C. Richard Evenson
By Marvin L. Roloff
C. Richard Evenson (1922-1994) was a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Christian educator and denominational executive. He was a visionary leader and advocate for experiential education. Evenson served as the Executive Director for Parish Education in the Evangelical Lutheran Church and The American Lutheran Church, and Director of Research and of Parish Support in the Lutheran Church in America. He was also a writer, teacher at Columbia University and Wartburg Theological Seminary, pastor, education researcher, ecumenical leader, and outstanding administrator.
C. Richard Evenson (Dick) was born July 24, 1922 to Carl and Carrie (Karen Helene Voie) Evenson in Iola, Wisconsin and was baptized as an infant in the Lutheran Church. Though he spent most of his boyhood years in Scandinavia, Wisconsin, he spent several years of his early childhood in Arizona, California, and Colorado because of his father's health. His father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and the common treatment for that disease was to move to a climate that did not have severely cold winters. As a result he attended grade schools in La Junta, Colorado; Scandinavia, Wisconsin; and Pasadena, California.
In addition to his school activities Dick also played the violin. In his junior high and high school he was active in public speaking and entered contests in extemporaneous speaking. He was also in the senior class play. He graduated from Union Free High School in Scandinavia, WI on May 23, 1939 and valedictorian of his class.
In his boyhood years Dick attended Saturday school and Sunday school regularly at church. He was confirmed in the Lutheran Church on September 6, 1936. His confirmation commitment and dedication to the rite was integral part of his life personally and also in his career in Christian education. During his senior year in high school from 1938-1939 Dick was president of the Luther League in his congregation in Scandinavia.
Preparation for Parish and Educational Ministry
Education beyond high school reflects common themes in Dick Evenson's life: youth, education, theology, and ministry. Out of high school he went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. He graduated in 1943 with a major in English and minors in speech and history. He graduated with honors. During his time in Madison Dick developed a close relationship with the pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, the Rev. Morris Wee. Rev. Wee was a mentor to Dick and they stayed in touch all during Dick's career. While at the University of Wisconsin, Dick was president of the Luther League/Lutheran Student Association at Bethel Lutheran Church, 1941-42. In 1942-1943 Dick served as the president of the Hub Region of the Lutheran Student Association of America. In 1944-1945 he served as acting chaplain at the State Training School in Red Wing, Minnesota.
After graduation from the University of Wisconsin Dick attended Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota and received a Candidatus Theologiae on September 17, l945 and was ordained in the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America on September 23, 1945. On May 30, 1948 Dick received his Bachelor of Theology degree from Luther Theological Seminary. His thesis for this degree was Leadership Training for the Evangelical Lutheran Church. It was during these years that he was called to be associate pastor to work with Dr. Fredrik A. Schiotz at Trinity Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, New York and served there from 1945-49. He was pastor of Trinity's "Junior Congregation" that was comprised of 300 high school youth with a complete congregation program of their own; and associate pastor with Trinity's American Division in all pastoral functions.
Dick received his Master of Art degree from Teacher's College, Columbia University, New York City, New York in 1949. His major was student personnel administration. Then in 1956 he received his Doctor of Education from Teacher's College, Columbia University. His major was group development. He was an instructor at Teacher's College, Columbia University, February -June, 1950 He taught a course on discussion methods.
He also attended Union Theological Seminary in New York City, New York in 1949-50 and 1958-60.
His first call to parish ministry was as associate pastor to Trinity Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, New York. Following that Dick was pastor of Lutheran Students in the Greater New York area in 1949-50.
In 1950 Pastor Evenson accepted the call to be youth pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Moorhead, Minnesota and served there for two years. In 1952 Pastor Evenson moved to Woodlake Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota as senior pastor and served there until 1957. He also was an instructor at Lutheran Bible Institute, Minneapolis, MN, 1955-1957.
His final call to a congregation came in 1973 when he was called to American Lutheran in Huron, South Dakota. He served there until 1978. While in South Dakota he was president of the Great Lakes Conference and chairman of the District Council of the South Dakota district, 1976-1978.
Executive Leadership in Parish Education
The outstanding leadership of Dr. C. Richard Evenson was appreciated in his executive leadership in the denominations of his time.
He served as Executive Secretary for Parish Education for the Board of Christian Education in the Evangelical Lutheran Church from 1957-61. The Evangelical Lutheran Church merged into The American Lutheran Church in 1960. Dr. Evenson became the Executive Director for the Division of Parish Education in that church body from 1961-1973. While in this position, Dick was the chair of the Joint Commission of Theology and Practice of Confirmation from 1964-70. Under his leadership a totally new concept of confirmation ministry was introduced to the Lutheran church changing confirmation from a rite to a lifelong ministry in the church.
In 1965, 66, 69, and 70 Dr. Evenson served on the Lutheran World Federation Conferences on Education and participated in those assemblies.
He was a visiting professor at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa in 1967.
In 1978 Dr. Evenson became Director for the Department for Research and Studies for the Division for Parish Services in the Lutheran Church in America and 1984 became Director for Parish Support in that same Division for Parish Services until July 1987 when he became the Administrative Coordinator for the Division for Parish Services. He remained there until his retirement in 1988.
Professional Associations and Writing
Dr. Evenson held membership in professional associations including the Lutheran Society for Worship Music and the Arts, Institute for Applied Behavioral Sciences, and the Religious Education Association.
He was a frequent contributor to Lutheran Standard, Lutheran Teacher, Youth Programs, Learning With and Confirmation and Education.
Dr. Evenson wrote The Teacher's Personal Relationship and annual training courses for the Division for Parish Education, 1959-1965.
He was the editor of Foundation for Educational Ministry, Yearbooks in Christian Education, Volume III, published by Fortress Press in 1971.
He also wrote, God's Table of Grace, Preparing Children and Parents for Holy Communion. Learner Book and Leader's Guide 1977; Augsburg Publishing House, Concordia Publishing House, and Fortress Press.
Civic and Community Contributions
Dick served on various committees in organizations including: Parent Teacher Associations, Scouting, Citizens Committee on Youth, YMCA, political caucuses, and education committees in the congregation where he and his family attended, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN.
Dick also served as a curriculum consultant to the Religious Education Advisory Group of the Armed Forces Chaplain's Board in 1959.
Dick had one sister, Helen. She is married to Pastor Lester W. Hoffmann. Dick married Mary Jane Bakken in 1945. They had five children: Olive, Carl, Emily, Aaron, and Tormad.
At the funeral of his father, Carl said:
"My father was a great person in this way: He chose to aim at the nobility of living to principle and belief.
We can let my father's record speak for itself. It's full of highs and lows, like yours and mine. But it is worth remembering today that he believed in the gospel, heard its call, and dedicated his life to the One, Jesus Christ. With his whole life - he aimed at the nobility of living to principle and belief.
And he had the remarkable ability to inspire others with his energy for life and faith. His mind never ceased searching to learn a little more, understand a little more deeply. And not only for himself - always, he was passing it on, teaching, sharing with others the insights he had found.
He looked for the profound in everything, to the point of our exasperation sometimes! But always leading, leading others to see with eyes more widely opened, that which lies all around us to be discovered, and placing it all into the fabric of his faith in God.
One little story: In 1966 my father and mother lost their eldest daughter Olive, in an automobile accident. She was just 20. It happened late in November, and the funeral was held only a few days before Thanksgiving, when we gathered again as a family to be thankful. And my father stopped on Thanksgiving Day, to telephone the family of the young man who was the driver of the car on that fateful night. The young man had survived, and my father called to express thanksgiving for that - and to extend a voice and hand across the great chasm between families and to place everything within God's hand and benediction somehow. And he did it in front of the family so we saw and learned. Even at such a moment, leading by example the nobility of living to principle and belief.
My father was given the rare gift of being a leader. I think his chief gift as a father, was to lead us children. His gift as a husband was to lead the marriage. His chief gift as an administrator, pastor and teacher, was to lead forward."
C. Richard Evenson's Biography from his Sister and Brother-in-law
Carl Richard Evenson II grew up in Scandinavia, Wisconsin, a small farming community of 300. This small town, however, had an important place in the history of our Lutheran church, especially in the late 1800s and early 1900s when merger negotiations took place, resulting in the formation of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America. Dick's father contracted tuberculosis when Dick was a very young child and because no medicines were available to treat it at that time, the family spent several winters in Arizona and California where there was sun and warmth, rest and patience. Dick graduated as Valedictorian from high school and went on to study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Because of the family's limited resources, he had to use ingenuity and resourcefulness to finish his education. Dr. Morris Wee of Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin, was an important mentor in Dick's life and had a significant influence in his answering the call to be a pastor. Dr. Wee also married Dick and Mary Jane. They were married for 49 years before his death in 1994.
After Dick's graduation from Luther Seminary he worked as associate pastor at Trinity in Brooklyn with Dr. Fred Schiotz, who would later be the leader of The American Lutheran Church. During this time he also received his doctorate in education at Columbia University. His degree in education with a particular emphasis in group dynamics proved to be a valuable combination in developing a theology which included both a vertical connection with God and a strong appreciation for the relational element of living out one's faith.
After serving in Moorhead, Minnesota and Richfield, Minnesota he was called to be Director of Parish Education, a position he held for 20 years. During that time he developed a diverse staff which was the crown jewel of the church. He was a splendid leader, respected by his peers and those who served on his staff. While experiencing many setbacks, the death of a daughter, some rejection of the faith by some of his children, and a reorganization of the educational ministry which sent him back into the parish, he never wavered.
Convinced of God's clear call, he never looked back nor did he ever complain. Dick was a man of fervent faith. At his memorial service, his pastor told of how Dick would belt out the Confession of Faith. And true to his organizational skills, Dick wrote out every part of the memorial service which would celebrate his life.
Dick's brother-in-law, Les Hoffmann, writes these words: "As a brother-in-law, Dick was a wonderful mentor. Since I had no brother, he was a wonderful and close 'brother-friend.' Whenever there were parish problems there could be a phone conversation of over an hour in length. Diagrams were drawn up and options were made clear. I always looked forward to Dick and Mary Jane's Christmas greeting which was so very creative, instructional, and useful as a building block for conversation. In fact, I always left a space in my Christmas Eve sermon for inserting something of this greeting."
