Three Rivers Conference, Nebraska District
For this month’s featured circuit we head to the plains of Nebraska and the Central Circuit. The congregations of this circuit, which also comprise the Three Rivers Conference, are centered near Omaha and Norfolk. This means that this circuit is spread over about one hundred miles. Yet, the pastors meet regularly and make their meetings worth the travel time by having a thorough, balanced and lengthy study schedule.
The Central Circuit meets in the back room of a centrally located small town bar and grill which they have been using for more than a decade. They meet monthly except when there is a scheduled conference. They also take off the month of July. They meet for four hours, from 10:00 AM-2:00 PM.
Their meeting time begins with reading through a portion of the Lutheran Confessions. Currently, they are reading the Epitome of the Formula of Concord. They just completed a study of the Smalcald Articles, using as a study help a series from the Church of the Lutheran Confession’s monthly publication which provided summary and background information.
Then they move on to some work in Hebrew. During their May meeting they studied Psalm 3. The LCMS had that psalm as a worship reading for the month of June.
Their study time before lunch concludes with reading through a section of Walther’s Law and Gospel (using the “old” version). They go around the room and read a paragraph at a time.
They eat lunch where they are meeting. This usually serves as an informal opportunity to address questions of concern or casuistry and share other information about their congregations and families.
The first time slot after lunch is used to study a more recent writing on theology. This might be an essay or book which someone suggests. Currently, they are reading through Deutschlander’s The Theology of the Cross. Again, they go around the room and read a paragraph at a time.
Then they spend some time working through a portion of the New Testament in Greek. Usually, they study one of the lectionary readings for the next month. In the Greek and Hebrew studies, sometimes one of the pastors will lead the study in a more formal way. Sometimes, the circuit pastor will simply provide a copy of the text with key vocables and the group will read aloud and sight translate. In general, this group operates in a more informal way.
Their time together concludes with prayer. Going around the table, each pastor prays a short prayer out loud.
There are several items about the study plan of the Central Circuit worth noting:
- The Central Circuit engages in a very ambitious and well-balanced study schedule. Meeting for four hours at the same place where they eat allows for maximum use of their time together and the opportunity for the study of numerous items. And setting aside four hours of study time is a model for other circuits to consider following, especially when you consider that most of the pastors in the circuit probably have to travel about 45 minutes or more one way. The Central Circuit demonstrates by their schedule the value they place on this study time together.
- Taking the time to study both Greek and Hebrew each time the circuit meets is to be commended.
- Studying the Lutheran Confessions, Walther and a more current theological writing provides ample opportunity for discussion of current issues and pastoral applications.
- Looking to other Lutheran publications for study helps and ideas is something to keep in mind.
Here are a few suggestions for circuits that would consider adopting/adapting larger or smaller portions of the plans of the Central Circuit:
- About the only thing missing in the Central Circuit’s study program is a sermon critique, but the venue does not allow for that in their situation. Because the Central Circuit congregations also comprise the entire Three Rivers Conference, there is opportunity for the brothers to preach to one another and offer feedback at conferences.
- It might be helpful to consider the benefits of working through an entire book of the Bible in Hebrew and/or Greek from time to time.