By Pete Schrank
Summer time is when we pack up the car or jump on a plane for the family vacation. Some of us get to travel for business, or are retired and working on our travel bucket list. Most people long for those adventures to faraway places. Travel allows us to see that the rest of the world is not like America. Travel for religious reasons is something many Christians yearn to do. This can deepen our faith and allow us to behold those location where Jesus’ life of sacrifice was lived.
For Lutheran’s there are a number of other special places to travel. As we near the 500th anniversary of the reformation, travel to Wittenberg might be in order. The life and locations of Martin Luther’s journey from humble monk to world order agent of change is compelling.
However Oberammergau, a small village in Bavaria, Germany, provides a unique opportunity to see how Lutherans have been honoring our Lord’s Passion since 1634. In 1633 as bubonic plague swept through parts of Germany, the residents of Oberammergau promised if the town was spared, they would produce a play about the life and death Jesus. The death rate in Oberammergau was 240 times less than the surrounding area so the villagers kept this pledge. A collective promise made to the almighty God can yield powerful results.
The Oberammergau Passion Play is performed every 10 years. 102 performances have been held with only 2- 1920 and 1940- cancelled due to war. The next scheduled performance will be 2020. The production involves 2,000 performers, musicians, and stage technicians. The passion play is 16 acts long, and runs for five hours which includes a meal break. The play is preformed in German but there are English programs to lead you through the performance. I have been told the passion play is visually stunning.
The village of Oberammergau, is committed to honor the most important part of the New Testament: the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This dedication should be inspiring to all Christians around the world. As we struggle to find what our faith means to us each and every day, let us remember that small village in Bavaria.
By Barb Mazarakos
Frankenmuth, Michigan has long been known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria”. Set about 300 miles from Christ Lutheran, Frankenmuth is a town known for having the World’s Largest CHRISTmas Store and delicious chicken dinners. But it also is a town with deep religious ties that are evident throughout the area, and one we look forward to visiting every year.
The town of Frankenmuth is an idea that came from German missionary Frederick Wyneken while he was working in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan in 1840. Realizing the lack of schools, churches, and pastors for the German pioneers in that area he made a plea to the Lutherans of Germany for help. A country pastor by the name of Wilhelm Loehe felt called to respond and organized a missionary society to come over which is still active today. With the help of Pastor Loehe and Pastor August Craemer (who was chosen to be the mission pastor and leader), Frankenmuth grew as families and friends of the original settlers came over and cleared land to build their own homes.
Among the first things built was St Lorenz (pronounced like the man’s name Lawrence) Lutheran Church, which remains an active congregation today. Churches in three towns near the original settlers’ hometowns carried the same name, so the name was chosen to remind those who had moved of their homeland. St Lorenz became not only a place of worship for the settlers, but a “church-school-parsonage” which was dedicated on Christmas Day 1846 and served as one of 14 charter congregations of the LCMS as well as a participant in its worldwide mission program. St Lorenz continues to have regular worship services (including one in German at 11am on the second Sunday of each month), multiple Bible studies, and a laundry list of additional activities. You can also take a self-guided tour to see the church for yourself (and I highly recommend you do if you are in the area).
Another must-see while in Frankenmuth is the Silent Night Memorial Chapel at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, which was modeled after the original Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf, Austria where “Silent Night” was first sung on Christmas Eve 1818. As the story goes, the little church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf had a broken organ which wouldn’t be fixed before Christmas. After seeing a Christmas play in a private home, assistant pastor Josef Mohr was feeling meditative, and wrote a poem about the angels announcing the birth of Christ. He thought it might make a good hymn to sing at Christmas service the next day, but the broken organ was an issue. Bringing the poem to church organist Franz Xaver Gruber to get help with the music, Mohr hoped they could find a way to make his words into song. By that evening, a guitar rendition of “Silent Night” was composed, and the broken organ was no longer a concern (at least for the moment). Nearly 50 years later the song originally sung in German was translated into English. Today, more than 300 translations exist, and the first verse of many of these can be found on the grounds of the chapel replica in Frankenmuth.
