Saturday, April 02, 2005

Bonhoeffer and Pope John Paul II

Click here for an interesting article on Bonhoeffer.

Click here for NPR's coverage of Pope John Paul II's life and death.

The two don't have much to do with each other, but they are both part of the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us today.

A sermon will come soon, God willing.

Becoming Lutheran, Part 1 continued

My friend Jim wrote this comment about yesterday's entry: "The Episcopal Church blew it, but maybe all the friendly people were away at the Hamptons that weekend." That was about it. The Episcopal church we attended that weekend was an immensely wealthy congregation with a beautiful gothic building - they could probably smell that we were neither old money nor new. Later on, we attended my cousin's Episcopal church in a different part of Princeton, and it was much more down to earth and 'friendly.' But by then, we were already on the way to becoming Lutheran.

Of course, these personal, gut-level reasons for becoming Lutheran are not the whole story, as part 2 will make clear. But I start with the personal side because it would be false to pretend that our motivations for becoming Lutheran were purely theological or rational. We originally planned to remain in the Covenant, but the nearest Evangelical Covenant church was over an hour away, so we were looking for a local church to attend regularly. I want to lift up the importance of relationships in the church: Prince of Peace Lutheran became our home church in Princeton largely because we built relationships, became a part of an intergenerational small group (which included retired - though active - Lutheran scholar Karlfried Froehlich and his wife Ricarda, and several younger couples), and felt at home - theologically, liturgically, spiritually, personally.

A further question at this point is, Why did we not remain in the Covenant Church?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Becoming Lutheran, Part 1: personal reasons

Both my wife and I grew up in the Evangelical Covenant church. In the summer of 1995, we were married, and in the fall moved to Princeton Theological Seminary, where I began the M.Div. program. A year later, we were Lutherans. How did that happen at a Presbyterian seminary?

We have nothing but good memories of our time at PTS, we met good friends there, and I received a good education. Our first Sunday in New Jersey, we went to a local Episcopal church where no one talked to us, even during the fellowship/coffee an'. Our second Sunday, we happened upon a welcoming ELCA congregation – friendly, open, and a woman from the church, Ricarda, even brought a loaf of bread to our apartment Sunday evening and welcomed us to join a small couple's group. So, the first reasons for becoming Lutheran were good fellowship and fresh baked bread.

But why not Presbyterian? Since I was at a Presbyterian seminary, the rational thing to do, from a career perspective, was to become a Presbyterian minister. A big personal reason that I did not become Presbyterian was that I was never invited. Again, this is not meant to throw a bad light on the friends we made at PTS, nor to imply that the seminary itself was not a hospitable environment. But I often encountered the unspoken message that I was an outsider to the great tradition of Presbyterianism and Princeton. I had no PTS or other ecclesiastical connections. Often, when I shared that I was from the Covenant church, that was the end of the conversation. The only professors at the seminary that I found approachable, interestingly, were Lutheran. So, I tended to take their courses and attend meetings of Lutheran students and professors on campus. There was more of a Minnesota nice, hospitable climate at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and the “Luther League” on campus. So, we became Lutheran...