"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Something Laestadian, or Just Me?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Something Laestadian, or Just Me?

The following is the biblical story of Abraham and Sarah, presented as a Godly Play script.

I've posted before about Godly Play, and what a great Sunday School curriculum I think it is. What I haven't said is that I have a certain reaction to this way of presenting the story, and I've long been curious about whether my reaction is "just me" or something from my Laestadian upbringing.

So in the spirit of experiment I invite you to view the story, and post your reactions in the comments. Maybe your reaction will be the same as mine, maybe it will be different. Maybe it will give me some insight into myself, my Laestadian upbringing, or both.


  1. My reaction is that this way of telling a story would be very effective for the instruction of children. I liked it very much, but I am a creationist... Is that what you objected to? That we are all descendant of Abraham?

  2. My reaction...hm..it was good. A good way to teach kids. We had something sort of like this growing up in the LLC. They would use those old boards (I can't think of what they are called!!). They are fuzzy, and certain paper sticks to them. They would hang up pictures to illustrate to us what was going on. But the stories weren't like that, that I remember. This story sounded more like one that would be told in the church we attend now.

  3. According to the Bible, and according to historical facts, all people are not descendants of Abraham, only people with Semitic ancestry are. Of course, you can say that all who share Abraham's faith are his spiritual descendants, but the Godly Play seemed to give an impression that all people are physical descendants of Abraham.

    Apart from this apparent flaw, I think this is a good way of teaching children. It keeps their attention and makes the story interesting to follow. Actually I think this is way better than showing them a movie. The problem with movies is that they leave no room for imagination, which I think was not a problem in this case.

  4. I really like this method. The only problem I have with it is that it covers a lot of ground in a few minutes.. there's enough material for at least three stories here, plus one that is not mentioned at all and is not really appropriate for young children, and that is the story of Hagar. But I like the visual aspect of it, just like the Flannelgraphs...

    And if it's followed by a question and answer time, then that's even better.

  5. The Godly Play website says this: "The stories are told very simply, with simple props, and without interpretation or moral instruction. After a story is presented, the children and the storyteller wonder together about aspects of the story that draw their interest. For instance, with the parable of the Good Shepherd, they might wonder together how the sheep felt as they followed the shepherd. Or whether the sheep have names. Or how it might feel to be inside the sheepfold."

    I like the fact that the stories are presented without interpretation. Children will often surprise you with their insights, and you learn along with them, instead of you interpreting it for them.

    Happy 4th of July everyone!

  6. LLLreader here: As my Grandma would say, "Happy Fort-jew-lie-dah".

  7. Good news Tomte! My English USA focused video about laestadianism is ready now. I hope you can make a post about it. :-)


    (When I made this post, Youtbe was still processing the video. If it is not available for viewing in a few hours, I will upload it again, so have patience..)

  8. The video is beautiful. The music warms my heart - thank you!

  9. I saw the video on youtube and it was such a lovely songs in it! I can now see that there are some differences in how the laestadianism is organised in America and in Scandinavia. I really enjoy reading everything you all write and debate.

  10. Hello again!
    I got a question earlier and I hope you don´t mind me answering it here. (i´ts OT from this post)
    The question was about how the Laestadian church is talked about where I live.
    I live in Swedish Lapland and here we have big congregations og different laestadian churches. The most discussed one is the "firstborns". Now I don´t remeber what you call them, but hey are the most strict ones as I see it. They wear headcoverings at church (women) men dont wear ties to their shirts. All women have long hair and they are against birth control. No music instruments (not even at church), no radio in cars. Everything is to be sipmle. What people in generally talk about these laestadians is their double standards. Like how come so many are smoking, watching tv (wich is a no no) and then hiding it in a closet etc... The second thing people say is that they say they "choose" to live like this, but who is making their decisions really? I have friends who are a part of this church and I sometimes try talk to them a little bit bout this, but I always trie to be gentle and not make them uneasy. For me, I feel that there is no joy or happines connected between theese people and God. That God is so harsh.
    I find it hard to make myself understood here, my english language is so not up to date :o)
    But I hope you understand something anyway. Please ask if you want.