Dick's sister, Helen, adds these words: "He was always called Richard in our family, just as I was always Helen Marie. Being eight years older than me, he was also my mentor, and the one who could always remember family events and history. He organized an Evenson Roots Reunion one year when we all met in the hometown of Scandinavia and visited the grandparents' farms and the houses we had lived in while growing up. And at each place he gave a special gift to each of his children to remember that place in history after telling a bit of the history of each place. While visiting him in his home once, I noticed a plaque on the wall with some words in Norwegian. He explained to me that these words he had heard our mother say many times, only in Norwegian, as he was growing up. He spoke Norwegian as a child and never forgot it, so he translated it for me. And these words I have never forgotten:
"Judge others sparingly -- More stringently yourself And never, never condemn anyone; Remember, life is a difficult struggle in the river, And not all can swim equally well. "
Dick's sister treasures an article that Dick wrote for the Lutheran Teacher magazine while he was Director of Parish Education in The American Lutheran Church. It is as follows:
You are for someone, the best example they happen to know - of what it means to be a Christian. You are watched - by someone. You are listened to - by someone. What does that someone learn from you - of God?
Take, for instance, the past 24 hours - or the past week. What would someone watching you and listening to you have learned about God - this past week?
What, of all things you've done, would have given the impression that God is real to you? Would God seem near - or far off - to someone watching you?
Would it have been apparent that God was taken into account - or that God was simply left out of your planning and deciding? In other words, would someone watching you have learned that God makes a difference - or that God is irrelevant?
Someone is learning from you. Someone is listening to you. Someone is testing you. Someone is wondering, and therefore questioning you. Someone is learning of God - from you. - C. Richard Evenson
Dick Evenson was a champion of family roots. Writing about his grandfather's journey to America on a sailing ship he wrote these words: "To Hope Is Better Than to Have."
Gunder Boie's navigational tools, for the sailing vessel he captained, gave rise to wonder. He marked the date,1875, along with his name and thought what might be next year.
Think how he longed and yearned and hope for land. How he longed for, yearned and hoped for his wife. Longing, and yearning, and hoping were the pulse of his life in those years.
Later, when he was a settled farmer in Wisconsin, the pulse of his life became having and protecting.
And was that better? Having and protecting takes up all of the energy we can manage. Having and protecting keep us from being free to go on an unexpected journey, even for the Lord. And when we get that busy keeping, we may discover that we are kept. Kept from wholehearted response to Jesus. Kept from something that he has for us in His kingdom. To hope is better than to have. - C. Richard Evenson
By: Les and Helen Marie Evenson Hoffmann, sister and brother-in-law, Phoenix, Arizona.
Obituary Of Rev. C. Richard Evenson
The Rev. C. Richard Evenson, 72, former executive director for Parish Education in the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the American Lutheran Church, and director of Research and of Parish Support in the Lutheran Church in America, died of cancer October 14, 1994, in Northfield, Minnesota.
He grew up in Scandinavia, Wisconsin, though as a child also in Arizona, Colorado, and California. He often told his earliest memory as a two-year-old in Arizona, climbing on the trellis to look across the field to where the trains went by, knowing he had come on such a train and having the awareness of belonging in more than one place - a lifelong sense that included both this world and the next.
In his student days he was a regional and national leader in the Lutheran Student Association of America. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin and Luther Seminary in St. Paul, and was ordained in the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America.
For seven years he was a pastor for youth in Brooklyn, New York, and in Moorhead, Minnesota, where he developed many programs of guidance and training for youth groups in congregations and in camps. While pastor of Woodlake Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, he was in much demand as a Bible camp leader and as a trainer of youth leaders from throughout the church. He earned a Doctor of Education degree for work at Union Seminary and Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, and focused on leadership training, especially for youth.
In 1957 he became Executive Director for Parish Education in the church bodies that became the American Lutheran Church. He developed a program of teacher training that reached some 40,000 church school volunteers every year, including The Bible, Book of Faith, a crucial study that saved the ALC from major turmoil regarding seminary teachings on the nature and purpose of the scriptures. He led a staff of colorful and brilliant educators to develop teaching-learning innovations for all ages, and is warmly remembered by many for insights gained and for ideas they still find it useful to quote.
He taught at Columbia University Teachers College, at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, and in countless workshops and institutes throughout the United States and Canada. He was a participant in the Lutheran World Federation consultations on education in Jerusalem, Geneva, and Evian, France. He chaired the joint Lutheran Commission on Theology and Practice of Confirmation, and made many presentations on confirmation ministry throughout his 49 years as a pastor.
In 1973, he took a parish pastorate at American Lutheran Church in Huron, South Dakota. In 1978 he became Director of Research, later Director of Parish Support in the Division for Parish Services, Lutheran Church in America, in Philadelphia.
Evenson retired when the ELCA came into being in 1988, but continued vigorous activity as a volunteer in the congregations where he was a member in Devon, Pennsylvania and Northfield, Minnesota, spearheading improvements in Christian education, especially in confirmation ministry.
Besides his wife, Mary Jane, survivors include sons Carl of Neenah, Wisconsin, Aaron of Nerstrand, Minnesota, and Tor of Huron, South Dakota, daughter Emily of Minneapolis, sister Helen Hoffmann of Phoenix, Arizona, and eight grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Olive.
Contributions to Christian Education
Reflections from 12 people who knew C. Richard Evenson and his work:
The Rev. Lawrence Denef, Adult Resource Development in the Division of Parish Education. Now retired.
Not many know of C. Richard Evenson's appreciation of fairy tales. He may not have used W. H. Auden's words, "It is hardly too much to say that these tales rank next of the Bible in importance," but he found them imaginative stories of lived life; metaphorical expressions of the human quest, what its stages of realization are, what the trials of transition from childhood to maturity are, and what maturity means. Given his unique faith perspective one might say he saw them as a literary life raft on a fundamentalistic sea.
During the time I served with the staff in the Department of Parish Education in The American Lutheran Church, Dr. Evenson attended the same church I did, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, on Lyndale Avenue South, in Minneapolis. I often convened the Sunday morning adult discussion group. One series of studies - "The Wisdom of the Fairy Tales" - is particularly memorable. He and his wife, Mary Jane, participated in every session. In introducing the series I said:
"What has happened to fairy tales over the years is a sad story. With the dawning of the 'age of reason' fairy tales were relegated to the level of the 'fictitious,' the 'untrue,' the 'superstitious.' What happened in history also holds true for what happens in the developmental life of every individual. Each of us grows up, matures, and achieves an 'age of reason.' As the intellect develops we too begin to test all of the traditions we have grown up with on the basis of our new-found knowledge. More and more the gracious activities of others are replaced by the centrality of the self. But, where reason alone rules, our relationship to the whole of life fails and the essence of the fairy tale is lost. We see merely stories, frightening and gruesome at that, and we forget them, or destroy them, or rewrite them. Interestingly, the fairy tales themselves tell us that if they die; they die because of us and not because they are outdated or steeped in superstition. Many of them close, not with the rather romanticized affirmation, 'And they lived happily ever after,' but with the far more profound hint at eternal truth, 'Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, so leben sie heute noch,' (And if they haven't died, they're living still)."
The weekend following our final session, Dr. Evenson approached me after the worship service, said, "I have something special for you," and handed me a small, carefully wrapped package. Upon opening it I found a small antiquarian edition of "Grimm's Fairy Tales," in which he had inscribed these words - "To Larry. Thanks for the insight, 'Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, so leben sie heute noch.'" That little book, which I later discovered was a family heritage, has not only found a treasured place in my library but become a remarkable icon to rekindle dreams.
Jesus once called a child to himself and setting the child in the midst of his disciples said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven," (Matthew 18:3). C. Richard Evenson's approach to educational ministry, and the spiritual transformation it involves, reflects that same experiential sense of wonder and amazement natural to a child. One of his guiding principles for educational ministry was that Christians are always "becoming," they never "become." They always remain learners throughout a lifetime. Adult education is as essential as the nurture of children, and "story," in a way that excites imagination, is essential to both.
Among the major and most memorable contributions Evenson made to parish education in the Lutheran church are: (A) his renewed emphasis (1964) upon the Bible as a "book of faith" (B) his spearheading of the "joint study on the theology and practice of confirmation, in The American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (1970-1971), and the new confirmation curricula which subsequently emerged in the participating church bodies; (C) his endorsement and introduction of the latest secular and religious studies in contemporary education, learning theory and age-appropriate practices; and (D) his affirmation and application of the findings of Gerald Strober's monograph, "Portrait of the Elder Brother: Jews and Judaism in Protestant Teaching Materials" almost immediately after its publication in 1972.
(A) Evenson saw learning as biblically mandated. Christians need God's Word as much as they need daily bread. But the point is not whether the lessons in a given curriculum are based on biblical texts or expound biblical themes. It is the orientation of the learning process that is central. The real mandate, as he saw it, is to accompany people on their faith journeys, and this calls for a focus on the gospel.
C. Richard Evenson was not a biblicist. In an age of increasing fundamentalism, he focused attention on meaning, on conducting one's life from the freeing perspective of the good news, on the truth of the biblical witness. For him, the material we find in the New Testament is not guaranteed by faith in respect to empirical factuality, but is guaranteed as an expression of the transforming power of the figure of Jesus as the Christ, as it is mediated by the first witnesses. In his introduction to "The Bible Book of Faith" (1964), he states that the Bible "tells us of the great revealing acts of God to which some people responded in faith, some in disbelief. It was written by men who responded in faith. Through it God speaks to us and invites our response in faith."
Later in that same introduction he goes on to speak of historical criticism, not as a frightening threat to faith, but as a valued tool of faith: "Our faith is better instructed when we can know what happened, and when and how - as the word first became known and as it has been brought to us. We can understand it better when we learn something of the form in which it is reported and when we know what the life and times of the reporter were like. We can respond more clearly when we search out what parts of the entire message seem to apply to that particular time and place, and what parts seem to apply to us now."
