21 July 2012

A Wonderful Visit

Paul Soulek and I were privileged to visit with Pr. Jonathan Schroeder of Faith Lutheran Church just outside Peachtree City, in Georgia in preparation for an upcoming conference. 

Pr. Schroeder's church is simply gorgeous.  It totally achieves a blending of classic church architecture with meeting modern needs.  You walk into the nave and you know you are in the presence of Christ the King, whose image adorns the stained glass above the altar.  The floor of the sanctuary is flagstone and the outside walls of stone also.  A tall bell tower forms the entry way.  A large gathering space pushes the bounds of "Narthex" and communicates right away:  "Glad you're here with us!  Glad together we can go into the house of the Lord!" 

It was exciting to hear from Pr. Schroeder about how liturgical worship done excellently and with integrity has been appealing to the folks in the community and how many who had had no church background at all (bonafide heathen!) had been brought into the Church's sphere of influence through a growing preschool and then brought into the Church itself through patient catechesis and the worship life of the parish.  They now are approaching 500 baptized and still growing.

Pr. Schroeder shared much of this as we feasted on freshly smoked sockeye salmon and downed a fabulously dark German beer or two under a massive oak towards the back of the large property.  I picked up a Bible study that Pr. Schoeder had done on the Supper - it was outstanding in its clarity AND its depth. 

So fancy that:  right  in the heart of Georgia, a WELS parish took root and grew by being intentionally Lutheran.  How sweet is that, I ask you?  I'm glad we'll be visiting the parish again in the near future!


Chris said...

The outside is wonderful. Truly a break from the egregiously bad Lutheran architecture I'm so used to seeing. The inside, however, is so stark and bland and no color. There's not even a crucifix. I'd give a C+ overall.

William Weedon said...

No, the inside pic doesn't do justice to the actual feel of the room. Trust me on this. And I suspect, in any case, they're not done with adorning the nave and chancel!

Richard Stephenson said...

Interesting to see you visiting a WELS congregation. Is there any chance of WELS and the LCMS getting back together?

David Garner said...

Pastor Schroeder is absolutely one of the good guys. A bit too far of a drive from us, and would have exacerbated the problem and awkwardness of "leaving one WELS parish over doctrine while going into another that is in communion with the first." Would that all WELS parishes, and all LCMS for that matter, were like his.

I'm pleased to see you connect with him. I'm convinced there are contingents within the WELS and the LCMS and the ELS that should be in communion with each other. While I don't expect that to happen anytime soon, dialogue and friendships will make it more likely if the time is ever right to bridge those differences. I'd also see parishes like his be more of the norm in the WELS rather than the exception.

Michael L. Anderson, M.D. said...

A bit too far of a drive from us, and would have exacerbated the problem and awkwardness of "leaving one WELS parish over doctrine while going into another that is in communion with the first."

Well, yes. It is a dilemma, all right; but more of an earthly dilemma, than that of the heavenly Banquet kind. This has been the case, ever since Lord Christ revealed the existence of tares communing inside His visible Domain.

The awkwardness with the fellowshipping tares, then, is ours alone. Christ continues to show His mercy to such.

In the Sanctus, we heartily confess with our mouths that we commune with all the saints on earth. I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure that members of this select band don't all formally belong to the WELS ... even as that synod seriously considers the adoption of a lectern Scripture, which unceremoniously tosses the word "saint" from the Christian lexicon.

Please don't understand. I am not advocating "open communion," a travesty of earthly and heavenly dimensions. I do think, however, that among the seven congregations of John's Revelation, there were stark differences. Church Philadelphia was praised, for even with "little strength," it "hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My name (Rev 3:8)." On the other hand, church Thyatira, with all its splendid charities and service to others, was criticized harshly for allowing itself to lend the ear to the spiritual fornications of a "Jezebel" (Rev 2:20-23). Nonetheless, there were Christian folk in Thyatira, to whom the Lord offered strength and promises to persevere (Rev 2:24). Moreover, there were no injunctions to Christians to avoid Philadelphia, because of its catholic connection to Thyatira (the two were mentioned together, in one breath, by the Spirit). The Lord jealously declared both congregations, as being His.

We are too easily seduced by our Donatist sensibilities of outrage at the failings of others, and enamored with our private purities (I do this all too often, while trying to to be entertaining as I wallow in the mud). These are troubled times, where the power of the holy people is weakened, if not broken. Finding a faithful church is difficult (and forget about faithful "synods" or "dioceses" or "patriarchates" or whatever; for that tare problem is pestiferous and universal, perhaps the greater as you ascend the ranks). The layman best seek after that place where the Word and Sacraments are rightly taught and administered; and not settle first on a designer label, for his or her spiritual anxiolysis.

So I rejoice at Fr. Weedon's sterling report, and the pictures! A crucifix would be nice touch, though. Oh sure, we can say we preach Christ crucified; but some of us aging rascals, like the Sardisians who were compared to the once- entombed Lazarus (Rev 3:1), are having troubles with the Organ of Corti. Mammon can pretty things up to the glory of God … let us spoil the Egyptians and make like a Bezaleel, if not a bandit, to do so … but come, come, dear Lutherans ... show us the Bloodied!

Your (unworthy) servant,
Herr Doktor

David Garner said...

Dr. Anderson, you may (or may not) be familiar with our conversion to Orthodoxy. That is long past now, and I didn't write what I wrote to re-hash it, but rather to convey my joy that Pastor Weedon has enjoyed fellowship with a man I consider to be a fine Lutheran Pastor, a man I have heard preach, but a man who crosses jurisdictional boundaries for him. I love the Lutheran Church dearly, and I pray for more of this to occur in the future. That was the long and short of my post. The personal detail was more for Pastor Weedon's benefit, because he and I have discussed these matters apart from this blog.

Having said that, please rest assured, our dilemma was a big greater than merely of this world. My apologies if I left the impression that distance alone was the deciding factor. Again, I don't wish to re-hash that here, since this is Pastor Weedon's blog and out of my great respect for him, I'm not going to use it as a sounding board to voice my grievances. If you'd like to discuss it further, Pastor Weedon can put you in touch with me.

David Garner said...

Er, a "bit" greater. My apologies for my too-hasty typing.

Jon Townsend said...

"Is there a chance of the WELS and LCMS getting back together?"

I for one, don't think it really matters.

Many people I know float between the two based on the "confessionalism" of the congregation - kind of like the synodical conference still exists.
I sometimes go to LCMS congregations, I just don't commune there - even though based on confessional status of the congregations and pastors involved, I can't find a real biblical or confessional reason not to do so.