Monday, June 29, 2009

Apostolic Lutheran Church Makeover

No, they haven't started holding classes on the proper application of mascara or the best way to fasten a huivi. As far as I know they haven't told the men to stop smoking out front after services. ;-)

The Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (Federation) official web site has had a makeover. High time, I'd say, as the previous version of the site looked very much like a product of 1993.

The new site recycles a lot of content from the earlier version, but I did notice a few points that I thought were interesting.

On the Find a Church page, there is now an entry for each listed congregation called "online services," which will tell you if a particular congregation offers such 21st century amenities as a web site, video streaming, audio and video archives of sermons, or other multimedia.

Back issues of the offical ALC publication Christian Monthly are available going all the way back to 1998.

The Sunday School curriculum is available as a PDF download. I thought this was especially surprising, because when I was in Sunday school there was no curriculum that I could see, other than flipping open the King James Bible and preparing for boredom. For the kids the "flannel graph" was a big hit. :-) I wonder how long the ALC has had a national, standardized, official Sunday School curriculum?

A box of 1,000 communion wafers is only $15.00. That seems like a pretty good deal. Fifty copies of The Sinner's Plea for $3.50? I think I'll pass. ;-)

Seriously, though, I wouldn't mind seeing PDF or web versions of some of the foundational ALC documents such as the catechism and the constitution/bylaws.

Nice update to the site!

35 comments:

  1. Actually nicer pages than their sister organizations in Finland:

    http://www.lff.fi/

    http://www.lyrs.fi

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  2. Does the OALC have anything like Sunday school? I'm sure there isn't a website since computers are considered sinful--I think.

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  3. At least they used to have because I've personally been to OALC Sunday school in the 1980s. :) That was in America. There is Sunday school in Europe too, at least in Finland and Norway, but it's not like everyone goes there and all localities don't have it. I also think it's a more recent invention in Europe, I don't think there was any Sunday school until in the 1990s or something.

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  4. Sunday school was sooooo booring. Had to memorize the catechism(Luther's, still have it) and listen to a sermon. That's it. They didn't do well reaching kids on their level- back in the day.

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  5. A question: how many here have taught Sunday School? If you have, what materials did you use, and did you find that they were effective? Did you feel as though you were an effective teacher, and did you enjoy it?

    The ALC has had materials available for as long as I can remember, but a comprehensive curriculum was years in the planning. One drawback is that it's done by volunteers, and it is very time consuming. Those who actually tackled it are to be commended! yikes!

    For those who did not have Sunday School, how are the children instructed.. is it left to home and church services? Something that was common in my area is that Sunday School served families who weren't actually church members, they simply dropped their kids off on Sunday morning. Overall, I think the most effective teaching is by the parents' example.

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  6. by the way, our church used outside sources for Sunday School, even when I was a student..Concordia, David C Cook, Gospel Light, Standard Publishing, Ambassador Publications were some. Ambassador Publications is owned by the Association of Free Lutheran Churches out of Minnesota. In later years we used the ALC materials as they were developed.

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  7. Sunday schools in Finland - oh yes, we have had them too...

    As early as in the 1950s I have been in Sunday school in the small village I then lived.

    One of the children had to read some verses about the Bible and then the old men (they seemed to be old...) advised us to be nice to our parents.

    The best of all was we got after that some "pulla" and juice - Sunday school was in turn at everybody`s home.

    "Mummo" from Finland

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  8. I thought Sunday School was boooring too. If I remember correctly, the LLC has some sort of curriculum. The younger kids get read a kids story (laestadian style..about stealing cookies and having their sins forgiven), and then colour a picture. The older ones would get taught a bible lesson, have to answer a bunch of questions for homework, and memorize chunks of the catechism. When we were in gr.9 (the oldest grade), we had to take turns standing in front of all the kids and reading an opening prayer and closing prayer. Confirmation was even more boring (2002). It was lesson after lesson. I think we got about 1 hr. of recreation each day, and seperate boy/girl swimming times. I was in a room with 2 other girls and the "big" (counselor).3/4 of us in that room have "dropped out", (including the big), and I don't know about the 4th girl. What were all your experiances with confirmation?

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  9. ex-falc says

    The FALC has a big confirmation class in the UP - since most of it's members live up there. Most of the other churches hold a confirmation class yearly, sometimes every other year for the small churches if their are only a few kids at confirmation age. If I remember right, it was either every day for 2 weeks in early summer.