This book, produced under his leadership, and introduced to the whole church through a series of local workshops, was instrumental in helping the laity of the Lutheran church recognize the difference between "believing in the Bible" and "believing in Christ." In my estimation the insights of its authors concerning the authority, the inspiration and the interpretation of Scripture provided the antidote which has contributed most to the preservation of Lutherans on this continent from the corrosion of fundamentalism. It is written in words understandable to the laity, by scholars whose faith is apparent, and it has remained a reliable standard for our Lutheran position regarding biblical material.
(B) Another major church wide effort which has had a unique and lasting effect is the study of the Joint Commission Report on the Theology and Practice of Confirmation issued on December 28, 1967. Again Dr. Evenson was involved, not only as chairperson of the Joint Commission, but as a principal leader in the in-depth congregational study of its report by the three participating church bodies - The American Lutheran Church, The Lutheran Church in America, and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (1970 - 71). In the introduction to that study, the Executive Directors for Parish Education in the three bodies - C. Richard Evenson, W. Kent Gilbert and Arthur Miller - indicated that since the recommendations of the Joint Commission would have "a profound effect on the life of the church, &it was considered mandatory that everyone interested in the theology and practice of confirmation should study the report and its implications," and that the resource provided for its study was designed to help them "probe the significance of these experiences in the lives of adults, children, and youth."
From our perspective, some 35 years later, the new definition of confirmation developed by the Joint Commission and eventually adopted by two of the participating church bodies - The American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America - may seem rather prosaic:
"Confirmation is a pastoral and educational ministry of the church that is designed to help baptized children identify with the life and mission of the adult Christian community and that is celebrated in a public rite."
Yet, at the time of its adoption the definition was seen as an essential step in the continuing reformation of the church. Departing from "a time honored practice" the Commission sought to relate confirmation to the church's "mission in the pluralistic society of North America in this (their) century," by addressing the need for "flexibility," by shifting the focus from indoctrination to "pastoral care and congregational concern for individual persons and situations," and by recognizing confirmation, "not in a terminal sense, but as part of a lifelong process in which the believer is to grow in Christ."
In the years immediately following its adoption this major study not only renewed interest in confirmation and first communion, but inspired the development of parish education programs for all ages in local congregations throughout the church, which in turn led to the unprecedented creation and production of new educational resources. Moreover, judging by the number of related studies initiated by Lutheran bodies in the United States and Canada in subsequent years, the impact of the initial study has not subsided. In 1989 The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada received a Statement of Sacramental Practices prepared by its Division for Parish Life, and after church wide study, in 1991 officially approved full "communion of the baptized," a unique position among North American Lutherans, calling for even more flexible approaches to learning.
It was the prophetic vision of the Joint Commission, chaired by C. Richard Evenson, that their radical departure from traditional practices would have "far-reaching implications." Over the past decades that vision has not only been validated but remarkably, continues to spawn new insights.
(C) Throughout his years as Executive Director of the Department of Parish Education for The American Lutheran Church, Dr. Evenson not only took seriously the study of the Bible and its meaning for the new behavior and new life for all ages, but encouraged those who worked with him, both staff and editors engaged in the development of educational resources to explore the latest findings in the field of secular education and their implications for Christian education. Scholars of the time were moving rapidly from education as the passing on of knowledge to a concern for the learner and the nature of learning. Learning, they said, occurs when the whole person as a psychological, historical and social being is taken into account.
Theologically astute, Evenson recognized, that in order to avoid what was in danger of becoming a form of anthropological docetism in traditional Christian approaches to education, the church too needed to concentrate its attention on real human beings living in the here and now. (Docetism - an ancient heresy that conceded only phantom corporeality to Jesus Christ - often appears in a modern but equally disastrous variant when Christians speak of human beings in an abstract, general way, as if they had only a phantom body.) Christians are still witnesses, not in the sense of persons who proclaim a set of prescribed teachings, but as human partners in a learning process that takes place in situation. We need to be aware of the circumstances in which we live as well as of how we learn; to explore and experiment with new avenues of communication as well as engage in biblical studies and theological pursuits; to become acquainted with life cycles and age level capacities of humans as embodied selves living in a God-created world.
Robert Havighurst and his description of developmental tasks, Jean Piaget and his eras and stages of logical and cognitive development, Kohlberg and his stages of moral development, Jim Fowler and his life/faith patterns, Eric Erickson, and his book, Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History - all became suggested and rewarding resources for those of us involved in developing curriculum. "The Holy Spirit," said Dr. Evenson, "is not limited to involvement only with Christians and Christianity."
To be in Evenson's presence was to be caught up in the excitement of new possibilities. His enthusiasm inspired action. Learning became an open process. People were encouraged to play with ideas. New questions contributed to new understandings. The result was a veritable explosion of new educational resources for congregational use, from studies of human sexuality to experiences in parenting, from experimental projects in individualized learning to a full blown integrated curriculum for all ages, from self guided small group discussions on current issues to life-related biblical explorations.
(D) After the second world war, Lutherans confronted by the horror of the Holocaust, were among the first who sought to understand what had happened and draw lessons from the past for the future. The historic Lutheran World Federation Consultation on the Church and the Jewish People at Logumkloster, Denmark, in 1964 was unmistakable in its rejection of anti-Semitism and in its recognition of the part Lutheranism played toward creating an environment in which anti-Semitism could flourish. "As Lutherans, we confess our own peculiar guilt, and we lament with shame the responsibility which our church and her people bear for this sin; we can only ask God's pardon and that of the Jewish people." But even more significant was the Consultation's call urging Lutheran congregations everywhere "to fight against discrimination and persecution of Jews &and to make common cause with the Jewish people in matters of spiritual and social concern, especially in the fostering of human rights." (Note: The Logumkloster quotes are from "Luther, Lutherans and the Jewish People" a study resource which the respondent prepared, edited and distributed in 1977 for the DLMC.)
The Swedish Lutheran scholar, Krister Stendahl, was among the first theologians to grapple with what he identified as being the factor which contributed most to violence toward the Jewish community - "Christian triumphalism." Speaking at a Jewish-Christian dialogue sponsored by the World Council of Churches in Geneva (1972), he suggested that we substitute the term "Christian witness" for "mission" or "conversion." "In our pluralistic society and in our shrinking world with its need for interdependence," it is in "witness" rather than in "conquest" that we are called to be a "community among communities." Witness "leaves the results in God's hands, &without the urge to make others into one's own image." (Note: The Krister Stendall reference is from "Jewish-Christian Dialogue," a booklet published by the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations and the World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1975, pp 59-63.)
During that same year (1972) the Lutheran Council in the USA issued a booklet - Some Observations and Guidelines for Conversations between Lutherans and Jews - which suggested means by which serious dialogue with Jewish people could be pursued by congregations. This booklet was almost immediately endorsed by Evenson, circulated among the Department of Parish Education staff, and eventually distributed to the congregations of the ALC along with suggestions on its use. But Dr. Evenson's most significant involvement in Lutheran - Jewish concerns was sparked by the publication of, "Portrait of the Elder Brother: Jews and Judaism in Protestant Teaching Materials," by Gerald Strober, with a forward by Jaroslav Pelican. Remarkably, the year was also 1972.
Strober's study of particular texts and teaching materials issued by several mainline Protestant denominations was a follow-up of the study of educational resources conducted at Yale Divinity School by Dr. Bernhard E. Olson - "Faith and Prejudice" - published in 1963. Unfortunately the speedy and thoroughgoing reform which was anticipated by Oliver's initial study had "not had the long-term effect which its initial reception seemed to promise." The defects uncovered by that study continued to persist. Key themes - "the nature of Judaism, Jesus' relation to his Jewish contemporaries, the Pharisees, the Jew's rejection of Jesus as the Messiah and the Crucifixion" - were still found to be "presented in ways likely to foster hostility against Jews."
Sensing the serious nature of the charge, Dr. Evenson immediately called for a full and in-depth review of all ALC curriculum published during the previous three years and assigned the coordination of the study to me. Using the themes and questions Strober had used, and guided by the examples of misperception he had discovered I and others on the staff set out on what proved to be one of the most eye-opening and transformational experiences of my lifetime. (Note: The quotes from Olson's study and Strober's study are all from Strober's booklet, "Portrait of the Elder Brother," published in 1972 by the American Jewish Committee.)
I will never forget the day I asked Rabbi Abelson, one of the Jewish rabbis I had solicited to participate in the endeavor, for his perceptions regarding a large teaching poster which had been developed to depict the diversity of religious practices in as non-prejudicial a manner as possible, for children in Daily Vacation Bible School. Several churches were displayed; a 7th Day Adventist, a Roman Catholic, and a Lutheran church, along with a Jewish synagogue. The rabbi, guided by his heart saw far more than did I, being guided by the preconceived intentions of my mind. To me everything portrayed life in full color: people in the Lutheran and Catholic churches praying and singing, people at the 7th Day Adventist congregation washing windows and planting flowers; trees along the streets lush and green, shrubs near buildings blossoming; and there was even a synagogue. The rabbi saw only the windowless synagogue, shaped in the form of two stone tablets, in a setting devoid of flowers, on an empty street , accompanied by a single, large, black, leafless and evidently lifeless tree.
Dr. Evenson's personal commitment to acknowledging and eliminating religious bigotry, along with his continuing confidence in and support of myself and the staff, often by scheduling consultations with Jewish scholars, not only provided us with the courage to face and accept our failures, but placed us in the forefront of the fight to restore honor and dignity to the church by developing educational resources that fostered a relationship of understanding and respect with our Jewish neighbors. The resultant, regular review of ALC curriculum by persons who could be misrepresented or in any way affected negatively by its content or presentation - Jewish rabbis, Native Americans, women, black persons, etc. - is a lasting testimony to the educational legacy of C. Richard Evenson. His zeal for changing the portrait of the "Elder Brother" among Lutherans may be eclipsed by other more visible accomplishments, but the impact of what he set in motion lives on. For as the poet, Antonio Machado, tells us: "Memory is valuable for one thing, astonishing: it brings dreams back." (Time Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, 1983).
Dr. Herbert Brokering, Director of Confirmation of the American Lutheran Church 1960-70. Now retired.
My comments are personal, for C. Richard Evenson directed a closely-knit team of educators in a personal way. He was hands on and at the same time gave us freedom and personal respect. He nurtured his staff every day with workshops or memos or clippings or stories and parables. We were constantly rewarded and challenged. The decade (1960-70) was a golden age for us and the church.
