The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Seeing the larger church

Confirmands 'say cheese' with a synod bishop at annual gathering

Food, fun and an opportunity to be photographed with their bishop are among the highlights of a gathering for confirmation students in 81 congregations of the La Crosse Area Synod.

“It never occurred to me kids would like to have their picture taken with their bishop,” said Bishop April Ulring Larson.

La Crosse Area Synod Bishop April Ulring
La Crosse Area Synod Bishop April Ulring Larson and confirmands from First Lutheran Church, Onalaska, Wis., line up for a group photo during ConFEST at English Lutheran Church in La Crosse, Wis.

ConFEST started six years ago as a way to introduce confirmands to the larger church. “For a lot of these kids, this is the only experience with the wider church they ever get,” Larson said, noting that some young people, particularly those in small, rural communities, rarely have opportunities to mingle with people from other synod congregations. Attending ConFEST shows students they aren’t alone, either as Lutherans or Christians, she said, adding: “For some this will be the only experience that paints a picture of how we are one in Christ.”

The class photos with Larson are taken after a high-energy worship service that includes music by a praise band from the host church as well as a short, inspirational message from the bishop. While plenty of jostling and giggling accompany the setting up for the photo, a baptismal font in the foreground helps remind students of their baptism into the body of Christ. The photos are later sent to the congregations so prints can be made for each student.

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