Out and About

by Phil Johnson

Mountain View Wedding

Arvada Covenant Church was the setting for the December 31, 2002 wedding of Wes Swanson and Carolyn Aley Larson. It was indeed a family celebration as 30 family members of Wes and Carolyn participated in the event. The officiating pastors were Carolyn’s son, J.D. Larson, and Wes’s son, Luke Swanson. The matron of honor was Carolyn’s daughter, Deborah Jarrett, and the best man was Wes’s son, Mark. Following the ceremony, a family reception was held at the home of Wes and Carolyn. Friends of the Arvada Covenant Church greeted the new couple at the church the following day (New Year’s Day).

Wes and Carolyn left the nippy Colorado air for a honeymoon in Hawaii and then greeted scores of friends at receptions held in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, Pasadena, California, and Princeton, Illinois. Pietisten Wire Service

The Mending of Creation—Krister Stendahl at North Park Seminary, February 25, 2003.

As a part of the Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Emannuel Lutheran Church, Chicago, the Church joined with North Park Seminary for the lecture “A New Church for a New World” by Dr. Krister Stendahl. North Park and the Covenant have roots in Emannuel Lutheran Church.

Krister Stendahl has been an important figure for a long time. I first encountered him in 1963 at a meeting of area Pastors in a Sunday School room in Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1985, while Bishop of Stockholm, Stendahl addressed the Covenant denomination at its 100th Anniversary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Pastor, Doctor, Bishop Stendahl has made it a practice to generously and intelligently bless one of the Swedish Church’s offspring—the Mission Friends become Covenant.

Dean of North Park Seminary, Jay Phelan, reported that Bishop Stendahl appeared at a gathering of Swedish Bishops wearing a Waldenström tee-shirt. In light of the vigorous controversy surrounding P.P. Waldenström among Swedes during the late 19th and early 20th centuries—his doctrine of incarnation in particular—this was probably a good, bold joke. The report of Stendahl’s garb on that occasion amused the Chicago gathering.

The Bishop has also sported a Pietisten tee-shirt. In 1990, he inaugurated the Gustafson Lectureship at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (UTS). This lecture series honors Dr. Henry Gustafson, New Testament Professor who began his career at North Park Seminary and continued it at UTS. During the post-lecture discussion, David Hawkinson presented Professor Stendahl with a Pietisten tee-shirt which, to my pleased amazement, the Bishop donned immediately.

At the anniversary celebration in February, Stendahl spoke about the role of the church in Sweden as she moves forward no longer as established church. He also talked about a theme that has been central to his heart and mind throughout his ministry—the mending of creation.

Stendahl fervently preaches and lives ecumenically. He has been deeply involved in Jewish studies and inter-faith life and a friend of the Jewish journal Tikkun which means mending creation.

A New Testament scholar, Stendahl says that faulty exegesis has led Christians to believe that Christianity must become the universal religion—universal and victorious. This demand for universality shared by Christianity and Islam has been the source of much of the torment of human history.

The theme of the gathering—“A New Church for a New World”— arises in connection with the Swedish Church which, said Stendahl, is challenged to continue its chaplaincy mission to society by providing the “Holy Acts” of baptism, confirmation, marriage, communion, and burial. While Swedish society has become diverse and is a new world, the whole church faces this challenge throughout the world. Stendahl put it this way: “How can I sing my song to Jesus with abandon without telling dirty stories about others’ religions.” How can we, at least, become less of a hindrance to peace. “The historical record,” said Stendahl, “shows that all problems in the world get worse when the religious factor is factored in.” “If you love Jesus, you can’t help saying: ‘I wonder if the world would be a better world without religion?’”

The theological challenge for Christians is to find a Christian theology for living as a religion among religions. Jesus said that his followers are to be the salt of the earth but “who wants the world to become a salt mine?”

The Bishop commented that Christians lack a sense of the humor of Jesus which is in the genre of Jewish story-telling humor. Stendahl maintains that the work of Christians is to worship God who loves all things and all people. What then about the “great commission?” Stendahl thinks it has been misunderstood and, unfortunately, led to a crusading, world conquering view of our religion. Rather, Christians are to be “guinea pigs” in the laboratory of the Kingdom. The Lord’s prayer, a shout for the coming of the Kingdom, is the heart of the Christian living. Stendahl confirms what I too believe—the Christian call is to go into the world and listen to others with humility, willing to learn and to help where we can. In another comment, he said: “When God comes into the Oval Office in the morning, he doesn’t ask for Christian growth statistics but ‘What have my Christians done for the Kingdom?’”

Bishop Stendahl gave both the Lutheran and Covenant branches of the Church of Sweden’s American Church children his blessing which, as always, was as much a challenge as a blessing. —PJ

North Park Basketball Reunion, March 1, 2003

It is already 25 years since 1978 when the North Park Vikings won their first NCAA Division III Basketball Championship. North Park, under Coach Dan McCarrell—my former point-guard teammate—won the next two years, too. What a feat! The Vikings weren’t through. They won two more (1983 and 1987) under Coach Bosko Djurickovic for a grand total of five, the banners for which hang high in the North Park Gym.

In February 2003, basketball alumni, families, friends, and fans gathered at North Park to celebrate the team that began this string of great achievements. The event featured an alumni basketball game. There, ready to go, were All-Americans Michael Harper and Michael Thomas, Big Jim, the Playmaker, Clausen, and Keith French to mention a few. Also present were a legion of NP basketball players, alumni from 1960 to 2002 in uniform, ready to play ball. Each team had about 20 players; one team in yellow North Park tee-shirts and the other in white.

The game had barely begun when the great Michael Harper tore a ligament in his knee and was taken to the hospital. This was too terrible and unfortunate to be true. But the game, especially a basketball game, goes on and the boys of North Park played on with joy. It was fun for everyone.

As the oldest guy on the court, I enjoyed every moment—most of them on the bench and some on the court. To be on the court with all those guys was a super treat. Many of us who played before the time of these heroes and perhaps many since have felt their stock rise by association. “Yes, I played for North Park College, the school that won five Division III Basketball Championships.” A person might or might not say: “That was after (or before) my time.” Or a person could say: “I played at North Park with Danny McCarrell, the great coach who, among other things, won three straight Division III Championships—at North Park.” I suspect nearly all North Parkers feel good to some degree about being associated with these magnificent champions. After all, North Park has a great basketball tradition going all the way back to the years of fine Junior College teams with the likes of “Ped” Anderson, Captain of the 1924 team, Val Erickson, Jim Whitefield, the Dahlstrom twins, Arv Adele, Art McGregor, and many more, as well as coaches Bibbs Anderson and Ted Hedstrom.

A fine crowd was on hand for what turned out to be a three-half game which provided more playing time. Most of these fellows are really good. Few participants would deny that they are not quite what they were in college but plenty of good ball was played. Friendliness and good will pervaded both the game and the banquet that followed. These gentlemen generously gave court time to one another even to the oldest among them.

At the banquet, the venerable friend of multitudes, Mel Soderstrom, said a few words of welcome, former President Art Nelson made some thoughtful remarks and prayed for us, and President Horner spoke briefly in his refreshing way. The heart of the event, though, was Coach McCarrell. He spoke about his team and introduced each of his players in a manner that greatly distinguished him. His comments, his humor, and the honor he paid his players was lovely.