Dr. Evenson extended his own brilliance and love for education through a carefully selected staff of some 20 educators. Most were assigned an age level for learning and worked for a target age group as well as with each other. What was learned at birth was important at the time of death. No age level was so fixed to exclude other goals set for earlier or later years. Learning was a like a tide, coming and going out, a landscape, or as it tells in Jericho. Nothing was flat or one-dimensional. Lines of learning overlapped. Learning was viewed as a continuum. "Cradle and grave" touched each other. Evenson demanded wholistic work in Christian education.
Our work was original and creative. We studied creative models to embrace Bible themes and educational theories. We knew taxonomies and followed them to design curriculum, to train writers and create leadership workshops. Our mentors were from across the country and in universities, seminaries, foundations and parishes. Character Research was a resource as were conferences on creativity at the University of Minnesota and Buffalo State University. We knew the findings of Barnes, Paul Torrance Earnest Ligon, John Westerhoff and many whose theories guided us in making faith and scripture inherent in the fabric of Christian education.
Our department was very connected to theological seminaries; the Board was always represented by key educators from all synod seminaries. Evenson's nation-wide workshops usually included seminary and age-level experts joined in the teaching team.
Retreats focused on theology, education, the arts, and culture, so the materials and learning were wholistic. Evenson's thinking and resources united all disciplines and departments of the church. In designing materials and leadership we were in touch with all departments (stewardship, evangelism, world mission, music and worship, etc) to educate in the context of the whole parish life.
Dr. Evenson was big on researching and making sure ideas and materials were tested. We piloted and field-tested materials for several years to be sure it fit the needs and wants of the congregations. Evenson was interested in researching and testing materials carefully before going to print.
This was a time when medium and message were seen as important. Content and process were a duet. Teacher's guides were elaborate and written at many levels for different kinds of teachers and families. Tutor charts were common and good teaching could be seen in flip charts for new and old teachers. Team teaching was valued and families were seen as teaching and learning units. Some curriculum had weekday and Sunday and home materials related so a lesson sometimes ran all week. Many lessons were designed so the parish was the context for learning, as was the classroom. Much attention was given to how the learner entered and left the group for atmosphere and environment were important to Evenson. Learning was a fuller life together.
Evenson studied the finest teaching methods and materials in public education. At the same time he wanted religious education to feel more like family and community than a classroom. Flexible learning arrangements were important. Life was not an example in the lesson; life was the lesson. Teaching was deductive and inductive. The learner was responsible and part of the learning-teaching collaboration. Teaching and learning were seen as an opportunity. Teacher and Learner materials were printed the same size. There were more for teachers than could be used. Other persons in the congregation, school and society were seen as part of the learning quotient. Inductive methods helped students share feelings, thoughts, experiences and hopes. Learning theories such as the Schmoo, a Thinking-Feeling Model and I.Q. Matrixes guided inductive dialogue in the staff.
Baptism was viewed as the important entry into life-long learning. Evenson was key in creating a fifteen-member commission representing all Lutheran synods in the USA to study confirmation and first communion. This study which included research and meetings with international educators meeting in Loccum, Germany, led to a redefinition of confirmation now seen as life-long education and ministry.
Different nations had different confirmation studies and rituals. Confirmation was now viewed as a process of learning and ministry. Evenson encouraged materials and leadership that did both. "Word, Grace and Faith," the watchwords of the Reformation were themes for each of the three years. Though prepared as three-year curriculum it was seen as one step along the life-long catechumenate. Confirmation was not viewed as a segment on a lifelong arrow but a process in a life-long circle. Christian education was viewed as interdependent and cross-generational. A key process in the confirmation materials was teaching students and families to learn a hermeneutic to interpret scripture for their faith and life together. Tests were often open ended so students could improve answers with help of others, and learn to talk about right answers with each other. Attendance was more than being marked present. Roll call was often questions that grew into a personal profile. The group learned to know one another during roll call. Mentors were invited to listen and answer questions. Attending funerals and weddings were part of learning. Assignments related to playgrounds and bus time. Lay catechists were chosen and confirmands were taught by clergy and laity. Phone calls could count as confirmation learning.
Evenson knew and implemented writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Helmut Thielike had a dialectic that worked in Hamburg and Evenson believed it would work with his staff. The same was true of educators in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark. He was open to church education in Third World countries and the USSR.
Evenson attracted educators on his staff who created outstanding adult curriculum. Courses were short and long, biblical and spiritual, historical and practical. Selected films from Hollywood were previewed and study guides made available for adults and families to view movies in theatres as church curriculum. Curriculum moved beyond the classroom and parish building. The newspaper, film, TV, office, and public service were all considered media for the church's education.
Curriculum for children began before birth. Early childhood learning was basic to all other levels of learning. Evenson made sure the theories were reflected and reinforced in the family life materials. A first-born series focused on the first-born child and guided parents through child and faith development. Teacher training experiences were the rule.
Little was borrowed from other denominations. Dr. Evenson and staff developed Christian education for publication, which was marketed and enjoyed by most all of the parishes. Seminaries and all departments were united in the materials and designs. Materials were developed flexibly so the same materials could be altered for country and city.
The years of Dr. C. Richard Evenson I know are from 1960-1970. All staff saw this time with their committed director as a golden age. Much of the growth in those years led the way for creative and flexible learning systems in the church. Much of the staff is deceased. God blessed us with a creative and productive decade. The seed sown by C. Richard Evenson is a perennial.
Rev. Norman Wegmeyer, Director of Leadership Development, Division of Parish Education. Now retired.
C. Richard Evenson was very influential in my life. I was associated with him in the Division of Parish Education of The American Lutheran Church and he left an indelible mark on me.
Dick was knowledgeable in many areas, particularly theology and education. By nature he was inquisitive and by training he was an expert in these areas. But he was also interested in many other areas which he shared with us in lively discussions. He was truly a leader, and we trusted his judgment.
Dr. Evenson was an excellent administrator. He knew where he wanted to go and where he wanted to lead our church. While he truly was our leader, he dealt with us in a kindly and collegial way. I never felt intimidated by him, and he encouraged all of us to enter into good dialog with him. He was a listener and I together with the others respected his judgment. Dick was truly a Christian man and he gave evidence of that through his words and his life. As such he was a pastor to me and others.
C. Richard was personable and approachable. His hearty laugh and engaging ways made all our days enjoyable. We knew by his words and deeds that he was a disciple who loved the Lord. Dr. Evenson was an influential person in our American Lutheran Church and in other denominations. We had many contacts with persons of other denominations and I'm sure they respected him as we had. He pioneered many new innovations in parish education which are still evident to this day. Under his guidance a large curriculum was developed and embraced by the Church. Along with it he developed an innovative system of leadership training and support.
Dr. C. Richard Evenson will long be remembered among us.
Rev. Glen H. Gronlund, Leadership Development for Pastors and Professional Educators, Division of Parish Education. Now retired.
C. Richard Evenson was a unique visionary. He was able to look into the future and anticipate what the Church and local congregations needed in the field of Christian education, and then mobilize the human resources to provide the needed programs and materials. Personally, I recall his ability to also gather a very diverse staff of individuals and mold them into a team. We often experienced creative tension within the staff - - and wondered how the staff team would hold together? Dick seemed to manage to retain a family spirit with very outspoken, creative individuals. To this day, 30 years later, I am still proud of the resources our staff team provided the Church during the years of Dick Evenson's leadership.
Dr. Margaret Krych, Division for Parish Services Staff. Now Associate Dean of Graduate Education, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, PA.
Dr. C. Richard Evenson was the only member of the 1989-93 Confirmation Ministry Taskforce who also served on the original 1966-70 commission which produced the Report of the Joint Commission on Theology and Practice of Confirmation presented to the LCA, ALC, and LCMS. He joined in the 1993 report discussion with enthusiasm.
Dr. Luther Lindberg, Assistant Executive Director, Division for Parish Services. Now retired.
From November 1973 until his retirement in 1988, Richard Evenson lived in Phoenixville, PA and was an executive with the Lutheran Church in America's Division for Parish Services whose offices were in Germantown, Philadelphia. During these years he served in three different areas of work: from April of 1978 until December of 1983 he served as Director for the Department of Research and Studies; from January of 1984 until June of 1987 he served as Director of the Department for Parish Support; and from July 1987 until his retirement he worked as Administrative Coordinator for the division.
He quickly earned the respect of his new colleagues in the Lutheran Church in America. In a sense the high level of respect had already been built because of the many years he and his staff in The American Lutheran Church worked with the LCA Division for Parish Services in inter-Lutheran aspects of Christian education. We note here only a few of his accomplishments in his new positions. 1980 was the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Sunday School. During Evenson's early years at DPS he helped to develop a customized approach to Christian education in which a congregation, through a process of self-study, could create an educational ministry program which related to the circumstances and uniqueness of individual congregations. His research department developed a computer-assisted means of recommending resources for the particular needs of the congregation. (Minutes of the Tenth Biennial Convention of the Lutheran Church in America, June 25-July 2, 1980).
The research responsibilities of his department included more than educational ministry and extended to other core parish ministries; church camping, stewardship, evangelism, membership referral, youth ministry, leader development, social ministry, field support for congregational ministry, small congregations, lay leadership development, urban ministries, minority concerns, worship, volunteer ministry, and parish life and ministry development.
As director of research for the division, Evenson's department supported congregational learning in three ways: (1) by gathering and analyzing congregational data re: education, (2) through studies of congregational needs that relate to education, and (3) through studies of specific aspects of the educational dimensions of congregational life. His department developed: (1) a common congregational data base for the 5,778 congregations of the LCA, (2) a detailed study of the migration patterns of LCA members, and (3) a description of the varieties and types of congregations in the church based on a questionnaire to each congregation gathering data in response to the following questions: Who are we? How are we organized? Describe your congregational programs of worship, learning, witness, and service.
His study of the educational ministry leaders in LCA congregations in 1980 showed that: The median age of teachers and educational leaders in congregations was 43.5 (up from 1970); The most difficult task of educational leaders in the congregation was to help members understand the meaning of the Christian faith; The greatest felt need of educational leaders in the congregation was to understand, interpret, and teach Bible and doctrine; Only 25% of all LCA congregations had leadership programs for educational leaders.
