Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference, Day 2

To parallel the last post, this post begins the day after the Conference ended.

Driving back from Naperville to Mequon, on that really swell I-294, we hit a boulder-sized piece of concrete that had apparently been knocked out of one of the spacious chuck-hole denizens that populate this particular interstate, and blew out the right front tire. I’ve been on four-wheel drive roads in Colorado that were smoother than this thing. So we again made an emergency pit stop, this time at a nearby truck stop to have them repair the tire (hopefully). Turns out truck stops don’t repair passenger car tires. Who would have known? So I changed the tire with the wimpy jack and the wimpy wrench and the wimpy spare and off we went. Unfortunately, we were now way too late to make it to the Divine Service in The Chapel of Christ Triumphant at Concordia University in Meqoun.

Previously, Day 2 started with “A Man’s Breakfast” (sorry ladies). This was no ordinary breakfast, even by Confessional Lutheran standards. Not only was there plenty of food, but we were also privileged to sing a couple of rousing songs written by our very own brother Pastor Charlie Henrickson – and led by him as well. It’s a good thing I’m a layman, or I’m pretty sure I’d end up on somebody’s list, just for repeating these (I’m sure Pr. Henrickson is already on the list, so I’m not worried about him). Incidentally, I’ve just got this strange feeling they’re going to create a special list just for me by the end of this week, kinda like “double-secret probation”:

Tune: “Amazing Grace”

Ablaze disgrace, the heat profound
That makes it rest on me
I’ve won the lost, but more abound
It’s high anxiety

Ablaze has taught my heart to burn
Ablaze my guilt increased
What pressures did Ablaze apply–
Statistics never ceased!

Through many programs Synod shares
The kingdom surely comes
‘Tis doctrine that gets in the way
And causes us speed bumps

When we’ve filled up ten thousand pews
Igniting every one
We’ve no less days to stay ablaze
Till Jerry says we’re done

One mission, mission, Mission One!
One mission, Mission One!
One mission, mission, mission, mission!
One mission, Mission One!

Tune: “Seventy-Six Trombones”

Seventy slick brochures set the church ablaze
And a hundred “Attend!” cassettes fanned the flame
They were followed by reams and reams
Of the finest Church Growth dreams
And the rules to help us play the game

Seventy slick brochures taught the swarming throng
And a hundred “Attend!” cassettes led the blind
There was every Rick Warren piece
It was a golden fleece
There were forms of every shape and kind

There were purpose-driven principles in guilt-edge garb
Driving us, driving us, driving us like slaves!
Scores of “Other” choruses from Dave and Barb
Every bar riding emotion’s wave!

There were seven highly habits in a DVD
Driving us, driving us–purposely we strained!
Services of every style and ministers who strolled the aisle–
It drove us perfectly insane!

Seventy slick brochures came from Saddleback
With a hundred “Attend!” cassettes still to play
We were up Willow Creek
When our boat began to leak
And we lack a paddle still today!

Chris Rosebrough had a tough act to follow after Pastor Henrickson’s performance, but he was up to the task, speaking to us about the “new media.” He described some of the inner workings of Pirate Christian Radio, which is the network which broadcasts his radio show, Fighting for the Faith, as well as Issues, Etc. and others. Chris emphasized the Gospel focus of PCR, giving people what they need, not necessarily what they want. He talked about the PCR business model, one which seems to be working well. Issues, Etc. has had a three to four-fold increase in their on demand listeners compared to the show while it was still being broadcast by the Synod-owned KFUO AM. That’s an impressive feat for a show and network that have been in existence for less than a year.

Next came what I’m sure many people considered the main act, the Host of Issues, Etc. himself, Pastor Todd Wilken. Pastor Wilken never fails to capture his audience with both humor and sagacity. He spoke about a broad range of topics related to the current state of affairs in the LCMS. He commented on the importance of the faithful Lutheran laity, and how he believes that it will be the laity that stand firm, that the laity want pure doctrine, and that it will be the laity who bring the LCMS back to a Confessional posture.

I didn’t know this about Pastor Wilken, but I guess he’s a diehard Star Wars fan. He mentioned that “Darth Vader still breathes, at least ‘til 2010.” But he’s not much of a technophile. He described the undersides of their equipment in the studio: “There’s a lot of wires.” Unfortunately, Pastor Wilken flew in and out on the same day (I pointed out to him that he has a lot more faith in aviation than I do). Although I did get a little personal “face time” with TW, it wasn’t nearly enough. I was hoping for more “Todd time” than that – maybe even a cold Chelada. Life can be bittersweet, can’t it? The ultimate insult was that I was the one who told him to leave. I asked him if he was going to attend the Divine Service, and as he stood there doing the mental gymnastics that we all go through, I sorrowfully told him he’d better git, or he’d miss his flight.

My sorrow was soon reversed by a Divine Service that was second to none. God was truly in His temple, as we reveled in His mercy. In a sun-bathed sanctuary reflecting God’s glory, the Gospel was read by Pastor Henrickson in the midst of the people. With choir, instruments, mighty pipe organ, and a chorus of faithful brothers and sisters who truly share the one catholic Confession, we received Christ’s body and blood, shed for us for the remission of sins. There could be no sorrow on this day.

