Around 200 convention attendees and guests filled the chapel at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., Monday evening for the opening worship service of the 66th biennial convention.
WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder presided over the service and Rev. Joel Voss, WELS second vice president and pastor at Resurrection, Centerville, Ohio, preached a sermon themed “By God’s Grace, Here We Still Stand” based on Colossians 3:15-17. Rev. James Huebner, WELS first vice president and pastor at Grace, Milwaukee, Wis., was the cantor for the service.
Voss says, “Our Lord’s encouragement in Colossians chapter 3 is to let his Word dwell in us richly. That Word led Luther to take his stand at the Diet of Worms 500 years ago, and, by God’s grace, that’s where our beloved WELS still stands today. That’s all due to the grace of God. May we ever cherish it!”
Worship during the convention is crafted around the themes covered in the convention essay entitled “Here We Stand: Imitating Luther’s Faith.” Rev. Bryan Gerlach, director of the WELS Commission on Worship, says, “There is no bravado in the convention theme. So it’s good to reinforce the foundation of Word and sacrament. Here we stand! And the remaining worship services during convention emphasize additional essay themes: humility in service, joy in all circumstances, and confessing the gospel with boldness.”
Gerlach continues, “It can be a challenge to gather a choir in summer for convention—even more so after the pandemic challenges of the past year. So, I was pleased that Rev. Huebner agreed to be cantor for the service. This also had the advantage of modeling to delegates and to all those watching online how to introduce material from the new hymnal. Furthermore, it meant that the opening service was led by the synod president and two vice presidents.”
The opening service was planned to provide a balance of familiar hymns with some new content introduced in a way to make participation comfortable for most people.
Even though fewer people attended in person than usual, it was still a moving service, especially for delegates from smaller churches. The impact of strong singing accompanied by a quality pipe organ and brass ensemble made the service a memorable and joyful worship experience.
Rev. Bruce E. Schwark, who serves Christ/Rockwood/St. Peter in the Manitowoc Conference, Wis., was moved by the music. “I always enjoy singing Thy Strong Word with the fanfare of the trumpets and as a tribute to Professor Franzmann, who wrote the words. The sermon also hit the point about what we are all about: preaching the Word. That’s what I do as a pastor. The service motivated me to keep doing that.”
“I was amazed at how great the hymns sounded and how great the preachers were,” agreed Mr. Kenneth Stephens, first-time lay delegate from Zion, Valentine, Neb. He says, “The singing was so joyful. The service was so impressive, and it really gets to my heart. I’m glad I’m here.”
You can watch the entire worship service at wels.net/news-media/2021synodconvention/convention-livestream.
View photos from Day 1 and the opening worship service