During the summer, I took a two-week nostalgic trip to the Midwest visiting the places of my birth and childhood.
It became possible for me because my daughter, Karen, knowing my wish to visit my “roots,” had said earlier she would be willing to drive her “old” dad (81, going pretty well on 82) on this memory venture.
Karen is a public elementary school principal, member of the church council of First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tacoma and member of our Southwestern Washington WordAlone Chapter board; therefore, she maintains a continuing interest in the Lutheran church and its history as well as a fondness for knowing more about her family heritage.
Our first stop was the farm in Hayward, Minn., where my great-grandfather, an immigrant from Gran Hadeland, Norway, homesteaded and purchased railroad land in 1865. He became a devoted member, with his wife and 10 children, of the Hayward Lutheran Church. He served as church treasurer for 30 years.
After visiting the farm in Hayward, we proceeded to the home of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, the town where I was born. I was baptized at First Lutheran Church there in 1927. First Lutheran was built and dedicated in 1874. Originally known as Decorah Lutheran, founded in 1863, its history is interwoven with that of Luther College. Both First and Decorah Lutheran churches are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
It was quite emotional for Karen and me to stand in the old sanctuary and think on that day when my dad and mom carried me up to the original baptismal font 81 years ago to become a member of God’s family, baptized in the name of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As we looked up to a beautiful portrait of our Savior holding the “lost lamb,” we could only stand in awe of the boundless love and grace of God who seeks the lost until found.
We traveled on to Blair, Neb., where following graduation from Luther College, my dad became a professor of Danish at Dana College. My early school days (grades 1 through 5) were spent in Blair in the rich presence of and in daily association with the Dana college professors and those Danish Lutheran theologians who taught at Trinity Seminary.
From Dana our family moved in 1938 to Pacific Lutheran College in Parkland, Wash., where my dad joined the staff as a field agent and fund-raiser.
My daughter, Karen, God bless her, with her audiovisual camera recorded my entire adventure in personal reminiscence and family history for the grandchildren and now great-grandchildren.
Knowing as you do, that Lutheran doctrine, theology and good works are not the way to heaven, but faith alone is, His promise, I do want my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to know that their family heritage in Lutheran history and tradition is “solid ground” for believing and knowing that Christ and His Word alone are the answers for eternal life and living each day.
This foregoing preamble on my travels of nostalgic remembrance and appreciation for my Lutheran Midwestern roots is written mainly for the purpose of establishing the rationale for my own continuing involvement as a Lutheran layman in working actively and assertively with others who--as I--watch with concern and regret the continuing loss of churches and individual church membership from the rosters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
For the sake of the future of our church, firmly established, solidly instituted and constituted on Biblical principles, I believe the current leadership of the ELCA must earnestly ask itself:
As an active and involved Lutheran layman all my life, I pray and ask that our ELCA leaders recommit themselves to the authority of the Scriptures as the holy, inspired Word of God; to our Lutheran Confessions; to the “Book of Concord;” to the requirements of pastors and ministers as written and adopted in Vision and Expectations for Ordained Ministers; and to the historic and traditional stance of the Lutheran church as adopted in the confession of faith in the constitution of the ELCA.