"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: January 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Come With Us to Pajala

Okay, I can't afford it either. But that's what credit is for, and life is short, and this is an opportunity that may not come around again. When will you get to visit "the place where it all started" with others who share your heritage and the reknowned Bengt Pohjanen as tour guide? Never. Unless you come with us this summer. So far, three of us are intending to make the trip. Please consider joining us.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Laestadianism and Sami Culture

I recently had an email exchange with Nathan Muus of BÁIKI, The International Sámi Journal, and he gave me permission to post the following:
Yes my friend grew up in, and still is involved in the Firstborn . . . some of my ancestors participated in "like minded" religious movements in the 19th century in Norway. Home meetings, lay pastors, singing hymns with a one string instrument, suspicion of the Swedish/Norwegian state church and not wanting to pledge allegience to the king- the Laestedian movement was one of a number of such movements, not alone. People forget that.

However, the Laestedian movement was Sami led, and there are a number of "positives" to the movement at the time. Some of them are reflected in the Kautokeino revolt, which was Laestedian led also. Sami men were going to the city markets with a year worth of hides, crafts, goods to sell/trade. They were returning back to camp with nothing, no money, drunk..so is said. They were sold alcohol and cheated, taken advantage of. Sami languages were considered worthless, so was Finnish somewhat, by the way. The state church service was in Swedish, or Norwegian, with Latin flourishes. Laestedius deemed that Sami and Finnish were worthy languages to preach in. He deemed that simple was good, hence many people in a village dressing alike in traditional Sami clothing was ok. A simple Sami home or tent, not extravegantly adorned, was normal and was uplifted. I can understand why the movement had such a pull. The Sami traditional spiritual world had been battered for some centuries. This movement gave people an outlet.

I continue to be saddened that denial of Sami cultural heritage/identity today is still there. And I do know it is there. Yet some of the same people will often in their own ways, keep their Sami spirit and identity. I do not for a minute believe academically or otherwise, that traditional Sami spiritual beliefs and practices all were wiped out and went away. Evidence points otherwise to that. However, perhaps some people cannot reconcile the two religious worldviews well, hence continuing denial.

Popular misconceptions do not help either, ie."witches drum"; since when were those using a Sami drum a European style witch? The colonizers had many things wrong. Unfortunately some/a lot of that got transmitted into the various Lutheran church movements also. It's up to all of us to help sort it out. Blessings on your journey! Nathan

You may want to read this fascinating exploration of the impact of Laestadianism on Sami culture. (Among other things, it includes details about "Lapp Mary" that are new to me.)

Does Laestadianism keep Sami culture alive in some way? If so, how?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Laestadius, the Musical (I kid you not)

Wait no longer, music-loving Laestadians (current and former alike). There is now a musical, or "uupera"about our man Lars Levi. It is written by Bengt Pohjanen, who has extended a personal invitation to extoot readers:
"I have just written a libretto for a musical or folkopera about Laestadius. It will be performed on that place i Kengis (south of Pajala) where Laestadius worked. The famous composer, Kaj Chydenius i Helsinki, will compose the music. So I think that this event could be of interest for many in Ex-toots."

Ok, I'm going! "Stranger in a Strange Land" will be there, too. We'll probably aim for a show the last weekend of June.

Give it some thought . . . and if you'll be my translator, I'll buy your theatre ticket.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What is the OALC?

I've closed comments on the previous thread so we can focus our attention on one topic for awhile. It seemed best to choose a Laestadian-related topic (hang in there, philosophers, your time will come). I implore all of you to be respectful and deal with specifics, not generalities, To start things off, here is a history of the OALC that "LLReader" has been supplying.

(If you have an unanswered question from the previous thread, please post it again.)

From "A Godly Heritage" (written by six theologians, historians, and such, along with two pastors of Apostolic Lutheran Churches):

The OALC was founded in 1903 in Calumet and has stayed separate from the other groups since then. There have been no major spits in this group, and the Heidemen, ALC, and all the other splinter groups have nothing to do with the OALC, since they split off in 1903. It's the biggest Apostolic group -- having around 10,000 members.
The OALC book ("History of Living Christianity" written by a committee of OALC members in 1974) says that Andrew Brenner, a Finn from Hammerfest, Norway was the first in the US to preach the true word. He arrived in Calumet around 1867. He sent a ticket to his friend Solomen Korteniemi to come help spread the word -- big trouble followed! In 1872 the first Apostolic congregation was formed, called the Solomon Korteniemi Lutheran Society.

There was so much fighting going on that the Elders sent Henry Parkajoki and Aapo Tapani to Calumet to calm things down. Arguing increased, so in 1877 John Takkinen and Frans Niska from Oulu, Finland were sent. Takkinen was a force to be reckoned with, it was said he ruled with an iron hand, just as Korteniemi was doing. Both had fiery tempers and from what I can understand, much of the dissension in the Apostolic congregation was as much a result of these two personalities as anything else.

