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!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Laestadian adventures on Youtube

Thanks to an Anonymous commenter, my attention was drawn to these Laestadian related clips on YouTube. Unfortunately, I don't know Swedish or Finnish so I don't know exactly what these clips are saying. Can any of you Scandinavian language speakers out there provide a brief paraphrase or summary translation of what is being talked about in these clips?

The first one had a description, which I ran through Google Translate to get this mangled rendering of the Swedish: The movie is a description of Laestadius' birth and .... Laestadianism is the largest revivalist movement and active in the Lutheran churches. The film tries, in contrast to most other youtube snippet makers, to describe Laestadianism in a positive spirit.



I couldn't help but feel a certain sense of irony watching this clip, with the beautiful organ and accompanied choral arrangement --wouldn't these be musical forms that many of Laestadius' followers (especially in the United States) would condemn as sinful? Yet here they provide the musical backdrop to the pictures and Swedish captions. I'd love to know if the singers are Laestadians...they certainly sing a lot faster and more in tune than most of the Laestadians I ever heard in church. :)

The next clip is in Finnish. Google translated description: A detailed description of Laestadianism origins and current status. The film goes through Laestadian early stages, distribution, and trends report. The film seeks to describe the positive wake-up movement, unlike many other products in this Youtube Code.



It looks to be virtually identical to the first clip, but in Finnish and a little more recent footage. I'm curious about what look to be large gatherings of Laestadians. Are these the Finnish equivalents of the Fall Services, Conventions, and Youth Rallies that existed in my ALC (Federation) youth?

Last clip, apparently in Swedish: Film and photos from laestadianernas meeting in Bosund 5-7.6.2009 with a pension song as background music.



What's a "pension song," or did Google Translate mess that up? :-) The people singing in this shorter clip sound more like the Laestadians I grew up with. Our services were often translated from Finnish to English, and we sang a lot of music out of the Finnish hymnal. So this singing, in a language I don't understand, has the same slow, soulful mournfulness of that music. The clips of large families, children playing in the parking lot, and the cadence of the preaching (used here as a voice over the music) all transported me back to similiar services during my childhood.

Anyway, I enjoyed watching these. Thanks, Anonymous!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Laestadian Family Values: Caring for an Aging Parent

LLLReader recently wrote: On both sides of my family there is one person in need. I have carried the financial responsibility for both of them for years. Also on both sides of the family there are people who could help share the load--but refuse even though they could easily do it. I have had it with that, and laid it out there about their selfishness. My sweet daughter-in-law said that they see my kindness as weakness and have taken advantage. My belief is that family looks out after each other.

Reading this quote, I was immediately touched by LLLReader's generosity, but it also prompted another question: Is there an expectation in Laestadianism that children will take on the financial responsibility for their aging parents?

As our population ages, medical advances allow people to live longer, and the recent stock market and financial market turmoil erode retirement savings, this becomes an issue not just for Laestadians. However, do Laestadians expect more in this regard than the general population?

I know a Laestadian who had a very large family with the explicit expectation that "they are his retirement plan." He has not saved a dime for retirement, expecting his children to take him in when the time comes. Is this fair? The particular case I'm thinking of is made even more interesting by the fact that I know he has been very irresponsible with jobs, money, and saving --far beyond just the expectation he has of his children.

Should his kids have to "bail him out," and if so, is this part of the Laestadian mindset?

Monday, June 22, 2009

What is sin?

What is sin, and why does it matter? Growing up Laestadian, how we saw sin affected how we saw God, and each other. This short video outlines some of the ways sin has been defined in the past, and presents a different way of conceptualizing sin based on Kathryn Tanner's 2001 work, Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity: A Systematic Theology.



Sin as breaking the rules/laws. Drawback: encourages us to see God primarily as a judge or lawgiver; prone to abuse when hijacked by power-hungry authority figures. See also Luke 12:14, where Jesus seems to reject being set up as a judge.

Sin as separation from God. Drawback: if we believe that God truly is everywhere, how can we ever be truly separated from God?

Sin as pride. While a longstanding Christian view of sin (400-1950 A.D.), how can this apply to people who are downtrodden, depressed, or in unhealthy co-dependent relationships?

Sin as "blockage." This is Tanner's view. It conceptualizes sin as analogous to the blockage in an artery. As such a blockage stops the flow of lifegiving blood to the body, so sin "is the blocking of the abundant flow of God's gifts, to ourselves and to others."

What do you think? I think that the Laestadian tradition focused on sin in an often counterproductive way, focusing too much on sin as rule-breaking and pride, throwing up unnecessary stumbling blocks for some, while giving a pass to some very destructive behaviors if they were "repented" of for others.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Extoots, the E-Book

Have you ever wanted to take this site with you to the beach, or somewhere you didn't have internet access? Have you ever wanted to be able to search the comments, or by author? Have you ever wanted to print out some or all of this site in a format better suited for paper?

Presenting, Extoots, the E-Book! :-) I've created a PDF e-book version of the entire site, available for immediate download at the following link:

View and/or Download PDF

This PDF is current as of January 12, 2010 10:00AM PDT

For any techies interested in the details, this file was created using WinWGet, EcoByte ReplaceText, and HTMLDOC.

Please direct all questions about this file to Tomte.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Laestadian Films

I'd like to start a list of films that are about Laestadianism in any way. If you know of any, please post them in the comments, and I'll add them to the list.

So far, I only know of these:

Popular Music from Vittula (Populärmusik från Vittula) (2004)
Forbidden Fruit (Kielletty hedelmä) (2009)
The Kautokeino Rebellion (Kautokeino-Opproret) (2009)

Can we add to this list?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I wonder if the birds have names?

