Post: Readers Respond

I always enjoy and appreciate Pietisten—especially appreciated Philip Keillor’s article after feeling emotionally battered during this Fall’s election season. I’d think of writing something but he said it so well. Thanks. Gloria Houle, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Gud Jul. You are doing an excellent work organizing and publishing Pietisten. I read it with much interest and also enjoyment. I believe that it is giving recognition to our Swedish heritage. Congratulations, Bruce [Carlson], for the honorary degree! Keep up the good work. A blessed Christmas to all. P.S. I wear my Waldenström sweat shirt now in winter. People ask, “Who is that?” So I can witness then of the Covenant and for the Lord. Laverne C. Erickson, Northbrook, Illinois.

Just a note on behalf of my family to say thanks to Peter Sandstrom for his tribute to F. Burton Nelson. Mom was so touched by it that she copied the article for each of us. We miss him a lot, and we all much appreciate hearing how he affected the lives of others. Sonia Nelson, Pearl City, Illinois.

You have done it again...an absolutely fantastic “rag”...the Fall 2004 issue of Pietisten.

What is a 60 year old 100% Swedish Covenant pastor doing in a dimly lit Chinese restaurant eating a lunch of sweet & sour chicken reading Pietisten?—having a nostalgic episode!

Aaron Markuson baptized me in the Cambridge, Massachusetts Covenant Church as a wee little baby back in 1944. At a Covenant Annual Meeting in Chicago several years ago, he said, while looking at my well-over-200-pound body, said, “Paul, I don’t think I could baptize you now!” He was much loved by my home church, and is also well loved by me.

Peter Sandstrom, with whom I taught high school Sunday School at Ravenswood during his college days, gave a wonderful description of Burton Nelson. Cheryl and I had the joy of hosting Burton and Grace in our home in Princeton when they were in town for the funeral services of his brother, Dexter. Perhaps I am one of the few people privileged to see Burton on the second floor screen porch having his devotions in his scivies and bathrobe! He was no less dignified than if he were in the pulpit of a large German cathedral lecturing on Bonhoeffer. It was a pleasure to be called a friend of Burton and I am humbled that he, who had made it to the top in so many areas, always felt at home in his humble farming home town of Princeton, Illinois.

Enough rambling for now...but my deepest thanks for a most wonderful source of thought provoking “stuff” and also “thankful nostalgia.” Tack sa mycket! Paul Bengtson, Muskegon, Michigan.

How much fun it was to receive the latest Pietisten. It is always so pleasurable to read what is happening in the lives of North Park acquaintances from many years ago.

It was a thrill to learn that [Phil J has] become a Grandpa and to see the smiling face of Violet; To learn of the marriage of Dusty Bach and to see how much he looks like the old man and think, well, Dusty is just going to have to live with that; To read of the wonderful honor bestowed on Bruce Carlson and to learn that he was presented for the honor by Mel Soderstrom; To read of new books from Tim Johnson and Glenn Olsen; Sad news as well to learn of the passing of Ivar’s wife of 58 years.

Thanks also for the report on the Bronco’s reunion, but I distinctly remember that you told me you outscored opponents 344 to 56 (not 57) that year. Keep it going. Bill Pearson, Forest Lake, Minnesota.

thank you for another excellent issue of Pietisten. I had noted Paul Holmer’s death, of course, and wish I lived closer, for I would have loved to have attended the funeral or the other gathering. I am among the many who were highly influenced by his teaching when he was at the University of Minnesota.

As a naive American Baptist, I learned a lot from him, not all of which was comfortable at the time. Still, it started me on a long journey, which is still going on, and I’m immensely grateful. For awhile he was my advisor and I was glad I’d taken almost every class of his I could squeeze into my weird schedule before he left for Yale. I say “weird” because I was trying to juggle being a wife and mother, along with going to school and trying to stay active at church. Bruce Carlson’s article was almost like being there. (And I enjoyed the great article about Bruce in the Minneapolis paper recently, too.)

The kind of mission work the Nygaard’s are involved in struck a sympathetic note for me. I am amazed at the lack of interest in mission work these days, but I think it is because the majority of church people haven’t moved past seeing “mission work” as just preaching to “heathens.”

Special thanks for including the article on “Redefining the Covenant” by Philip Keillor for it helped answer some questions I had from some recent encounters with Covenant and Free Church people. The trend seems to be toward an almost “fundmentalist” position and that surprised me, for when I had more acquaintance with Covenanters, they seemed to be more open and devoted to learning. Maybe Robert Wuthnow [Princeton University sociologist] had it right—the big division within the Christian Church as a whole is between liberals and conservatives. I read National Catholic Reporter [http://ncronline.org/] and it is clearly true within the Catholic Church. From what I pick up, the Lutherans are battling the same trend. Outsiders think the United Church of Christ (UCC) is whole-heartedly liberal, but I can assure them that the rural UCCers, particularly those who came out of the Evangelical and Reformed side retain much of their conservative position. Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t a great deal of influence from the “Christian” radio stations.

Would it be possible to get some guidance from Glen Wiberg about where I could find some CDs of Swedish hymns, particularly those written by Lina Sandell and Oscar Ahnfelt? It’s a characteristic of age, I guess, but I find those hymns a tie to my family—that “great cloud of witnesses” that I sense are genuine devoted Christians. I might not agree with all their theology now, but I know their genuineness and I can feel that in the old Covenant hymns. Some years back I made a plea for help in finding such hymns and a kind man sent me three tapes of Swedish music, taped from records, I’m sure. Unfortunately, my tapes, even though I did make copies of them, are wearing out, for I use them every Sunday and sometimes in between. Surely there must be others who would like to have CDs of that wonderful music. I do have two tapes of the Gustavus College Choir and they have some of the music, but I really miss those three tapes. Two are still extant but one isn’t usable for it has slipped out of its case enough so it won’t feed any longer. I’d love to find CDs to replace the tapes.

