Belonging through Liturgy and Community: A highlight from the opening conversation between the Rev. Drs. Scott Bruzek (St. John, Wheaton, Illinois) and Dien Ashley Taylor (Redeemer, The Bronx) was their discussion of the courageous act of seekers who “climb the steps”—literally and figuratively at Redeemer—to attend worship for the first time. Each pastor noted the priority of love as key to fostering community. Both also give careful attention to the liturgy to help newcomers understand that Word and sacrament are central to Lutheran worship. One participant made this comment in the post-conference survey: “One of the key pieces I got was what I experienced as an invitation to ‘curate’ the liturgy of my congregation. Having the right words to describe a process I’ve been trying to figure out and justify practicing ‘on the church’s dime’ (as the doubts at the back of my mind would say) is tremendously helpful. As Stanley Hauerwas correctly pointed out, our words enable us to see.”
Believing through Preaching and Teaching: Pastors Timothy Droegemueller (Living Faith, Cumming, Georgia) and Daniel Eggold (Grace, Lafayette, Indiana) shared the challenge of serving in areas of the U.S. that are American Evangelical strongholds. In response to this context, Pastor Eggold noted that “the focus is on faith formation in community; it’s not just you and Jesus.”
This participant captured the tone of their conversation: “The stories at the beginning were powerful as a way to start the discussion, and I really appreciated both pastors’ openness about their own growth in the process. Their openness helped to show how difficult and slow the transition is, but how undeniably worthwhile (and necessary) it is as well.”
Behaving through Witness and Service: Dcs. Raquel Rojas (Redeemer, The Bronx) and Dcs. Dr. Rhoda Schuler explored the ways in which the members of Body of Christ at Redeemer Lutheran witness to others and serve each other and the world. This participant summed up the content and its application well: “All the specifics about Redeemer’s structure, groups, and things they do were helpful in getting a very good picture of how Redeemer builds community. Even though the context where I serve is much different, I could see how thinking about the local church as a body allows diverse groups to serve each other, the community, and cross generational boundaries even if the groups aren’t necessarily intergenerational themselves. I thought the connection between the WRISTS and EYES was especially powerful as an example” [emphasis added].
Personally, as one of the conversation partners in this presentation, the highlight for me was the discussion of Redeemer “bling” (T-shirts, wristbands, etc. with Redeemer’s name and logo) and the video Dcs. Rojas shared, which was made by a young woman of the congregation waxing eloquent about and promoting Redeemer’s lip balm. Another participant commented, “Thanks for bringing in the bling – we take ourselves too seriously.”
One final comment of a participant: “The mutual respect that the presenters displayed was heartening. Hearing the perspectives of pastors of churches located in different geographical locations helped participants realize that parts of what these churches have done might be applicable to their own churches.”
We will continue to post blogs with information about resources and future events we may be able to host.