Sunday, December 27, 2009
Each day the probationers and working deaconesses went to Chapel for half an hour. The time in Chapel began with the singing of a hymn, but was followed by complete silence during which each woman could choose to pray, read the Bible, or meditate on the Word. During the week there were other Bible classes and prayer meetings available to the women. In relation to this focus on God's Word, J.S. Howson once quoted Fliedner as saying, "We have no vows, and I will have no vows, but a bond of union we must have, and the best bond is the Word of God, and our second bond is singing."
The deaconesses in the various Motherhouses established by Fliedner always met together to vote on acceptance of new deaconesses into their houses and elected their own superintendent of the House. In turn, each woman was expected to obey the superintendent and to gladly and cheerfully accept whatever work was assigned to her by her superiors.
All of the German Deaconess Houses used a similar service of consecration for deaconesses. The service included singing; an address reminding the deaconesses that they are servants of Jesus, servants of the needy, and servants of one another; an opportunity for the deaconess candidates to indicate that they wish to take up such a ministry of mercy; the kneeling and blessing of the candidates; the recitation of a prayer from Apostolical Constitutions; and lastly, the service finished with the celebration of Holy Communion.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Two days ago I received a wonderful surprise in the mail from a deaconess friend who lives in St. Louis. The surprise is a plate depicting the 100th anniversary of the Lutheran Orphan's Home in Des Peres, MO, from 1868 to 1968. The back of the plate is inscribed: "In Memorial to the 100th Anniversary of the Lutheran Orphans' Home Celebrated July 21, 1968. Dedicated to all the Children, Housemothers, Fathers, and to the Glory of God. 1868-1968."
I'm not sure where my friend found this treasure, but I'm delighted with it. [Of course it is already 41 years old, which makes it even more precious!]
In chapter one of In the Footsteps of Phoebe I make reference to the very first Lutheran orphanage - which opened in Des Peres, Missouri, in 1868. This venerable institution has several connections with deaconesses.
1. We know that at least one deaconess from Germany worked at the orphanage in its early days;
2. We know that in 1934 Rev. Herman B. Kohlmeier, superintendent of deaconess training for the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, took a long road trip that included visiting the orphanage;
3. We know that Deaconess Florence Storck was assigned to work at the orphanage at the time of her commissioning in 1937, and worked there until transferring to the St. Louis Lutheran Mission in 1940.
My guess is that there are other connections between the deaconess community and the Orphans' Home that are still waiting to be discovered. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the plate! Thank you, Pam!
Monday, December 14, 2009
One case in point is the various communities of "Beguines," who are known to have lived from the 12th century onward, in the Netherlands, in Belgium, along the Rhine River, in Switzerland, and in eastern France. During the first half of the 13th Century, there were thousands of Beguines. For some reason they began to be persecuted, nuns disliked them, and the Pope withdrew his "protection" of them. At the time of the Reformation, many of these women became Protestant, but continued to resemble sisterhoods of Catholicism.
As for the life and work of the Beguines, Bancroft explains:
"As a rule they lived alone, in separate small houses build closely together and surrounded by a wall. Each house bore on its door the sign of the cross, and with every Beguine court there were invariably two large buildings - a church and a hospital; the one for the worship of the sisters, the other the field of their self-denying ministrations. At first they were in no wise distinguished in their dress from other women, but in time they wore a habit which varied in color with each establishment, but was generally blue, gray, or brown. The veil was invariably white. The sisters had to earn, or partly earn, their own livelihood. In the time remaining they rendered essential service in performing acts of charity. They received orphans to bring up and educate, taught little children, nursed the sick, performed the last offices for the dead, and bound themselves by good deeds closely with the lives of the people. They were in no sense isolated from the world, but lived busy, useful lives in the midst of the world. They could leave the community at any time, and after severing their connection with it were free to marry. They also retained control of their own property."
This strikes me as a pretty modern arrangement for women in the 13th-19th centuries! And except for the living together in groups of houses, pretty close to how some deaconess communities serve today.
Friday, November 27, 2009
1. She was a doorkeeper at the women's entrance to the church.
2. She showed women to their places in the church, taking care to meet the particular needs of the poor and strangers.
3. She instructed women catechumens and visited their homes where men could not go.
4. She carried out certain duties pertaining to the Baptism of women.
5. She provided for the physical and spiritual needs of women in prison during times of persecution.
6. She cared for the sick and sorrowing.
7. She served as a "mediator" for the resolution of disagreements in families or among friends.
In light of Romans 16:1, it is interesting to see the Constitutions state that both deacons and deaconesses carry out work pertaining to "messages, journeys to foreign parts, ministrations, services."
Sunday, November 22, 2009
"The General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at its session in May, 1888, inserted in the law of the Church a chapter on deaconesses, defining their duties and providing for the appointment and oversight of them through the Annual Conferences."