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  10. Ah yes, Sunday School! Mind numbing, and usually spent with trying to figure out what kind of mischief we could get into. The younger kids would memorize sections of the catechism (little blue books -- remember them, OALCers?) Then you would recite your memorization. Some of us had a penchant for that and could handle about half of the book at a setting, so we would drone on and on, and half the kids didn't have to recite anything then. After that -- it must have been at some age break -- we would move to the big kids Sunday school, where we would read a section from the Bible History, and then the teacher (usually one of the preachers for this group) would explain it. Those were the ugly green books.

    Confirmation was two weeks of everyday, in the heat of the summer, class. Confirmation classes were held about every two to four years, so you had a range of kids from about 13 to 17 in the classes.

    Funny thing about confirmation and churches getting along...I think I've told this before, so long time readers can fast forward now. We had two churches in our area -- the OALC (actually Old Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church or OFALC as it was known before people started marrying Germans and God knows what other undesirable races :-)) and what we called the Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church, or FALC. I've since sort of figured out that the FALC really was IALC, maybe -- or not, who knows. At any rate, when my Dad and my aunt were of an age to be confirmed, the OALC -- where our family went -- was not having a class that summer. My Grandfather's best friend and our neighbor was the preacher at the FALC, so he told my Grampa that why didn't he send the kids to his class, as he was holding one -- so they did. Hence my Dad and aunt were confirmed in the FALC, while members of the OFALC. At least in our town, it seemed the Finns got along, regardless of which church they went to, and even often attended special "meetings" at the other church. Of course my Dad also played on the Finn baseball team, which played games on Sunday, within a quarter mile of the preacher's house -- so you can see our congregation was on the slippery slope to hell anyway.

    One thing I loved about going to the FALC special meetings or funerals or whatever as a kid, was that crowd loved to sing! After church, many of them would sit in the church for a good while and sing hymns -- and I always liked that. My Grampa was a "lukkari" and so was I years later. Couldn't sing worth a darn, but I liked it. Did you know that no matter how good the lukkaris are, they cannot force the slow singing ladies to finish with them? The lukkaris are done, and the ladies go on singing those last lines without even noticing everyone else is done.

    I will stop rambling now and go back to sleep...I'm as bad as Garrison Keillor for going off on bunny trails...

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  11. cvow, we had the "quickie" confirmation class in the summer in the ALC as well. Most of the mainstream Lutheran churches took years to go through the catechism with their teens, but our congregation must have been known for its one-week summer intensive, because we had quite a few kids from the surrounding community who showed up for confirmation classes, the ceremony the following Sunday, and then we never saw or heard from them again.

    I think we must have been known as the place you could send your kid if he or she couldn't hack (or got kicked out of) regular confirmation! :)

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  12. Sooo, is there any value to having Sunday School and confirmation?

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  13. ex falc says...

    I think their is some value in Sunday School, if their is a solid program that teaches bible history in a way that the kids will remember. It is also important at an early age to teach kids the difference between right and wrong and to teach them to have compassion for others. I think Sunday School is a good place for kids to get this education, on top of what their parents are teaching at home.

    All I remember from Sunday school was coloring pictures. The FALC didn't have an actual curriculum.

    Confirmation was a time to play games and have a good time. We sent notes back and forth to our friends, had water fights during lunch, etc. I don't remember a single thing I learned in confirmation. Well, I take that back. I confirmed to myself that I didn't agree with the religious beliefs being taught.

    We were 15 year olds with mischevious minds. When it was time to ask questions, we would ask the pastor questions like...

    Why can't we dance? Why is it bad to have a TV? I'll never forget the look on the pastor's face when he tried responding to some of our questions. The answers we received were always vague and definately not convincing. One thing I noticed was that he never turned to the bible. His opinions were based so much on traditions - how we needed to keep things the same as they were. You know, that is what the christians do, and this is what you need to do to be a christian. I would say it was around this age when I started to question a lot of things, and things didn't seem quite right with the belief system.

    And that is why I am ex falc!