Takkinen's side accused Korteniemi of drinking and spreading lies. In 1879 the church name was changed from "Solomon Korteniemi Lutheran Society" to "Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Congregation". Takkinen became part of a publishing company around 1880, and produced an Aapinen in which the words "descended into hell in Gethsemane" were inserted. That made people mad, saying things like, "Who does he think he is? Even Luther hadn't changed any words in the Apostles Creed." (I understand that today the only group that uses the altered creed is the OALC in America. It isn't used in Finland.)

The Elders continued to send other preachers to try to reconcile the Apostolics. Some of the preachers who were sent were Henry Berg, John Mullo, Peter Stolberg, Eliel Juola, and John Rovanpaa. These men were all considered by Takkinen's followers as false teachers. Takkinen was voted out of the Apostolic Lutheran Church on Pine Street. He and his group built a new church in 1892 and called it the "Finnish Laestadian Lutheran Sunday School and Mission Society". John Raattamaa was still the leader of the Apostolics in Scandinavia. He wrote to Takkinen and advised him to change the name to the Old Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Congregation (later tweaked to Old Apostolic Lutheran Church)---and tra-la the OALC was born.)

Under Takkinen's leadership the services were simplified. They quit standing for the Apostles Creed and kneeling during the general confession of sins, which had been done by the congregation in unison. Organs were no longer used, and taking oaths and making the sign of the cross at baptisms was eliminated. An alter railing was added for communion. The ministers didn't wear vestments. The service usually was two hours long, with hymn singing and mostly preaching.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Getting Philosophical

Thanks to our anonymous Spinoza / Einstein quoter (please send me an email, by the way, I have a question for you), here is a new topic in the heavyweight category. Enjoy or ignore, as you please. Don't feel obligated to comment on topic, but if you have wrestled these guys, please share your experience. (And if you enjoy this kind of thing, check out this interesting review of a book about religion by an atheist.

Our quoter's post:
"Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?"

And, Einstein replied to a man asking him whether he believed in the God of Spinoza:

"I can't answer with a simple yes or no. I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but admire even more his contributions to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and the body as one, not two separate things."


"Baruch Spinoza was a 17th century Dutch philosopher of Jewish heritage whose major work entitled Ethics that began with words, "By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite — that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality." Spinoza later continued, "Whatever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived."

Einstein first discovered Spinoza while working in the Bern patent office and, throughout the rest of his life, he referred to Spinoza's guiding determinism in which nature operates according to immutable laws of cause and effect. When asked by a rabbi from New York in 1929 if he believed in God, Einstein sent this message by telegram: "I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

How to Plan Your Funeral

Do you have a funeral plan? Do you think it would help your loved ones if they knew your preferences?

Marian's death has inspired me to think about these things. While not legally binding, a funeral plan might be helpful to my loved ones when I am whisked away. If nothing else, it will leave them no doubts as to my preferences, even if they choose to disregard them.

This website offers assistance.

For starters, I'd prefer to have my body donated to science and then cremated, with the ashes dispersed in some location near a big rock or tree stump, on which the kids can sit and reflect on our life together. The woods, the lake, the shore, the mountain, the San Juans . . . all good. If they like, they can plant a tree to remind them of the web of life in which we are all suspended (our family's penchant for commemorative planting has overwhelmed our city lot, so they would need to find another bit of earth).

Family viewing is okay, but I do not want my body and its "state of grace" (actually said by some to be discernable in one's final facial expression, no kidding) to be objects of curiousity and gossip in a church I didn't attend. This could conceivably come to pass if my husband were to die with me. I would hope better sense would prevail.

Our kids are not old enough to plan it, but a "celebration of life" is what I would want for their sake, among people who know and love us. With flowers -- peonies if they are in season, but anything fragrant will do -- and music. Lots of music, of all kinds, preferably live. Bizet's "Au Fond du Temple Saint" and "I'll Fly Away" (by Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch).

And you?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Seek First to Understand

Cvow, thank you for your last post (below), which brought tears to my eyes. May your words go far and deep:

"If someone is finding what they need in their life in any church -- whether it is OALC, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, in the stillness of their own heart, or wherever, then that is the right thing for them to follow. We do not know what is in any other person's heart, and to use the broad brush of accusation against any group is simply wrong. God does know what is in the heart, and I fervently believe that if a person is striving toward salvation, believing in the redemption of Christ, then that person will not be lost. Christ will not allow even one sheep to be lost!

In no way do I condemn the OALC or the people in it. I personally have issues with some of the teachings and chose to leave to walk a different path. I am happy that most of my old friends in the OALC are still my old friends, and I value their companionship. Those that judge me ill were never my friends anyway, so I forgive them their misunderstanding and dismiss them.

