27 January 2018
The final question we were invited to share before departing for the airport to fly back to the states, was “How has this trip changed me?”
I recall saying that this trip has broadened my understanding of the importance of relationships in ministry.
Like the ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland is wrestling with what the emerging church will look like. However, I did not sense a great deal of despair in the national church of Iceland. Even when we met with students studying theology to be pastors and deacons at the University of Iceland, there was not an overt fear about the future of the church or the availability of employment/call opportunities.
In Iceland there is an interdependence embodied in the people and culture that, despite individual differences, maintains reverence for the dignity of all people. Being a remote island in the north Atlantic meant that mutual support for survival was vital to the well-being of the people.
It didn’t take long for us to see that the people of Iceland can strongly disagreed with the positions and opinions of their neighbors, yet maintain the relationship out of genuine care for the other. This cultural reverence for the dignity and inter-connectedness of people is built into the foundation of the church of Iceland.
In the states, conversations regarding the future of the ELCA is often bleak. As a young person attuned to the voice of the millennial church, I often hear that if we don’t relinquish traditionalism and embrace the emerging social-political ideologies, the church will become obsolete.
However, even those same social-political issues are popping up in Iceland, they are not cause for alarm. Because at the heart of the church is the Gospel, and if Christ’s church is faithfully preaching the gospel, then everything else will fall into place.
This is not to say that we get a free pass to ignore the important social-political issues of the day, but rather it is advocating on keeping our focus and vision on Christ. Loving the Lord our God, and our neighbors as ourselves is what follows when the Gospel of Christ is shared and lived faithfully.
To that end, I hope someday to return to this “holy land” of fire and ice.
God of every time and place, in Christ you are making all things new. Give us courage to trust in your vision, that we might faithfully proclaim your love throughout the world. Broaden our horizons to the infinite ways you encounter us on the journey. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.
In Iceland, we had a particular experience in that we were accompanied and guided by the only cowboy in the country. We went from place to place learning about the church structures, meeting people who's names I can't pronounce, but somehow remember. Everyone seemed so genuine to me, that i felt an instant connection with them. I got to shake a variety of folks' hands, such as: a careful storyteller, a jack of all trades, a modest knitter, a serious informant, a ukulele player ( who also preaches), a world traveler, and a person who shared with us the gospel according to Luke (Skywalker- that is)
We also got to experience the new shifts and turns of the world with the incoming tourists, and the decline in church participation. In the midst of all that, I was amazed how the people were appreciative of what they had, what was in front of them, and not eager to be somewhere else.
In Norway, there was a whole new vibe. We were in the city and a bit in the country, but everywhere you went, there was art. Art that seemed to make no sense, and art that stared right into my soul. we also had the opportunity to go to a concert where I heard the most delightful music. The church structure was a little different here, but it seemed to me like the people who were in ministry were very energetic, and had no complaint about their job and the demands that came with it. I also learned that great pastoral preparations are best done with a trusty cat keeping you company.
All in All, if you were to ask me what I learned about myself on the trip, it's that I can definitely love more, and that real beauty approaches when you stop thinking/worrying/fretting about yourself.
Most of the observations I can make are mostly apples to oranges. It will take me a long time to process and reflect on what the trip was all about.
The title "Naked as we came" was also in direct reference to a park full of statues that we encountered in Norway. Here is one of my favorites!----
26 January 2018
I don't have the words to express what this trip has meant to me. I am aware of the fact that it is honor and privilege to travel this world. This trip is one that I will cherish and ponder for years to come. I am so grateful for the hospitality that was offered to us in both Iceland and Norway and all the hard work that went into planning this trip. It was truly a gift.