As I think about writing something regarding the conferences I attended this summer, I realize I have nothing new to say about Higher Things. Our family started attending conferences in 2007. By 2012, our boys were grown and not attending anymore, so my husband and I offered our help. Some years later we find ourselves happily embedded in the organization that is Higher Things. Each year we attend conferences and see the same things happening: historical liturgical worship, teaching on meaty theological and social topics, hundreds of kids enjoying the activities offered during free time, as well as stories of youth singing hymns on the way home and bringing services like Matins and Evening Prayer into their home congregations.
So, if there is nothing new, why keep coming, why get involved, why write about it at all? Exactly because of all the things mentioned above. While our youth are taught from an early age that they join each Sunday with the whole company of heaven, it doesn’t hurt to have in our ears and memories the sound of hundreds of Lutherans singing the same hymns of the Church. The teaching is an intense version of what we get each week from our pastor, in catechesis and Bible class. For youth like ours, who were growing up in a congregation with few or no other young people, it was important to have Lutheran friends from all over the country who could spend that four days together each year and support each other during the intervening months (and with whom they are still friends as adults). And nothing beats the attention given the processional cross as it enters the opening Divine Service, symbolic of the focus on Christ throughout the conference, and the way youth are directed back to the gifts of Christ given to them through their pastors at their home altars.
We once took an adult from our congregation to her first conference. At the end, she asked, “Why doesn’t EVERYONE from our congregation come to Higher Things?” Good question.
Kay Maiwald is a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, in Hancock, Maryland.