Nordic Youth Gather in Varberg
for Confessional Lutheran Conference

Corpus Christi's second annual youth conference was held in Varberg, Sweden, June 28-July 1.
Photo: Henrik Brengesjö

Youth and their pastors from all across Scandinavia gathered June 28 - July 1 in Varberg, on Sweden´s West Coast, for a Confessional Lutheran youth conference patterned on the American Higher Things conferences. The approximately 120 Scandinavians were joined by 18 Latvians. This is the second annual youth conference sponsored by Corpus Christi, a Confessional Lutheran association working for biblical and ecclesial renewal among youth in the Nordic countries.

Corpus Christi logo

Corpus Christi is a Confessional Lutheran youth movement similar to Higher Things
(click on logo for their website in English)

"Much that is done in Christ´s name lacks any connection to his teaching," noted Corpus Christi´s Chairman, Rev. Jakob Appell. "This is why we want young people to deepen their biblical faith. The Bible should be the only norm for Christian doctrine. We also want youth to be drawn into Lutheran church life."

The culmination of the conference was the Divine Service on the final day. Rev. Fredrik Sidenvall reads the Gospel, held by Rev. Olle Fogelqvist

Rev. Appell thinks that many aspects of worship that are obvious to older worshipers need to be explained to youth. Young people often go away to Christian camps where the worship is so fundamentally different from that of their home congregations that they lose interest in congregational life when they return home.

Rev. Jakob Appell, Corpus Christi's Chairman, graduated from the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg(Församlingsfakulteten i Göteborg) . He earned his Masters in Sacred Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in 2007.
Photo: Henrik Brengesjö

Those types of youth camp have contributed to a split between generations, he maintains, so that many youth leave the Church. Some congregations try to keep youth interested by adapting worship services to the latest fads, but Rev. Appell explains that Corpus Christi has a different solution.

"We want to give young people tools to appreciate the traditional worship services, so they can join in with joy."

The conference was built around the four traditional Daily Offices (Matins, Morning Prayer, Vespers and Compline) that reflect the normal practice of the early church and the consistent practice of the Church through the Reformation era until today.

The Plenary speaker was Pr. Daniel Preus, Executive Director of the Luther Academy. On July 13, Pr. Preus was elected a Vice President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Photo: Henrik Brengesjö

"So much is changing in our time that one can become rootless," Rev. Appell noted. "There is a richness in using a form of worship that has met the test of time."

These services are based largely on responsive singing of Psalms. The culmination of the week was the Divine Service of Holy Communion on the final day. Preacher and celebrant was Rev. Fredrik Sidenvall, Chairman of the North European Luther Academy and Rector of the Gothenburg Lutheran High School (L M Engströms Gymnasiet).

Summer in Sweden is delicious!

"The purpose of the youth conference," Rev. Sidenvall noted, "is to give you courage and joy, founded on the steadfast ground of the Word and in forms uniting Christians of all times and in all places, and to pour out of the wells of salvation opened by the Holy Spirit in the Divine Service, in biblical teaching, and in common prayer and singing. In the conviction that everything good comes from God, we also want to give rich opportunities to experience the joy of life in nature together with other youth."

In addition to the prayer services, the week was filled with lectures and seminars. The plenary speaker was Pr. Daniel Preus of the Luther Academy, who was elected Fourth Vice President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod on July 13. Rev. Preus is well known in Sweden for his book Why I Am A Lutheran: Jesus at the Center, which has been translated into Swedish. Pr. Preus spoke on the conference's theme, Abba - God the Father. In four lectures Pr. Preus illustrated the Bible's image of God to show the grounds upon which we may call out "Abba, Father!"

Worship services were held in Varberg Church, in the center of town.

"Pr. Preus's lectures," reports Rev. Appell, "made the Gospel alive and refreshing, even though we have heard it so many times. He made it joyful again for many youth. Pr. Preus explained that we don't know Abba the Father, that we learn to know him only through the Son, and that because of the Son we begin to love Abba and serve Him and our neighbor."

A survey of the presenters at this Scandinavian youth conference demonstrates the impact of Concordia Theological Seminary on the growing Confessional renewal in that region:

Pr. Jan Bygstad of Bergen, Norway, spoke on "Praying to Abba."

The conference was not, however, merely a meeting of the CTS Scandinavian Alumni Association. Pastor Jan Bygstad of Bergen, Norway spoke on "Praying to Abba." Rev. Michael Nygaard, of Kolding, Denmark, spoke on the First Article of the Creed. Rev. Dr. Timo Laato, a pastor in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland and a teacher at the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg, Sweden, spoke on the Mother (the Church). Rev. Olle Fogelqvist of Gothenburg spoke on the symbolism in the worship service. Mrs. Linda Preus spoke on parenting, marriage and family. Seminarian Lasse Lindegaard of Denmark led a seminar on Christian companionship. Anki Lidén, a deaconess in Gothenburg, led a seminar on being a woman of God, and Rev. Sidenvall led a seminar on being a man of God. Concordia Seminary in St. Louis was also represented by former student Kristofer Norbye.

Pr. Jakob Appell introduces Pr. Preus at a plenary session lecture.

In addition to the many prayer services, lectures, and seminars, participants enjoyed free time in Varberg, one of Sweden's top vacation cities. The seaside resort city boasts a pleasant beach, a mighty fortress from the 1600s, and a university campus that hosted the lectures and seminars.

Corpus Christi has been under development for at least five years. In addition to Rev. Appell, who also serves as the National Secretary of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Education Foundation (SELEF), the founders include Rev. Sidenvall; former Gothenburg Lutheran High School Chaplain Olle Fogelqvist; SELEF´s Secretary for Education, Rev. Dr. Bengt Birgersson; and Secretary Gunnar Andersson of Kyrkliga Förbundet (the Church League for Evangelical Lutheran Faith). Before organizing their own conferences in Scandinavia, Corpus Christi's founders led delegations of students and pastors to Higher Things Conferences in the USA in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Assisting in organizing the itinerary for these trips was one of the first projects of Scandinavia House.

Meals were served at Campus Varberg.

"The group from Sweden was inspired," Rev. Sidenvall recalls of the Higher Things conferences, "by the huge quantity of adolescents who wanted to stand on the firm foundation of the Word, who wanted to deepen their biblical faith, and who wanted to gather for worship through forms that unite Christians in all times. The longing for 'churchly and biblical renewal among youth in the Nordic countries' was ignited. We want to say yes to the vocation we received in Baptism: to live with Jesus Christ in his church, led by his Spirit and Word."

"We want to preserve what is found in the Church in all ages," notes Rev. Appell, "and receive it as a gift, as an inheritance, in which atonement and salvation is mediated in the liturgy and through the Word, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. We want to stand in fellowship with the Church in all the world and in all the ages, rather than say that everything old is trash. The focus is primarily on God's work for us. "When it comes to biblical renewal, we want to tie together preaching and teaching in which the classic principles Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone are again brought to light."

The competition at the World Cup might have been more intense, but the beach was great fun.

The pan-Scandinavian and international nature of the Confessional movement was demonstrated by the fact that presenters came from Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden and the United States. The first Corpus Christi conference was held in June 2009, also in Varberg. Next year's conference is tentatively planned for Finland, and the Latvians proposed a future conference in Riga.

Varberg is a beautiful resort city by the sea, and participants enjoyed the views. On the left is Salome Tobin, who provided many of the fotos on this page. Pr. Russell Johnson and Henrik Brengesjö also contributed several.

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Plenary sessions, sectionals, and seminars were held at Campus Varberg.