Fall 2021 | Connecting National and Local Secretariats
Official Publication of the National Lutheran Secretariat | Via de Cristo

A Word from the
NLS President

How are Weekends Like a Pizza? 
I have a confession to make. I love anchovies on my pizza. I realize this places me in a minority, but those little bursts of saltiness really bring a pizza to life. Of course, it took me over a decade before I could persuade my wife to try them, but over time she came over to “the dark side.” 

Of course, by now you are likely wondering, “What does this have to do with VdC retreat weekends?” But let me ask you a question: if you leave the anchovies off, do you still have a pizza? Of course you do! It might be missing one of my favorite elements, but assuming you have crust, sauce, and cheese, you probably have a pizza. 

And Via de Cristo is a lot like that. While there are many types of Christian retreats, there are certain things that must be present for a retreat to be Via de Cristo. We call those things “the essentials.” Some of those things are obvious: 14/15 talks, palanca, 72 hours, chapel visits, and many others. But there are plenty of other things that we do on a weekend that are like toppings; they may be popular and even very helpful – but they are optional.  

Often you will hear these optional elements referred to by the term “adiaphora.” Technically, this means something on which the church is “indifferent.” That doesn’t mean they are trivial, it just means they are things on which no specific position is taken. They’re like anchovies (or pepperoni) – you can put them on if you like them, but even without them, you still have a Via de Cristo weekend.  

Some of the non-essentials are so ingrained into our movement, we may come to think of them as essential. For example, did you know that the serenade is actually optional? Of course most of us would feel greatly deprived if there was a weekend without a serenade – but it would still be a VdC weekend.
As each of our communities work to modify our weekends to accommodate new health protocols, I suggest we all review the essentials. Just as we have freedom in Christ, so too by knowing what aspects of the weekend are required, we may discover greater freedom to modify our traditions to accommodate necessary safety measures while still retaining all the things that are vital and life-changing in Via de Cristo.  

We on the National Secretariat, and most especially your Regional coordinator, are here to help you as you work through holding weekends in these new and often-changing conditions. Each of you have to decide which pizza toppings work best in your region and given your weekend site. But if you have questions, your Regional Coordinator may be able to help you get answers.  

Ultreya, my friends. Onward. Yes, these are challenging times and we have had to adapt to the new conditions. But our Lord is unchanging and steadfast and I have every confidence that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can and will continue to serve Him through this wonderful movement that He has given us. 
In peace, 
John Aclin 

Faith Journey

The Journey in Faith Secretariat has experienced some very tough decisions in the past two years. When everything closed down in the spring of 2020 we immediately moved to Zoom Ultreyas and those have been well attended throughout. We even have folks holding their reunion groups via zoom. We had to postpone our October 2020 weekend due to CoVid closedowns. 

Our 2020 Rector agreed to lead the 2021 weekend and then that decision also became a challenge. How would we effectively meld as a team when members of that potential team would not be able to come together for team meetings? Reluctantly, the decision was made to not hold a 2021 weekend. Note - At that time, we still had member churches in our community that were not holding indoor, in-person services until potentially December this year due to those concerns or they had just now started worshipping indoors.

So in lieu of a weekend, we chose to celebrate the situation with a Grand Ultreya! Fun, Food and Fellowship was the name of the game! This would create an opportunity to reconnect with those who we only had seen through Zoom Ultreyas for this last year.

We held the Grand Ultreya at the same camp we use for weekends utilizing the gymnasium so we had plenty of room to spread out, if needed. The event ran from 10am to 4pm on a Saturday with a pot luck lunch at 1pm. We played “get to know you” games, sang the old favorite songs, and had lots of fellowship. Two Fourth Day speakers gave witnesses which were then discussed by tables. We had a “sing down” with lots of laughter, held our Board Elections, and celebrated Holy Communion and the Word. It was a beautiful Fall day and spur of the moment, we all decided to move the tables outside to enjoy the weather while we ate our meal together. Just shy of 30 members of the community chose to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company. 

I took it as a huge success when my church’s new pastor said to me: “I can’t wait to start talking to our congregation and urging them to attend the next weekend - This was fabulous!” He and his wife had attended a Tres Dias weekend many years ago and are excited to reconnect into a strong Fourth Day community. 

We are actively moving into the new year looking forward to reestablish more connections with in-person Ultreyas and planning for our next weekend in October of 2022.

Your Sister In Christ, 
Amy Ewbank 
Lay Director - Journey in Fait

Courage to be Whole 

In John 5: 1-9, Jesus is in Jerusalem and he goes by the Pool of Bethesda. This pool, fed by an underground spring, is down, off of the street, and surrounded by porticoes offering some shade and shelter. Legend said that on occasion an angel would trouble the waters of the pool and the first person into the water after that would be healed. So, the pool had become a sort of gathering for those who were sick, especially the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. They gathered there watching the surface of the water for the smallest sign of rippling waves. A small bubbling from the underground spring or even a slight breeze could cause a stampede of invalids trying to be the first into the water.

And Jesus asks a man who is lying over to one side of the pool, “Do you want to be made well?” How did he respond?

“No thanks, I think I’ll just stay here on my pallet and wait for the waters to ripple. I’ve been here 38 years and I know what to expect and I know all of the other people nearby. True, I’m probably not going to get in the water first, but – you know – I’ve gotten used to being here, so thanks all the same, Jesus, but I’ll just lie here.”

No, John writes that this man did not respond that way, but instead he said yes to Jesus’ question, and Jesus told him to get up, and pick up his mat and walk. He responded to the call and was made whole.