Now that is what I consider to be prudent action! Yes, we can learn a lesson from those who became organized (way back in the 19th century) about defining the duties of their professional church workers, and making provision for both their "appointment" and their "oversight." With many deaconess candidates waiting for placement in the LCMS, it seems that some of these areas could do with review and revision - not only for the sake of those who desire to serve in the vocation of deaconess, but for the church at large.
Anyone else care to offer a thought or suggestion on this topic?
Monday, November 16, 2009
A summary of the three-act production of King Roger can be read on a website titled Operawonk, which claims to be “an operating theater for dissecting operas and disseminating operatic knowledge.”
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Such a course might sound a bit dry, or perhaps boring. After all, the Old Testament has a reputation for being law-oriented and irrelevant to today's world. However, my class's experience with the Old Testament doesn't support that stiff view of the Old Testament. Through the study of Scripture itself, we recognize that every story in the Old Testament presents threads of the Gospel and eye-opening relevance to both our personal life and society today.
The first two lessons in the unit were marvelous examples of this fact. In Genesis 1 and 2 we read about how God made and ordered the world that we live in. God didn't create and then just let go. He created in such a manner that our entire existence would have a pattern that was sustained by the design of God Himself: day and night; seven day weeks; a cyclical day of rest; time and seasons; partners fit for every species; marriage; and so forth.
In Genesis 3 we read of the fall into sin and can only imagine how disappointed God must have been. He took great care in creating the human race and providing an Eden-life for people. All that Adam and Eve needed to do was to fear, love, trust, and obey God the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, above all things. Fortunately, God came back to the garden to speak to Adam and Eve, in spite of the fact that He knew of their disobedience and sin. And while He informed them of the consequence of their sin ("for the wages of sin is death") He also provided the hope of a deliverer, the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) Who would one day crush Satan's head.
In the meantime God continued to show His love to Adam and Eve. He gave them clothes made from animal skins. Yes, He killed animals to cover the humans. Almost like a foreshadowing of how His Son Jesus would someday die to cover the sins of all humans. [In Holy Baptism we "put on Christ."] And He would chase them out of that beautiful garden so that they could die a physical death and have the opportunity to receive new life in Heaven with Him someday. In other words, that they might live eternally with Him in everlasting bliss. Whatever else was to come along in their long lives, they would turn to God as the bringer of their redemption, and God would forgive and renew them in His grace.
Reading with Christian eyes, we see that Old Testament History is really an account of God's grace to the human race. It's our story. Thanks be to God for such a gift!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The experience of such a reunion brings much joy. But on this occasion, the reason for the gathering brought even greater joy. Our son Gordon was ordained into the Holy Ministry.
It's funny what goes through a mother's mind on such an occasion. Looking at him in the chancel, I actually thought about the day he was born. I remembered how he struggled with issues in primary school and in junior high. I remembered how much he loved to play rugby and could see him coming through the door in mud-covered rugby kit. I thought about his never-ending smile and blond hair, and how when he got to high school he had such a passion for sharing Jesus with his school mates.
I thought too about how history was repeating itself. When I looked at Gordon and his wife and two children, it took me back to the day in 1982 when my husband was ordained, in the same country (England), in the same customary manner at a closing worship service of the ELCE Synod, also with a wife and two children. My husband was then placed as Pastor in the only Lutheran congregation in the country of Scotland. Last week Gordon was placed as Pastor in the only Lutheran congregation in the country of Wales.
Knowing the love and mercies of God, we thank and praise God for the life of service ahead of Gordon and His family. God is faithful, and that is a proven history that will continue to repeat itself over and over again in our lives - and in the lives of our children.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
However, the memory gets even better. We were in Cardiff, Wales, at the Museum of Welsh Life in St. Fagin's, within walking distance of where our son will be installed as a pastor on October 18. [That in itself is kind of an amazing story. A young man born in Scotland of American/British parents, raised in England, studied in England and Canada, married to a lovely American gal in the state of Montana, and now poised to live and serve the Lord in Cardiff, Wales. But I digress!]
As we walked through the outdoor exhibits I was struck by the wonder of History and the archeology that had contributed to this particular History. We walked through the replica of a 2000-year-old Celtic village; toured authentic ancient homes, chapels, and schoolhouses that had been moved to the museum from various parts of Wales, and almost best of all, walked through a series of row houses, starting with one built in 1800, each house having been built 40-50 years after the last one in the row. The progression of interior design in this row of houses was fascinating, from the change in window and stair designs to the cooking facilities, bedding and wall hangings. What a commentary on Life in the country of Wales.
Interestingly, in the row houses of the early and mid-20th century, there were articles that could be found in the homes of my own grandparents and parents, even during the time that I was growing up. What a strange sensation to view part of one's own life in a 'still life' documentation of History! That's something for all of us to muse upon from time to time.
