Sunday, July 22, 2007
The past two weeks have taken me from a wet and cramped tent in a Northwoods Boy Scout camp to a spartan 50's dorm room at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, with a brief interlude at home between these events to weed the garden, mow the lawn, pack my bags, write and preach a sermon, lead worship, attend a voter's meeting (where we agreed to adopt the Lutheran Service Book - hurray!), and then race to the airport in Green Bay. Thoroughly exhausting, but well worth it.
The Writing for the Church Workshop that I attended this week in St. Louis exceeded my expectations. The CPH editors who led the session this week (Rev. Ed Engelbrecht and Dr. Rodney Rathmann) provided a first-rate experience for this budding writer. After many years of countless conventions and conferences that tried my patience and wore out my endurance through tedium, this week was a refreshing relief. Engaged from beginning to end, I can't think of a moment when the workshop did not feel productive. From the very beginning we learned to write professionally and confessionally. An exercise in Law-Gospel distinctions set the theological tone for church writing at the start of the workshop, and as a pastor long trained in this art, I found myself still learning. Apparently Luther and Walther were right. This is art learned and relearned over a lifetime.
The editors worked hard throughout the week editing our attempts to write, and their feedback alone was worth the time there. Considering the overuse of "to be" verbs and an oftentimes overabundance of adjectives and adverbs may seem almost overly elementary, but the review was much needed. It's easy to get 'sloppy' in the spoken and written word. And it is difficult to realize that these bad habits stand in the way of effective communication. Suddenly writing a simple 250 word devotion with proper Law-Gospel balance and a clear line of thought was harder than it first appeared. Writing is work, if you are serious about doing it well.
It will take time to process the lessons learned these past several days. However, I am excited to apply them in future projects, maybe some destined for real publication. We'll see where the Lord leads.
The Concordia Seminary campus in St. Louis was a delightful place to spend a week writing. I had been on campus only once before in 2004 during the LCMS convention that year, and I didn't really get to see a lot. Now I walked everywhere. With a cheap disposable Kodak I snapped several pictures, careful to capture the fascinating details in the building facades and richly detailed stained glass. Trying to find an image my son could relate to, I told him it reminded me of the Hogwarts school in the Harry Potter movies. Although built a mere 70 or so years ago, it looked downright medieval. By the way, my special thanks to Sam for the great tour, especially the trip to the tower during the thunderstorm!
During our stay in St. Louis we also had the chance to visit Historic Trinity Lutheran Church, the "mother church" of the 19th century Saxons where the esteemed C.F.W. Walther once pastored. Ascending his pulpit I wondered if I might feel a sense of the great church leader. Well, there was no special feeling, but I got a picture of me in the pulpit! Trinity member Dennis Rathert led a fascinating tour, which was also very informative regarding early LCMS history. If you ever get to the church they have a booklet on the church's architecture and history for $5 that is worth the cost.
It is going to be hard now to catch up with everything I put on hold the last two weeks. Especially since I will be taking off to go west on vacation the week after this. So, time to get to work again at my 'day job.'