Corpus Christi 2013: "Life in Christ"

Corpus Christi Conference gathers young European Lutherans in Turku, Finland

Young Lutherans from ten countries gathered in Turku, Finland at the end of June for edifying instruction, good conversation and deepening of the Christian faith – all framed by worship and good fellowship.

The fifth annual Corpus Christi Conference continued building a Confessional network among youth, students and young pastors in Northern Europe. The conferences aim to promote biblical renewal and lead young people into Evangelical Lutheran liturgical church life.

A Participant’s Perspective

Erik Johansson

This year's conference was great! The theme was “Life in Christ” from John 15. Pastor Kurt Reinhardt from Canada did a great job expounding it. He used many images from nature, such as how Adam cut himself off from the Root and took all men with him. He explained why God had to become a man so that we could be reconnected to the vine; How we are connected to Christ – by His blood; That the fruit doesn't grow from the vine, but from the branches;

Erik Johansson has worked with Corpus Christi from its beginning, including the study trips to Higher Things and participation in Christ Academy at Concordia Theological Seminary. He has been involved in planning and logistics for the conferences in Sweden. Erik is studying music production.

Foto: Silje Kiil    

It is Jesus’ death and resurrection that connects us to Christ, not anything we can do; How we need to be pruned to bear fruit; How each branch is unique, but all are connected to the same vine; and much more. He also brought the sacraments, and private confession and absolution into this, and touched on some situations we face living as Christians in this world.

Corpus Christi is the place you will hear the word of God, law and gospel, preached and taught clearly to young people. It is the place where young people can rediscover the Church and traditional church life – and see the great blessings to be found there. It is the place to meet with the rest of the young church in Northern Europe and to get new Christian friends, and together to be strengthened in the faith – afterwards continuing the life back home, but also being together with the whole church in the Lord's Supper. I think, personally, that this is where the best teaching is for young people, at least in Sweden. I've been greatly blessed every year and really strengthened to continue my life as a Christian in this world, being a witness about Christ to the world.

I’ve been especially surprised by the huge interest from Latvia. That's something we didn’t even think about in the beginning. It has been made possible by funds from Nordisk Östmission (Nordic Eastern Mission). We heard from the Latvian Pastor Didzis Stilve that the conferences have impacted the young people from Latvia and helped them understand more about the church. We have seen them become more involved and more interested, which is a great joy!

I think we are strengthened every year as more and more people are involved in Corpus Christi. If all goes well, I think we can attract even more people to the conference in Sätila, Sweden, next year.

Corpus Christi is an independent organization of Confessional Lutherans across national boundaries, from many Nordic and Baltic churches and Confessional organizations. It was organized with support from the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Education Foundation, which also supports the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg (Församlingsfakulteten), Gothenburg Bible School and Gothenburg Lutheran High School (L M Engströms gymnasium). Before the first Scandinavian conference in 2009, the organizers brought Swedish youth and pastors to three Higher Things conferences in America. They adjusted the basic approach to include young adults as well as youth, and adapted it to their environment.

Rev. Kurt Reinhardt of Ontario, Canada was the plenary speaker for the second year.

Foto: Silje Kiil

Like Higher Things, the CC conferences consist of solid Bible teaching, seminars and in-depth sessions. Liturgical prayer plays a big part, and the days are scheduled around the Liturgy of the Hours (Daily Offices). There is great emphasis on Word and Sacrament, both in the teaching and in the worship. Somehow, planners manage also to fit in a great deal of fun. Participants are eager to return the next year, and the conference has been growing steadily.

CC has been held three times in Sweden and twice in Finland. Next year’s conference will be near Gothenburg … but a future conference in Riga, Latvia is under discussion. CC is held shortly after the Swedish Midsummer celebration.

This year’s CC included participants from all four Nordic countries plus Latvia, Germany, England, Canada, the Ukraine and the United States. A conference with participants from many nations must be multi-lingual, but the main language is English, the one in which all are reasonably fluent.

This means, of course, that even the famously monolingual Americans can think of participating. In fact, at least one American congregation is seriously considering sending a delegation, and others are reportedly contemplating the possibility. A decline in trans-Atlantic air fares would, of course, make this even more attractive.

Rev. Jakob Appell, Corpus Christi Chairman

Corpus Christi’s chairman, Rev. Jakob Appell of Gothenburg, notes, “Fellowship across the borders is really significant in our time and for the future of Lutheranism in Europe.”

“Our emphasis on worship, study and play has borne much fruit,” he adds. “It is a joy to see the psalms sung with such joy and confidence. This gives a real experience of Lutheran liturgical life. Many return home with a fresh appreciation of the life of the Church.”

Rev. Appell is an STM graduate from Concordia Theological Seminary. He serves as assistant pastor in Kvillebäcken Congregation in Gothenburg, and also serves the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg as chaplain and director of its Bible School.

The youths’ increased appreciation of liturgical life is attested by Rev. Dr. Bengt Birgersson, who notes, “Our youngest sons, Gabriel and Sebastian, after coming home wanted us to pray Laudes and Compline (in English) in the way we did at CC!”

“We have also been blessed by many gifted speakers,” Appell notes, “not least this year’s speaker, Rev. Kurt Reinhardt from Canada. His lectures on ‘life in Christ’ were really shaped by a life in Christ. He is a true shepherd and thus a model for many pastors/pastors-to-be/ and an encouragement for all.”

This was Rev. Reinhardt’s second time as plenary speaker. He is pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kurtz, Ontario. Previous plenary speakers include Rev. Daniel Preus, 4th Vice President of LCMS, and Rev. Peter Bender twice.

Pastor Kurt Reinhardt's plenary lectures were on "Life in Christ" from John 15. Here he illustrates a point using an image of a grapevine.

Foto: Samuli Siikavirta

A Catalyst for Networking

In addition to promoting biblical and liturgical renewal among youth, Corpus Christi is a significant catalyst for strengthening contacts and relationships among Confessional Lutherans in Northern Europe. One by-product of the Corpus Christi conferences has been the formation of the Network of Young Lutheran Theologians (NYLT). This network of young Confessional pastors and theology students, founded during Corpus Christi’s 2011 conference, held its fourth gathering in conjunction with this year’s conference. The North European Luther Academy also held this year’s annual conference in Turku during the conference.

“CC has primarily established a network among the youth, among students, but also among some younger pastors in Lutheran circles of Northern Europe,” Rev. Jakob Appell reflects. “We build strong social ties as we worship, study and play together.”

“NYLT focuses even more on this,” Appell adds, “as its very purpose is to establish a fellowship among younger pastors and theology students. These are potentially the leaders of the Lutheran churches in the future. This means that Lutherans might unite across national boundaries as never before.”

“It has been very refreshing to become aware of Lutherans in Eastern Europe,” Appell continues. “They need support, and we are blessed by their presence among us. A goal is to have young Lutherans from all over Europe present at every CC, to strengthen our connections with each other. We pray the Lord will use these stronger connections among groups, theological institutions and church leaders to help rebuild His Church in Europe.”

carving in Turku Cathedral

The conference theme was "Life in Christ." This carving on the wall of Turku's medieval cathedral reminds us that our life in Christ is a fruit of His death for us.

Foto: Samuli Siikavirta

Reports on previous Corpus Christi conferences

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