Friday, October 2, 2009
I was recently thumbing through a notebook one of my sons brought home from a Classical Education conference which included several pages of interesting Luther quotations focused on various aspects of education. Of course the one on History really caught my attention:
"Hence, too, historians are the most useful of men, and the best teachers. Nor can we ever accord too much praise, honor, or gratitude to them; and it should be the work of the great ones of the eart, as emperors, kings, and the like, to cause a faithful record to be made of the history of their own times, and to have such records sacredly preserved and set in order in libraries. And, to this end, they should spare no expense, which may be needful, to educate and maintain those persons whose talents mark them out for this task.
But he who would write history, must be a superior man, lion-hearted and fearless in writing truth. For most manage to pass by in silence, or at least to gloss over the vices of the mischances of their times, to please great lords or their own friends; or they give too high a place to minor, or it may be, insignificant actions; or else, from an overweening love of country, and a hatred toward foreign nations, they bedizen or befoul histories, according to their own likes or dislikes. Hence it is that a suspicious air invests histories and God's providence is shamefully obscured; so the Greeks did in their perverseness, so the Pope's flatterers have done heretofore, and are now doing, till it has come to this, at last, that we do not know what to admit or what to reject. Thus the noble, the precious, and highest use of history is overlooked, and we have only a vain babble and gossip. And this is because the worthy task of writing annals and records is open to everyone without discrimination; and they write or slur over, praise or condemn, at their will.
How important, then, is it, that this office should be filled by men of eminence, or at least by those who are worthy. For, inasmuch as histories are records of God's work, that is, of His grace and His displeasure, which men should believe with as much reason as if the same stood written in the Bible, surely they ought to be penned with all diligence, truth and fidelity."
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The following list of Principles were adopted after W.A. Passavant organized the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses of the County of Allegheny, Pa.
1. The association of Christian females is purely voluntary. The members unite without persuasion, remain without vows, and retire without restraint.
2. It is not an order, but the restoration of an office, that of "Servant" or Deaconess in the primitive church.
3. Its members heartily confess the faith, engage in the worship and observe the discipline of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
4. Its object is habitually to engage in works of mercy among the sick and poor, the ignorant and fatherless, and other suffering members of our Lord's body. In the better attainment of this object, the association is incorporated and fully empowered to establish and conduct the necessary charitable institutions.
5. Not earthly reward and honor but the desire for an opportunity to manifest their gratitude to Jesus Christ in the way revealed in His Word, has influenced the members to associate themselves as servants of Christ and of His church. [taken from The Life and Letters of W.A. Passavant by G.H. Gerberding]
The members of the Institution also had a set of Regulations to follow, which simply summarized, obligated the deaconesses to live in a parent house (later usually referred to as a Motherhouse); obey the Director and Directing Sister or other governing authorities; and wear a "plain, economical habit, as much as possible conforming in style, expense and color, which shall be black or gray or blue on week days." [Gerberding]
We know that the Pittsburgh community disliked the "habits" worn by the deaconesses because they supposedly made the women look too much like nuns! The history of this institution and its connection to the first Protestant Hospital in the United States makes for some very interesting reading.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
So what is it all about ? The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod archives house good biographical records on the men who have served as pastors, missionaries, and teachers for the Synod. These records make it possible for families to find information about their ancestors, and also very importantly, provide information about the church's activities and mission throughout the decades. What fun it can be to make a visit to Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis and read patriotic hymns penned by one pastor, or the stories of parish visits made on horseback by another.
Over the last five years or so, members of the Missouri Synod have become increasingly aware of the presence and role of other church workers that fit into the category, "ministers of religion - commissioned." That is not to say that such people hold the "office of the ministry" but that they are non-ordained professional church workers who have been commissioned by the church into a particular "church vocation." Among these vocations, of course, is the office of deaconess, in which a woman engages in a ministry of mercy which complements the ministry of Word and Sacraments carried out by the office of the ministry (or pastoral office).
As a result of research needs, the fact that there are three deaconess training schools in the Synod, and an increased interest in the deaconess movement, the LCMS Deaconess Biographies Project is being carried out at a good time in the Synod's history. Watch this space for an future announcement of the website address.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
According to Deacon Dennis (http://deacondennis.livejournal.com/): "Father Shenouda Maher Ishak spoke on behalf of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which counts the diaconate as one of seven clerical orders. The deacon has such an indispensable role in the liturgy that a priest is not allowed to celebrate the Eucharist without one. Others of lower orders may assume this role if a deacon is not present. Coptic deacons are not allowed to baptize, but in the early centuries had a prominent role in devotional censing. They are not allowed to marry after ordination. At present there are very few full time permanent and professional deacons in the Coptic Church, since almost all of them are called to higher orders. The Coptic Church is now in the process of restoring the female diaconate in three orders: the female reader for women (now called "devoted one"), sub-deaconess (now called "assistant deaconess") and deaconess. The Coptic Holy Synod has made it clear that deaconesses may not in any way participate in service of the altar or sacerdotal service. The rite of initiation into the female diaconate is performed by a bishop without the laying-on-of-hands but with a signing of the cross three times over the candidate. In their ministry they are to work exclusively with women and children. They assist at the baptism of women, visit sick women in hospitals, supervise women's activities in parishes, and clean the church building except for the sanctuary area which they may not enter."
