By Sue Sprang

SYNOD – In this third installment looking at our synod’s women clergy during this year of celebration of the 50thanniversary of the ordination of women in the Lutheran church, some pastors weigh in on the church year.

QUESTION: What is your favorite season of the church year and/or “high day” of the church year and why?

“Easter, especially as it is celebrated with the Easter Vigil with its story telling of salvation history, music, affirmation of baptism, and the first shouts of Alleluia!” – Pastor Joan Oleson, Sarong Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Joseph

“My favorite festival is the Paschal Triduum. These three days are the very heart of the Christian faith, and the well spring of my ministry. I am called by a God who chose to come down to be with us, even into death, that we may have life. I am called to proclaim, in word and deed, Christ crucified and risen. Alleluia!” – Pastor Betsy Kamphuis, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Greenville and Settlement Lutheran Church, Gowen

“Each is a favorite, so it is hard to choose, but I think Pentecost is the one I would choose today because the coming of the promised Holy Spirit as our advocate gives us the robust experience of God with us as we grow into our lives as Church and as Christians together.” – Pastor Jane Mountain, Harbor of Grace Lutheran Church, Muskegon

My favorite season is Advent.  I love the contrasts, the scriptures, the hymns… themes of waiting, remembering and hoping… Advent is really a poem. A few favorite texts: ‘O that you would rend the heavens and come down…’ ‘…they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.’ ‘He will feed his flock like a shepherd.’ ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.’ (I know, that’s Christmas Eve, but still a favorite.) Several favorite hymns:

‘In the Bleak Midwinter,’ ‘People, Look East,’ ‘Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying.’” – Pastor Ruther Overdier, Trinity Lutheran Church, Manton

“I love Pentecost–I think it is in part because it is a red day, I love the spontaneity of the Spirit, and the music.  A close second would be Easter.” – Pastor Julie Bailey, Ascension Lutheran Church, Saginaw

“Holy Week, which I know is likely very common among rostered leaders before they became rostered leaders…  Even though now as a pastor, this is a particularly taxing week with all the added responsibilities, I still appreciate the rhythm of the week.  That slow walk toward the cross is a spiritual practice for me.  I try to take a moment each day to reflect and meditate so that I don’t let the frenetic pace of preparations for worship deprive me of the deep way I am affected by remembering all that Christ endured and how he triumphed.” – Pastor Jennifer Michael, St. Peter Lutheran Church, Battle Creek

“I have a deep appreciation for the contemplative seasons of Advent and Lent. Both of those seasons reflect our own need for Christ, they call us to see where in ourselves and in our society we are in need of healing and urge us to call upon God for that healing. These two seasons also focus on the incarnation and the amazing miracle of God meeting us in our own need.” – Pastor Jessica Rivera-Walker, Good Shepherd, Holland 

“Advent is my favorite season… the waiting, the expectation, the hymns that allow introspection.. They aren’t quite minor or mournful in key or tone, but they are different from the rest of the year.  I always hope Advent is full of sunny cool days and chilly, cold, star-filled nights because there is just something for me about being able to look up at a star-filled sky during Advent that is special.  

“The high day of the church year, however, is Good Friday.  For me, it is the high day because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt on Good Friday that Jesus died for me, exactly as I am, and for my sins, and for some unknown reason loves me in spite of or because of who I am. It’s mind-boggling in a lot of ways, and gut wrenching in just as many.  It makes me want to be a better person, and a better pastor, because of the amazing outpouring of God’s love for me and for the world that is so evident on that day.” – Pastor Christina (Chrisy) Bright, New Life Lutheran Church, Spruce

“Advent is my favorite season of the church year.  I love the scriptures and stories that go with the season, which have a sense of God setting things right and of hope.  I also love the hymnody, both old and new, that goes with the season.  My favorite festival day service is the Easter Vigil.  I love the movement of the service from darkness and quiet to the shouting of ‘Alleluia!’ and the pronouncement of Jesus’ resurrection.” – Pastor Julie Schneider Thomas, Zion, Comstock Park and Hope, Rockford

“Pentecost Sunday and All Saints Sunday are my favorites… Pentecost because of the miraculous ways in which the Holy Spirit worked through the disciples on that day, and All Saints Day which reminds me of our glorious togetherness in Christ with all those in the church triumphant.” – Pastor Karen Niemeyer, Trinity, Grand Rapids

“Advent has some of my favorite music. And I’m increasingly becoming a fan of Pentecost, because of the opportunity to do creative stuff at worship. A couple of years ago we blew up over 100 red balloons and poured them over the balcony onto the congregation during the part in the Acts reading about the tongues of fire. The looks on people’s faces were amazing.” – Pastor Kjersten Sullivan, Trinity, Battle Creek

“This is an easy question for me to answer, for numerous reasons!  My favorite day of the Church Year is Reformation Day.  I love the theme of the grace of God through Jesus Christ that permeates the day.  When I preach on Reformation, I preach on the Romans text, 3: 19-28.  The verses of 23-24 are very powerful to me:  ‘For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.’  As the Lutheran Study Bible states in the notes about Romans 3:24:  ‘Grace is God’s unmerited love for humanity.’  

“I also have a special place in my heart for Reformation Day because this day focuses on Martin Luther and the Reformation. He and I have a connection in that we share the same birthday, November 10, not the same year!  I was a Lutheran from the time I was in my Mother’s womb.  My parents were ALC and then ELCA, my dad was a Pastor (must have been a bit tricky for him on that day!), I was born on a Sunday and Martin Luther and I share the same birthdays!

“Finally, my late mother crocheted a beautiful bright red stole for my ordination in Bismarck, North Dakota on August 19, 1984.  There are only two Sundays, Pentecost and Reformation, we wear red stoles, other than ordinations.  I love wearing my bright red stole and being wrapped in the love of my mother on Reformation Day.” – Pastor Miriam Bunge, synod supply 

“My favorite season of the church year is Advent. I think Advent is a good reflection of where the church is today, both celebrating that our Savior Jesus has come, but also that we are still awaiting his return to make all things complete. I also enjoy the extra time of contemplation, prayer, and reflection on what the Incarnation means for the Christian faith, and just the excitement it builds towards celebrating the Christmas season.” – Pastor Nicole (Nikki) Smith, Lutheran Church of the Savior, Kalamazoo

It’s hard to pick one… but I feel like my favorite celebration in the church is probably Christmas Eve worship. I adore Advent with the powerful and prophetic texts reminding us that God is coming and will be with us… and that all seems to come to a wonderful crescendo on Christmas Eve, when we welcome long time members and strangers together, preach the good news of Emanuel to those who know the story, those who have forgotten the story, and those who have never heard it… and sit in the stillness and wonder that God loved us enough to come screaming into the world with us… to both die for us, and live for us.” – Pastor Megan Crouch, Trinity and St. Timothy Lutheran Churches, Midland