  11. I loved that first song on the video! The LLC branch doesn't do any "loop-de-loops" in their songs (if you know what I mean..). They feel it's sinful..why, I don't know!! The 2nd song is also song by the LLC, but I think it's more "flat". Once again-no "loop-de-doops". hehe. Interesting video! So, the OALC is the strictest? Then the LLC? Thats kind of what I got. Or are their branches in between those?

  12. Well OALC here in finland is conservative concerning clothing and such things, but on other hand very open minded.

    ALC is perhaps between LLC and OALC. Not as conservative as OALC, but more conservative than LLC (in Finland and Sweeden).

    The reason I say OALC is open minded, is that they are very pragmatic.

    For example did Finish state television a movie about OALC mission work in Russia a few moths ago. The movie was named "Toksovan kummit".

    The state television rarely publish anything positive about religion, but this about 45 minute movie only positive. There was not a word negative about OALC.

    On other hand the movie was generally about mission work in Toksova, but since OALC is almost the only church doing the mission work there, the movie was 90% about OALC.

    Another interesting thing concerning positive publicity about laestadiaism, was a few moths ago when a major news paper in Finland made an investigation where people are most happy. They combined different statistics (health, divorces, voting activity etc.), and made comparisions between municipalities.

    The municipality that had most laestadians was the most happy in Finland. This is Larsmo in Ostrobotnia, where about 50% are laestadians (ALC branch).

  13. "loop-de-loops"

    No, I don´t understand what is that?

    Is it that they don´t sing in harmonies?

  14. Miss Sweden, I think he meant they repeated parts of the lyric in a way differing from the song text?

    The music was from ALC in USA.

    Regarding singing, here is a song more typical for laestadians in your area (ALC in Sweden).


  15. Never heard the song but it was beautiful. Sounds like something they could sing at OALC meeting but then of course without the music played to it.
    I have been to meeting at OALC and they sing only with voices no music instruments.
    Very intresting to see at you youtube channel. Thanks.

  16. I don't know if you are aware of it Tomte, but you have a sister blog in Finland (http://freepathways.wordpress.com).

    This is focused on criticing LLC.

    Is it only ALC everyone are happy with? ;-)

  17. Hi Miss Sweden, you talked about the double standard, and I think that is something that people criticize about all of the various branches. I've heard this many times, and often from people who witnessed their parents doing things like hiding a radio or tv when church people came to visit. As a current member, I have wanted to live an authentic life. If I believe something is wrong, I don't do it. If I don't see anything wrong with it, then I go ahead and do it. Simple as that.

    There is a purpose for members of a church encouraging and supporting each other, and warning their friends and loved ones when they see them straying away and into danger. I think this is something that could be considered universal among all religions. But Laestadians have created so many things which are supposedly sins, there has been no consistency among the various groups as to what exactly is sin, and the list has changed over time! I think the New Testament is very clear that we should not hinder someone if they believe certain things are sin; but neither should we create manmade lists. We are not to follow the 'traditions of men'.

    The bottom line, in my opinion, is that the Holy Spirit guides us and prompts us to obedience. Too often we have looked to 'man' to guide us, and have taken our eyes off the Lord Jesus Christ. I wonder how many people have looked to tradition and thought they were on the right path.

    www.internetmonk.com has come up with a term - "denomination idolatry'. He is referring to a Baptist denomination, but maybe the same thing could be said about many Laestadian churches and the leaders of those churches. Do we raise them so high that we idolize them? Should they be the last word, or should we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit!? It's always about a relationship with God, and not about which denomination any person belongs to.