His department carried out a study of lay involvement in congregational Bible study and identified six key features of effective lay-oriented Bible study and Bible study materials: (1) Focus is clearly on Bible knowledge. (2) Leadership must be provided by lay persons. (3) The authority of the Bible must be made clear. (4) Participants must be mentally stimulated and the materials must enable persons to participate immediately through response and discussion and questions. (5) Assignments must be easy enough and without extensive reading to be done. (6) verbal participation must be quickly generated.
In 1982 his department was given the responsibility of not only research and evaluation but of parish planning. The department gathered data from every LCA congregation annually, carried out studies of issues and needs, carried out carefully systematic evaluation of congregational programs and trends, and began the process of planning the broad spectrum of congregational ministries on the basis of solid data, trend information, and the priorities of the church. (Minutes of the Eleventh Biennial Convention of the Lutheran Church in America, April 3-10, 1982, p. 423).
In all the work his department did in total congregational ministry there was always the undertow of education. The division believed, with Robert Lynn, that "As Christian education goes, so goes the church." This flagship principle carried over into work as Director of the Department for Parish Support (DPS).
His research department provided leadership to the church in a new project called "The Lutheran Congregational Information System" which began the age of computer supported congregational data bases. (Minutes of the Twelfth Biennial Convention of the Lutheran Church in America, June 28-July 5, 1984, pp. 473-488).
Under his leadership in research and planning, the department developed and executed a procedure of evaluation by which the resources and services provided by the Division from Parish Services were evaluated based on constituency surveys and personal interviews; the findings were used in the development and production of the resources and field services. His last years with DPS were given to preparing congregational ministries for the coming 1988 merger which was to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Lois Philippi Cipalo, Division of Parish Education, Intermediate Curriculum Editor and Writer; Christian Day School Teacher. Now retired.
I first became acquainted with Dr. Evenson in the late 1950's - early 1960's. He was the Director of Parish Education in the newly formed The American Lutheran Church (TALC). I was teaching in a parochial school at First Lutheran Church, Blue Island, Illinois. Dr. Evenson, being from the former Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC), had little contacts with parochial schools, but was determined to understand parochial education and its benefits. He took time to visit the schools, observe classes, especially those other than religion classes to see how religion could permeate all classes in a natural and uncontrived way. I remember that I was teaching an eighth grade United States history class and we were studying the colonial period. He wrote me a lengthy letter about his visit (which I kept) detailing his observations. I was impressed that he took the time to observe classes and also to write letters to those of us whom he observed.
Dr. Evenson was also involved in the first national conference of the Christian day schools held in August, 1962. He, along with Don Vetter and other leadership of parochial schools, helped establish a national organization of Christian day schools with regional associations. He provided exceptional leadership during this crucial time and was totally supportive of the movement.
During the 1960's I continued to have contact with Dr. Evenson and the Division of Parish Education. They were developing a new curriculum for the church (vacation church school, Sunday school, week day) and I began reviewing and also writing curriculum materials, especially in the summers as well as field-testing some of it in my classroom. Dr. Evenson asked me to join them in Minneapolis and finally in 1968 I consented to help them complete the curriculum. I also remember my first interviews with him - my, they were intense and his questions were always very thought provoking I developed a great respect for this man of God. He had the tremendous task of bringing together parish education leaders from the former ELC and ALC, an accomplishment in itself! His team included a number of women (he was ahead of his time!), and a diverse group of various theological backgrounds and work habits. His style of leadership brought out the best in his people, permitting them to maintain their style, but still directing them to accomplish his vision of a total Christian education curriculum based on sound theology and educational principles. His boundless energy, theological insights, his great sense of humor, and his intelligence were traits I especially admired. I thank God for this man of vision.
Rev. William C. Behrens, Leadership Development: Secretary for Teachers, Division of Parish Education. Now retired.
C. Richard Evenson, was important to me in several ways personally: (1) Since I was supervised by Pastor Norman Wegmeyer his influence was indirect, so impact on my life came in Dick's selection of skilled and relationally oriented staff. (2) Through Norm's influence and Dick's concurrence, Oletta Wald and I designed the Tutor Plan for Teacher Education…the uniqueness here was that it was Sunday School Teacher Training by trainee observation (and discussion of the session with the teacher) of regular Sunday school pupils and teachers &The trainee was provided with observation foci that was either observed or absent within the teaching session &thus a direct and indirect learning opportunity. (3) Finally, the effort of The American Lutheran Church/Lutheran Church in American in the area of joint curriculum development was ahead of its time â¦ a forerunner of things to come in later years.
Dick Evenson was mission minded, enthusiastically oriented, educationally astute and theologically sound â¦ and his gentle heart "bailed me out of several embarrassing "start-up" staff leadership behaviors!
Marilyn Kumm Pinkley, Christian Day School Teacher and Curriculum Editor. Now retired.
I remember hearing Dr. C. Richard Evenson speak at our American Lutheran Education Association conventions, and that he was very interested in learning all about our Christian day schools. Also I remember him visiting my third grade class in Blue Island one time showing not only his interest in Christian day school teaching but also his support for me as a teacher.
Dr. Robert N. Bacher, Assistant Director for Action Research, Acting Director of Research Department, Assistant Executive Director, and Executive Director of the Division for Parish Services. Now retired.
My experience with Dr. C. Richard Evenson showed four strengths: (1) A wonderful command of Christian Education theory and the ability to apply it. (2) An appreciation of research in the field (he led the Research Department of Division for Parish Services). (3) One who helped build the bridge from Christian Education to what became Parish Development (the holistic setting of education and the implications of this in the life of the congregation). (4) A deep and abiding commitment to inter-Lutheran cooperation in Christian Education even in the face of opposing forces trying to separate the churches.
Dick had a marvelous "can do" spirit. He was fun to work with.
Bob Sitze, Elementary Editor and Senior Editor for Children's Curriculum in the Division for Parish Services. Now Director for Hunger Education, Church in Society, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Chicago, Illinois.
By the time I came to the Lutheran Church in America Division for Parish Services (DPS) --first as an editor for elementary school materials, and later as a senior editor - Dick Evenson was already directing the research arm of the Division. And a valuable arm it was, too, as we embarked on some new curricula and attempted to keep ongoing resources lively and useful to our audience. Even though I had brought to DPS more than fifteen years of educational leadership in congregations, Dick and his crew added immeasurably to my worth as an editor.
First I learned to approach our constituents with humility. Dick's Scandinavian piety precluded even the tiniest whiff of arrogance from showing up. So we regularly began curriculum development with research that was respectful of the users who would be the eventual teachers and administrators. That humility extended even to those who had chosen NOT to use our curricula or resources. The tone: "What valid reasons, dear friend, caused you to seek another curriculum or develop your own?"
The second lesson: Dick insisted on accurate, honest and defensible conclusions from any research. When some of us would wax hot with the eloquence of our passions, Dick would kindly help us climb down off our soapboxes and look at the results of data with more careful and objective lenses.
Along with these two, a third life-lesson lingers into my ministry now: Good answers come from good questions. I remember how on more than one occasion Dick's conceptual scissors would snip into shape a question whose answers would really yield valuable information. I learned about the precision of the wording of questions, certainly. But Dick also showed how a question could cut through layers of meaning to the core issue so that foggy answers would not be possible.
Beyond his role as educational leader, Dick had the uncanny ability to always speak well of others. At first I thought he was just being an objective and fair researcher. As the years went by, though, I realized that speaking well of others was one of his strongest values and interpersonal skills. Gossiping didn't work with Dick; neither did carping and moaning.
In the years since I knew Dick, I've come to see that he must surely have been one of those rare individuals who understood -- even without the proper terminology -- the utility of an asset-based approach to life. For Dick it was more than a technique for planning. Approaching others in order to find the good in them was just his way of being.
Finally, Dick was one of those sparkly-eyed straight men who could set up others' jokes as well as his own stories. During wide-ranging conversations at our lunch table, Dick's voice would take on a certain lilt, his eyes would squint and dart just enough to let you know: One of those Dick Evenson stories is on the way; get ready to laugh! His joyful approach to life more than once rescued me from the kind of institutional bad-hair days that can ruin whole weeks.
I always counted Dick as a guiding light and a trusted mentor during the DPS years. Now that I am older and longer-of-tooth in this still-new ELCA, I find myself taking up the mantle of DICK'S attributes, and bringing to planning and lunch tables the very things I learned from him. So that others know what's important, good and godly.
Perhaps that's the greatest tribute I can bring: To pass on some of Dick Evenson to the next generation of leaders in this church.
Marvin L. Roloff, Director, Education Resources Development, Division of Parish Education. Now retired.
Educator, Teacher, Mentor: Dr. C. Richard Evenson was a very gifted person but one of his greatest gifts was his willingness to share whatever he had. He truly believed that what he had was really not his, but God's, and he was simply holding it to give to someone else. And this is what made him be such a great educator teacher, and mentor.
Dick Evenson was an educator. He understood teaching and learning. He taught all of us that not all people teach the same and not all people learn in the same ways. Therefore, we must always look at each individual and seek to discover how we can match one person's learning styles with another person's teaching styles.
For Dick, teaching and learning, were always experiential. Something had to happen and usually in one or more of three domains of learning: cognitive, affective, and action. And in order for something to be taught or learned we needed to have goals, objectives, outcomes and meaningful experiences.
Dick taught me a lot about curriculum development: how to write objectives for the learning domains; age-level appropriateness; context for learning; organizing principles; creativity; activities; diversity and inclusivity; course descriptions, evaluations, and many more elements of curriculum building.
But when we came to the end of the session Dick would always ask the question from Scripture in Luke 18:8 "And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Underneath all of the plans and activities Dr. Evenson wanted to be sure that we were helping teachers learn and grow in their faith and their understanding of faith.
Dick was a giant administrator. Somehow he was able to take the gifts of people and bring them together for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was able to make each person on his staff feel needed and important and called by God.
He believed in teacher training, always ready to learn and also always ready to be a part of a training session. I recall working with Dick on many workshops across the country in the church. Whether we had an attendance of five people or 55 Dick gave the same energy and concern to help teachers and learners grow in faith and in their skills of teaching.
