13 October 2015

Fall Theological Retreat

This week I'm in Dubuque, IA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod's Fall Theological Retreat (#NEIAFTC). This annual event is a highlight of the year for me: I get to spend time with my colleagues in worship, prayer, and reflection; the speakers are usually very good; there's time for recreation; and I generally go home energized for parish ministry (which is good, because 72 hours away from the office generally leaves me with plenty to do when I do return). This year, everything on my list has happened just as one would hope.

Our speaker has been Dr. Mark Allan Powell from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Ohio. He has spoken on stewardship and it's been great. Lots of good stories and, most importantly for me, a re-orientation to how we speak about stewardship (especially helpful at this time of year when many churches are beginning to feel anxiety about meeting financial obligations by December 31st). 

I'm on the Conference Coordinating Team, and this year I've been facilitating worship with my colleague Erika - much fun! We didn't quite do our due diligence prior to the Conference, so some of what we've done has been a bit more seat-of-the-pants than is usually desired, but for the most part it's gone well. 

Our preachers have been excellent. Sunday night, Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson reminded us that there is a cost to what we do, but the cost that really matters is what has already been paid for us by our Lord. Monday morning, Pastor Gary Hedding told a wonderful story about financial stewardship conversations in his first call, one that taught us to be willing to let go for the church in order to give glory to God. Monday night, Bishop Steven Ullestad preached about ordinary saints and the great gift that we are to each other in God's church. This morning, Pastor Judy Converse preached on the commandments and how faithful living is also part of what God desires from God's people: faithful in terms of relationship AND in terms of the material treasures God gives us to steward in this life.

We've broken bread together, tipped drinks together (responsibly), and even recreated together: yesterday afternoon I got to play 18 holes at Lacoma Golf Course in nearby Galena. This afternoon I'll head home with a glad heart for this calling and for the people to whom I'm returning - with a slightly different message on stewardship than the one that was bouncing around my slightly worried heart when I left. 
Worship Panel - presented by Pastor Scott Duffus
Yours truly leading worship with Ruby
Pastor Gary Hedding
Pastor Jenna Couch
Dr. Mark Allan Powell
Worship at Wartburg Theological Seminary Chapel
L: Pastor Erika Kielstrup R: Bishop Steven Ullestad
Bishop Ullestad preaching at Wartburg Seminary
Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson preaching on Sunday night.
Sunday Night Worship - me & Ruby

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