Of course no trip to the area would be complete without a stop at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. A store on grounds covering 27 decorated acres (yep- Christmas decorations all year!), Bronner’s was the dream of founder Wally Bronner, who wanted to keep his focus on Christ while “decorating hearts with peace and love.” While at Bronner’s be sure to wear comfy shoes and get ready to peruse the thousands of ornaments, gifts and trimmings the store has to offer for every style and budget. Whether looking to add to your collection of personalized ornaments (they add some new ones each year) or your holiday decorations, Bronner’s has what you need 351 days a year (they close for New Year’s Day, Easter, U.S. Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as from noon-3pm Good Friday). With nativity settings, beautiful collectibles, and Christmas music playing throughout the store it is easy to get lost in the cheer of the holidays, even in the middle of summer. And while there are plenty of secular decorations to choose from (cookie ornaments or a Griswold glass collection, anyone?) there is never any doubt that Jesus is the Reason for the Season every day at Bronner’s.
The next time you are heading up through Michigan, consider a trip through Frankenmuth. Pick up some new ornaments at Bronner’s, take time to enjoy the peace of the Silent Night Memorial Chapel, and head over to see the beauty of St. Lorenz before unwinding over chicken and schnitzel with your family at Zehnder’s. This trip has become a tradition we now share with my kids AND my dad. And the memories are priceless
By Heather Green
“I am with you. I will watch over you everywhere you go. And I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)
In this issue of the newsletter we focused on travel- worshiping while travelling and religious travel destinations. Many of us, especially those of us who are teachers or who have school-aged children, look forward to summer because it means family vacations and times for relaxation. But as much as we anticipate vacations and summer, it’s inevitable that summer ends (again, too quickly for some of us).
August means anticipating different things, such as donating items for the Rummage Sale and preparing for a new school year. Stores are prominently featuring “Back-to-School” displays and sales with school supplies and fall clothing. Some stores are even preparing for Christmas (which is only five months away, according to the news this morning, although Hobby Lobby has had their Christmas items on display since June 1st). Sometimes, after the anticipation of summer and the excitement of a vacation, returning home can feel disappointing. It means returning to reality – catching up on laundry from vacation, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping – and any problems you escaped from while you were away.
However, these routine activities are also comforting. They are comforting because they are familiar. Maybe meeting friends for coffee or a book club. Seeing the same faces in the same pews every Sunday at Church. Preparing for school, whether you are a teacher or have school-aged children. There is a certain amount of excitement in being at home.
If you find yourself feeling disappointed, bored, or overwhelmed after a vacation or the summer, there are many things you can do to add some excitement to being home and back to a routine. Call a relative or friend you haven’t spoken with in a while. Join one of the Choirs or Adult Bible Study groups at Church. Volunteer to be an Usher, Greeter, or Lector. Or attend a service at a different time on Sunday. Most importantly remember that God is always there for you.
By Barb Mazarakos
Oh boy. Talk about a daunting assignment to write on. What does a Pastor do? I suppose I could provide you with a list of Pastor Ray’s current duties, but honestly? It wears me out just to read it. I could tell you how he makes hospital and homebound visits and checks in with those who have had a variety of procedures, taking time to pray with them and ask after them for days, weeks, and even months after procedures, offering up prayers not only with those who have gone through the event but their family members as well. Anyone who serves on a committee in this church knows that Pastor is often sitting in on at least part of a meeting (because he usually has to go to one of the previously mentioned hospital visits) and works closely with Christian Education, Trustees, OWLS, Ladies Aid, Stephen Ministry, Acolytes, Crucifers, and Stewardship among many others. And of course we know that he meets with those planning weddings, baptisms, and funerals before celebrating those services with us.
