This week, I picked up Tim Townsend’s recent book Mission at Nuremberg, which is the story of Henry Gerecke, a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) U.S. Army Chaplain who served in both WWII, and as the chaplain to the 21 Nazi’s who were incarcerated, tried, and executed at Nuremberg. It’s a remarkable story, a story about grace, forgiveness, and humanity, and I’m not even that far in yet! It’s a reminder of the stories that exist across generations and how important they are to be both told and heard.
One of the gifts of the vicar’s role at Saint Paul is the chance to eat lunch with the seniors regularly, to visit with them in their homes, and to share life with them. They are a remarkable group, with many stories, pictures of previous eras here at St. Paul, and lots of good laughs. It’s something that I will be grateful for many years after I have left this place.
This week, we are burying two saints of the church with big stories, one who was relatively new, and another who was a fixture of this place for more than forty years. On Tuesday, we had a funeral for David Frank, who served in both WWII and in an engineering role at Nuremberg. It was a moving service, and served as a reminder those those who were witnesses to a period of history that was marked by never-before-seen tragedy: concentration camps, the use of nuclear weapons, and threats from many sources. This Saturday, we will have another funeral, this time for Randi Carlson, a Norwegian immigrant, who along with her husband Carl joined this place more than 40 years ago. It’s both an honor to be with that generation and such a loss to all of us as they are dying.
I am deeply struck by the impact that they have borne on the identity and life of this community.
When we come to St. Paul, it is a rare community of depth that spans over ninety years, something unheard of anywhere else. It also makes clear one of the challenges of a community that is in the midst of growth, as ours is. It is easy to worship with many that you have never talked to, don’t know their names or their stories, simply because they differ from us in some way. And in our culture, it’s a particular challenge to move from personal and private religion, to the hard work of being in a community with others. When I was in college, I served as president of Lutheran Campus Ministry at Ohio State, and one of the things that I struggled with, even as an extrovert was making myself open to meeting and developing deep relationships with new people, because it was uncomfortable.
It’s not easy, I know that.
But these relationships, between the young and old, between families, are how our faith is transmitted and how God’s presence through the Holy Spirit is made known among us. When we are struggling, doubting, or falling away, it is these people who believe on our behalves, who pray on our behalf, and who represent God in our midst.
One of the things that I have been working on this year is developing spaces for faith outside of worship: in the home, between generations, and amongst our young folks. It’s what my project is focused on, so keep an eye out for more information as we move into the Spring.
All that being said: my challenge to you this week is to find someone after worship that’s of a different generation than you: if you’re young, someone older, or vice versa. Stay for coffee hour, ask them whom they are, where they are from, why they’re here, and get to know each other. They might be new, they might be long time members, but I’m guessing you’ll be surprised by the conversation.
Another great option is to sign up for the Gather Groups coming this spring. Sign up sheets can be found in the Narthex or by contacting Ross or Taryn Walsh.
Who knows? Maybe it will be the most important thing you’ve done so far this year.