Yesterday I went with my parents to St. John's (Bingen) Lutheran Church, located south of Fort Wayne. After the Divine Service (and a wonderful sermon by Pr. Olson) we had lunch in the parish hall.
This lunch was a celebration for new confirmands, new adult confirmands, new members, and those marking special anniversaries of their confirmation - 25 yrs (2 of my cousins, one in attendance) 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 (my mom!) 65, 70 & 75 years.
There were 2 of the 3 surviving members of the 75 year class - they had the highest percentage attending! There were at least 5 from each of the 60, 65 & 70 year classes - there was lots of laughing going on at those tables! I sat with my cousin and her family (which includes her son, my godchild, and her mom, my godmother!) At the end of our table were several members of the 45 year class, I heard them laughing and discussing the ABBA musical "Mama Mia!"
Confirmation is a weird issue to me. I've spent a lot of years explaining it to non-Lutherans who find it confusing. And with every discussion I have about it in Lutheran circles, I find that I understand less about what it is - and that most of what I've always explained to people isn't correct! I'm pretty much left with..."It's a thing my church does."
For all that, it was obvious yesterday in that room that for the 50 or so people gathered in that room, their Confirmation was and is important to them, and my Confirmation was and is important to me.
St. John's (Bingen) is the church where my mother grew up. Her grandparents (or great-grandparents, I'm not sure which..) were members at its founding. I know my grandfather was baptized, confirmed, married and buried there, and that is true for many of my family members. My mother was baptized, confirmed and married there, although she no longer lives in the area, so she isn't a member there. Her two sisters still live within a mile of the church and are still active members.
After the dinner, (as is our custom when we are there) we walked behind the church to the cemetery, and visited my grandparent's grave, and my uncle's and....well, obviously there are a lot of family members there. I've always thought that funerals there are done the very best way. After the service in the church, the procession follows the pall on foot to the gravesite for the committal. That is so much more intimate and comforting than splitting up into separate cars and driving for miles to reach the cemetery. After the final service, smaller groups break apart and wander among the stones, looking and remembering with each other. Then it's a short walk back to the parish hall for the dinner. I don't know of many other churches that have a cemetery "in the back yard." I think it would be great tho, if newer congregations could start to see the opportunity to build that kind of history and community. It certainly doesn't happen overnight, but if you never start, it never happens....
So, those are my ramblings from yesterday.