Sunday, September 20, 2020

Impact - Interpretation - Implementation

What I have experienced over decades is uniquely mine. The impact, interpretation, and implementation of response to these numerous events are uniquely mine. Yet I believe many events are universal.  It is as individuals respond to said events where variety becomes noticeable. 

A portion of seminary education (Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus OH) consisted in the proper understanding of key events and doctrines. The rites of the church and in many ways the rites of passage were to be understood and provided within a set framework. Individual experiences (baptism, confirmation, and communion) were valid and meaningful if understood and practiced within established parameters. There was little room for variance if these were to produce their understood benefits. 

Impact, interpretation, and implementation crept into these aspects of my pastoral life. Baptisms should only be performed at a Sunday worship gathering. Confirmation needed set standards of academic performance (memory work, sermon notes, passing knowledge tests) in order for faith to be validated. Proper understanding of Communion (Jesus is present - in, with, and under the bread and wine {Lutheran words}was vital for proper personal benefit. Anything less was eating and drinking damnation onto one's self. All of these dos and don'ts were challenged in the daily lives of the people with whom I served. Eventually decisions of practice needed to be made, obey the aforementioned rules or serve in ways that exhibited what I believed was the intent of God's grace and commitment to humanity.

Fast forward about 4 decades. Baptism is all about God and God's grace, not the status of parents or sponsors. The couple pictured had their child baptized on a Sunday and as part of worship. The child's sponsor joined via FaceTime. People were mindful of COVID protocols. We laughed about the child either being baptized with a Super Soaker to maintain distance or using hand sanitizer instead of water. Changing times call for creative options! God's steadfast love and grace is the theme of baptism, not the lives of the participants nor the day on which it occurs. 

After a couple of years of meeting on various days and at a variety of times, this teenager took responsibility for his faith at an outdoor gathering. The rural location with hens and llamas, as well as his sponsors, parents, sister, relatives, and friends made for a meaningful occasion.                  

Confirmand and sponsors
The following is what he shared at the ceremony: A big thing we talked about with Pastor Tim was faith. I had always assumed religion and faith were one in the same, but I learned that my faith is something that is specific to me. I also learned that my faith is always developing, and will continue to develop throughout my life. One of the most appealing aspects of growing in my faith was that I can carry it with me throughout my life. Through hard times I can look to my faith to guide me, and I'm ready to start on that path today." No measurements of class attendance, memory work, or Sunday mornings at worship. 

This family lives with faith integrated into daily life. I enjoyed the lively discussion that helped to make what can be so esoteric usable in life.

My role as a pastoral care provider focuses on relationships: relationships with people, relationships between people, and God's relationship interwoven in all aspects of life. The seminary training provided foundational materials. Throughout the decades building on a foundation in order to be creative, flexible, authentic, and free is necessary to find meaning and strength in life. 

I am grateful for the opportunities and relationships that have enhanced my life!

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