by The Rev. Rich Heinz
Here I am, at my first Higher Things conference! Am I crazy? I woke up at 3:15 this morning to have enough time for the TSA line after less than four hours of sleep, got on a little jet from Louisville to O’Hare, and then switched planes to get to Minneapolis. So…is it worth it? Oh, yes!
A joyous “Amen!” For You began with a so-good-you-had-chills-down-your-spine Divine Service. It was Lutheran Service Book’s Divine Service, Setting 3 (formerly known as “Page 15.”) The beauty and drama attending the Lord’s Gifts were increased by violin, woodwinds and brass instruments, as well as the Rev. Kantor Richard Resch’s masterful organ skills.
The University of Minnesota’s Ted Mann Concert Center was “Lutheranized,” transforming it into a fitting liturgical space. Green and white banners hung around the balconies. Paraments adorned the podium to dress it as a pulpit, and proper linens to cover the altar. The newest piece of art for Higher Things is a crucifix coming from the Rev. Mark Mumme. (More on this work of art in the coming days!)
Pastor David Kind, the host pastor, was both preacher and celebrant for the Divine Service, with ten other pastors assisting him. Add to all of this some 1200-1300 voices intrepidly singing, and you have some amazing thanksgiving for His Gifts – given FOR YOU!
The “work” of the conference is the catechetical sessions. There are plenaries that are attended by everyone, 3-session electives for “In-Depth” sectionals, and 45-minute electives to choose for the Breakaway sectionals.
I am attending Pastor Kind’s Hitchiker’s Guide to the Sanctuary: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly for my In-Depth. Today he spoke of Old Testament origins of art, God’s prohibition of graven images made for worshiping, and God’s very specific design for the Tabernacle and Temple.
Pastor George Borghardt and Sandra Ostapowich led Youth Ministry 101: Youth Ministry for Dummies (like us). Landon Reed, Higher Things’ Retreat Executive added his experience as well. Among other things, some myths about youth were debunked, such as: 1.) Youth don’t want to study the Word of God, 2.) Youth are ignorant, 3.) Youth don’t want substance, 4.) Youth only want “contemporary Christian music,” and 5.) Youth don’t want structure. Much Bible study is the key to truly Lutheran youth work, in addition to scheduled recreation – not “fun” activities with a little devotion tacked on. (We’re back to the adage of not mingling worship, work and play.)
Meeting youth, leaders, and pastors from all across the country is an amazing thing. Already today, I know I’ve met someone from Pennsylvania and another from Albuquerque. My kind chauffer from the airport is a Concordia, St. Paul student from Fargo, ND.
Pastor Mark Buetow’s fun crowd from Bethel, Du Quoin, IL have taught me a new hand greeting, that will soon be all the rage!()
More is planned, such as special arrangements in the student union, and a Saint Paul Saints game.
As the day began with worship, so it ends. Evening Prayer is a gem from Lutheran Service Book, and what a cool service to experience with this entourage! Pastor Kind officiated, chanting beautifully, and indeed, our prayers rose before God as incense! Pastor Marcus Zill preached on the incredible, almighty, so-holy-you-can’t-see-Him-and-live God, entering our flesh FOR YOU!
Private confession and absolution is available to those who desire thisgift! And, an order of Compline is available for use in the dorms.
Although I have watched Higher Things with admiration for some time, I am finally a participant, and blessed to be on staff! I am going to bed well after midnight, thanking God for allowing me the gift of being here! What a joy to join my “Amen” with those of the youth and adults gathered here with me, being reminded that Christ does this all FOR YOU!
Rev. Rich Heinz is Senior Pastor of St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church & School in Lanesville, IN. He is the editor of myHT, and a first time participant and breakout speaker for a Higher Things conference.
Created: July 25th, 2007