It has almost been two years since we started battling this horrible disease that became a pandemic in our land. In that time most of our secretariats have canceled all of their weekends in order to not spread COVID 19. In the Texas Gulf Coast secretariat we just had to cancel our November weekend for lack of pilgrims. People are still afraid to gather in large groups that present uncertainty for them in regards to safety from COVID.

So rather than lose our deposit to the camp we decided to come together as a team, joined by any other Fourth Dayers who would like to come for a Spiritual Retreat. And God blessed us with some twenty plus retreaters who responded to the call of Via de Cristo again and said “Yes” to God, like the paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda did when Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed.

Yes, we need healing too. Our secretariats need to say yes to God again and stand up and walk in the healing power of Jesus Christ. It may mean that we gather for retreats for spiritual renewal and a shared vision of where God is leading us. In any case we know that God is not finished with us and we need to stand up and walk.

Our churches are shrinking today because as Christians we have ceased responding to God’s call to stand up, pick up our mat and walk the walk instead of just talk the talk.

Jesus’ question to us in 2022 is “Do you want to be healed?” If so, we must start being responsible and stand up in faith. Then our legs of faith become strong enough for us to walk beside others to help them grow in their faith life. Our arms will be empowered by Jesus to embrace our brothers and sisters and give them an opportunity to shed the victims’ clothing of fear and stand and walk with Jesus in service to others in responsibly safe environments.

I wonder, “do we fear the cure more than the illness?” Bill Coffin, a writer of novels and roleplaying games, once said that it’s scary to be responsible, or in our case, able to respond to God’s call, able to respond to the word and love of Jesus, in the midst of a threatening disease like COVID 19. If we cease being a victim, saying, “I can’t get to the water Jesus; someone else always gets there first”. Instead let us prepare our hearts for the healing God wants to give us. Perhaps Ultreyas, spiritual retreats, group prayer days, and other ways of experiencing the healing that God desires to give us will prepare us to stand up and walk so we can help other Christians grow stronger in their faith lives.

May God help us to no longer make excuses, or shrink with fear, but stand up and walk by the Grace of God to grow in our faith and help others get excited about what God is doing in their lives too.

Via de Cristo is a call from Christ to stand and walk instead of sit and bemoan the decline in our churches. Through Via de Cristo we have the opportunity to grow our congregations in spiritual formation, faith and service to God, and live a life of joy and fullness.

To get up and follow Jesus will involve us in people’s lives, because to be whole means to be re-membered, re-connected with God and with God’s people and God’s creation. No more faith isolation. No more living my own private life where no one bothers me. To be made well means to get off of the couch and get involved. It means to work our tails off, often doing behind the scenes work that is tedious and overlooked in order to create a safe environment for others to experience Via de Cristo.

We know that to walk out of the door and say, “Here, am I Jesus! Send me!” is an invitation to maybe get crucified like Jesus. Jesus never avoided the paralyzed, the sick or infirm, or the outcast. He walked among them and brought healing, and so must we, for this is God’s work in the midst of a sick and fallen world.

In John’s story, this paralyzed man had the guts to become well. He takes a deep breath and nods to Jesus, “Yes, I want to be whole, healed and well.” For Via de Cristo it will take work and lots of unlearning of old habits we may have accumulated during the pandemic and learning new and safer ways of doing weekends. Jesus reaches out to us and asks if we want to be made well. I know it is not going to be easy, but, let us say, Yes, Jesus, make us whole.

To be made well means that we can’t accept the lax spiritual attitudes of our own lives or what may seem to pervade. It means that we will stand up and pick up our mat we have been resting on and walk up to our pastor and invite him or her to Via de Cristo to assess whether or not it would be a source of spiritual renewal for their members. Invite them to come and experience the work of the Holy Spirit in their life and in the lives of others. Let us help our home congregations to grow spiritually and let the life of God’s love and Grace flow through us in our communities. At the invitation of Jesus, let us stand up and walk

Pastor Sue Beall
Decolores! Save the date for our NLS Annual Gathering at Texas Lutheran University (TLU) in Seguin, TX from July 21-24, 2022! The Executive Committee met with the Host Committee Leads at our Mid-Year Meeting to tour TLU on October 28th and followed their current face mask mandate. The Host Committee is comprised of four secretariats from:

  • A/OK VdC
  • North Texas VdC
  • Texas Gulf Coast VdC
  • Texas Lutheran VdC

To reassure everyone’s safety, we agreed to take a COVID test prior to meeting in-person. We continued planning through October 31st at a rented house in McQueeney, TX and enjoyed meals provided by the Host Committee along with a Reformation worship service led by Rev. Sue Beall.

We were excited to meet together, and it felt good to connect again in-person. You’ll probably feel the same way to see your fellow pilgrims and make new friends as we share the common fundamentals and be a resource to our ministry of Via de Cristo. The delegates from each secretariat will also gather for electing officers and approving our bylaw changes. You’ll learn and share with each other as we fulfill on our theme of “Love One Another” from John 13:35. You may be experiencing a spirit of resignation or burnout in the world we have now as we meet online. When you leave the NLS Annual Gathering, we want you to feel a revival of living our Fourth Day. By revival, we don’t mean re-energize or renew. The dictionary definition of revival is restoration to life, consciousness, vigor, strength, etc.

For budgeting purposes, early bird registration fees will include meals and lodging due by May 1, 2022:
  • $240/person from July 21-24, 2022
  • $275/person from July 20-24, 2022

When making your travel arrangements, we suggest flying into the San Antonio International Airport (SAT), which is about 30 minutes away from TLU and the closest airport. Transportation to/from the airport will be provided by our host committee.

God loves you and so do I,
Jane Winge
Vice President for Administration

Keep A Look Out on Your Email!!
The Spring Conexiones will be here before we know it! Look for it in March 2022.