38th Pastors’ Convention of the FELSISA – 14-16 May 2018 at Heyshope Dam
The pastors who arrived at the Heyshope Dam on the Sunday evening, tired out by the morning services and the afternoon drive, were greeted by the smell of meat being grilled by men from the Panbult congregation. This dinner would be the first of many delicious meals prepared for the pastors by men and women from the congregations of Panbult and Piet Retief. Not only were all the meals delicious, but not having to cook themselves really allowed the pastors to work productively on the tasks at hand. Shoreside accommodation was also provided for the pastors by our host Eckhardt Paul and by members of the Wittenberg Congregation. A special thanks to all who treated us with food and drink and who provided accommodation! May God bless you!
Monday and Tuesday were full, efficient workdays – opened and closed with devotions at 8 AM and 5 PM respectively. Sandwiched in between these meditations on the Word of God, the pastors focused their attention on the work at hand. Not only did the pastors discuss and deliberate about current theological and synodical matters, but they also heard presentations by Pastor Dr Daniel Schmidt. These presentations were certainly a highlight of the convention. Pastor Schmidt serves the congregation in Groß Oesingen of our sister church (SELK) in Germany. Having received his PhD in Homiletics – the study of preaching – Pastor Schmidt instructed the pastors on “The Art of Preaching.” We are grateful to Pastor Schmidt for accepting the invitation to come to South Africa. The enriching, informative and edifying sessions with him equipped the pastors with a set of tools to make their preaching more artistic, eccentric, interactive and contemporary. The chief goal of these tools is to ensure that the centre of our preaching is Jesus Christ!
Preaching is a form of audible art. The starting point for the presentations was the Word of God. The Bible is full of art. In the Old Testament, we learn how God Himself gave exact specifications and instructions for how the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple and its interior were to be exquisitely, intricately and even extravagantly made. Beautiful music accompanied the worship services. God proclaimed His presence through this divinely inspired artistic beauty. Similarly, God acts through the orally performed art of preaching. To carry out this task, God does not call the able, but he enables the called. Thereby the preacher becomes an ambassador of Christ.
Preaching is also a contemporary art, which speaks to a specific audience in a specific time and a specific space. The preacher therefore needs to speak into the present time and to present hearers. For this, he must know their world: their challenges, their language, their everyday life. A contemporary sermon is not worldly, but it is the ever-contemporary Word of God that is preached in such a way, that God’s Word is heard and understood by its hearers.
Finally, preaching is interactive. The sermon interacts with the congregation, with other congregational activities, and with the everyday life of the hearers. I am confident that these newly acquired tools from the sessions with Pastor Schmidt will aid our pastors in bringing Christ to the people in their preaching.
Preceding Pastor Schmidt’s last session on Wednesday was a Divine Service with Holy Communion, held by Pastor Roland Johannes (celebrant) and Pastor Thomas Beneke (preacher). A new, simplified English order of service was used here for the first time. This order of service, edited by Pastor Johannes (himself an organist), is intended for congregations with inexperienced organists or for pastors with limited confidence in their own singing ability.
As a vicar, I was allowed to attend the Pastors’ Convention. I learned a lot and enjoyed the fellowship with the pastors. It was indeed a very pleasant convention!
Vicar Andreas Albers, Fairlands, JHB