To take the personal path a step further, while I personally am a firmly believing Christian and Roman Catholic, I doubt that a person of Jewish faith, or Hindu faith, or any other non-Christian body is not just fine and acceptable in the eyes of God. I have a collection of writings in the Bible that I believe in; they have other books and words that define their laws and beliefs. After all, Jesus was not a Christian -- he was a Jew, whether people like it or not. His law was the Torah, and while the New Testament he gave us adds to it, we have not abandoned the Old Testament.

None of us are perfect, nor can we ever be perfect. I was certainly not perfect while in the OALC, and I certainly am not perfect now as a Roman Catholic. What I am and always have been is a seeker of truth. We are all pilgrims on a journey, seeking truth and salvation in the way that is granted us by our Father in heaven. If God deems to make some understand in a different way than others, who are we to doubt that he knows not what he does?

Having participated in this and other forums for quite some time now, I come to realize that those of us who have left the OALC or one of the other Laestadian churches often did so under difficult circumstances -- conditions that did not bespeak of Christian love and forebearance, but rather of hurt and shame and ill feelings that manifest as strongly as hate in some cases. I also come to realize that many who have stayed in the mother churches often have viewed those partings with as much or more anguish as we sojourners. We are people, and as such there times when the emotion is overwhelming and hurtful words and actions happen. Would that we could always and forever eschew that sort of bad behavior, but we cannot -- and ultimately it can be through those honest explosions of sentiment that healing takes place, as long as we recognize what is happening and seek to make something good out of it.

If we chastise without thought, if we speak without care, if we even deem to discuss issues as critical as these without prayer, then surely we are foolish and irresponsible children and rightfully deserve nothing. If we on the other hand seek to understand, seek to comfort, seek to love, seek to aid, seek to help each other in every way and in every day that we can, then surely we are doing God's work.

The walk is not meant to be easy, Friends, but I am blessed and thank God I have all of you with me on the way. Peace be with you all."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Welcome OALCers

This post by MTH deserves to be front and center:

"I would like to speak to the active oalcers: Thank you for coming. We appreciate the opportunity to engage with you, as it is beneficial to us in ways you may never know. Not many oalcers are willing to do that. And should you subsequently feel guilt for coming (as we know this is preached against), I for one forgive you in advance and will even take the liberty of speaking for the blog in this respect. Thank you for expressing yourselves.
You see, you are still a large part of our lives. We define ourselves, to a large degree, in opposition to you. Even this blog would not exist without you. I for one am grateful for my childhood in the oalc as it has forced me to define who I AM. Without that background, I probably would have taken the easy road and never done the painful inner work of finding out who and what God and the Christ are, what they are to me, and WHO I AM. Thank you and many blessings to you. Many Trails Home"

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tribute to Marian

Following is the article from The Reflector. What an incredible tribute.

I can't imagine how the response to her death -- and in particular this article -- are being received in the OALC. I know many of you coming to this site are searching for information about Marian.

May there be an increase in understanding and hope. May each of us be inspired to love unconditionally.

Thousands remember Marian Halberg
Literally thousands of people gathered at two services last week to remember the life of Marian Halberg who died in an auto accident Dec. 21 on Risto Rd. southeast of Battle Ground.

An estimated 2,500 people attended a Dec. 27 service held at the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church north of Battle Ground.
Then more than 500 people filled the Brush Prairie Baptist Church Dec. 28 where Halberg’s life was traced by four ministers and the testimony of those attending.

The Brush Prairie Baptist service included several of what were described as Halberg’s favorite hymns, with her nephew Matt Niska singing How Great Thou Art, another nephew, Jervon Niska, playing a piano solo, songs by the Kinnunen Sisters, and two hymns performed by the Vancouver Apostolic Choir led by Pastor Nathan Juntunen.

Clark County Chaplain Landis Epp traced Halberg’s life. Marian Elaine (Niska) Halberg, 55, was born July 14, 1951, in Minneapolis, MN, grew up in Montrose, MN, and was in charge of twice-daily cow milking through her high school years. She graduated from Buffalo High School in 1969 where she was chosen homecoming queen. She was involved in National Honor Society, student council and girls’ state. Family members described Halberg as “a natural born leader, a person with distinct views and defended them passionately,” said Epp.

The latter comment drew applause, as did other moments in the 2 1/2 hour ceremony.

Halberg worked as a nurse’s aid. She traveled to Europe in 1970. She married Art Halberg in 1971 and moved to Battle Ground. The Halbergs had 16 children, including infant son Luke who died in 1980. Halberg was a members of a TOPS club. She volunteered in schools. She was a member of the Vancouver Apostolic Choir. She hosted a Women’s Bible Study in her home. She ministered to women at the Legacy of Life Home. She orchestrated high school baccalaureate programs for several years. Halberg was a member of the Grace Bible Church in Battle Ground.

