The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) met in Stevens Point, Wis., Oct. 10–13, for its annual conference. The conference revolved around the theme “Called to Be a Blessing,” which offered opportunities for the 130 attendees to reflect on their Christian vocation through worship, keynote presentations, and workshops.
The three keynotes reinforced that, even in retirement, God calls believers to be a blessing to those around them. In Wednesday’s opening keynote, Prof. Kenneth Cherney, Jr., from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., gave an overview of Luther’s understanding of Christian vocation, in which God makes us channels through whom he pours out his blessings on others. Thursday’s keynote speaker, Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, talked about the vital role WELS seniors will play in the next decade as WELS churches meet challenges stemming from the loss of younger members, reaching out to those who don’t see the need for church, and the need for more people to enter the gospel ministry. The final keynote on Friday featured Mr. Randy Breuer, a retired professional basketball player, speaking about being a Christian in the world of the NBA.
One of the highlights of this year’s convention was a special presentation and Q&A featuring Rev. Robert Weiss and his wife, Rachel, who joined the convention via video from Munich, Germany. Weiss was commissioned in August as the new WELS European civilian chaplain. The Weisses gave an update on their work throughout Europe as they serve both WELS military members and their families and civilians as well. Weiss encouraged those who have loved ones living and serving in Europe to fill out the form at wels.net/refer so he can connect with and serve them.
Each year, the OWLS designates its convention offerings to support the WELS European civilian chaplaincy. This year, the OWLS again presented the chaplaincy with a check for $50,000. Convention offerings and proceeds from the silent auction, which raised a record $2,675, were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplaincy. During his video call, Weiss expressed his gratitude: “Thank you to all of you in OWLS for the support you give the European chaplaincy,” he said. “It puts a pastor with his people. Thank you also from all those over here who receive Word and sacrament because of what you do.”
Sharon and Jay Stuedeman from Bethlehem, Hortonville, Wis., were excited to return this year for their second convention. “I believe this convention just gets better every year,” Sharon says. “The presentations were excellent. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.” Jay enjoyed seeing old friends and making new ones: “One of the biggest things is the friendliness of everyone. The connections with other Christians are something I like most about the convention,” he says. “I don’t think anyone could come to this convention and not enjoy it.”
John Paulsen, OWLS executive director, says, “This year’s convention seemed to strike a chord with everyone. Even first-time convention goers were impressed by the quality of the presentations and the fellowship of the group. We all get to grow in faith together!” Paulsen encourages any congregation with a seniors’ ministry to look into the OWLS program because it offers meaningful ways for seniors to gather and serve.
The 2024 OWLS convention will be held Oct. 14–17 at the Omaha Marriott, Omaha, Neb. The convention is open to all seniors 55 and older in WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, regardless of OWLS membership.
Learn more about the OWLS at wels.net/owls.