by John Grinvalds
My grandfather, Vitauts, was exiled from Europe once the shadow of World War II had lifted. He met my late grandmother in a refugee camp.
And when he got the chance to pursue a career in America, he had a difficult choice, a choice that every immigrant faces: to cling desperately to his former identity or to assimilate to a culture that offered no concessions. He had to ask himself who he was and who he wanted to become.
In the face of geographical displacement, individuals and organizations undergo identity crises. We attach so much meaning to place that its deprivation creates in us a hole, a void. We try to fill that void with newfangled modes of doing and being.
Soon, the Lutheran Center will be stripped of its building. Soon, we will be forced to consider our identity as a community. What sets us apart? What makes us The Lutheran Center? Like my grandfather, we must ask ourselves who we are and who we want to be.
Vitauts maintained his identity as a Latvian, but he also became an American-Lutheran pastor. For him, worship itself was an act of tradition, of passing-down. His last pastoral call before he retired took him to a Latvian-Lutheran church in Lincoln, where he helped maintain his and others’ heritages and identities through language and liturgy.
Similarly, our identity is tethered to our modes of worship. We are The Lutheran Center after all, not the Avalon or Murder-in-the-Dark Center. Though casually hanging out is an integral part of our community, it must never overshadow worship. When we worship, we tell our story — not just the story of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, but also our own, intimate, and communal story.
Next year, The Lutheran Center will become something new, but we cannot abandon completely the things that make us us. Let us never tire of telling our story.