If your church, like mine, uses the Revised Common Lectionary, it's very likely that you heard The Parable of the Mustard Seed in church today, either as a scripture reading, or maybe as the text for the sermon:

Mark 4:30-32 (NRSV)


[Jesus] also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."


Our priest gave this "sermon" in the style of a Godly Play script. (Godly Play is the Sunday school curriculum we use for young children). So she called all the childen up to the front, sat down on the floor with them, and opened up a golden box which contained the visual elements of this parable while she told it and asked open ended "wondering" questions about the story.

One of the questions was, "I wonder if the birds have names?" One little boy piped up right away and said, "No, they don't." That got a chuckle out of some of the adults watching, but in Godly Play, unlike Laestadianism, children are not told who God is. An environment is created in which children can discover who God is. Children are encouraged to wonder about the questions posed, without being told "the answer."

I've been wondering too. "I wonder if the birds have names?" I think they do. I think some of their names are cvow, Anonymous, hp3, PS, Tomte, Norah, Free2bme, LLLReader, Stranger in a Strange Land, Sisu, YM, Outtathere, Anonymous, Hibernatus, Older-understanding one, mia from the llc, Anonymous, daisy, Pretzel and many others I have forgotten.

I've also been wondering: I wonder what it means that the birds have names? For me, it means more than I put in a single post, more than I alone can imagine.

But for today, for me, right now, what it especially means is that I'm sorry, PS, for riding you so hard. While we will probably never agree on facts, let alone opinion, I realize that at times I let it get more personal than was appropriate, and I apologize.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reindeer and Fighter Jets

It's not everyday that reindeer, fighter jets, NATO, and the Sami people are all mentioned in the same article. So I couldn't resist passing along this article from the Christian Science Monitor (a source I highly recommend for balanced and thoughtful international news.)

In Sweden's far north, a convergence of fighter jets, reindeer, and hurt feelings

'Lapistan,' where NATO is conducting war games, is fictional. But the exercises are testing real-life relations with the Russians as well as the indigenous Sami people.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Is change inevitable?

Like many readers of this site, when I was growing up there was no such thing as the internet, or the world wide web. The main source of media during that time was television, but like so many Laestadians "of a certain age," in our congregation no television was allowed.

In some branches of Laestadianism, in some congregations, this has changed during the last 10-20 years. Some Laestadians have TVs now, and even some of the ones that still don't have internet access. So I am always interested when a Laestadian church decides to put up a web site. Remembering how the internal politics of these congregations work, I think we can safely assume that if a congregation has a web site, use of the internet is not a major "controversy" within that congregation.

This weekend someone sent me a link to the Apostolic Lutheran Church of Kingston. It's a very nice site design, professionally done. It has an RSS feed, sermon podcasts, the pastor's blog, and the promise of constant updates with new content of interest to the congregation or visitors.

Housed within all that technological newness, however, are the very old ideas that most of us are so familiar with. One page in particular jumped out at me:


In Jerusalem, Israel, in the year 33, the Apostles Church was established upon the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the authority of God, our creator. This was the beginning of our present church.

In Germany, in 1517, Martin Luther fathered the reformation, hence we use Lutheran in our church name.

Within the Lutheran Church of Sweden, in the 1700's and 1800's, the quickening and awakening work of God began to stir the hearts of men. . . By 1845, in the Northern parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway, the Apostle Church experienced a revival by Lars Levi Laestadius.


On one level I fully realize that this capsule history is a cute way of unpacking "Apostolic Lutheran Church" in a few short paragraphs. On the other hand, it also perpetuates an idea that was certainly alive during my youth and lives on today in many fundamentalist protestant denominations --that nothing of any real theological or spiritual relevance has happened in the last 2,000 years.

This understanding of church history would have us believe that Jesus died, the apostles lived, skip ahead to the reformation and Laestadius (or insert your own sects founder's name), and here we are today. It completely hides the wealth of riches to be found in all the myriad and diverse understandings of the faith that have arisen between then and now, as well as the dark and shameful episodes of the tradition we call our own.

Thankfully, we live in an age where information has never been more freely available. It was easy to remain in the dark growing up, but it's much more difficult to control the message today. It's all here for anyone who cares to look.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dealing with real differences; Islam, Christianity, and Laestadianism

I recently read President Obama's speech at Cairo University. It's quite lengthy, but worth reading in full. It really sets a different tone than what I've heard before from any American President when speaking to the Muslim world. Gutsy, to say the least.

Regardless of how successful one thinks this attempt at outreach to the Muslim world will ultimately be, I think the speech can raise some interesting questions about how we on this blog can deal with the real differences between us. There has been a lot of heat lately. I have participated in that heat. Maybe there has been some light too, but I'm much less certain on that score. ;-)

I've excerpted some of the passages that are especially relevant to us below. I hope this post will serve as a jumping off point for further discussion.


So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.



But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.


Growing up Laestadian, it seemed like saying "openly the things we hold in our hearts" was very difficult when those things were things that questioned, or revealed difference. It seems to me like it was encouraged to keep those things very private indeed, in order to avoid offending.

Therein lies some of the problem. How can differences be shared openly without it causing conflict and hatred? How can "a sustained effort to listen" happen when people truly and widely disagree?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Open Thread

Readers, I need to take a bit of a break from the blog. My husband is recovering from an ankle sprain, which sounds minor but boy, does it ever impact our lives, nearly immobilizing him just as my job is requiring 12 hour days. We're making sure the kids get fed, but everything else is sliding.

So I'm stepping out of the dining room, so to speak, but not for long. Save some dessert for me!