in the Lord’s Supper (if even to receive a blessing rather than the elements, if parentally desired). An advantage of this approach is that sacramental aspects of catechism instruction come more naturally to those who have such worship and sacrament exposure. And, overall, I’ve found that the length of time for the confirmation course itself can be halved when parents and congregation work consistently together.
Please consider the possibility of the following way towards, through, and beyond our young people affirming their baptisms --- won through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection:
1) There should be a followed-through commitment from parents, sponsors and congregation that our baptized children will attend Sunday School;
2) That the congregation would see that our Sunday School children attend significant portions of our worship services weekly to feel more comfortable with what worship is and is for;
3) That, if we continue to have our children schooled only to grade six level (there are grade seven and eight level curriculums available through our current supplier, for example), we work at developing a
Junior Youth group program that will provide a venue for our 12 – 14 age group to use their considerable energies and talents in ways that will enhance their faith journey and prepare them for ....
4) A one year confirmation program (age 15-16 range) highlighting key themes of their earlier Christian education and now mid-teen life experiences. The youth would be encouraged to participate in Intermediate or Senior Youth programming at this time complimentary to their “academic” work.
There is the hope in this proposal that, with a more substantial and intentional, education, worship and personal involvement in the life of the congregation, these young people will feel the desire for continuing Christian education, church participation and service opportunities both within Zion and in the world
around them, and that they will feel more confident in inviting others to join in the process from beyond our walls.
I look forward to your prayerful and considered feedback, especially in writing, to myself and through our Council and Christian education representatives.
Pastor Svante Olson