“Marian would light up any room with her smile and amazing personality,” said Epp. “She was everyone’s friend and confidante. She was a perpetual encourager. She loved people.”

Pastor Bob Carlson of Brush Prairie Baptist Church described Halberg as a “woman of such joy. She’s not with us. That’s our loss but her gain. Tears last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. She’s now in the presence of her precious Saviour.”
Carlson said Halberg celebrated life daily. “She’d want us to celebrate life in Christ.”

Pastor Nathan Juntunen said Halberg wanted to sing in a choir and had joined the Vancouver Apostolic Choir. Halberg died, said Juntunen, on the day of the choir’s Christmas program. “She was a powerful and potent spiritual leader,” he said. “Marian always remembered why we do this.”

Epp said Halberg loved music. Many people, said Epp, had told him they were glad to have a celebration like this. “A lot of churches lost a pretty good member” in Halberg’s death, said Epp. “She fit in anyplace.”

A slideshow depicted Halberg’s life, including various photographs of Halberg with her children and friends. Several photos were taken at coastal locations. Halberg’s enjoyment with Starbucks coffee was mentioned more than once. Halberg’s sister

JC Johnson of Minnesota said Marian “made me feel like a celebrity. I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be more like her, to love, laugh, learn about God.”

Johnson said Halberg had given her a music box that played, “You Light Up My Life.” Johnson said Halberg “had a tremendous gift of encouragement. She cared about others. God put her in charge.”

Neighbor Bob Mattila said Halberg’s children had worked in his berry fields. Halberg had brought a dozen roses to Mattila when his family members died in an RV accident. He said he had a premonition that the Dec. 21 fatal accident involved Halberg even before he had learned the truth.

Brother Melvin Niska of Minnesota said his sister had called him on his 50th birthday. “Fifty years is not old--for a tree,” Niska quoted his sister as saying. Halberg would often end sentences with “Amen,” Niska said.

Another person attending the event said Halberg knew many people. She would go to a store and speak to several people she knew. Each one probably felt they were Halberg’s one special friend, the speaker said. Another person said Halberg would stop whatever she was doing to engage a caller in conversation.

Pastor George Hacker of the Venersborg Church said Halberg’s “face radiates the love of Christ." Hacker quoted a phrase from Halberg’s website: “There is One who has created the universe, whose truth is not so fragile it evaporates upon inspection.” Hacker described Halberg as a theologian with a bright mind. She loved the truth, said Hacker, but was not harsh. “She had a heart for people. A tender heart.” Halberg’s website is: www.oldapostoliclutheran.com

A teacher at Maple Grove Primary School said tearfully “we always loved having a Halberg in our class.”

Duane Rose, former principal at Maple Grove where Halberg had volunteered, said Halberg was the epitome of a parent volunteer. “She was everybody’s mother,” said Rose. “She was quick to bring things to our attention.”

“If we ever didn’t agree with her,” said Rose, “and I’m not saying we ever did, I just changed my mind.”

A young woman in attendance said Halberg came to a maternity home each week when she was a pregnant high school senior, and then came to her labor and delivery. Within an hour of her giving birth, said the young mother, Halberg had delivered a printed photo album. “She made you feel like you were the only person.”

Pastor Bill Webster said Halberg’s death “is a loss to all of us. She had a tremendous impact on all of us. She was one of the finest Christians I have ever known.”

“Love characterized her life,” said Webster. “Marian was a godly woman. She touched everyone she knew. You couldn’t help but love Marian because she loved you.”

Webster described how Halberg reminded him of Martin Luther and of Jesus Christ himself.

Survivors include husband Art Halberg, at home in Battle Ground, sons Art Halberg of Amboy, Jared Halberg of Yacolt, Thor Halberg of Alaska and Joshua Halberg, at home in Battle Ground, daughters Tamara O’Brien and Evangaline Muonio, both of Yacolt, Minda Tapani, Maria Stewart, Bethany Jolma and Beulah Halberg, all of Battle Ground, Gabrielle Halberg, Karla Halberg and Pamela Halberg, all at home in Battle Ground, Linnea Williamson of South Dakota, and Annalee Spencer of Kennewick, mother Linda Niska of Minnesota, brothers Melvin Niska, Victor Niska and Lenny Niska, all of Minnesota, and Charles Niska of Idaho, sisters Evelyn Wilen of Oregon, Annette Carlson and Edie Maki, both of Michigan, Elsie Muonio, JC Johnson and Eunice Burns, all of Minnesota, Lila Schmidt of South Dakota, and Lois Niska of Idaho, and 34 grandchildren.