Of course then there are the smaller meetings with Cub Scout and Boy Scout families who are working on their religious education emblems (count mine among those!); weekly sermon prep; meeting with staff members including the Director of Music, office staff, visiting clergy, and coordinating Lay Eucharistic Ministers; facilitating book club; guiding curriculum for 7th and 8th grade Confirmation classes; teaching remedial Confirmation lessons to a small number of new students each year; meeting with potential First Fruits recipients; District meetings and responsibilities; and developing and coordinating mission projects for the church, like our involvement with St. Matthew’s soup kitchen. What’s that they say about Pastor’s only working on Sundays?
Well look at that- it seems I have given you a list after all. Well, a partial list anyway. Because the job of a Pastor is so much bigger than this. In addition to dozens of other tasks they do on a regular basis, a Pastor represents his flock. He tells the Good News of the Bible to those he meets. He prays for us both in church and in the quiet moments he can squeeze into his day. He brings comfort to those who are sick or scared or weary. Even when some days HE is the one who is sick or scared or weary. A pastor is called by God but we also need to remember that he is human. So please pray for all of our pastors, particularly for Pastor Ray, Pastor Walt, and those who minister to our Christ Lutheran family. Pray they stay strong and healthy. Pray that they get the help they need to serve their congregation and the rest to be able to continue their ministry. And pray that they continue to hear God’s Word. Because more than anything, THAT is what a pastor does for us.
I am writing to encourage vacations to be faithful pilgrimages. While trips to the Holy Land or Luther-land are “meet, right and salutary,” that’s not what I currently have in mind. Instead of making a vacation a vacation away from God’s house, trips can be a pilgrimage of faith as worship is intentionally planned into the itinerary.
This takes some forethought, but the worship schedule information that is available on the internet makes the process much more attainable. We have learned a few things in this regard. First, be sure to find the summer worship time information if you are traveling at this time of year. Second, don’t be afraid to broaden your ecumenical horizons and attend a non-Lutheran service. Finally, be ready for the prompting and moving of the Holy Spirit in some remarkable ways….
Like the time Jo Ann and I incorporated a Prime service (not Amazon but very early morning service) at Eli Cathedral near Cambridge, England. I was drawn to this World War II allied-flier landmark by the practice of Jo Ann’s father to attend the Easter-time exorcism service that was held there years ago. Jo Ann wanted to do a brass rubbing; she did and it adorns our living room. Anyway, we found our fellow early morning worshipers to be an especially reverent group of Eli villagers. After that service in the chapel, I spoke with the cantor. He asked if we intended to tour the cathedral. We said that we would return in 90 minutes when it opened. No need, he said, I’ll turn the lights on for you and invited us to walk through. But there is more. Sitting in the center worship area for prayer, we heard a door unlock and a man with a briefcase bid us “Good Day” as he walked by. The next sound we heard was that of the bellows of the great organ filling. The main organist had come to practice! Our walk through was heavenly and lengthy. Remember that Jo Ann wanted a brass rubbing? Finally the tourist area and book shop opened and we approached to complete our artistic task. I told the ticket taker that I wanted to pay admittance. She asked if we had worshiped that morning and when I told her we had, she refused to charge us entrance. After we completed the rubbing, I noticed the CDs picturing the acclaimed organist we’d shared a “Good Morning” with earlier.
One more… when we traveled to Ireland through the generosity of the faithful of Christ Lutheran and their ministry anniversary gift, Jo Ann wanted to attend the Evensong Service on Sunday afternoon at St. Patrick’s in Dublin. I have to admit that the walk from the Guinness Storehouse tour was longer than anticipated, so we arrived just 10 minutes before the start. The cathedral was full of tourists with a wait to get in, but when I told the attendant that we were there to worship, she smiled widely and ushered us, ushered us to our pew. As it turned out she was the liturgical marshal for the service itself and later told me that Bono loved to sing Evensong when he was there.
I have mentioned these stories to other pilgrim travelers and they have recounted similar worship experiences. As great as these cathedrals may be, they are simply places of worship to the Triune God who calls people to His grace and mercy and draws them together from the ends of the earth to worship Him as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Your fellow pilgrim,