Ecumenical cooperation was a high priority for Dr. Evenson. He was committed to working with other Lutheran bodies and also to working with other denominations, ready to share and learn from others in an effort of being one body of Christ. At the same time he understood the role of a church wide unit or national board. In Foundations for Ministry he wrote "A national board can argue eloquently for the importance of more time for Christian education, it can create splendid materials for use in such additional time, and it can provide events to prepare leaders for the program. But, unless these efforts coincide with the expectations and the habits of people in congregations, the program ends in the statistics of what did not get done, and in the warehouse of unpurchased materials." (p. 19).
Finally, Dr. C. Richard Evenson was also a family person, friend, and always pastor. Yes, Dick was visionary, creative, innovative, and resilient but he was a gracious human being who cared for people as special people of God, and for other families as well as his own. He was a pastor, the shepherd leading others to utilize their gifts and receive the ultimate gift of God, eternal salvation.
A Song in Tribute to C. Richard Evenson by Herbert Brokering
One River Runs Through Every Age
By Herbert Brokering, May 16, 2006 For: C. Richard Evenson With images of Christian Education Meter: CM or 8686
A river runs where deserts bloom While children ride the waves, And in some little learning room A group in huddle prays.
A prayer sinks in mother earth, A nurture eons old, To draw a life of years ago And stories now retold.
All nature gathers at the shore, Each grass and bird and tree And God's old word is new once more For those with eyes to see.
One river runs through every age With water deep and wide As one by one all saints are met Upon the other side.
Thank for those who ride the waves, With pilgrims all around And breaks good bread and drinks from wells Whose life comes from the ground.
The river runs from "Let there be" A place of long ago And finds the Lamb, the Light, the Tree Inside a constant flow.
- Evenson, C. R. (1977). God's table of grace, Preparing children and parents for holy communion, Learner book and leader's guide. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House; Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
- Evenson, C. R. (1971). Historical foundations. In W. K. Gilbert (Ed.), Foundations for educational ministry, Yearbook in Christian education, Volume 3 (pp.11-22). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
- Evenson, C. R. (1969). The purpose of confirmation education. In W. K. Gilbert (Ed.), Confirmation and education, Yearbook in Christian education, Volume 1 (pp. 36-51). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
- Evenson, C. R. (1967, November) [Review of the book, The effectiveness of Lutheran elementary and secondary schools as agencies of Christian education, by R. L. Johnstone. St. Louis: Concordia Seminary Research Center, 1966]. Lutheran Quarterly 19, 429-430.
- Evenson, C. R. (1956, May). [Review of the book The gift of power by L. J. Sherrill. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1955]. Lutheran Quarterly, 8, 183-185.
- Selected excerpts on C. Richard Evenson's teaching and learning through the years 1956-1973, from his writings in The Lutheran Teacher, Parish Teacher, and Learning With magazines of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and The American Lutheran Church.
- Dr. Richard Evenson was a prolific contributor to denominational journals on educational ministry topics over a period of 45 years. We have not been able to put together a listing of those articles, but those interested should look for them as follows:
- Lutheran Teacher: contributions between 1956 and 1972
- Learning with: contributions between 1973 and 1982
- Parish Teacher: contributions between 1977 and 2001
Excerpts from Publications
Evenson, C. R. (1969). The purpose of confirmation ministry. In W. K. Gilbert (Ed.), Confirmation and education, Yearbook in Christian education, Volume 1 (pp. 36-51). ,Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
The definition of confirmation, which appears on the preceding page, suggests two major premises for the educational program of the church. Before examining the implication of the report of the commission for the purpose of confirmation in some detail, let us look briefly at the premises themselves.
First, confirmation is a ministry to help youth identify with the life and mission of the Christian community. To define confirmation as a ministry of the church focused upon helping confirmands identify with the life and mission of the Christian community is to take the process of acculturation seriously. Such a definition places emphasis upon what the church actually does to influence the development of its youth toward finding meaning in and for their existence. Such a definition proposes working with the deepest levels of human experience related to belief.
For the Lutheran church, which has so long centered its confirmation practices around the statements of correct doctrinal propositions, to redefine confirmation as a ministry undertaken to help youth identify with the life and mission of the adult Christian community is a large step, indeed.
Second, confirmation sets objectives both for adults and for confirmands. If confirmation is to be thought of as a ministry of the Christian fellowship intended to help both adults and youth recognize, accept, and share with one another, then it becomes at least as important to think in terms of educational objectives for the adults as for the youth. (pp. 37-38).
Evenson, C. R. (1971). Historical foundations. In W. K. Gilbert (Ed.), Foundations for educational ministry, Yearbook in Christian education, Volume 3 (pp.11-22). ,Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Consciousness of selfhood is a mark of what it mans to be human. Consciousness of others perceived to be like oneself is the beginning of human community. Response to others in that community is the basis for communication and for the interaction that can maintain or destroy the community. Participation in the interests and activities of the community develops the interdependence that gives rise to a sense of belonging, sharing, and purposing together. These basic experiences are essential to the formation and continuance of any human community including the community of belief.
They are so essential that every community of belief must give particular attention to ways they can be encouraged and guided so that the identity of the community is maintained. To fail in building the identity of the community is to allow it to become a community of different belief, or to dissolve its very existence. (pp. 11-12).
Evenson, C. R. (1977). God's table of grace, Preparing children and parents for holy communion, Learner book and leader's guide. , Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House; Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
All of us who believe in Jesus Christ share a special family table-the altar. God has prepared his table for us with the body and blood of Christ.
At this table we join other believers in Jesus Christ. We belong to a very big family, with a very long family history.
Since the beginning of the church, Christian people have celebrated Communion. Read Acts 2:42, below. It describes the church in the years 30-75 A.D. (which stand for Anno Domini, or "the year of the Lord").
"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers."
At the altar we are united with the whole people of God, not just with our own close family. Not just with our own congregation. Not just with people in our own nation. We are united with God's believing people everywhere.
What happens at a table? Think about your family at home. When do you gather around the table? What happens? How is God's table the same or different? (Learner Book, p. 23).
Parents are vital for this preparation for Holy Communion. In a sense, both are being prepared-child and parents. Children need the support of faith from their parents in this very crucial growth point towards independence.
Therefore one of the six sessions is intended for the parents and another is intended for parents and children together. It is imperative that the parents attend.
Other children in the family of the child preparing might also be involved in this course, especially if they are older than the one being prepared. The sense of family is an important element in preparation for Communion. Older children might share the meaning of receiving the sacrament with the younger children.
One matter which must be considered before beginning the course is that some children may come from homes where there is not much support offered for religious instruction. Because this course stresses family so strongly, it might be awkward for a child who is interested in the materials, but has no parent who will come to the introductory meeting or the final session. The pastor of the congregation should be familiar with and sensitive to the situations of these children. He or she may be able to offer suggestions for helping a child. One possible solution would be to find other adults in the parish, married or single, who could acts as sponsors for a child during this course. The person should also be able and willing to support that child for a time as he or she continues on in the church community. (Leader's Guide, p. 6).
Selected excerpts on C. Richard Evenson's teaching and learning through the years 1956-1973, from his writings in The Lutheran Teacher, Parish Teacher, and Learning With magazines of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and The American Lutheran Church.
Your Class As a Group
All Christian instruction aims to bring people into an experience of encounter with the Living Lord. The church school class provides a manageable program (in number of teachers required, in number of students to work with) for a regular and planned series of confrontations with the record of what God has said and done. God's revelation is brought to the young principally through an adult who has given special attention to grasping it for himself and to relaying it to a given age group. What God has caused to be remembered of His dealings with people and what believers understand this to mean for them today provide a matrix of acquaintance and awareness for the individual's own encounter with the "Lord. The church school class also gathers a group of peers for an experience of the fellowship of believers (the Christian community, the body of Christ, the church among the child's own age group. Personal experience of the unique qualities of Christian love (agape), sharing one another's personal reactions to the word of God, identifying with others in the struggle to appropriate for oneself the meaning of God's confrontation - these clarify and strengthen one's own convictions far beyond the power of words along. (The Lutheran Teacher, November 1956, p. 367.)
A group is a gathering of individuals who know one another and feel they belong to one another. A group, when it functions well, is stronger than its strongest individual. This has been demonstrated over and over again in a great variety of situations. The teacher should recognize that one of the best resources for learning-experiences is the group itself-the children. They bring so much to the class. They are, of course, closer to their own growing edge than either the teacher of any of the helps he may employ. The children themselves are the best qualified to indicate what they understand and what they don't, where their interest lies, and their anticipation. The teacher will need to learn to depend on the group, for the group itself can most realistically determine the point at which it is ready to learn. The teacher's energy will better be spent in helping the group to do its own job than in trying to do it for them or in trying to convince them to accept his particular way of looking at the matter. (The Lutheran Teacher, November 1956, pp. 368, 388.)
The Teacher As a Group Counselor
We who are their teachers have also been adopted into the family of God. There is a sense in which we are their elder brothers or sisters in this great family. But we have been in the family a little longer. We have more experience in what it means to be an adopted son or daughter in this family. We can give younger members a lead as they grow in their understanding and their experience of life as God's chosen. In this sense the teacher is properly a counselor. (The Lutheran Teacher, December 1956, p. 416.)
The first five years of a child's life are the most important for molding basic understandings and attitudes toward the world, toward one another, and toward God. Never again in the child's life are there such open and rich opportunities for building Christian character. (The Lutheran Teacher, June 1957, p. 185.)
Simple repetition of the interpretations of an earlier generation are not adequate. Christian education must help these youth to form in their own time a truly Christian point of view which takes into account the entire complex of social forces in which they find themselves. No single "text," no one statement, no book or lecture will be adequate help for this task.
Christian education will have to help these youth struggle with the welter of voices and the confusion of statements that offer solutions ready made. It will not be enough to give them someone else's evaluation. Christian education must guide and assist these youth in making their own evaluation of a complex social task. The meaning of a scriptural concept of love and marriage is developed with reality only when the current problem situation is faced honestly. (The Lutheran Teacher, February 1956, p. 51.)
