Wrong or right, I’m of the opinion that not everyone in the world has to be Lutheran (though this does not keep me from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others as I understand it through a Lutheran hermeneutic). Alongside that, I’m also a realist about how many people (more than we would sometimes like to admit) move/change from one denominational (or religious) affiliation to another. Two immediate, non-conflictual reasons include moving to an area where one’s Christian denomination does not have a local congregation or marrying someone who is of a different faith background. These are very common. In my own extended family, I’m aware of far more couples that qualify in the latter of these reasons than those who are homogeneous in their affiliation. Such is more and more prevalent in our contemporary context. As such, I think it is wise for our youth to witness and worship alongside people of different denominations and religions, even if only on a very brief level, for the sake of having some experience that can help them make better-educated decisions if the situation arises one day that they attend somewhere that is not Lutheran. With this—and just as important—having these experiences and conversations with various people of faith will also help combat the rampant xenophobia that unfortunately plagues our country. Being welcomed into another’s place of worship and joining with them in a holy practice that is deeply meaningful to their faith identity helps one become more open and engaged to learning about our similarities and differences while respecting one another in spite of them.
Therefore, as I have been attending these churches I have had multiple thoughts running through my mind regarding what all I hope the students to experience. One such hope is that our youth will be brought out of their comfort zones to encounter Christ in and through others who believe and worship differently from them. Time will tell how these hopes are affirmed and fulfilled; nevertheless, I trust that the Holy Spirit will guide our gathering, worshipping, and learning so that we all may continue to grow in our faith. As I continue to worship alongside sisters and brothers and compiling my list of congregations for me and the 8th graders to attend, I would like to invite you to consider joining us any time we go to attend worship elsewhere. I believe part of Christian discipleship is a commitment to lifelong learning. If there is a place you have never been to or somewhere you would like to engage more deeply, please feel free to join us. We learn better when we learn altogether. I will keep you posted on where all we will be going. May you find yourself moved—whether with the confirmands or otherwise—to go and worship alongside your sisters and brothers in other places, being blessed by them and learning in a manner that shapes your life of faith with others.