Thursday, September 3, 2009
In our own lovely little village, which we moved to from the larger Pittsburgh area in May, there are still places that only accept cash payment. These include establishments that people go for to for entertainment and socialization, for example, the movie theater and the local ice cream shop.
These kind of hold-outs for the old-time ways might feel like an inconvenience with one's first patronage of them. But after that it's fun. I mean, it's like stepping back just a little bit in time, to a less complicated, less rushed time in history, in which every corner of life was not yet infiltrated by technology - or by plastic!
I like to live a simpler life when possible!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Those who are active in the Church actually have similar experiences with significant ecclesiastical events, not necessarily that they can recall where they were when they heard the news, but they can recall the high emotions, expectations, and hopes or disappointments associated with such news. Examples might include the rulings of Vatican II, the first ordination of women in the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran-Catholic Catholic Joint Declaration on Justification, and this week, decisions made by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).
The news about ELCA reminds me of a painful time in my childhood. One summer our family returned from a long and wonderful summer vacation, and when we went to church the next Sunday we learned that several families had left the congregation. These families included people that I loved and was close to... my Sunday School teacher, a girl in my confirmation class, others that I knew were special to my parents. Since we had been away when the families decided to withdraw their membership, the departures were a surprise ( Or at least they were a surprise to me, as a naive child). There was no opportunity to say goodbye and we never saw these people again, even in a social setting. Many years have gone by and I still feel the sting of that experience when it comes to mind.
There will certainly be some fallout from the controversial resolutions passed by ELCA. The more conservative Lutheran denominations are not happy about what they consider to be a deviation from Holy Scripture, as well as the reflection that such decisions have on the "Lutheran name. " In addition, there are many ELCA members who are disappointed and may be looking for new church homes. Wherever and whenever we intersect with ELCA people in the aftermath of their convention, let's remember to treat them with the love of Christ, to gently win them to correct thinking where needed, and to provide fresh ground for them to experience God's love in repentance and forgiveness.
Monday, August 24, 2009
This sort of reaction can happen when someone close to us dies. When children leave home for college. When people that we love choose to end their marriage. When our family and acquaintances are without jobs; lose their homes; become bankrupt. When an illness comes on suddenly and threatens to worsen or at least pester us for the duration of our time on earth.
And then there are historical events that can make us feel numb to the very core of heart and soul. Church denominations voting on issues that God has already clearly spoken about in His revealed Word. Misuse of the Bible that triggers a heaviness of heart and an inability to pray anything more than the plea, "Lord, have mercy on us all, and show these people the error of their ways."
God IS merciful, and so sometimes we just let the changes go by, assimilating them as we can with the passage of time; steeping ourselves in the Word of God and in prayer, receiving God's gifts as He administers them to us in Word and Sacraments; and last but not least, preparing ourselves once again to be ready to give an accounting of the hope that is within us. (1 Peter 3:15)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Designed to celebrate the "Heritage of Lutheranism in America," museum displays cover five periods in LCMS history:
1. Luther and the Reformation – describing the origins of the Lutheran church in mid-16th-century Europe and providing insight into the life of Martin Luther.
2. Colonists and Missionaries to America – tracing the travels of the Saxon immigrants to the United States and missionaries who helped form the LCMS in 1847.
3. Growth of a Synod – illustrating the growth of the LCMS in the 19th century as the young church organized under its first president, Dr. C.F.W. Walther, to reach the people of America with the Word of God.
4. From St. Louis to the World – demonstrating how from its founding near St. Louis the church's mission work has expanded domestically and internationally.
5. An Unchanging Message for a Changing World – indicating how the LCMS has worked to meet the challenges of proclaiming the Gospel in the 20th century and into the future through the use of new media, an expanding system of higher education, and outreach to all parts of society.
The museum is open on every weekday except for holidays and is free to the public.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
It is also interesting to see that the same event can be reported as inherently good, bad, or neutral in its value to individuals, society, or the church. Before I started writing In the Footsteps of Phoebe, and old friend asked me, "What are your presuppositions?" I was rather taken aback, and stated that I simply planned to report historical events, rather than color them with my own presuppositions. Now that the project is finished, I understand what my friend meant. All of history, when reported, is seen as either good, bad, or neutral - and years down the road whatever is painted as neutral will be reassigned to good or bad in light of its long-term effect in a continued history. And so we are sometimes caught saying things like, "the jury is still out on that decision."
Of course, years down the road, not everyone will agree about whether today's current events have had a positive or negative effect on our lives - particularly in relation to our faith and the and our goal to be true to God's Word and to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations.
We should be praying fervently for God's guidance now, that the history we live and influence lands on the side called "good;" that someday when they is reported in newer history books, our decisions and actions as individuals and as "church" will be viewed as well-informed, wise, and God-pleasing.