Success in recruiting teachers for your church school depends on the way you treat the teachers you now have, and the way in which you present the challenge of teaching to those whom you are about to ask. (The Lutheran Teacher, April 1958, p. 128.)
Now it can be told! The 1958 series of fall circuit institutes has been completed, and a new record has been reached! Over 70% of our circuits used a training program centered on the theme "Let's Get Together for Better Teaching." Some 15,000 church schoolteachers actually attended the training sessions in their circuits, and they attended eight training sessions-not just a speech or two and a supper! An even better training course has already been field-tested and is currently being printed for 1959. (Lutheran Teacher, December 1958, p. 414.)
Call To Leadership
Now a new year is coming-nineteen hundred fifty-nine! Without a doubt it will be a long year-a big year-for someone! And you may be a very important person in that one's life. You may never know just when. You may never know just where. But it will almost surely happen, for one of the ways in which God works is through the example and the influence of His people-and you have accepted a call to leadership among His People! (Lutheran Teacher, January 1959, p.13.)
In most lessons, one of the important aims is to teach a right attitude. If you are to teach an attitude, you yourself must have one. And the only way to get a right attitude is to allow the Word of God itself to speak to you directly. If you are to teach, you must first have learned, for you cannot give what you do not have.
Now in February, a the Christian Year emphasizes study before Lent, and meditation in Lent, renew your dedication as a student so you will be able to renew your dedication as a teacher! (Lutheran Teacher, February 1959, p. 23.)
What Is Teaching?
The teacher's main job is to help the pupil get (in understanding, attitudes, and actions) the main point of the lesson. This means that the teacher must, above all else, know the main point and keep it in mind throughout every part of the entire lesson! (Lutheran Teacher, September 1959, p. 20.)
Prayer is a power about which most of know so very little that the challenge of this year's VCS course calls us to special personal preparation. It will not do to settle for some exercise about prayer and a few activities only vaguely related, in the child's mind, to prayer. We must have sessions on prayer, but also sessions of praying. (Lutheran Teacher, March 1960, p. 20.)
What really are we doing in the Sunday school classroom? (1) We teach basic information about Christ-but what we really want is for our pupils to know Him. (2) We want our pupils to master words and phrases -but what really matters is what they believe. (3) We give testimony to our own faith-but what we pray may happen is a growth in theirs. (4) We give a lot of attention to what a Christian should do-but no one becomes a Christian by doing those things. (5) We know that we cannot of our own reason or strength even believe in Christ or come to Him, much less get someone else to come to Him. It is the Holy Spirit who calls, who gathers, who enlightens, who works faith. Yet Christ's own command was that we make disciples, baptizing and teaching them. What really are we doing in the Sunday school classroom? (Lutheran Teacher, September 1960, p. 27.)
All Christian learning is finally individual and inner, as the experiences made possible through the ministry of others are interpreted and their meanings appropriated by the person before God. Much of our learning can take place from others and in their company. But when we really catch on we have to do it by ourselves. The most significant teaching therefore, is the teaching that respects individual differences and addresses itself to them. (Lutheran Teacher, June 1961, p. 26.)
Truth - you have to know it if you are going to teach it. Are you giving yourself enough opportunity to keep on learning it yourself? Adults need adult grappling with God's truth. If we study and talk about God's truth only when we are studying and talking with children, of course our concepts will pretty largely be limited to children's concepts. Every teacher needs some really grownup study and talk about God's truth. Every child deserves a teacher who is growing at a deeper level of understanding than what is manageable in the children's class alone.
All truth is God's truth; there isn't any other kind. Jus think of what is implied by the three articles of the Creed alone: "all that exists," "my Lord, who has redeemed," "the whole Christian church on earth," "everlasting life." (Lutheran Teacher, September 1961, p. 26.)
When we teach the Bible we pray that three related but different experiences may take place in the learners. One is an understanding of holy history, as recorded in the Bible. The second is the experience that what is studied may be used by the Holy Spirit to bring each learner to a conviction of sin and to the miracle of faith. The third is that believers may gain training toward more consistent and effective Christian decision making in every part of their lives. (Lutheran Teacher, October 1961, p. 21.)
Teaching Is Forever
The teaching we Christians carry on in our parishes should always have about it the flavor of forever. We are God's own people. We teach his truth. We share his promises. We have our direction and our destination from him. (Lutheran Teacher, November 1961, p. 22.)
As a Parent
This month I want to write as a parent. I want to address myself particularly to everyone who will have anything to do with the vacation church school this summer. I suspect that there will be overtones which any alert Sunday school teacher could also catch. (Lutheran Teacher, March 1962, p. 20.)
In a very real sense the preparation of new curriculum materials is a task in which many people throughout the entire church participate. This is appropriate, for our teaching ministry has to do with far more than the thoughts of any individuals; it has do with the teaching of the church. (Lutheran Teacher, May 1962, p. 15.)
If we are to study doctrines in a way that really gets at the underlying assumptions each one of us holds, we will have to find some way in which every teacher can be led into some genuine struggle with his or her own understandings and some really soul-searching study of what the Scriptures say. Only then will each teacher be ready to gain the most from other resources. Only then will each teacher be ready to hear the thinking and teaching of the pastor. (Lutheran Teacher, July 1962, p. 20.)
The Spirit of Our Times
And so we look toward a new school year. What will it be like this year? We don't know. We look forward with awe and mystery and expectation. Who will be born this year? Who will be baptized? Who will come from some other community to become a part of the fellowship of believers you know as your congregation? How will it be with the marvel and growth of learning? What will it be like for the folks who turn 15 this year? -and for those who turn 65 this year? Whose conscience will be troubled? Whose peace with God disturbed? Who will hear the word of the Lord, and know it speaks to them? Who will come? Who will go-because of Jesus' calling? Will you? Whose eyes will be opened? Whose spirits made whole? Whose minds will be opened to understand the Scriptures? Will your pupils? Who will come; who will go-because of Jesus' calling? Whose eyes will be opened? Whose spirits made whole? Whose minds will be opened to understand the Scriptures? Who will hear the word of the Lord, and know it speaks to them: Will your pupils? Will you? (Lutheran Teacher, September 1962, pp. 16, 17.)
A Teaching Church
We Lutherans like to think of ourselves as a teaching church. Much lip service is given to the importance of the teaching ministry of our church. But all too often the actual events in the congregation do not support either our claims or our hopes. And one of the chief reasons is that we have not properly held the church's teaching ministry in the over-all official reporting and deciding of the congregation.
People can't care very much about something hey don't know about. People can't accomplish much on matters that they never included in basic plans and agreements of what should be done. If we are serious about our responsibilities to teach, then we simply have to get serious about how we provide to the congregation a basic review and report, and how we point forward to the decision-making it must accomplish in plan and policy. (Lutheran Teacher, October 1962, p. 28.)
Christians and Sojourners
The early Christians talked about themselves as strangers and exiles, sojourners, campers. They were very aware of their condition as being different from others-and temporary in the world. Right now one of the greatest needs in our church school classes is the building of such a point of view. We live in a time when it is generally assumed that all upright citizens should emphasize the ways in which they are alike. But we Christians are not really just like everyone else in the world. This we need desperately to know and remember! (Lutheran Teacher, November 1962, p. 20.)
The teacher's help is often needed to bridge the gap between Bible times and our times, between wordings and meanings, between casual thought and serious study. Our work of teaching in the church school has to do with making a bridge from the time of Christ to our time. We must somehow fashion that bridge so that the meaning of events in Bible times can become understandable and valid in our own time. (Lutheran Teacher, January 1963, p. 24.)
Christian learning should be growth in the response of faith. If our teaching is to be helpful for living in Christ it must be engaged in activities that guide learning -and that means working with the order of learning, not the order of writing an encyclopedia article or making a speech. In Christian teaching and learning this is especially true, for the Holy Spirit seems always to bring Christian learning about in the relationships we know in the fellowship of believers. (Lutheran Teacher, August 1963, p. 33.)
Why We Teach
Why do we teach? That question is an insistent refrain in the institutes this fall. In connection with various age level groupings many answers are being given in terms of classroom goals and procedures, in terms of lesson plans and expectations, in terms of evaluation and new planning for the future. But beneath all of the partial answers there is a basis one: We teach that men may live in Christ. (Lutheran Teacher, October 1963, p. 18.)
We talk a lot about Christian nurture. I guess we all realize that nurture means growing. And of course we know that growing means time, and cultivation, and stages of development. Growing also means a time for planting of the seed, for beginnings. The whole idea of planting seed, of time for growth, of fruit and harvest, is so familiar that no one should have any difficulty in applying the idea of stages for development to our work in Christian education. (Lutheran Teacher, November 1963, p. 18.)
And what did you learn in last week's lesson? Yes, I mean it. We teacher folk are usually so pointed toward the pupils in our classes that our thoughts actually go toward what they are learning. But if they are to learn, we must do some good teaching. And one of the characteristics of good teaching is the live quality of discovery, and meaning, and personal interest that shows in the teacher's own grasp of the lesson. The lesson-the message-the main point-the meaning that matters-the learning that lasts and is not easily forgotten. Good teaching always depends upon a teacher who has learned the lesson anew and shows the quiet excitement of caring, and of taking it to himself. (Lutheran Teacher, April 1965, p. 32.)
Hear! See! Believe!
I have listened to the words of Jesus-I suppose hundreds of times. Have I heard? I have watched persons and situation in which the power of God was made manifest-many, many times. Have I seen? I have been along; I have looked with others at the signs revealing that Jesus by no means stayed dead in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Have I believed? (Lutheran Teacher, July 1965, p. 35.)
Skills in Teaching the Vocabulary
There are certain words to learn-words that are seldom used in public school vocabulary and never really taught there. A very important part of our Christian heritage is the language of faith. Believing people have things to talk about, and they call for some special language. We who teach in the community of faith must teach the language of faith. Believing people have things to talk about, and they call for some special language. We who teach in the community of faith must teach the language of faith. Children need practice in reading and using the words of that language-words like God, forgive, Canaan, Gospel, witness, introit, salvation, sanctification. Just about every lesson for any age level should help the student gain skill in recognizing, defining, reading, and using one or more of the words in our language of faith. (Lutheran Teacher, January 1966, p. 24.)
