(Note: WELStock is my husband’s affectionate nickname for the WELS National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts which is held in our church body every 3 years. It was held this past July at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN.)
Three summers ago, my husband, JJ, attended WELStock while I stayed at home with Lyd and Jujubee, who was just nine months old at the time. Long-time blog readers might remember reading this post, written as I tried to be okay with the fact that JJ was at WELStock and I was at home single parenting a four year old and a nursing baby.
When JJ returned home from that WELStock, he said that he felt wrong being there without me. “It just wasn’t the same without you,” he said. “I knew how much you would have enjoyed sharing what I was doing.” My husband then said that he couldn’t go there without me again, and that we would find a way to make it work for us both to go the next time the conference happened in 2011.
And, this past July, we did. The girls stayed with my parents for a week while JJ and I had our first experience with both of us being away from our girls for more than 24 hours. We were away from the girls from Sunday morning to Friday evening, so about six days. It felt strange to be away from them at first, but in all honesty, I didn’t miss them. We were very busy and occupied at WELStock, and there were no reminders of our children, outside of our daily phone calls and the two letters I took time to write to them.
JJ and I had a marvelous time at WELStock. We sang in the opening Festival Choir together, lived in a dorm room together, ate all our meals in the cafeteria, and had a wonderful time. We saw SO many people that we hadn’t seen in years, some of them ten or more years! We experienced the highest heat index that that corner of Minnesota had ever experienced. It was SO hot and SO humid outside that the dew point reached 83! I posed the question to my husband that since there was so much water in the air, could a person be baptized just by the words of baptism being spoken as a person walked through the air? 😉 But the extreme heat ended up being part of the fun experience, so in the end, we didn’t really mind it. Although if our dorm hadn’t been air-conditioned, we might have minded it more!
It was just absolutely wonderful to be there. To say that “It was so much fun!” – which it was – is a big understatement. The twice-daily worship services were wonderful, as well as a much-needed boost for my faith. The presentations were wonderful. The fellowship was wonderful. It was just all wonderful!
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and WELStock was no exception. So, after that huge mountain-top experience, we returned to our girls, and as a reunited family, began our annual two weeks of vacation in Wisconsin. It was difficult to come back to real life after the worship conference, but at least we didn’t have to return to “real” real life right away – we still had two weeks to take it easy.
During those two weeks, we were blessed to have two more social outings without the girls. Both of them were essentially double dates with other pastors and their wives, and oh, did we have fun! We also had a good time visiting with family and friends, as we do every year. It’s never enough time to truly catch up, but we’re thankful for the moments we had. We went to Bay Beach in Green Bay, to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in downtown Milwaukee, the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee, and other smaller but still lots of fun events.
I’m so glad, however, that my husband and I were able to attend the worship conference together. It made memories that will last a long time.
If you’re interested, here are some links to events that happened at WELStock:
1) This link takes you to the opening hymn of the Festival Concert in which JJ and I sang. It was an arrangement of “Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds,” which was the theme of the convention. You can see JJ standing at the far right side of the screen; he’s the last person in the second row from the back. I’m smack dab in the middle of the choir, third row up; find the two trumpeters furthest to the left, go straight up on your screen to the third row, and that’s me.
The composer/arranger of this hymn was in attendance, and JJ and I complimented him after the concert on his arrangement. I said, “The orchestral part sounds a bit like Imperial March from the Star Wars movies,” and the composer said, “You’re right – I used John Williams as my inspiration for this piece.” I was tickled that I inadvertently caught on to that.
2) This link takes you to an arrangement of the hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns” that came later in the opening Festival Concert (notice the darker windows.) If you watch to the end of this arrangement, you will get a feel for how high the ceiling was in this chapel. The acoustics were amazing!
3) This link takes you to the Thursday morning worship service that was held at MLC. Thursday morning they demonstrated Easter Sunday morning worship. All of the services were from Holy Week this year. Wednesday morning was Palm Sunday, Wednesday evening was Maundy Thursday, Thurs morn was Easter Sunday, Thurs eve was Easter evening, and Friday morning was the fourth sunday after Easter, which is always Good Shepherd Sunday.
The Thursday services were held at Martin Luther College. The reason for that was because last year, MLC finally completed a long-planned-for new chapel project. Since St. Peter, MN is only about 45 minutes away from New Ulm, MN, the Thursday activities of the conference were held at MLC so that we could see the new facility. It’s beautiful!
This is a live-streamed link, and it doesn’t really get going until about 5 minutes in. All total, it’s almost two hours long, so it’s something you can put on in the background while you get other stuff done. But, it’s pretty cool and the music is awesome. 🙂 You can see the back of JJ’s and my head in numerous spots, and you might even get to see our faces at some point. I’m not sure about that. But some of you will be able to see other people you know on here, too. (Sara, you can see your hubby!)
4) This link is the evening service at MLC. The organist did some pretty funky music that I’m not sure I would go for. But it was still cool. 🙂 It’s also about one hour and 45 minutes long, just so you know.
5) This link is the opening hymn from the closing hymn Festival concert on Friday morning with the High School Honors Choir doing choir portions of the singing. The hymn is “Lord of Lords, the Sparkling Heavens.” (Char, you can see you and Matt!)
6) This link is another hymn from the closing Hymn Festival concert on Friday morning. It’s an arrangement of the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul (When Peace Like a River).”
7) This link is also from the closing Hymn Festival concert. The entire 1000+ congregation (of all musicians and singers!) was given a copy of the score to Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in our festival materials. It was a sing-along, so we all stood up and sang our hearts out – what fun!
8 ) And finally, this link is the last hymn of the closing Hymn Festival concert: “Jerusalem the Golden,” done with the most beautiful arrangement. It think I was tearing up already by the second line. But I know I wasn’t the only one! On this link, you can see a woman in the lower left-hand corner also wiping her eyes. My cousin’s girl was in the Honors Choir, and she said that she was unprepared for the emotion that everyone experienced singing that hymn. It’s certainly a hymn that gets more meaningful as one gets older, that’s for sure!
I can’t wait for the eternal “WELStock” of heaven, where we’ll get to experience Jerusalem the Golden for real! A conference like this is just a little foretaste of the joy to come.
Until then, here’s hoping JJ and I can go again in 3 years!