St. Peter's Blog 'Letters from Exile, Part One' from St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church – North Wales, PA's Blog

Letters from Exile, Part One

Friday, May 13, 2016
Author: Pastor Andreas Wagner

Dear congregation,

This is the first of a series of letters from exile during my Sabbatical from May through August of 2016. For sure, it is a self-imposed form of exile that I very much need - for soul care and to deepen my understanding of ministry. 

So, you might ask, what is our pastor doing with all this time on his hands? Is "Sabbatical" really a glorified term for vacation? Or is it more like time spent in a monastery, with an inward and prayerful focus? I think my Sabbatical is really more like the latter, as difficult as it may seem to conceive of the Wagner household as a monastic setting and as much as physical and intellectual work is part of my daily routine (which is of course not really a contradiction to the monastic life).

I have actually two clear goals for this month and the first half of June. I am in the thick of my study project and I also have two garden projects that I am pursuing as the weather permits. The study about "Alternative Creeds in Liturgical Worship" has already led me down some interesting pathways. I am reading more theological literature than I have in a very long time - to be precise, most since the university days in the mid-90's. One of my first study objects has been the ancient creeds themselves. I have really enjoyed learning more about them.  In fact, one book stands out which I might offer to study together with people from St. Peter's when I come back from my self-imposed exile. It is called "Deeper than Words," an explanation and meditation of the Apostle's Creed by Brother David Steindl-Rast, an Austrian-born American Benedictine. What makes this book so valuable is the author's ability to explain difficult parts of the creed (like the Virgin Birth) through an appreciation of both mythical concepts and scientific knowledge, which is refreshing and really not hard to understand. It is also the author's commitment to inter-religious dialogue, which makes this universalist explanation of the Christian faith intriguing.


I have also come across authors from the emerging church movement, which I have found very refreshing.  The best I can describe it is this:  emerging church leaders and authors are very diverse in terms of their understanding of the Christian faith. You will find some very conservative and some very liberal thinkers among them and they disagree on a whole lot of things, but they are bound together by their desire to engage with an increasingly secular culture and to both learn from as well as influence contemporary culture. One of the authors I am most interested in is Doug Pagitt who has written several books.

I have had the opportunity to worship with the people of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Doylestown and Bethel Hill Methodist Church in Blue Bell the last two Sundays. It's nice to just sit in a pew, listen and participate every once in a while. Because I leave early to attend church before I lead the focus groups I tend to end up in the most traditional worship settings. The early service at St. Paul's was glorious, accompanied by a majestic organ, a chancel choir and a really good sermon by Pastor Bob Linders. Pastor Linders, by the way, parks frequently at our church when he goes down to the city. And our friend Walter Kinzinger who worships with us every once in a while is a member there. The early service at the Methodist church, as might be expected, was much more low key and not as rich in ritual or message.

In my garden project number one I am straightening out my vegetable garden, building a higher and more permanent border with 16 inch cedar tone planks and adding a total of 10 cubic yards of organic soil, which is really a whole lot more soil than it sounds. So far, I have moved only about one third of it, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, a hundred yard journey through the grass every time. And yes, I love the physicality of it...

I also love the sight of the bearded irises that are starting to bloom right now and the lush, young green of the river birches that I planted 10 years ago.  

You are in my prayers and sometimes in my dreams.

More soon from this blessed place.


Today would have been my grandmother's 115th birthday. Her name was Anna Schnautz. She was a very godly woman.  


Yours in Christ,

 Brother Andreas


Share This Post

Share Your Thoughts

comments powered by Disqus