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  14. I don't remember much of what was taught at confirmation either, but it wasn't as fun as my older friends made it sound. It was just lesson after lesson of stuff I didn't believe in. I had a hard time fitting in with the other girls-I don't know why they were all so mean. Even my close friends from home were mean to me during those 2 weeks, so it wasn't fun for me at all. I could cry thinking about it, thank God my kids won't have to go through that. The llc has 3 different camp sites-stony lake in Minnesota, hascib lake (i think that's what its called)in Michigan, and then one in washington on the west coast--I think they use a different camp every year. Stony Lake and Hascib both have 2 confirmation camps each summer, and the west coast has one. In each camp there are about 30 kids. Seems like more every year..there are ALOT of kids in the llc.

    I honestly don't think the LLC sunday school is doing much good for those kids. They must be taught that they only have to be nice to other llc kids, because most of them are awful to any other kid. More so the little kids than the older kids, they must realize at some point between elementary and highschool that being nice to others is the right thing to do. (even though they are still very clique-ey) At the church we go to, the children are taught bible stories with a lesson like-to be nice to everyone, to do good things, etc. Basically they are taught to be good people, and those kids are so nice! They don't stare, judge anyone new at church, or call anyone "unbeliever". In sunday school I didn't like to do my "memory work", but usually did...unless we had a teacher who let us do our reciting as a group, then you could just pretend you knew it. :D I remember having to memorize all the books of the bible in order. What a job that was!!

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  15. People who are willing to be Sunday School teachers are to be commended. It's often a thankless task that nobody wants to do.

    I've taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School upon occasion, and I can say that "a desire to do it" was not my primary motivation. :-)

    It was more along the lines of a) they were desparate for teachers b) I was curious about what they were teaching my kid c) a feeling of obligation since my kid was in Sunday School.

    Even assuming more motivated teachers than myself, however, I think that Sunday School is often set up to fail because the material is presented in a boring fashion, is not age-appropriate, or does not really convey the most important thing.

    I suppose folks will disagree about what is the most important thing, but for me it's that children gain a basic knowledge of the biblical stories in an age-apprpriate fashion, and they are given the tools to wonder about these stories, "own" the stories, and creatively relate the stories to their own story.

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  16. I remember believing coloring in Sunday school was a sin. One time we visited a more "liberal" ALC church and we colored a Jesus picture. I remember feeling guilty doing it. Our confirmation class was out of control- the pastor threatened to quit. Kids would crawl under the benches all the way out and be gone for hours- without him noticing. 2 long, booring weeks.

    The church we attend now doesn't have Sunday school but they have kids church. It is alot of fun for the kids, music, games, snacks..(even guitar hero)Since it takes place at the same time as the service, we are spared crying, noisy kids during church. The ALC never did have much respect for that. It is very noisy and distracting there. We don't have confirmation either. Young kids take communion with their parents if they like.

    Tomte: They use Luthers red catechism. I have a booklet "the princples of doctrine of Christ" sub title: as taught by the ALC.
    When I came across it I was shocked because they don't teach what they have in print. It says in it: "the forgivness of sins should not be taught in a exacting maner." REALLY? They still teach you must ask another member and you must hear those certain words. Believe all your sins forgiven in Jesus name and precious shed blood.

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  17. The Brush Prairie OALC used to have two weeks of what we called "rip school". Who can guess where that name came from? I don't think that church has an ongoing Sunday School. Does anyone know?

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  18. Tomte, I agree with your assessment of Sunday School.. At a minimum it should teach a basic knowledge of Bible stories and themes. It should also teach how the Bible applies to everyday life. The Bible has been part of mainstream life in our culture, and references to it are found in so many places. Major stories like those of Noah, David, Moses, Daniel, Joseph, Jacob, Abraham, Paul, Stephen, John the Baptist, as well as Jesus. To me, these things should be as well known as Lincoln, Washington, and Paul Revere for a child to have a well rounded education. And if a chld can be introduced to the story of salvation in an effective way, then all the better.

    I've taught for years, from 3 year olds right up to getting kids ready for confirmation. Have taught the Catechism. I have seen the bored expressions, but I have never found studying the Bible boring myself. I think having to teach was one of the best things for me, personally, to do, even though I was not 'cheerful' about it, but often did it out of duty -- especially when you feel like you're just the mean old boring teacher dragging kids there every Sunday lol. I'm a bit discouraged though, because even for all the work and effort through the years, we have no Sunday School at our local church now.. there are no children attending and the church itself appears to be dying out. I've often thought I am not leaving the church, but the church is leaving me. Funny how things work out! But in the long view, I believe that God knows all things and that not our words but His words do not return void, and that the kids who we taught will some day remember God's word and it will be meaningful to them, and that they in turn will teach it to their own kids.