Thanks, too, for the book suggestions. Let me make one—I thoroughly enjoyed Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity, and have shared it with some of my book group friends, all of whom have found it extremely helpful. It’s admittedly simple, but admirably so. Walter Wink’s The Human Being was also excellent, but it was the kind that we all had to work hard to “digest.” If Scott’s history of Sweden weren’t so voluminous, I might get more serious about working my way through it—and I will, yet.

If you can help find CDs for me, or refer me to some place or some one who could, I’d really appreciate it. Meanwhile I always look forward to another copy of Pietisten, even if I’ve not been fortunate enough to know most of the folks you refer to. Do keep up the good work—there must be a cohort of Covenant folks who need your messages. Marilyn Ford, Eiten, Minnesota.

It was so good to get the Fall, ’04 Pietisten and read the first installment of Phil Keillor’s article “Redefining the Covenant.” We, too, are deeply saddened by the recent decision of the annual meeting which suggests a fundamental shift taking place in the church as we redefine what it means to “free in Christ.”

We find ourselves wondering however, if the church didn’t start down this “slippery slope” some time ago when it “legislated” positions on women in ministry and baptism. Although we supported these earlier decisions, we must admit that we didn’t foresee that such an approach could eventually allow for this most recent decision. As they say, “what goes around, comes around.”

Keep up your good work. Blessings, Dick and Pam Nystrom serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in Lesotho in Southern Africa.

We do like getting Pietisten. We especially enjoyed the articles in this last one about Burton Nelson and Aaron and Margaret Markuson.

It seems at times that Burton should be coming in to church and sitting a couple rows in front of us. And we had the pleasure of an evening with Aaron and Margaret last fall.

Keep your papers coming. It is read from cover to cover. Gunnel Brunsell, Evanston, Illinois.

Excellent [web] site. I am constantly amazed at how the Lutheran Church is giving up its excellent music in favor of newly-gotten-up, boring hymns, all written, it seems, in 1972.

Keep up the good work! Sincerely, Mark Nielson, New York, New York.

[Ralph and Joyce Sturdy from Lincoln, Nebraska, are volunteers at Bridges of Hope, a social-action ministry founded by Community Covenant Church, Goleta, California, which has joined the battle against AIDS in Africa (www.bridges-of-hope.org). Ralph is a retired Pastor and Joyce a retired Social Worker. They are, as those who know them can testify, a dynamic duo. They are in South Africa for two months. Ralph and Joyce have been sending email reports. Here are some excerpts. — Ed.]

We landed in Capetown in 100 degree scorching heat. Dennis Wadley, Director of Bridges of Hope (BOH), and Grace, facilitator of the orphan program, met us. They helped us claim our rental car and supervised Ralph’s first attempt at driving on the “wrong side” out of Capetown. It took mere seconds for Ralph to resume his usual assertive driving manner! He hasn’t slowed down yet. [Readers should know that Ralph Sturdy drives fast but not mean—like Jehu (2 Kings 9:20: “…The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi—he drives like a madman”).]

Our new team of volunteer facilitators will be in training through Tuesday the 15th. On the 16th, we welcome three classes of kids—80 of them—selected by their teachers. They will attend after school classes in computer training, life skills/English, and discipleship for six months. The young adults will have three hours planing/training sessions in the same areas Monday through Friday. They should be completely responsible for the kids classes

within a month. BOH’s goal is for every program to be completely be self-led in Philippi (FILL-ih-pee). We are awed by all the new ideas and actual programs in place since [we were here] last July.

At 8:30 p.m. one Saturday night, Ralph received a telephone call asking him to preach at St. Paul’s Church in Philippi at 9:00 am the following day. He remembered a word from Henry Gustafson in New Testament who said this would happen some day and that we’d be ready to give a good account of the hope that was within. So he said “Yes.” He discovered the assigned text was John 3:1-17 so he could expand on his favorite theme—the Love of God! It was a great morning….

We wondered if the After School Program would get off and fly. With a lifetime of sadness and regret, bleak futures and lost dreams, the young adults are not used to keeping a pledge to: 1) be on time 2) be present every day for their work with kids and 3) think primarily of the kids they will work with in the Program. Thanks to Joyce with her great teaching skills holding the Facilitator’s feet to the fire and my part as encourager, hugger, and all around “old man, grandfather” (a role model missing in South Africa), they pulled through this past week with flying colors! They are beginning to teach with effectiveness and courage.

Last summer we noticed that folks lacked ability to be part of affirming others and one another. That is slowly changing! I spend a large part of my time as an affirmer. One little story. One of the leader facilitators, recently hired to do the computers—a young single mother of 23—nearly fell apart when I told her that she was doing a good job and that I loved her. “Ralph, no one ever tells me that they love me.”

We have three groups of kids: third to fourth grades, fifth to sixth grades, and seventh grade. They rotate courses every two weeks. One has to begin with very simple and basic things. For instance, the kids and facilitators have to learn both about the computer and how to type. Everyone is fascinated with computers! It’s one of the keys to escape poverty and get a job some day. If the facilitators successfully complete a seven-part course on the computer they get a “computer international drivers licence.” That’s a big deal. We have to remind them at all times that the kids are their first commitment and priority!

We are more than half way through our time here. We really love our South African kids and adults! Each day when they come into the room to sign in, they expect a hug from Ralph and Joyce. Joyce will have a hard time leaving and wondering how and if the program will continue on course. I will miss my daily ministry of affirmation. Oprah says it well: “Telling someone you love them and that they are beautiful is life-changing for folks who have never had that experience!” Ralph and Joyce Sturdy, Philippi, South Africa.