Corpus Christi 2011 - The King

A Report by Weslie Odom

Opening service in Kristinestad

Opening service for Corpus Christi 2011

Kristinestad, Finland, founded in 1649 as a port and trading town, was the picturesque setting for the 2011 Corpus Christi Youth Conference. The choice of this beautiful seaside town to host the estimated 200 attendees was, to say the least, inspired! Walking the streets and alleys lined with perfectly preserved wooden houses only added to the magical atmosphere of meeting confessional Lutheran youth, families, pastors, and missionaries from not only all over Scandinavia, but all over the world. The unifying voice of the common Lutheran Confession within the diversity of representatives from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Latvia, Germany, America, Romania, and several countries in Africa was encouraging, inspiring, and humbling.

As part of the introduction to the conference on Monday, Rev. Jakob Appell, Corpus Christi’s Chairman, encouraged all present to worship 100% when it was time for worship, study and learn 100% when it was time to study and learn, and to play 100% when it was time to play. These words set the tone for the following days.

2011 Corpus Christi logo

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

Worship 100%

The numerous times set aside every day for worship in the Divine Services and prayer offices offered for the conference provided a further realization of unity for these Christians from many different countries. Though done in English, Swedish, and Finnish, the liturgy shone through and it was obvious all were happily able to follow along and receive the Gospel. My wife, Kristina, and I rejoiced in the smallness of history and geography in the face of the liturgy.

It was clear that the organizers of the conference were aware of the potential diversity of worship practices among those present, so care was given for any not familiar with the regular prayer offices of the church. At the beginning of the conference, a very helpful and thorough presentation was given by Fredrik Sidenvall on the history and purpose of these various offices. This presentation seemed to help ease everyone into what was one of the week’s daily centerpieces.

Rev. Daniel Brandt

Rev. Daniel Brandt preaches at a worship service. Rev. Brandt is currently an STM student at CTS and lives at Scandinavia House.

All the services offered for the conference attendees were held in utmost reverence in the beautiful church at the center of Kristinestad. Each attendee was given a worship folder that contained all of the week’s services in their various languages. This was very helpful for some who may not have been familiar with the language used in a particular service. Some meaningful discussions about worship started when someone asked questions concerning translation of a particular section of the liturgy. The decision to offer service in multiple languages and not simply in the modern lingua franca, English, is one that should be carried on into the future.

Rev. Markus Pöyry of Finland preaches while Jacob Corzine translates. Rev. Pöyry earned his STM at CTS and was one of the first residents of Scandinavia House.

During each of the prayer offices, the attendees were blessed to listen to confessional Lutheran pastors from several different countries proclaim the Law and the Gospel simply and clearly. The atmosphere of a unified confession of faith was again present here. The preaching throughout the week was solid and heartening. It surely reminded all present that if you are a confessional Lutheran, you aren’t alone in a world that’s increasingly secular and a dominant Christianity that more and more frequently shrugs off God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture.

Prayer offices and Divine Services were led by Concordia Theological Seminary and Scandinavia House alumni and current residents such as Jakob Appell, Markus Pöyry, Esko Murto, and Daniel Brandt. Other CTS alumni who led worship were Missouri Synod pastor and plenary speaker Peter Bender and Didzis Stilve from Latvia. Bengt Birgersson and Ulf Jonsson from Sweden, Jani-Matti Ylilehto and Timo Laato from Finland, and others also led services. It was a joy to hear faithful preaching from brothers who share the same confession if not the same continent.

Study 100%

Those who attended Corpus Christi this year certainly worshiped when they worshiped, and they also studied when they studied. The plenary speaker for this year was Rev. Peter Bender from Peace Lutheran Church and Academy in Sussex, WI. Rev. Bender is also the director of Concordia Catechetical Academy. His presentations were, in a word, stunning. From the beginning to the end of each of his presentations, everyone in the church hung on his every word. His teaching style was engaging, humorous, deep, biblical, confessional, and clear.

Rev. Peter Bender

Bender’s theme was that of the Conference this year, namely, Christ the King. As a student of theology, I was astonished at how clearly Bender was able to connect the prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament and Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection on behalf of sinful, fallen man with the way in which Christ reigns now as king in His kingdom by giving the gifts of life and salvation to all who believe. In addition to Bender’s four plenary sessions, the organizers of Corpus Christi provided a great diversity of opportunities for participants to learn more about their faith. These opportunities were divided into six possibilities for "going deeper" sessions that allowed one to choose a topic and meet three times throughout the week with the same leader and group. There were also 10 smaller seminars on a variety of topics with the opportunity to listen to three different presentations over the course of the conference.