Friday, July 24, 2009
In 1971, Jacobson led a merger of Deaconess Hospital with St. Michael's Catholic Hospital to create "United Hospital." From that point he had the vision to grow the hospital in a way beneficial to the community, including moving it to a new site, where the name was eventually changed from "United" to "Altru."
Beyond the main thrust of this story, with my historian's hat on, I was particularly pleased by the following nugget couched in an article about Jacobson written by Stephen J. Lee of the Grand Forks Herald: "It was a fulfillment of bigger moves led by Robert Jacobson years before, from when nuns and Lutheran “deaconess” nurses provided much of the care at two religious — and sort of rival — Grand Forks hospitals for little pay to the advent of contemporary secular, if still nonprofit, medical centers."
This kind of "hospital history" is more common than most people realize!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Another report explains: "Fiji police have charged the paramount chief Ro Teimumu Kepa and two top Methodist Church ministers with defying the Public Emergency Regulation. The church president, the Reverend Ame Tugaue, and the secretary general, the Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu, have been charged with contravening orders by organising a meeting last week with two church figures that the interim regime wants to have expelled from the Methodists’ leadership. Ro Teimumu has been charged with inciting the people of her home province Rewa by publishing a letter on the internet which invited the church for its annual conference after the interim regime had banned the gathering. The three have been released on bail and made to surrender their passports."
Thanks be to God that we live in a country where church leaders can plan meetings and gather together without fear of being arrested! Let's remember to pray often for the people of Fiji and anywhere else in the world where Christian churches are controlled or muzzled by evil governments.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Should we as Christians be keeping abreast of these "isms" - how they came or come about; in what manner they grow or evolve; how and when they give way to yet another "ism?" The answer is a certain yes if we are able to do so, and if such knowledge will improve our communication of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our neighbor. But we can't be tricked into thinking that knowledge of an "ism" means that we can control it. This is a mistake that too many politicians, theologians, and political theologians have made before us.
There is another problem too. Not everyone agrees on the nature of secularism, how it originated, and the good or harm that it does to the Christian Church or the faith of its members. The following quotation from "No Future in the Ghetto" by Francis Campbell (The Tablet, 18 July, 2009) provides a good example of some of the interesting twists in opinions on this issue:
"Europeans take it for granted that modernisation and secularism go hand in hand. But the experience of the rest of the world tells a different story. The challenge is maintaining faith while living peacefully with those who do not share it. Retreat is not an option.
"In A Secular Age, the philosopher Charles Taylor asks how we moved "from a condition in 1500 in which it was hard not to believe in God, to our present situation just after 2000, where this has become quite easy for many". Taylor contrasts secularism with religion. For him secularism sees human good and human flourishing as being focused solely in this world, while the religious outlook is transcendent.
"The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is rather more specific. He describes secularism as opening a space, but also potentially closing a space. Positively a secular society would hold up ideals of freedom and equality. It would oppose any kind of theocracy, any privilege given to an authority that was not accountable to ordinary processes of reasoning and evidence. More negatively, secularism could rule out arguments that would arise from specific commitments of a religious or ideological nature. This approach is underpinned by the Enlightenment conviction that authority which depends on revelation must always be contested in the public sphere.
"When getting at the meaning of secularism, Taylor rejects what he calls the "subtraction story" which sees science gradually chipping away at the credibility of faith. Instead he argues that secularism and faith come from the same well and that secularism emerges not through scientific discovery, but through history. In this way secularism is not pitted against religion but is part of a proper distinction between the temporal and religious realms."Secularisation theory on the other hand attempts to describe a process of change ushered in around the time of the Industrial Revolution, whereby states modernise as they secularise. The idea is very simple: the more modernity, the less religion."
To my mind all of this is made much easier if, no matter what else we hear or read, we remember that as Christians we are in the world but not of the world (John 15-17) - and that Jesus Christ has empowered us to serve Him as a light to the world. (Matthew 5:14).
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Sometime during the current Episcopal Convention in California (July 8-17, 2009) Harriet Bedell's name will be added to that denomination's "List of Lesser Feasts and Fasts." Since she died on January 8, that date will be designated as her "feast day" in the Episcopal Church.
Another new book about Deaconess Harriet, titled Angel of the Swamp, features quotations from her acquaintances in Florida, along with many photographs. Copies of this new book are available at the Museum of the Everglades in Everglades City or at www.ecity-publishing.com.
Friday, July 3, 2009
In both instances, the awareness of “who” these people were became apparent after someone was brave enough to ask an opening question. I asked the lady sitting next to me if she was on her way to the LWML convention (sometimes it’s easy to spot such ladies)! And the deaconess across the aisle saw a copy of In the Footsteps of Phoebe sitting on my luggage and walked over to me and asked if I was Cheryl.
The first question isn’t always easy, but it is necessary if we want to have conversation, and especially if we desire to develop new relationships. Our lives are rendered more interesting by the acquaintance of other people and their stories, and often, how their lives and stories already somehow tie in with our own lives.
