Saturday, August 16, 2014

Questions About the OALC

A reader in Finland has some (unedited) questions about the OALC. Could someone help answer these? I'm afraid I've forgotten more than I ever knew.
1) On sunday they gather to listen word of God, what is term they use about this event? In Finland word is “seurat”, best translation is “revival meeting”.
2) OALC don't have liturgy in their services, but what is its structure?
In Finland it is following:
Psalm - prayer - psalm - reading of Rev. Lars Levi Laestadius' sermon - psalm - sermon by preacher - psalm - prayer - final psalm. Then is announcements and coffee.
But OALC have Holy Communion, so they have to have some elements of Divine Service (for example Creed). What is different? What is whole structure?
How often they have Holy Communion?
3) Is Creed, which Johan Takkinen altered still in use?
4) Here in Finland Firstborns uses Luther's Small Catechism and Olaus Svebilius' explanation of Small Catechism. What catechism OALC uses? Own Catechism or ABC book? And what other own books they have?
5) OALC has preachers, but what is their self-understanding, are preachers pastors? Or ministers or priests? What other terms they use about preachers?
6) Who administers sacraments (baptism and Lords Holy Supper) inOALC? And who officiate at the weddings or officiate at the funerals? If preachers, is it so that always only preachers?
7) Have OALC preachers ordination to the ministry by the laying on of hands and prayers?
In Finland preachers are just named as preachers. Not even blessed to their work.
8) Have OALC official documents about their faith?
a) Are they explaining what their relation to three ecumenical symbols is? (Nicene Creed, Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed).
b) Or official document about relation to symbolical books of Lutheran Church, gathered in Book of Concord? Or if they don’t accept whole Book of Concord, even parts of it? For example Luther’s Catechisms? Or Augsburg Confession?
Or is it so that they just draw from their tradition, but they don't have write things on paper?
9) What kind of polity OALC have? Synod or church assembly for example.
In Finland Firstborns are organized as association, it has board but it makes decisions about secular things: property and Rauhan Side -periodical. Firstborns deals spiritual things in preachers’ assemblies (two levels of preachers’ assemblies) and emphasizes that Spiritual Board is in Swedish Lapland.

Across the Divide

Last week we went "home" to the Alpine Lakes Wildnerness (Gary Snyder said nature is not a place we visit, it is our home). It was blissful to pass the time with nary a thought beyond "should I swim or hike or canoe or sit here and read with both feet in the water?" I reveled in the openness, became right-sized by the majestic peaks, was mesmerized by dappled light, exhilerated by icy swims, and made quiet by bird chirps, sunshine, breezes, then (on the last day) thunder claps and torrential rain. Nature, such a drama queen. I haven't yet unpacked the car and already, I'm longing to go back.

But first, a few blog posts. I'll separate them so the comments are easier to track, and sprinkle them with photos, just because.

Please check out the interesting exchange over at Ed Suominen's blog -- two men seeking common ground while remaining true to themselves, and that's pretty wonderful.

At the heart of every religion is compassion, and at the heart of compassion is listening. Pema Chodron gives a beautiful talk about what it means to listen to ourselves without judgment or blame, allowing for a response that exists "in the gap between right and wrong." That is the source of compassion for others. Note how different this idea is from "love the sinner, hate the sin." Yet this middle way happens quite naturally by people of all faiths (and none) when they prioritize kind over right.

Being kind to ourselves enlarges our capacity to be kind to others.

I had a challenge last week. After we had settled into our campsite overlooking the lake, a family arrived that I came to think of as the Bickersons. They squabbled about who should carry what, then where to settle, pitching their tent and then lifting it up, like a turtle shell, shuffling it from site to site while disagreeing about the best view. I grew resentful. I tried to listen to my resentment, look at it, sit with it. How irritating they are! What pests! But so are the chipmunks and woodpeckers, right? Why don't I resent them? I wondered if the woodpeckers were bickering, blaming the tree, the bugs, the heat. If the chipmunks were right now lurking in the bushes, eyeing bitterly our closed food bins. This made me happy.

Later that evening, I heard flamenco, beautifully played, sweet and sad enough to melt a brick. I saw Mr. Bickerson bent over his guitar, playing with his whole heart, as his family watched.

What a gift, I thought. Humans are amazing!

(Ed does not accept comments on his blog, but I know he is listening, so feel free to leave them here.)

Friday, August 08, 2014

Tomorrow's Memories

With the headlines on infinite bloody repeat, it has been a summer of shocking sectarian violence (Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Burma, China), on top of no-longer-shocking violence in US homes and streets. Add to it the doomsday reports of arctic methane, ebola, wildfires, etcetera, and it seems the only sane thing to do is unplug. After a futile debate on Facebook, I wonder what use am I to the suffering? Why am I even talking about this?

Yes, I need to unplug.

I need to close the digital firehose and open the garden hose, and tend to my tomatoes, where drones are honey bees and there are actual fruit to my labors. Or go jump in a lake, or pet the dog for a really long time, or rock a baby to sleep. I do wish I had a baby to rock! Please young families, move to Seattle and let me babysit. Seriously.

I need to fill the well.

Some former Laestadians are at Finnfest and Siidastallan in Minneapolis this weekend (I hope you get the chance to gather around a campfire). I'll be camping with my family and treasuring the few years we have before college and adulthood spins our kids off into other orbits. There's a full "super" moon on Sunday and a Perseid shower peaking on Tuesday. Better than Christmas gifts.

Several readers here are struggling with the church's grip on their lives. I talked recently to a 14 year old and a 70 year old, both of whom need encouragement. Thanks to longtime contributor Old Ap for posting the following advice, which I think both of them will find useful. If you have additional insights, please share them below.
"My 'cure' for Laestadian-induced bitterness is as follows:
  1. Honestly admit how the person/parents/events/church affected you focusing on the bad but also realizing that there was some good, too. Maybe not much but some. Admit to the damage!
  2. Admit to yourself how you were compelled to act out and/or adopt beliefs/indoctrination that you intuitively knew were wrong.
  3. Realize how your personal aspirations were trampled on by the group's norms.
  4. Acknowledge how the 'fear of God' was used as a weapon against you for control purposes and that it may have included emotional, sexual, verbal and physical abuse.
  5. Acknowledge how so-called 'religious people' acted in wicked ways behind a facade of goodness to suppress a person's individuality.
  6. Understand that the past did in fact shape you but that it was in ways that you are not now happy with. 
"Once a person has gotten to the roots, one should also realize that one NOW HAS A CHOICE about one's future life's pathway. Laestadianism seems to rob people of their internal gyroscope. We all have a chance to remake ourselves and claim or re-claim our internal sense of being. Start making positive life plans for oneself and start taking concrete steps to map out a life that is meaningful to you. The only person MAKING you stay is you." (Old Ap)
Shalom, friends.