The "going deeper" sessions varied from a presentation by Esko Murto, Theological Secretary of the Luther Foundation in Finland, on "The Crucified King" to a presentation by African missionary Reino Toikka and African pastor Cyprian Kanuty Moshi on the kingdom of God in the church and in the church’s mission, entitled "Thy Kingdom Come."

The presentation I attended was specifically aimed at pastors, theologians, and theological students, and discussed the future of the church, specifically the future of the confessional Lutheran church, around the world. Led by Timo Laato, professor of New Testament studies at Församlingsfakulteten in Gothenburg, the session was a great success. The group that met over the three days included pastors and theological students from Sweden, Finland, Norway, and the United States. All were able to share their views on the current state of their particular church body and discuss possible ways to further the confessional Lutheran church. The discussions were greatly enriched by the presence of Bishop Matti Väisänen from the Luther Foundation in Finland and Bengt Birgersson, Education Secretary of the Mission Province in Sweden. This group embodied one of the great benefits of Corpus Christi - making connections with and encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ who desire to make the good confession faithfully.

Professor Timo Laato leads a discussion on the future of the Church. At right is Bishop Matti Väisänen.

The smaller sessions offered were as diverse in topic as they were in presenters. From the United States, Jacob Corzine, CTS graduate and current doctoral student in Berlin, presented on "The Freedom of the Christian." Also from the United States, my wife and I presented on "Male and Female He Created Them," which dealt with a biblical view of gender. In addition there were presentations on confession from Bengt Birgersson, how to confess one’s faith from Jani-Matti Ylilehto, baptism in the life of a Christian from doctoral student Samuli Siikavirta, the church’s witness to the Muslim world by missionary Kari Vitikainen, and other presentations from Didzis Stilve, Sebastian Grünbaum, Jari Kekäle, and Markus Pöyry.

While this rich variety of topics and presenters was amazing, so was the rich diversity in age, education, and background of the attendees. In the three presentations that my wife and I gave, the first group had 20 or so teenagers from Latvia sitting next to world-class scholars. A group of mainly 20-30 year olds from Finland and Sweden composed the second group, and a smaller group of married couples of various ages formed the final group. This was one of the truly unique and indescribably wonderful things about Corpus Christi. Everyone participated, everyone asked questions, and no one seemed left out or overlooked. The organizers even provided translation services for those who needed it.

100% Fun and Play

This last heading could honestly describe the entire week in Kristinestad. The organizers, though, seemed keenly aware that one of the great unscripted benefits of a conference like Corpus Christi is the opportunity to make new friends and acquaintances. To encourage this, there were two large blocks of free time scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. During this time, all were able to explore the historic town of Kristinestad or pack in a car and head down to the water to swim, play volleyball, relax, and talk about what we had learned that day.

This culminated with the party for everyone on Wednesday evening, which began with a beautiful prayer office in the park. It was a great opportunity for the entire conference to gather in a relaxed setting and laugh and talk about the week. Entertainment during the party included a hilarious song and skit from a motley group of Swedes and a neat Bible drill game that let everyone learn a few biblical words in other languages.

The fun of the conference would not have been fun at all, but for the tireless work of the organizers and Finnish hosts who gave of their time and energy so those of us who participated could have the best possible experience. From the time we showed up, there were smiling faces and helpful tips from all the volunteers. Also a small but amazing contribution of the volunteers was the corps of women, mothers and friends of the volunteers, who gave of their time to provide delicious, home-cooked meals (including homemade bread!) three times a day for hundreds of people. These ladies received a well-deserved standing ovation at the party the final evening.


The week spent at Corpus Christi was an irreplaceable experience to listen to and learn from gifted, confessional Lutherans, and to meet and befriend those whom I will now keep in touch with as the years go on. Jakob Appell and the original organizers of Corpus Christi saw a need, made a plan to meet that need, and have been fulfilling that need for the past several years. I cannot recommend strongly enough that interested youth and adults alike start saving money to fly to Scandinavia next summer and participate in this truly unique gift that’s available to church catholic!

Rev Jakob Appell

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, where he was one of the first residents of Scandinavia House.

Click here for a photo essay on last year’s conference.

Return to homepage

Scandinavia House logo

For further information contact info @

Weslie Odom is a Fourth Year M.Div. Student at Concordia Theological Seminary. He supplied both text and photos.