This too is one of the pleasures of reading about historical figures, especially within the church. I have received so much joy from readers telling me that they discovered one of their relatives in my book. A few weeks ago a man phoned me from Texas to tell me that he has never known much about his grandfather, but that he heard about the release of In the Footsteps of Phoebe from his mother, and now he was excited to be able to learn quite a bit about his grandfather (who was a director of deaconess training for many years).
My thought for today is this: Ask the Questions that will connect you with people. You may even be surprised that in some way or another you already have a connection with them!
Monday, June 22, 2009
Now it's time to get back into the routine of work again. Children and grandchildren have driven home or caught planes to other continents. The grass needs to be mowed. Articles need to be written. Mourning people need to be visited.
May God bless all of you, wherever you are, with a peaceful time of relaxation this summer.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
I have just returned from the annual meeting of Concordia Deaconess Conference - Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which many women attended, from all over the country and even from a few foreign countries. We were together to worship; read-mark-learn-and inwardly digest some Scripture; hear reports on mission work facilitated by Hands of Mercy and on the first ever meeting of deaconesses from across South America; encourage one another in our work and faith; take a tour of historic deaconess-related sites in Fort Wayne; and basically just enjoy being together and having some "down" time from our normally busy lives.
These conferences contribute to the ongoing collection of corporate history that makes the CDC what it is and what it will continue to be. The annual business meeting, always held sometime during the conference, also facilitates a moving forward - to be certain that the objectives and goals of the conference are met; to ensure that we continue to make corporate history in the future. It makes us happy that our history is rooted in in God's Word. That history is laced with a deliberate ministry of mercy to one's neighbor, but we know it is only a reflection of the mercy that Christ first provided for us.
I thank God for all of the women (and of course our Pastoral adviser) with whom I was able to share this past week. I can only hope that they are all as refreshed as I am after such a wonderful conference!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
It's important that these two events are celebrated separately, because they certainly are different. Confirmation is never a "graduation" from anything, but an affirmation of the faith received at Holy Baptism, and the public renewal of vows to remain steadfast in God's Word until death. When our personal history is written, it may include landmarks of growth in our faith life, but it will never include a "finish line" until we have joined our Savior in Heaven.
Graduation ceremonies, on the other had, celebrate the end of an era. A goal has been reached and those who have attained the goal are to be commended for their perseverance and perhaps for any unique or outstanding achievements along the way. On these occasions graduates are often reminded that they should not rest on their laurels, but must go forward with some sort of grit and determination into the next era of their lives.
Our personal history tells us that life does need grit and determination from time to time. But it also tells us, as does Scripture, that it is the Holy Spirit working through the Word and Sacraments which shores up, sustains, challenges, feeds, and grows our faith. We have no power in and of ourselves to do such a work. Thanks be to God that He gives us these means of grace!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
My brother and I knew that dad served in the navy and that he saw a "mushroom" cloud from the deck of his "boat" in the Pacific. We did once see a photograph of dad with palm trees and a large group of "island children" that he and his buddies had provided with food, but the island had no name and the ethnic origin of the children was a mystery. When we were older, and particularly when my brother began to serve in U.S. forces, a few stories from dad's military service began to leak out. My brother was more interested than me, however, and I can't say that I could even repeat any of them now.
If everyone who ever fought for freedom is a war hero, then of course I know that my dad is a hero. But there is something in addition about my dad that cannot be left out of defining him as a war hero. For as long as I can remember, my "daddy" has been a Soldier of the Cross. And though I am proud of him for serving the USA in the cause of freedom, I am also proud of him for his untiring service to Jesus Christ and his drive to spread the Gospel to all nations and all generations.
Soldiers of the Cross, like my dad, have been in difficult wars without bullets. They have skirmished with those who would have the church succumb to the whims of the world; the whims of Biblical Criticism or Darwinism; the seductive preaching of "other Gospels." And though wounded, and perhaps scarred, they still live to support the Church and her work.
On this Memorial Day weekend, we salute the men and women of this country who have served to ensure freedom for its citizens. Let us also thank God for the Soldiers of the Cross - all of the men and women who have fought ugly battles for the freedom to have access to the Word and Sacraments, taught and administered in their truth and purity!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Along with finding the supportive material and real gems also comes the surprise of unwanted discoveries. These might be, for example, the knowledge of sins that would provide no benefit to the Church by being exposed to the public. In cases of this type of accidental discovery, a good historian needs to stick to the facts - that is, simply state what happened in a particular historical context - without revealing the secret sins of a forgiven child of Christ.