What the Learner Learns
In our teaching and learning the really important thing is what the learner learns. He is the one who must in turn become the guide for the next generation of learners. As the rising generation faces its experiences, it has to do so from some standpoint, from some pint of view. If the foregoing generation can convey its viewpoint and something of what it has learned in its time, the new generation may gain enormously. The new generation must receive and apply the guidance offered by the past but must also experiment with it, test its usefulness now in this time and situation. Education must therefore be a process of teaching-learning in which the benefits of what has been learned and remembered in the past are taken up for consideration toward possible usage at the present time.
The people of God have found themselves in many historical situations across the years-and they have adapted their educational efforts accordingly. They have often faced the new situation with radical imagination and with new approaches more appropriate to the time. (Lutheran Teacher, March 1966, p. 30.)
Words of Scripture
For me the most important words of Scripture are the promises of God. And, of all the promises, my favorite is the one that was left as a message for the angels to deliver when the disciples arrived at the open tomb: "He is not here; for he has risen-he is going before you!" What a message! What a promise! (Lutheran Teacher, June 1966, p. 26.)
Everything we believe about God reflects this remarkable, person, and unsettling way that God acts. As Dr. Harold Ditmanson puts it in The Doctrine of Grace, "God has always been at work in the world. God loved us when we were still his enemies. Man lives in God's world and God is always there in the world before man because he has created him in love and for love. Wherever the Christian or the church goes in the world, God has been there first." (Lutheran Teacher, June 1966, p. 27.)
The neighborly act and aid is always an especially important force by which we recognize that we are bound together with others. We see each other at the market; we spot each other in attendance at community events; we warm to each other when we find that we have both gone out of our way to try to be of help in someone's need. You, as a church school teacher-are you recognized in such times and places? (Lutheran Teacher, June 1967, p. 3.)
Faith of the Teacher
You and I, as teachers of the Gospel, are faced with the same problems that challenged Moses and David and Ezra. The people of God have always been challenged to sort out their beliefs in connection with the customs and religions of the folks among whom they exist. The people of God have always made use of many of the customs of the time. But the people of God have always had to first sound the note of their own belief, then reinterpret the customs they might be using, and sometimes even reject some of those customs.
The Gospel proclaims to us that we are God's own at his initiative-not ours. We are to regard the resources available to us, including the arrangements for civil justice and order, as a trust from God for which we are accountable-not as independent from powers separate from or parallel with the rule of God in the world. We are to recognize that God is love; apart from him all love-like expressions are less than they should be, and may even become demonic. (Lutheran Teacher, February 1968, p. 2)
Teachers are Foster Parents
Bringing up a child is a bigger job than can be done by two people. It takes more. Indeed, it takes many. Now I am sending my children forth to meet teachers and I am grateful that it can be so. For my children need more nurturing than they can get from my wife and myself. I know that they are finding in their teachers something that they cannot get from us. And I am thankful for those foster parents which their teachers really are. You're a teacher. And you do some fostering too. Thank you! (Lutheran Teacher, September 1968, p. 2.)
Education in your parish happens every time someone catches a clue as to what members of the congregation believe. It happens when the child notices the ideas represented on the cover of the bulletin; when a man takes note that his teenage son is paying attention to what some youth leader says and does; when women in a Tuesday coffee conversation talk earnestly about their view toward some persons who seem different; when a phrase from the sermon is turned over and over in the mind. (Lutheran Teacher, October 1968, p. 2.)
Every effort in adult education ought to be for some purpose useful to the persons who might participate. It should be for becoming a more able council member, for doing one's task as an officer, for thinking through some issues on which we must come to a decision, for gaining skill in teaching a class, for dealing with the teenagers in one's home, for struggling with community problems as an informed Christian. (Lutheran Teacher, September 1969, p. 2.)
Concern for Others
The Old Testament prophets spoke of personal accountability and social responsibility in very specific terms. Jesus spoke and did a great deal for people in need and against an establishment that satisfied itself far more than it served either man or God. The early Christians struggled much with hard ethical questions that grew out of the situations in which they found themselves. And we Christians now had better not seek a simplistic imagination of miracles if we teach about a comfortable Jesus who is actually different from the man described by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!
We just don't get to have Jesus to ourselves alone. He is found only with others whom he cares about. And he asks us to care about them too. "â¦ for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." (Parish Teacher, February 1970, p. 2.)
Confirmation: An event or ministry
When Christians seek to carry out their commission from the Lord, a part of the process they undertake is strengthening or confirming of those in the fellowship. When Paul and Barnabas "had preached the gospel . . . and had made many disciples," they strengthened (confirmed) "the souls of those disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith â¦ (Acts 14:21,22).
The Lutheran churches in North America are midstream in a major reconsideration of their ministry of strengthening-confirming. During the next 10-12 months our attention will be focused on the confirmation ministry at last four different times.
You are specifically involved in all of this. The commission recommends that the term "confirmation" be redefined to describe the entire 16- year ministry of the church to children from Baptism into early youth Our efforts with four-year-olds are thus part of the confirmation ministry. Our program for third graders (including Cub Scouts and junior choir) is part of the confirmation ministry. Our inclusion of fifth graders in Holy Communion (if adopted) will be part of the confirmation ministry. Our ministry to tenth graders (including camping and fellowship events) are part of the confirmation process. And an important part of every believer's discipleship-from older youth through all adult years-is to minister to children and youth in the confirmation process. (Lutheran Teacher, June 1970, p. 2.)
A family takes care of its little child - and he can feel secure. The family cares that he be well, that he can grow, that he might excel. And he knows he is of value.
As he grows he notices that in his family some things are more important than others. His people care more about some kinds of events than others. His kind of folks take greater interest in some causes than in others. And in this process he also begins to form his own way of valuing all that he sees. For the most part, what he cares about is what his family cares about.
His family has responsibilities. They care for someone. They carry the burdens of a cause. They think and plan and strive because they care. And he also takes on a way of life that cares for much the same. (Lutheran Teacher, February 1971, p. 2.)
In these days when we are all trying to get the new definition of confirmation into our minds and hearts, the most helpful single concept is ministry. Whenever you say the word confirmation, say with it ministry. Whenever you hear the word confirmation-in your mind hear also the word ministry. Whenever you read the word confirmation-let your mind add the word ministry.
The concept ministry sets us thinking in the right direction. Ministry automatically sets us to thinking relationship-person - person to person.
Ministry has to do with caring - caring about, caring for, caring together. Ministry speaks of a process, an ongoing continuity of doing something on behalf of another. Ministry is an expression of the gospel. It reminds us that sometimes we are to be ministered unto; more often we are to minister to others. Ministry has to do with sharing, affirming, strengthening, confirming-in the faith. Ministry is the central way of life in the church. A mutual ministry of believers is the Christian life together at its best. Whenever we use the word confirmation-let us say with it, ministry. Confirmation is the name of the church's ministry with children and youth-all of it, from Baptism through early youth. Whenever we say confirmation-let us also say ministry! (Lutheran Teacher, July-August 1971, p. 2.)
The Teacher's Task
It is the case that we live in a secular society which is getting more so all the time. It is the case that belief in God is declining. It is the case that when you take up your task as a church school teacher, you take up the task of a missionary. You are a witness for Jesus Christ. You may be the only regular witness that half your group will know. So, "make the word of God fully known . . . Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Lutheran Teacher, September 1972, p. 2.)
Time to Change
It is always a great time when one can begin again - to meet a new class, to have a fresh set of teaching tools, to get a better perspective. (Lutheran Teacher, December 1972, p. 2.)
Teaching Social Justice
In North America we are 7 per cent of the world's people. But we have and use 47 per cent of all the world's good. We are "Egypt."
In the communities where the American Lutheran Church exists we are among the ruling majority. There are minorities around in our midst-and they are crying out. But we, do we acknowledge we are "Egypt?"
Oh yes, we worship the God of the Israelites-but much of what his prophets have said about injustice-is for us to hear! It is not an easy word. Can we hear it? Can we respond to it? Can we participate in God's continuing activity today?
"Jesus stood up to read: . . . he has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who were oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
Somehow, you and I, as we teach the Word of God, must convey this truth. (Learning With, June 1973, p. 2.)
Education and Training
And the best training courses are the ones in which a really able person shows how - and guides you to begin to do it yourself: witness, and service in Christ's name! Education in the church is for something! It is for equipping the saints - for the work of ministry! (Learning With, September 1973, p. 2.)
Christian Education is Teaching and Preaching
Teaching is leading someone else to think their own thoughts. Preaching is expressing your own convictions. It is giving testimony to the faith that is in you. It is bearing witness. It is the evangel.
In Christian education both are needed. In every lesson. Somehow. It is really not enough that the personal convictions of the teacher be only implied. At some point they must be said. It doesn't matter whether such a witness is very simple, halting even-or marvelously eloquent-so long as it is real. What does matter is that it actually happen. (Learning With, October 1973, p. 2.)
In the giant rhythm of existence, night leads on into day. Every evening is a preparation for the morning to come. The primal story of all is-declares "And there was evening and there was morning, one day." . . ." And there was evening and there was morning, a second day."
And so, through all the periods of creation-evening and then morning.
Night readies toward dawn. Sleep prepares toward rising. Rest anticipates a fresh start. December introduces January. What may seem like the closing of an era is really the opening of a new age. Leaving is the first movement toward a new arriving. So let us look up, and expect, and hope, and begin anew. A Blessed New Year to you! (Learning With, December 1973, p. 2.)
Evenson, C. R. (1969). The purpose of confirmation education. In W. K. Gilbert (Ed.), Confirmation and education, Yearbooks in Christian education, Volume 1 pp. 36-51). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Evenson, C. R. (1971). Historical foundations. In W. K. Gilbert (Ed.), Foundations for educational ministry, Yearbook in Christian education, Volume 3 (pp.11-22). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Evenson, C. R. (1977). God's table of grace, Preparing children and parents for holy communion, Learner book and leader's guide. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House; Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Marvin L. Roloff
Marvin L. Roloff, retired clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey, Th.M. 1961; Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa with Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, Honorary D.D. 1997. Former President and Chief Executive Officer, Augsburg Fortress Publishers.