Feb 06, 2018

By Mary Mortenson, Executive Director, Prison Congregations of America

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about tradition.  Do you and your families engage in such things?  Maybe it’s a baptismal gown, worn by every infant for generations.  Maybe it’s making and decorating Christmas cookies every December 24th.  Traditions are usually held close to the heart, and are often hard to change.  

 One of the favorite parts of my job is when I get to speak to churches about PCA.  Speaking during a worship service, during sermon time, is my favorite. The humbling thing about that is, prior to my doing this work, I was the parishioner who dreaded guest speakers.  All too often I found the message uninspiring and irrelevant.  Thus, when I began my stint as director of PCA, I was determined that anything I shared from someone’s pulpit would be as interesting and loving as I couldmake it.  Early on, PCA founder Rev. Ed Nesselhuf, gave me good advice when he said never to use a “canned speech”, but do something new – and always, always base the remarks on the texts for the day, because, as he said, “They all work.”

 The speaking season for PCA usually starts this time of year with a visit to Calvary Lutheran Church in Rapid City, South Dakota. A reasonable person, who knows the climate realities of South Dakota, might ask why there is a gig that requires driving 350 miles across the state in the winter.  (Even as I write this, I am worried about bad weather this weekend.) Visiting Calvary Lutheran Church the first weekend of February is tradition!  When Ed was the director, he always attended the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo, which is typically the end of January through the first weekend in February, so of course, “Why not visit Calvary Lutheran while in town?”  What made perfect sense then, makes no sense now since I’m not as interested in stock shows and rodeos as was my predecessor.  In spite of that, we have carried on the tradition,visiting Calvary Lutheran every first week-end in February for the last ten years!

 Why have we never changed this tradition?  I’m pretty sure that our hosts at Calvary Lutheran would have been open to our rescheduling the visit for summer, yet this February start to the “speaking year became more precious with every time.  It reminded me of the man who started this ministry, and it has always been as though the people of Calvary were blessing PCA and me, personally, for the work of the year ahead.   

I know that not all traditions are good, but that’s a topic for another time.  For now, in this first part of February, I hope that you are blessed by tradition.  We sure are!




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