    Sunday School is good for teaching facts and good character qualities at a minimum, but it should really be more than that - it should teach the way of salvation. I don't know how successful I've personally been at that, or how well I've modeled the Christian life, but I have hope that it didn't all fall on deaf ears and hearts!

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  19. YM, I can relate to how you felt at camp.. I don't do well in groups like that at all. And yes, kids can be so mean! But you know what? The world needs people like you and me, too. :-). We think outside the box, that's what I tell myself lol.

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  20. Anon 10:22 -- Your reference to "rip school" comes from the Finnish name "rippikoulu", which literally translates to "confession class" but the common translation is "confirmation school".

    Pretty funny when you think of it that folks would have that thread to the Finnish language there, although come to think of it, there are other examples of which we are very familiar. In Finnish, Christian is Kristitty, and a group of Christians would be Kristittyyt. Shorten it up and Anglicize it a bit, and "tyyt" becomes "Toots".

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  21. "we would move to the big kids Sunday school, where we would read a section from the Bible History, and then the teacher (usually one of the preachers for this group) would explain it. Those were the ugly green books." Cvow

    I've got one of those ugly green books lying on my desk right now. :) I had to check some Old Testament story I was uncertain about a while ago, and remembered the green OALC Bible history book was like a condensed Bible so I picked it up from my book case and checked who was who in that story. A lot easier and faster than finding the story in the Bible. Not a bad book at all. :)

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  22. Ym: you went to CAMP for confirmation? sounds exotic compared to ours! Kids can be so cruel. We were at conventions back when we attended the ALC and we found out our kids were being really mean to another kid a good part of the time. I was horrified. We made our kids call (Canada, no less)and apologize. Then we gave them the option of a spanking or skipping the 4th fireworks. They wanted a spank but we made them miss the fireworks. Sounds like we were CRUEL parents but they remember it today and understand it as adults!

    Norah, it is hard to see your church start to disinegrate. What a difference leaving the ALC made with our kids. They actually WANT to go to church and the youth group is a thousand strong! You kind of have to drop all pre-conceived notions of traditional church if you come to ours, but the message is spot on.

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  23. Hi PS, the reason is because we live in a really tiny area and there aren't a lot of kids here any more..mostly retirees and weekend camps and cottages. Times change. It was hard to see the church decline, but it's actually okay now. If I had young children I'd definitely have a different outlook, but for us it's okay.

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  24. Yes, kids can be really mean! Now that I'm older and passed that, I am thankful I didn't fit in, because I'd probably still be in the LLC.

    That's good that you did what you did, Ps, it doesn't sound too mean at all! Kids need to learn that they have to be nice to others. I see so often in the LLC where the kids are mean to others at school and on the bus, the parents just ignore it. Even when it's brought to their attention, they still don't do anything about it. It is so wrong. I've heard my little brothers and sisters talking about how they were mean to so-n-so at school, and whenever I hear it I make sure to remind them that it doesn't feel good to be picked on!!

    Norah-lol, yep the world needs people of every kind! It's good to hear that people can relate to me and what I went through!

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  25. PS, www.internetmonk.com has some good insights and discussion on the future of evangelicalism.. interesting reading.

    YM, I think it's true that LLL churches seem to sanction these bad attitudes toward those outside the church. Something that definitely needs to be addressed by parents and church leaders, in my opinion.

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  26. Wow, Norah. That Internet Monk is something else. :) I haven't read an evangelical who takes a shot at that many evangelical sacred cows in a long time.

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  27. He makes ya think, doesn't he!

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  28. Norah:

    LOTS of reading on the intermonk site! I spent a bit of time there and started reading the controversy about Driscoll. Will have to get back to it when I have a few extra hours!

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  29. Hi PS, I haven't read nearly as much as I'd like either.. It's interesting to read his perspectives. I don't know who Driscoll is, but will have to read some more. I think I am soooo cynical about 'movements' of all kinds, I have to read the 'pro' and 'con' of anything lol.

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  30. Back to the topic of the host's post -- the website.

    The current webmaster is a friend of mine, and he's a professional (albeit self-taught) web designer. I think he's done a good job, but I may be a bit biased.