As I carried out research on various individuals for In the Footsteps of Phoebe, it was easy to immerse myself in their lives, sometimes to the point that I considered my subjects to be friends or comrades, even though they may have died before I was born. Reading what their peers wrote about them, and then reading some of their own notes, diaries, or letters helped me to appreciate their lives and service to the church. At the same time, it was apparent that these people had the same life struggles that we encounter today; the same temptations, the same sins, and the same forgiveness from God that is available to all in Christ Jesus. This realization caused me to remember my "new friends" in a different way - not just as heroes and heroines, and not just a sinful heroes and heroines, but as forgiven heroes and heroines. That realization made it easy to FORGET their accidentally discovered sins, and look only at what God has accomplished through them.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
History is full of many other anniversaries that have meaning for us. The Passover, for example, was an annual Jewish religious festival attended by Jesus' parents in Jerusalem. We know that Jesus accompanied his family to Jerusalem for this celebration when He was twelve (and He may well have been present at the festival, too, in other years after the time of his weaning). It was the Passover that Jesus and His disciples celebrated in the upper room on that fateful night when He would be betrayed. But before the betrayal, still within the context of the Passover Meal, Jesus instituted the Holy Supper of His body and blood. This is the other anniversary that we celebrated today, on the Lord's Day. We partook of His body and blood; remembered His death (and resurrection); and received assurance of the forgiveness of sins. This type of anniversary gives comfort, peace, and strength... and can never come too often!
Sunday, May 3, 2009
The first perspective is mentioned by C.S. Lewis in some of his writings about basic Christianity. It views the creator-god (if indeed there is a god) as a being who made the universe, gave it some impetus to run, and then left it alone to fend for itself. This god has had nothing to do with his creation, other than observing it, since putting it in place. The creation has been left to deteriorate and will eventually disappear. Life and human history have no meaning beyond the moment in which a life is being lived.
The second perspective views history as a series of cyclical events that are continuously repeated. It could take dozens, hundreds, or thousands of days or years, but history will always repeat itself. This view also renders human history as meaningless. There is no uniqueness to people, places, or events. What has happened has already happened and will happen again. The circle of history is inevitable and people who live within the circles are simply part of a pattern (or cyclical fate) that will be repeated no matter what their individual capabilities or contributions to society. This perspective was promoted by Greek philosophy already during Jesus' lifetime.
I remember being introduced to the third perspective in Old Testament class in my sophomore year of college. The professor (Carl Gutekunst) explained that all of human history is in fact Heilsgeschichte, or "holy history," better phrased as "salvation history." Kenneth Bailey describes it (in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes) like this: This perspective views history to be like an arrow that moves toward a target called "the day of the Lord" (Amos 5:18) or "the kingdom of God" (Matthew 1:15). In this view, history has direction and meaning. Caught up in the struggles of the present age, the faithful may not always be able to "see the big picture," but there is one. Furthermore, it is inappropriate for the individual to try too hard to discover that purpose in any particular event. No foot soldier can understand the wider scope of a great battle in which he or she is involved. ... people can live out their lives with the quiet confidence that the One who holds the rudder of history has not fallen asleep. Building on this view of history, Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come"...
By the way, this third perspective is explained very well by an audio presentation called "Bible in an Hour" by Wade Butler. [http://www.newreformationpress.com/audio/bible-in-an-hour.html] The presentation literally tells the whole story of the Bible, from Adam and Eve to Revelation, in one compact presentation, showing without a doubt that all human history is tied to salvation history. I've used this presentation as supplemental material in confirmation instruction, in my 7th/8th grade Biblical Studies classroom, and with women's Bible studies. "Listeners" enjoy it, coming away with a better understanding of the Bible as a whole, and an increased appreciation for the way that God has always worked within the framework of human history to bring us the gift of salvation.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
This idea of buying something now in order to use and enjoy it for decades is becoming less prevalent in our easy-come-easy-go disposable culture. And this is not solely due to consumer attitudes. It is obvious that many products - particularly those based on advancing technology - are designed (as well as purchased) with the idea that they will be obsolete within a certain number of years. Homeowners know that appliances often begin to fall apart or fail soon after the warranty period has expired. Likewise, fashions and trends change as they always have, and so forth.
At the same time, big money is being made in the sale of vintage articles - whether they be clothing, knick-knacks, or childhood memorabilia. We begin to think about that old 1967 Buick that we sold for $500, and wish that we had it back again. We're having a good life, but we hanker back to the "good old days" and parade the memories, photos, cassette recordings, or home videos again and again. And what fun that can be!
So where is this musing leading to? Just a simple acknowledgment that today is tomorrow's history. Someday we might wish that the events of today never happened, or that we could go back and change them. Or there may be many times that we remember today as a wonderful day and wish that we could re-live it. Either way, or somewhere in between, today has been a gift from God which we have used in various ways. And now, as we go to bed, today becomes part of our personal history!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The blogger, Ormonde Plater, explains regarding the name of his site: The title of this blog reflects the folk etymology of diakonia, diakonos, and the like, which ancient Greeks believed came from two words meaning "through" and "dust."
Plater's daily entries are about both deacons and deaconesses. To give you a small taste, the first two paragraphs of today's entry read:
Elizabeth Ferard, first deaconess in the Church of England, founder of the Community of St. Andrew, died 18 April 1883.
