Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thanks to Rev. Eric Andrae...

...for being the speaker at Salem Lutheran Church's 4th annual Adult Retreat (joining past speakers Rev. Dr. John Stephenson, myself, and Rev. Dr. Paul Anderson).

Pastor Eric Andrae is a native of Sweden who serves as a campus pastor in Pittsburgh. Both he and his father, Hans O. Andrae, serve together as pastors out of First Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS). Hans was ordained and served for many years as a priest of the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden. After moving to the United States, serving many years and retiring as an ELCA pastor, Hans colloquized into the Missouri Synod as a pastor emeritus.

Both Revs. Andrae are heavily involved in theological translations from the Swedish language - especially in making the works of Bishop Bo Giertz (author of Hammer of God) available in English. In fact, Pastor Hans Andrae (dubbed Andrae the Greater by the Rev. Dr. David Scaer of the Fort Wayne seminary faculty) translated the final chapter into English in the revised edition of Hammer (you can read a teaser here). Mrs. Hollywood and I had the honor to type the manuscript for him, and were thus among the very first to read this part of the book in English (and we received mention in the book - a truly high honor from our dear friend and my brother in the holy ministry). Both Pastors Andrae collaborated in the historical notes, annotations, and index that were missing from the previous edition.

We invited Eric to speak on World Lutheranism, especially in light of his recent trip with his father around northern Europe as well as the remarkable events in recent years involving Sweden's Missionary Province and the involvement of Kenya's Lutheran bishop, the Most Rev. Walter Obare in making it possible once again for Swedish Lutherans to have faithful pastors over the objections and protestations of the Church of Sweden's heavy-handed and apostate hierarchy.

Pastor Andrae's presentation, a marathon of a total of nine hours of lecture, covered contemporary Lutheranism in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Germany, Scandinavia, the Baltics, and Africa - a good bit of his presentation peppered by personal anecdotes, pictures, and observations - along with history and introductions to modern heroes of the faith from around the globe.

We also enjoyed fellowship together in meals and in prayer, as well as the celebration of Mass on Sunday.

Pastor Andrae was joined by his wife Paola (who hails from Mexico) and their 15-month old daughter Michelina - to whom Eric speaks only Swedish, and to whom Paola speaks only Spanish. The Andrae family stayed with the Matherne family (Brent, Lisa, and their daughter Madison), whose property borders a wildlife reserve. The Mathernes are gracious hosts, and made sure the Andraes got as much of a taste of New Orleans as they could in their few days visiting with us.

The Andraes were able to spend a day (a long day!) with fantastic weather strolling in the French Quarter and visiting St. Louis Cathedral, as well as touring other parts of the Crescent City. During their few days here, they caught a little live music, ate po boys, seafood, alligator, crawfish, charbroiled oysters at Dragos, Miss Judy's bread pudding, Miss Kathy's casseroles, Mrs. Hollywood's pralines, and took in a meal at the refurbished Lakeview Harbor which was under water after Hurricane Katrina. They rode the Algiers ferry, visited historic Gretna, and even caught a real New Orleans parade (St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday) - catching not only beads, plastic cups, and stuffed animals, but also carrots, cabbages, and potatoes. They also experienced frozen daiquiris procured through our ubiquitous drive-thrus, not to mention Dixie and Abita beers. You can find some pictures here.

We think they had a good time, and we know we were edified by their visit. The Andraes are easy people to like. What a joy and a privilege to count them not only as brothers and sisters in Christ, but as friends.

L to R: Brent and Lisa Matherne, Rev. Eric and Paola Andrae

Pastor Andrae and I go back a few years, and met by divine providence.

L to R: Father Hollywood with Father Eric and his daughter Michelina.

While in my first year at the seminary (2000-01), we students were all required to read Bo Giertz's masterpiece, the novel Hammer of God. We were also visited by a noted confessional Swedish pastor Fredrik Sidenvall, a faithful servant of our Lord in very difficult circumstances in his homeland and Church. I was impressed with the calm tenacity with which Pastor Sidenvall and a small group of clergy and laity in Sweden cling to the orthodox faith, and I was equally captivated by the history of the Swedish Church - including its "kinder and gentler" Reformation in which the entire Church embraced the Augsburg Confession and left communion with Rome with very little turbulence. The very survival of the Lutheran Reformation was placed upon the shoulders of a Swedish warrior-king named Gustav Adolph who gave his life in battle, in the words of a monument in St. Louis, "so that the reformation might live."