Throughout this conference I was able to make many new friends, as well as meet many other friends whom I’d previously only know via email and online communities. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with Chris Rosebrough, a man with whom I share so many personality traits (I wonder what he’s thinkin’ about that?), interests, and friends that it’s a little bit weird.

I met Dennis Peskey, whom I often bump into on the Wittenberg Trail. I met Pastor Tom Messer and his wife Lisa, whom I also see on the WT. Norm Fisher, the BJS webmaster. Pastor Benjamin Ball, one of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds, was also there. There were some people there who know me better than I know them, people who are actually nutty enough to admit that they read this blog, like Jeff Schneider, Ross Wardenburg, and David Zeile.

Harry Madsen and his lovely wife Millie were also there. Harry is the President of Lutheran Public Radio, and the man who recently filed the trademark application for the Issues, Etc. name. Harry is from the Chicago area, and was a member of the church where Bill Hybels, the church growth movement guru got his start. Harry told me a story or two about those earlier days, which I’d previously read about in books.

I also got to sit down with Pastor Charlie Henrickson. I was especially grateful for being able to tease him about his little “liturgical” faux pas. He managed to leave home without his dress pants, and thus preached his sermon while wearing jeans. It was really the only flaw in an otherwise perfect delivery. I figure anybody that can write Ablaze! songs with such vigor can stand a little ribbing. I am thinking about asking for at least a partial refund on my registration fee though. If I wanted a pastor in jeans I could have stayed in Seattle, where it’s the modus operandi.

Paige and I had an interesting conversation with Phil Magness, the Bethany Cantor. He can make their pipe organ do amazing things, and he’s got a beautiful voice to go along with his playing and directing skills. We were able to talk about music and the progression of their worship service over the years at Bethany. He’s one of a group of people who are creating new and beautiful music for the worship service at Liturgy Solutions.

We were the last two people to walk out the door at Bethany. We really did get our money’s worth. Now I’m sitting in Paige’s dorm room. We’ve got “dueling computers” as she’s typing out some homework, and I’m banging this out.

It was disappointing that we missed the Divine Service here at Concordia – Wisconsin today. I really wanted to commune with my daughter on her “own turf.” But God never disappoints. While we were hanging out together her best-friend-on-campus, Erica, came in. She wanted to take a break from homework by playing on the piano, so we headed down into the bowels of CUW and found a piano. Together we sang some of the most wonderful hymns out of the LSB. Luther hymns. The Magnificat. Hymns about justification and liturgical hymns. Just us three Lutheran Christians in the empty basement of a big university, sharing our faith as Christians have done for two millennia, praising God for what He has done for us in Christ. I thank God that my daughter has such a friend – this kind of a friend is hard to come by. And I thank God for my friends at The Brothers of John the Steadfast; these kinds of friends are hard to come by as well. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

You can listen to the audio of the various sessions here.

All photos taken by Scott. Photographs in order:

Pastor Charlie Henrickson
Pastor Todd Wilken "holding court"
Paige and Pastor Wilken
Pastor Tom Messer with his wife Lisa
Mr. Harry Madsen and his wife Millie
The altar at Bethany Lutheran Church


AshleyEffken said...

Scott, great post. It's great to know what was happening at the Conference, since I myself couldn't be there. The only thing I am curious about is your statement that "Wilken never fails to disappoint." I assume that you meant the opposite, but thought you'd like to clarify yourself, just in case.

Frank Gillespie said...

Thanks for the updates Scott.

I knew the name Harry Madson was familiar for some reason or another but I wasn’t sure if I just saw his name in one of the many message boards. As it turns out I’ve known Mr. Madson for a couple of years! I met him and his missus the way back in 99 or 2000 when I was attending the Luther Hostel weeks at CTS in Fort Wayne. Small world this is!

wrmyers said...

Scott, add my 2 cents worth of thanks for the posts from the conference. Jeff Schneider and James Neiswonger returned to Pensacola absolutely Ablaze(add little TM symbol that I don't know how to do!), in a good sort of way, about the gathering! Hope to be there for the next one.

Elephantschild said...

Appreciate the write up, since my husband and I couldn't attend even thought we live just a few hrs away from Bethany.

There's always next year!

I. M. Abaldy II said...

> Pastor Wilken never fails to disappoint. <


Pretty sure that is what you meant, Scott. ;^)

Scott Diekmann said...

"Never fails to disappoint." Oops. I actually caught that when I edited it, but didn't get it corrected. I guess I should fire my editor! :>)

Dennis Peskey said...

I was most happy to great you and your daughter at the Conference. Sorry to hear the Chicago roads treated you so poorly - potholes and chunks are the curse of the Midwest. At least we all were blessed with the Divine Service at Bethany as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
PS - When we arrived home in Michigan, we were greeted with 6-8 inches of snow. By now, its kinda lost most of its glamor. I've been trying to set it Ablaze! but we can't seem to locate Al Gore.

Trent Demarest said...

Hi Scott,

I was at this conference. Do you have a complete photo gallery of the event? I'd love to see some more pictures.