By Pastor Peter Hanson
For nearly sixty years, Christ the King Lutheran Church has been actively involved in nurturing the faith of people both within our congregation and in the wider community around us. As our Value Statement suggests, this congregation prepares folks of all ages to “live out their evolving faith in everyday life.” Such nurturing includes discovering one another’s spiritual needs, supporting one another in our lives of discipleship, listening to each other with care, and praying for one another with intention.
For many of us, this nurturing faith that we share has come to us in large part through the example of those who have gone before us—our elders in the faith. Many of us can think of role models (whether here at CtK or elsewhere) who have faithfully taught us, patiently demonstrated for us, gently nudged us, and even lovingly corrected us in our own faith development. One such role model for me was CtK member Ted Kalkwarf.
Ted was an ELCA pastor who joined CtK after his retirement. He remained committed to both lifelong faith formation and lifelong service. He never stopped reading, never stopped taking notes whether in the margins of the books or on the edges of bulletins. Ted was a particularly supportive elder in ministry to me, encouraging me in my pastoral role without meddling at all, affirming some of the tougher decisions I’ve made, while also offering constructive criticism to my preaching and teaching, all in a manner that was so gently and appropriately offered that it was so very welcome. His faith nurtured mine. He did for me what so many the founding generation continue to do for others here at CtK: they offer hope and encouragement to our faith.
Of course, the methods for this have changed, evolved, and transformed over the years. This seemed particularly evident this past year or so, as many of our tried and true patterns of faith formation either moved outdoors, pivoted to online platforms, or required entirely new levels of creativity and innovation. To the casual observer, Sunday school, confirmation, and even adult ed don’t look anything like they used to pre-pandemic. Despite these changes big and small, though, the underlying value of nurturing faith has remained the same. Committed to Christ and his teachings, CtK claims as part of its tradition inspiring generation after generation to find faithful ways to put their Christian discipleship into practice.
Lutheran theologian Jarislav Pelikan famously observed that “tradition is the living faith of the dead,” while “traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” As we seek to nurture faith in one another, may we draw on best of the tradition of the elders, nurturing a faith that is living still, in spite of chaos, challenge, and change. And may we learn to let go of those things that, no matter how familiar they may feel, no longer truly support the underlying value of nurturing a deeply-rooted faith in a rapidly changing world.