I picked this book up off of the free book cart at church. Although I check the cart every week, or at least when my beautiful wife needs to be at church early because she’s singing, playing trumpet, or ringing bells (which might only be five out of every six weeks), I do generally wait a week or two before grabbing a free book because I do have other things to read here.
This is a coffee table book that covers seven days in the beginning of April and documents various activities going on throughout the world at churches of the LCMS, its schools, and its missions. The church, from its then-new headquarters in the St. Louis area (I drove by it many times back in the day, which is right after it opened, although I, a new driver exploring the St. Louis area for the first time, did not know that), the church called (well, not called called) for members of various congregations to take photos and submit them, and then the editors up at Concordia Publishing (in the same then-new building) selected photos from every day of the week.
So, that’s it, basically. You get churches and services on Sunday, school kids, missionaries doing their things, the little old ladies of the church doing their crafts and outreach, and the people at LCMS HQ hard at work. You’ve got some photos of church members in their professional lives, and you’ve got what seems to be an overrepresentation of church members working to get the services on the radio or to record the services on video, but I guess those distribution channels would have been pretty novel in 1996. Well, except radio–church services on the radio and television predate this book, but maybe this offered a behind the scenes look? Or maybe it was new to Lutherans then.
I admit that, with some photography books, I only glance at the photos and spend most of my time reading the captions. Such with this book: the photos themselves were fairly pedestrian, although I could not help notice that most of the fashions would have as easily been at home in 1983 as 1996. Nary a bit of flannel here. But, for the most part, the engines of any church are people in their thirties, but more likely their forties and beyond. And these people would have fixed their fashion and how they thought they should look in the 1980s. The young people tend to be in their best or, even in casual clothes, in rather timeless casual wear. The people who would chase fashion would be in their late teens and twenties, the ones looking to define themselves in how they look, and they’re pretty thin in churches now as perhaps then. Not that we’ve had a “look” aside from maybe haircuts and makeup trends this century. Or maybe I am too old to know the subtle differences that youth see.
Given that this picture book showed up on our church’s rack, of course I looked for members or names from the church that I recognized, but I did not find any I knew. I also looked for churches that I have visited, which is not a large number, but we do tend to go to a local LCMS church when possible when we’re vacationing, so I’ve been to LCMS churches in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arkansas. I only have sort of visited one of the churches down the road from here a ways–my sons played basketball at its school, but I’ve not attended service there. One of its youth in 1996 has the same last name as the current principal of the school, to whom we have sent some money from time to time when possible.
I did, however, spot a confirmand named Kaepernick from Turlock, California, and I looked it up: It is, in fact, the former football player’s older sister from his adopted family. I also learned that not only was that former football player likely raised in the LCMS, but that he was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Geez.
At any rate, an interesting artifact, probably more interesting if you attend an LCMS church. Especially if you did so in 1996.
Now this book will not go on my read shelves immediately. It has been routed to my beautiful wife for her review, and from thence it shall likely go to my mother-in-law for review. And heaven knows if or when I will see it again.