    The old site started out as an unofficial site more or less thrown together to provide information. Later on, the Central Board took it over and eventually turned it over to someone who kept it up in his spare time, but didn't have the resources to improve it.

    A couple of years ago, it was turned over to the current webmaster, who has certainly given it a much-needed makeover and made it easier to navigate.

    As for the content, that has to be approved by the Central Board, which meets only a few times a year. Since many of them don't even have email, you can understand the slowness of change and lack of current content.

    One thing that frustrates the webmaster is that few of the congregational leaders (secretaries) use email or the web, so he often doesn't get notice of special services in a timely manner, if at all.

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  31. I used to go to an LLC church. I'm not trying to defend anybody, but I have heard the opposite. Many teachers have said how the laestadian kids are so polite and nice to everyone. That has been 1 positive thing I have seen from this group.

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  32. Anonymous:

    I think there are many very kind, polite children in the LLL churches. I grew up IALC, and although my parents did not tell us this until we were grown, it was a source of pride that the teachers told them we were the "best" and "nicest" children they ever had in their class. As a young person living on my own a group of us young people occupied a duplex (both sides) and at some point, we all moved out. The neighborhood was getting a little rough. We didn't really advertise that we were all part of a church, but the landlord must have figured it out, because when I saw him a few years later, he was desperate. His tenants after us had trashed the place, a long string of bad ones, apparently. He gave me a card, and said, "Do you think any young people from your church would like to live here- send them to me!"

    I don't know if you have followed this blog much, but there seems to be some lapses in behavior amongst today's Laestadian youth. I've heard of OALC kids bullying non-OALC kids (and even kin) in schools where they have achieved almost majority status. I've heard of IALC and FALC kids tearing up campgrounds and being permanently kicked out of places. I've heard of a Laestadian youth experimenting with bomb-making and blowing off his hand causing a whole neighborhood to be evacuated while they removed the chemicals from the rental home. I've heard of some Laestadian kids living at a rental house being so disruptive and apparently threatening to the neighborhood they were a topic of a special session of a city council meeting. I've heard of vandalism of nearby properties by Laestadian youth during big services. I've heard many more stories too. Growing up not long ago in the 70's and 80's there were stories then, but much more minor. It makes me wonder: what gives?

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  33. Overall I think the Laestadian youth are well behaved and polite. More than a few seem kind of withdrawn or quiet when not within their group. That might be because of a cultural 'Finnish flashback.' There were a few bad apples when I was young but some years later I was able to step back and look at their parents and see the connection. Hence problem parents=problem children, no matter what their background or religion. Unfortunately, a few bad apples spoil the whole barrel so 'those Finn kids' can get a bad name when in fact it might only be a few. I recall the Bible stating that if one properly teaches a child the ways of the Lord when they are young that when they are older they will NEVER go astray. Zanon

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  34. I think you are right, Zanon. There are some Laestadian families who set a very good example for their children and while they may seem slightly "out of it" or removed from the world, they operate in a kind way. There are parents, however, who seem rather lazy. They seem to think they are doing enough just by "raising them in the RIGHT religion" and who do not teach their children basic niceties: please and thank yous, following the golden rule, being polite to their elders and to other children, etc. It is the minority of the Laestadian children who are destructive or delinquent.

    Zanon, what characteristics typify a "problem" Laestadian family to you? Sometimes I've observed alcoholism and other addictions in these families, othertimes not. Sometimes it has seemed to me the children of the more "elite" Laestadian families who seem to be the worst, but I hate to generalize. I put quotations around "elite" because the preachers are always saying no believer is better than another, but in practice, there are families with more social capital than some others.

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  35. Based on all I know of real life cases, I would say the real problem families have 'hush-hush issues' with alcohol, child or spouse abuse (physical, emotional, religious), incest, mental depression, fidelity, poverty/money problems, lack of a loving environment. The 'elites' are often elite due to some neurotic tendency (like many succesful people have) by some one in the family; could be avarice driving them to work like crazy to make more money, or perhaps religiosity where some one is trying to be holier than though or just plain being blessed with 'great people skills-sort of like the gift to gab.' They may seem to have more problems only because their family is stuck under a microscope by everyone else....especially by those who are jealous. In general all famlies have periods of struggle. Zanon

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