    Laestadianinfo - your video mentions Lapp Mary. I was thinking today that she did for Laestadius what many years of psychiatric therapy probably could not have done. She showed him that he is indeed forgiven and it gave him freedom of conscience. So many people are on medications for mental conditions today. What would your thoughts be about that! :-)

  18. Laestadianinfo, you asked if it's only the ALC that everyone is happy with.. the answer to that is no, there are many who are not happy with the ALC. Our poster PS is one of them, and many people have left over the years. I have two older sisters who left when they got married way back in the early 1960's :-), so it's not unusual. I don't ever remember anyone talking about them in a negative way because of which church they went to, although my family was a mix of many different faiths anyway...

    And there is so much variety in the ALC that it's impossible to categorize it as a group, at least in the US. Those are my thoughts about it.

  19. I don't really know how to describe "loop-de-doops". It is in the songs tune, usually between sentences, where the singers go either up or down. Does that make any sense? Does anyone else know what I'm talking about? The LLC's singing is very "flat" compared to the first song in the video.

  20. "And there is so much variety in the ALC that it's impossible to categorize it as a group, at least in the US. Those are my thoughts about it."

    Can you eloborate about it? I have read other sources about this. I would like to know some details.

    Have been a few times to USA, but never to an ALC church, so I don't really know people there very well.

  21. Free here. Thanks to Tomte for doing such a splendid job with this site, and to all of you for the interesting and respectful dialogue.

    YM, could your "loop de loops" be glissando, sliding up or down to the next note? I suspect that for some, glissando and vibrato are considered "showing off."

  22. Yes Free, that is what I mean!! And yea, the LLC thinks its showing off, and wrong...I don't know where they got the word "loop-de-doop" from, but that's what I always heard them call it.

    I love that first song on the video, Laestadianinfo-what is the name of that song?

  23. Laestadianinfo, you asked about variety in the US ALC. I can only give you my very limited perspective, as I am more of an observer and listener and not actively involved in any church other than my own small congregation. But this is what I observe and hear, and are some examples of differences: Some ALC churches are very conservative, maybe almost like OALC. They are conservative in dress, in music (some don't have organs), or doing any work on Sunday. Others have organs and pianos, and may even dabble in praise songs, such as the first song on your video (called "As the Deer Panteth for the Water"). Dress and personal appearance is more casual (slacks, jeans and shorts) and mainstream. They don't see a problem with wives working outside the home, or having jobs that require working on Sunday. Then there are others who favor the NIV and other versions over the KJV, even though that is the official version of the ALC. My grandparents and mother belonged to a small group within the ALC which I think may have called themselves "New Awakenists", and they had their own annual meetings and supported mission work in Finland and elsewhere (if I understand it correctly). Some churches have a Bible camp in Michigan and Minnesota (http://www.lbfbiblecamp.org/), although many in the ALC have probably never heard of it. Some have pastors trained in the seminary, and other churches would never consider it. Some are open to hearing preachers from other churches, others are not. You see a lot of smoking, even among young people, in some churches. In others this would be unheard of.

    Those are some of the differences that I can see, although there are doctrinal differences too, I'm sure. I am not qualified to talk about those things.. I would get in way over my head! lol

    I can see value in all of the different perspectives. Many of the most conservative are so friendly and hospitable, and love to travel and keep in touch. Others (like myself) stay close to home and seem to get involved with work and family and that's as far as it goes.

    There is also a lot of crossover, where you really can't categorize people or congregations. What I am seeing now seems to be a renewed effort to come together in unity, to talk to each other, to increase fellowship among the pastors and congregations. I hope the ALC is successful in this endeavor.

    My husband and I are off to the ALC annual convention in St Cloud Minnesota tomorrow. We are our congregation's delegates. Will have laptop so my internet addiction will be fed while I'm on the road. Oops, did I just say addiction? lol

  24. Hi Free, I hope your husband is doing better and that you are enjoying your summer! I agree, Tomte is doing a good job!

  25. "But this is what I observe and hear, and are some examples of differences: Some ALC churches are very conservative, maybe almost like OALC. They are conservative in dress, in music (some don't have organs), or doing any work on Sunday. Others have organs and pianos, and may even dabble in praise songs, such as the first song on your video (called "As the Deer Panteth for the Water")."

