Augsburg Fortress
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Gutenberg to Google: Fun & Faithful…living in a “both/and” publishing world, Volume 4

October 24th, 2006 by Beth A. Lewis

In my last “Gutenberg to Google” article, I talked about Martin Luther’s concept of the “priesthood of all believers” and how he encouraged that concept through the publication of small pamphlets that were easily read and discussed by lay people, not only in their churches, but in their homes and communities.

Martin Luther, with the help of the local printers scattered across 200+ cities in Europe, changed the ways that people grew in their faith and interacted with the Word in the 16th century.

Martin Luther believed that faith and reason by themselves were incomplete. He argued that a fuller understanding of truth would be achieved when the two were considered together. Lutherans who have followed him appreciate this need to live with paradox; to hold different ideas in tension with one another. Our Lutheran “shorthand” for this is that we live in a “both/and” world.

Traditionally, Augsburg Fortress was known for producing “theologically sound” resources from a Lutheran perspective. But, we weren’t particularly known for producing “fun” resources. Recognizing our Lutheran tradition of “both/and” and the need to provide faith formation resources that exemplify this dichotomy, we have worked very hard in the past few years to develop resources for individuals and congregations that are both theologically sound and fun!

The development of resources such as Here We Stand confirmation, with its new Web site for students in addition to the original Web site for leaders was one of our first big ventures into this both/and world. An even more dynamic work is exhibited in Akaloo, our intergenerational faith formation resource with nine Web sites! There is one for leaders and eight other age-specific Web sites for children, youth, and adults to use either in church or at home.

Luther’s early works, published in German, were largely devotional in nature. But, while today we might think this a fairly benign resource, in the early 16th century, these devotionals offered a serious challenge to traditional, clerical authority. While devotionals wouldn’t be considered highly challenging today, we at Augsburg Fortress are continuing to follow in Martin Luther’s footsteps by finding dynamic ways to deliver devotional content to faithful Christians. Within Akaloo, the adult learner Web site includes “video devotionals.” These include a bit of scripture with music and video that bring the Bible into today’s world in a very clear way. As I have watched them, I find them both soothing and inspirational. Both/and again. Both solid theologically and intriguing in our media-oriented world.

In 1522, Luther published what is arguably his most influential work, his German version of the New Testament. He included in it a number of what we would today call “pedagogical aids” to guide the naïve reader as he read the scripture for the very first time. Luther had become a sophisticated user of this radical propaganda machine, the printing press. He used illustrations in some of his publications to assist new readers as they worked their way through the written words. In addition, he influenced his friend, artist Albrecht Dürer. Dürer created paintings for some of the most influential and wealthy people of the 16th century. But, he also made his artwork affordable for ordinary people through the use of woodcuts. In this way, Dürer brought the stories of the Bible to a wide audience, much the same as Martin Luther brought the Bible to the people through his translation of it into German, the language of the people.

At Augsburg Fortress, we have been producing beautifully illustrated print curricula for decades to assist learners with their faith formation. But, in 2006, we have taken Martin Luther’s attention to pedagogical detail to amazing (and fun!) new heights.

First, in traditional print, the Akaloo handbooks for children are lavish, full-color, hard-back books. My personal favorite is the alphabet book for three-year-olds. The illustrations are echoed on the Akaloo Web site for three-year-olds.

One of my favorite roles these days is that of “Grandma Beth” to four-year-old Katelynn and four-month-old Lindsey. While Lindsey is a bit young for the Internet, Katelynn intuitively knows exactly what to do in playing the Web-based games on the Akaloo Web sites for three- and four-year-olds. “A” on the Akaloo site for three-year-olds was obviously for “amen” to her! And she loves sliding the mouse around so that she can hear the church bells chime, the car horn honk, and the birthday noisemakers blow on the Akaloo site for four-year-olds.

Martin Luther talked about the importance of parents teaching their children the basics of the faith. These age-specific Akaloo Web sites for use beyond the church help parents and grandparents sit with children at home or in the library or some other place with an Internet connection and pass along our faith to the youngest. We can also use these Web sites to interact with the “oh-so-bored-with-traditional-church” teens as they discover that even becoming faith-filled, service-oriented disciples can be cool!

If your church isn’t an “Akaloo congregation” yet, you can get a taste of this extension of Martin Luther’s use of pedagogy to teach children, youth, and adults how to become faith-filled disciples via the demo on the Akaloo Web site. It’s a simple xx step process:

1. Go to www.akaloo.org
2. Select your denominational affiliation & click “go”
3. Click on the “Demos” link
4. Click on the “Launch the Demos” link
5. Have fun!

What you’ve just experienced is simply the tip of the proverbial iceberg! There are nine Akaloo Web sites for Christians of various ages. They clearly demonstrate that we can learn and have fun at the same time! By having fun, the learner becomes engaged, sticks to it, and learns more. If the demo has intrigued you, you can see even more examples of Akaloo’s versatility and ask questions of our experts by signing up for one of our free Webinars.

On October 3, we published Evangelical Lutheran Worship the pew edition that is a part of the family of new worship resources for the ELCA and ELCIC. With an extraordinary 550,000 copies on backorder on the day of publication, two of my colleagues, Mark Stahura, Senior Editor on our Worship & Music resources team and Arlene Flancher, Senior Editor on our Congregational Life & Learning team noted, in thinking about this publishing, “2006 has been a year for us kind of like 1993 was for Steven Spielberg. In that year he turned out Jurassic Park, a standard-setting Thrill Movie; he also turned out Schindler’s List, a top-drawer Serious Movie.

How does that relate to us?

2006: Akaloo and ELW. Ground-breaking on the one hand, and top-drawer traditional on the other…proof that it’s a “both/and” world. By moving aggressively on the Web front, while continuing to improve on the print front, we are uniquely positioned for the “both/and” world of the 21st century.”

A very Lutheran observation from my colleagues!

What “both/and” resources would you like to see Augsburg Fortress produce to assist you in your ministries?

We want to hear from you!

Please e-mail Beth Lewis directly at ceo@augsburgfortress.org or join the discussion at www.augsburgfortress.org/blog under the “Gutenberg to Google” section.

Between now and Reformation Day, October 31, the series of “Gutenberg to Google” eNewsletters will continue! Don’t miss them…

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Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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