by Robert Bugbee
It was 25 years ago this May: our church family came from all over the country to the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Nearly every congregation sent a representative. Nearly every pastor came. It was the organizing convention of Lutheran Church–Canada.
After we had worked in this land for 134 years under our American “mother” church, lay and clergy delegates alike made their way to the front of a big hall in long lines to sign the formal document. Choirs were there from near and far. The singing was infectious. The Winnipeg Free Press ran a front-page story. God gave us a wise leader in the person of President Edwin Lehman. We sang his rousing new hymn, “Forth In the Name of Jesus.” After these memorable days we boarded airplanes, buses and cars and went back home to do our work.
In a land as vast as ours, we’re not all together very often. Perhaps that is one reason our church’s district and synodical conventions bring emotional moments for me. (I don’t just say this because I’m Synod’s president; I’ve always felt that way.) It is a glad blessing to see distant friends again, to sit face-to-face and share the joys and struggles of the Lord’s work with a treasured brother pastor, to hear some of the gifted preachers God has given us. And the group singing always gets to me.
We have no conventions scheduled for the summer of 2013. We will have gatherings, however. These have nothing to do with enacting resolutions or passing budgets, but they are God-given opportunities to be together as His people, to study the Scriptures, to hear the Good News of Christ being preached, to pray, to confess, to see faraway friends, and to be encouraged by new members of Synod’s family you have never met before. And, yes, to sing!
These gatherings are God-given opportunities to be together as His people, to study the Scriptures, to hear the Good News of Christ being preached, to pray, to confess, to see faraway friends, and to be encouraged by new members of Synod’s family you have never met before.
There are two gatherings and they are both coming at the same time, both here in Winnipeg. The LCC National Youth Gathering (NYG) is set for July 5-9. I look forward to leading Bible studies for our youth during those days on the campus of the University of Manitoba.
The world of 2013 is tougher for young Christians than it was in 1988, so the gathering organizers are calling youth together under the theme “Stand Firm!” We don’t plan to just “bark” those words at you young followers of Christ as an order or command; our aim is to bring Jesus to you through the Word during these days, so that He can not only strengthen you to stand firm, but actually give you the heart and will to do it!
I’m anxious to see a lot of youth this summer. Youth, no matter whether your church home is big or small, talk with your pastor or with other leaders in your congregation. Tell them you want to come to Winnipeg in July! Ask them how they can help it happen! Partner up with neighbouring congregations if that’s a better way to get a group together to join me this summer.
During some of those same days, we have another gathering scheduled for grownups just down the street from the youth. This is the Synod’s 25th Anniversary conference, planned together with our friends from Lutheran Hour Ministries under the theme “Reach Out Canada.” As I said before, these aren’t business meetings filled with budgets, debates, and resolutions. They are a time for worship, learning, singing, and prayer, to help you—and your congregation—grow in the task we have of bringing Jesus, Saviour of all, to people who live in our neighbourhoods or are part of our circles of friends.
What a great thing it would be if some local churches would send a good group of both youth and adults to join me for those days! What a unique thing if some youth and their parents would plan on making the trip together! A few times during the weekend, youth and adults will unite in the same spot at the same time for a really large event. That Sunday, we’ll all be together under the same roof to praise God in a festival service marking the 25th Anniversary of LCC’s founding back in 1988. I will treasure the opportunity to preach that morning and be a pastor to you all.
What a great thing it would be if some local churches would send a good group of both youth and adults to join me for those days! What a unique thing if some youth and their parents would plan on making the trip together!
With these lines I’m reaching into your congregation and your home in the hope that you and I may have this time together in July. I’m yearning to see your faces, to hear your stories, to listen and pray and confess together with you. Start making plans to come!
For more information, visit the following websites: Reach Out Canada (roc.lutheranchurch.ca) and the National Youth Gathering (nyg.lutheranyouth.ca). A reminder that early-bird registration for the youth gathering is April 30!
Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee is President of Lutheran Church–Canada.