Much of the Swedish Church's history is not well known in LCMS circles, as most of our ancestors, biological and spiritual, are German. There are also a goodly number of Swedish theological works that do not yet exist in English. I remember wondering if I could learn Swedish in order to do some translating.

A couple days after having that thought, I was in the right place at the right time to overhear a "chance" conversation between my classmates Tom Shumaker and Bror Erickson (the former now serves a double parish in Iowa, the latter serves a parish in Utah) in which they were discussing starting up a Swedish class. I asked them if I could join them, and the three of us spent about a year studying Swedish together in a vacant classroom.

The following year, while on tour with the seminary Kantorei (our 16-man choir), we sang at First Trinity Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh. I "just so happened" to speak with an affable European gentleman named Hans Andrae (not knowing at first that he was a pastor, nor that he was Swedish). And, I "just so happened" to be assigned to spend the night at the Rev. Eric and Paola's apartment - a remarkable "coincidence." We struck up a friendship, and Pastor Andrae would also go on to meet my classmates Tom and Bror. Later on, we were organizing the translation of a few articles.

We're all still working on various projects.

Rev. Bror Erickson recently had his translation of Bo Giertz's devotional To Live With Christ published by Concordia Publishing House. Our group of Swedish translators became known as the Society of St. Eric (named for Sweden's patron saint, although Pastor Andrae likes to think it was named for him). Pastor Andrae also facilitated further Scandinavian-American Lutheran dialogue by establishing the SSALT yahoo group (Swedish and Scandinavian American Lutheran Theology), the Society of St. Eric's official channel of communications that has a worldwide following.

The SSALT list (which is open to any conservative, confessional Lutherans interested in Scandinavian Lutheranism) became a great source of news of the heroism of our brothers and sisters in Scandinavia - in some cases, being threatened with jail, loss of income, and removal from the ministry for their faithfulness.

This past weekend, It was a great privilege to listen to Rev. Eric Andrae's presentation in person, which included a very moving history of the suffering of the Latvian people in World War II, the remarkable story of Archbishop Janis Vanags of Latvia growing up under Communism and becoming archbishop at 35 years of age, the heroic efforts of pro-life Lutherans in Scandinavia - some of whom like Bishop Børre Knudsen have been defrocked and jailed, the struggle to maintain traditional biblical ordination in Sweden, and the heroic work of African churchmen (such as Bishop Walter Obare) who are now returning the favor of 19th century Scandinavian missionaries who brought the faith to Africa, and are now bringing the Gospel back to Scandinavia through mission work in the western world's own dark days of paganism and superstition. We also learned about a young Finnish seminarian, Ari Lukkarinen, who, unable to be ordained in his native Church because of his fidelity to the Bible and the confessions, found a loving parish to serve in Kenya, where he was ordained and continues to serve.

Rev. Ari Lukkarinen (second from left) on his ordination day, as Bishop Walter Obare (left) looks on.

Thanks again to Pastor Andrae, and we hope he and his family will come back and visit us again!


Dcn. Carlos Miranda said...

Are these lectures available in audio?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Hmmm. . . I thought you three were named after me.

Jon Bakker said...

Ha! I remember that Kantorei tour - I stayed with you at the Andrae's - it was a great trip and wonderful stop there in Pittsburgh.

In addition to being a splendidly resourceful theologian and faithful pastor, he also has a real gift for campus ministry. He served his vicarage in my campus ministry and some of the resident members still remember the great rapport he had with the international student community.

I'm so glad you were able to host him! Hope all is well down there!

Anonymous said...

Gustav Adolph, oh yes indeed! The great "Lion of the North" and the part he played in defending the Reformation in Germany was well known to my mother's Lutheran East Prussian family.

Wish I could have been there for Pastor Andrae's presentation.


Unknown said...

I am sorry I live so far away; this sounds like it was a fascinating retreat! Lots of stories of stalwart faithful from the world over, very humbling.

Plus, another dose of New Orleans would've done me some good! (will you save me a blessed bean today?)

(body here in WI, heart in N.O.)