Prince of Peace Lutheran Church is located in a busy, multicultural neighborhood of Austin, Texas, just southeast of downtown. Founded in 1955 by the children and grandchildren of Swedish immigrants, Prince of Peace has always been a fairly small congregation. The main difference between 1955 and now is Austin’s size and our congregation’s growing cultural and economic diversity of Anglo, Latino, African, and African-American members.
While participating in the very first Summer Collegium in 2006, I had a vision of exactly how I wanted our small youth program to develop, which I shared with our youth helper. Like a one room schoolhouse, our parish hall comes to life each Thursday evening at 7! Ten to fourteen children and youth of various backgrounds come together for spiritual growth, fun, and recreation. For part of the time we divide into older and younger groups. This is our main Christian education time apart from the Sunday children’s sermon and Sunday class two Sundays a month.
A particularly joyful event is our annual youth Advent/Christmas pageant. We mix Swedish and Latino traditions into a multi-colored tapestry. The program begins with someone telling the courageous story of Saint Lucia of Sicily who served the very poor and became a martyr for the faith in 304 A.D. The bright light of her works of faith is said to have never died, and centuries later this legend inspired a beautiful faith vision in Sweden of Saint Lucia taking food and medical needs to the poor and elderly in the midst of a very cold and dark Scandinavian winter. As the congregation sings the “Sancta Lucia” song, one of our young women (each one a Latina in recent years) comes up the aisle with a wreathed crown of candles and dressed in a white robe and red sash and accompanied by several “star children” who with her pass out traditional Swedish ginger cookies. The next section of the program is a unique, creative story chosen each year recounting the birth of Jesus. Two or three narrate and others quietly play the nativity characters. Once the stable scene is in place, the congregation sings “Silent Night” in whichever language we choose -- English or Spanish. The nativity characters then come alive and lead one side of the congregation as the holy family and the other side as the innkeepers. We sing the Mexican Posada song back and forth until finally the innkeepers open the doors of their hearts (and also the door of the church hallway) and all of us leave rejoicing. A piñata is awaiting the children hanging on a tree in our church garden, and the sweet treasures which are broken out of it symbolize the treasures of God’s sweet love in Jesus for all!
The small congregation is the perfect place to enjoy the riches of each others’ cultures. Joy fills my heart as I thank the Lord for the blessings of our diverse ministry together!
Pastor Fred Krebs, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Austin, TX (Collegium Participant 2006)