The Lutherans were the first denomination to revive the order of deaconesses, a deaconess institution being founded at Kaiserwerth by Pastor Theodor Fliedner in 1836. His idea was to train and send women, two to each parish—one to nurse and one to teach. But his two successive wives had different ideas and realized that such deaconesses needed a “home” for community structure. The Bishop of London, Archibald Campbell Tait, visited the Kaiserswerth community of deaconesses...
Saturday, April 11, 2009
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I would like to submit EIGHT specific values of Church History, as outlined by an old CPH junior high curriculum book. If you can think of others, please add them in the comments section at the end of this post!
1. Church History helps us see the fullness of the stature of Christ. His significance for our world is shown in 20 centuries of Christian history and in the lives of those committed to Christ.
2. By studying the proclamation and application of the Gospel in years past, we obtain a better understanding of how it can be taught and applied today.
3. Church History illustrates the indestructible character of the church. Christ Himself promised "The gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matthew 16:18)." Our Lord's protecting and merciful hand rests over His church through the ages until its final triumph.
4. Present-day worship and life in the church follow a pattern established in the past. The study of their development gives greater meaning to our worship and fellowship practices today.
5. The study of Church History reveals the unity that all Christians have in the Lord. It gives us a bond of fellowship with sainted Christians as well as those throughout the world today. At the same time, history explains the diversity and separation among Christians today.
6. Though history does not necessarily repeat itself, the present has many parallels with the past. A study of the past can help us prevent mistakes and solve problems. It can also help us safeguard against false beliefs and practices.
7. The trials and triumphs of dedicated Christians from the past can inspire us today and help us to be prepared for the trials we might face.
8. Church History reveals the impact of Christianity on non-Christian society. It can, therefore, help to shape our mission and our witness to the world.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
On Friday in one of my weekly Woman to Woman sessions, I presented some material with a historical quotation by Dr. Martin Luther, which was difficult for many of the group members to stomach. The exact nature of the quotation doesn't matter, but what does matter is the fact that these women questioned Luther on the basis of what was written in Scripture.
Though I had a good idea of what Luther meant in the quotation (through Lutheran eyes of course) my explanation sounded lame, and I had to agree that for our day and age, what Luther wrote in this instance could be better said with different words for today's population. Those different words would serve the purpose of making it clear that Luther is in agreement with the Bible, not opposed to it. Of course we don't want to put words in Luther's mouth, or more literally, at the end of his pen. But we do always want to go back to the Bible as our primary source for Christian teaching.
What really delighted me is that these women, many of them non-Lutherans, have learned that it was good and right to discern correct teaching only by going straight back to the Bible itself. I praised them for this, and reminded them that if anyone, including myself, ever taught them anything different from what the Bible says, that they are to question that teaching and take the teacher to task. My prayer is that they will continue to engage in such faithful listening, where their hearts take note of and discern all doctrine in light of God's Word.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
There are other sentimental realities that are not material: memories, visions, hopes and dreams sought after and attained; stories of struggle and victory, failure and success, and the significance of one’s personal faith throughout life. To pass these realities on to our heirs (and other descendants) we need to communicate our personal histories.
Concordia Historical Institute (St. Louis) does a good job of explaining the rationale for encouraging Christians to make autobiographical notes about their lives:
“Autobiography serves church history by producing historical records. We are not suggesting prideful patting oneself on the back, however, but that in godly humility you write an account of your life and work, telling the good and the bad, the high points and low points, the successes and failures. These are all part of the story of God's continuing grace in and through the church.
Personal insights into the past, an evaluation of personal experiences in the service of the church, comments on major events and many related subjects can often be better understood through autobiographical accounts, reminiscences and diary entries. Without the accounts of the services rendered and reactions to episodes and incidents in the church, much human interest data can easily be lost.” (Service Bulletin #3b at http://chi.lcms.org/)
Whatever age we are, it’s never too early or too late to keep a journal, or just jot down some facts that could be useful to those who follow after us, in our families, in our work place, and in the church. Even if we don't see that there is much value in the story of our lives, some day there will be others who are thankful that we took the time to write them down.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
As individuals, we know some of our history and other parts are full of mystery. In the Footsteps of Phoebe is a project designed to document and discuss an overlooked area of modern church history that affected, and is still affecting, the church and its members, the role of women in the church, exegetical issues and Christian belief.
NOW is OUR history. And as we live out our lives we want to be remembered for making wise decisions and prudent choices that are good for our families, our nation, our church, and ourselves. Our primary guide for discernment is God’s Word, A lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105) But we do need to examine how God’s Word has already been applied (or not!) in any similar circumstances and happenings that have brought us to this point in time. We remember our history so that we can emulate its good examples and avoid the repetition of mistakes. We evaluate where we have been so that we can move into the future with certainty and hope.
NOW is OUR history. Let’s learn from it together!