    Sounds a lot like ALC here in Finland and Sweden. Generaly ALC:s here are more conservative than LLC, but not as conservative as OALC.

    "Deer Panteth for the Water" would never gå here in Ostrobotnia with laestadians organized in LLF (Laestadianernas Fridsföreningars Förbund), but more liberal minded in the Rauhan Sana group would sing it.

    Funny that you mentioned how conservative some ACL:s are over there. One of my litle sisters was a litle tricky as young, so my parents decided to send her for a month to a conservative ALC family somewhere in US, to learn the fear of God.

    It actually worked! :-)

    (If you click on my Nick, it will take you to a more traditional ALC song)

  26. I do love the melodies of those songs.. it is in English too (as you probably know).. "There is a Home Where Earthly Storms". So many beautiful songs, both traditional and modern.

  27. A little story. My grandmother lived with us in the late 60's after my grandfather passed away. One evening I was playing the piano from a Finnish folk music book I had bought.. I thought she'd be pleased to hear those songs from the old country, but no.. I could hear her in the kitchen, saying they were sinful and worldly songs. They were songs about nature, the birds, love and loss. I have never understood that... but that is how she believed, and many probably still do.

  28. ex falc says...

    My opinion is that the ALC is the most mainstream group in America. Their are a few extremely conservative congregations, but for the most part, the church seems to have an open mind and is looking for ways to retain its youth.

    I've attended church services at all 5 of the American laestadian based churches

    Going to the OALC for a few sundays was quite interesting!

    Norah, I might be at the ALC convention too. My parents are going to be there so I might tag along with them.

  29. Another Lurker7/06/2009 08:37:00 PM

    Who else is going to the ALC convention? How will I recognize you?

  30. I'm at a loss as to how to recognize anyone.. except maybe wearing a little ribbon, or something like that? It would be fun, wouldn't it! lol

  31. ALC is very interesting in historical aspects. First laestadism was divided in east- and west-laestadianism and new awaked. West laestadianism is OALC, but it can on very good grounds be claimed that ALC is east laesdtadianism.

    When some conservative laestadians, SRK (now LLC in USA), sent three preachers to ALC in 1934 (by request of ALC), conservative laestadianism was split in SRK and small first borns (Rauhan Sana).

    The split was firstmost geographical (almost no congregations was split).

    The areas that started to belong to ALC was the original east-laestadians in Sweden and the areas to where laestadianism was first spread, like Tornedalen in Sweden and Finland.

    Practically all Swedish speaking laestadians in Sweden and Finland started to belong to ALC, because they were already separated from SRK (now LLC in USA), because of language differences.

    Of course LLC also has roots in original laestadianism, but it can on good grounds be claimed that ALC represents original east laestadianism (at least as organization).

    Without ALC there would not be any first borns. The Swedish speaking laestadians and original east laestadians would probably have joined SRK (=LLC) over time.

  32. Do the ALC have conventions that move around from place to place or is that only the OALC? Recently I learned about someone from Norway who was going to the USA for a few weeks to "Laestadian conventions" starting on the west coast and ending up in South Carolina (or was it North Carolina)? Does that sound like the ALC or the OALC or perhaps even the LLC? The person who was going was a Sami elder in Finnmark Norway.


  33. Yes, the ALC has an annual convention which is held in a different location each year. This year it will be in St. Cloud, MN, hosted by the Kingston, MN congregation.

    Last year it was held in the Twin Cities (Plymouth Apostolic Lutheran and North Apostolic Lutheran Churches co-hosting). 2008 marked the 100th ALC annual convention. And I believe Minneapolis wanted to host because the first ALC convention was held in Minneapolis. (I may be wrong about this, but I think it is so.) The 2008 convention was held on the campus of Bethel University, St. Paul, MN. Numerous photos and other artifacts documented the history of the ALC, particulary the convention history.

    Laestadian movement history was also represented. I seem to recall that they displayed the panels documenting the history of the Laestadian movement which were created by the LLC for the 200th anniversary of the birth of L. L. Laestadius in 2000. I believe this display traveled about the country during 2000 and perhaps after. It may be permanently housed at the Finnish American Heritage Center and Archives, Hancock, Michigan. I'm not absolutely certain about this.

  34. Maybe this person was going to conventions from the different branches of Laestadianism in the USA. The LLC has Summer Services that change location every summer, hosted by different LLC congregations. This year LLC big Summmer Services were from July 2-July 5 on the West Coast hosted by the Longview, WA LLC congregation. The person may have started there. I don't know of the LLC having any sort of services in North or South Carolina, not even sure if there are LLC congregations there. The LLC convention (Summer Services) already happened, yet the ALC big convention in Minnesota is going to start in a day or two, so its possible this person from Norway is just interested in Laestadianism, not a specific group within Laestadianism, and traveling from big services to big services, regardless of which branch is hosting the services.

  35. Thanks for your input.

    Do you think it could be OALC services where people follow the elders around when they visit all the congregations? Is that happening this year? I know it does not happen every year.


  36. Stranger: It is the Oalc you are talking about. I have friends from the Oalc. Seems kinda crazy to me to follow the leaders around the country. I see that as the problem....follow the leaders and their leaders are not Christ.

    One time we were discussing "praise" music with my in-laws. They said we can't know for sure if a believer wrote the songs, therefore we shouldn't sing them. I asked how they can be sure all the songs in the AP hymnal were written by "believers." They had no real response.

    "As The Deer" seems mild now compared to the music I enjoy now. Chris Tomlin, Toby Mac....

  37. I believe the American OALC is having thier elders from Sweden come and travel across America this year; I have heard my relatives mention they plan to follow them this summer...

  38. Thanks to everyone who commented with their reactions to the story.

    To Anonymous who said, I liked it very much, but I am a creationist... Is that what you objected to? I'll post more about my own reaction to these stories later, but despite not being a creationist I don't have a problem with such lines in the story as "after the great flood..." Insofar as one of the goals is biblical literacy, I don't have a problem with references to events within the story that I would see as non-literal.

    Hibernatus, regarding descendants of Abraham, I noticed that too. I assume that it's metaphorical language, the same kind that is used in the following eucharistic prayer from the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer. Does a line like this also appear in the Orthodox liturgy?

    Lord God of our Fathers and Mothers: God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us.

    Norah, yes, they really did cover a lot of ground. I searched online to see if I could find the "wondering questions" for this particular story, but could not find them anywhere. That said, a common "wondering question" in Godly Play is: "I wonder if ____ has a name?" Despite all that was skipped, did you notice the pains taken to name the cities and locations in the story? Being named, or having a name (identity), is a recurring theme in Scripture, liturgy, and Godly Play. Adam names the animals in the Garden of Eden. When someone is baptised, they are "sealed with the cross of Christ and marked as Christ's own, forever." I think the climax of this story is when the child is invited to imagine themselves as part of "The Great Family," identifying with the characters and their walk with God.

  39. As for my own reactions to stories presented this way, and why I really posted this one.... :-)

    I have heard a number of Godly Play stories presented online and at church over the years --The Pearl of Great Price, The Great Family, The Parable of the Mustard Seed, and a few others. In almost every case I start to get all teary-eyed and weepy. And I am normally a person who is not given to outward signs of emotion!

    I'm not sure why I would react this way, but I've sometimes thought that it might have something to do with how Bible stories were taught to me when I was a child. My "inner child," if you will. Something to do with Laestadian Sunday School, or with the instruction I received from my parents, or just me, or all three.

    So far I haven't heard from anyone else who has had the same reaction, Laestadian or not.

  40. Tomte, I don't think there is a similar line in the Orthodox Eucharistic prayers, but it is very common to use the word 'father' in a metaphorical sense. For example, the blessing before meal (and certain other services) ends: "Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy upon us."