Alumni Reunion: Zoom Edition

Every year, we hold an alumni reunion right around graduation to celebrate their 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th, 35th, 40th, 45th, 50th, 55th, 60th, 65th, or 70th graduation anniversaries. Unfortunately, this year we had to postpone this year’s alumni reunion due to COVID-19 and are inviting everyone who graduated in the years ending in ‘0 and ‘5 to come instead to next year’s reunion in May 2021.

That said, the class of 1970 (who would have graduated from the Seminary during our Springfield years) made their 50th reunion happen anyways, through an online Zoom meeting. Thirty-four men and women (wives of these alumni) joined together to reconnect, remember, reflect, and rejoice. Many haven’t seen each other in 50 years; they spent the reunion catching up with each on where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to over the decades.

2019 Alumni Reunion

During graduation last week, we held our annual Alumni Reunion, celebrating a 5th graduation anniversary all the way up to 65 years in the ministry. Many of these men hail from the Springfield years, though there were at least two old friends from Springfield to greet them here on the Fort Wayne campus: the Martin Luther statue and the Springfield Bell, which our graduates so gleefully rung only last week. Dr. Rast addressed our alumni at the Baccalaureate service that Friday:

“Present with us we have pastors who graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary, then in Springfield, as well as those who have graduated from the campus here in Fort Wayne, going back as far as 1954. What a remarkable testimony to God’s grace and mercy in giving us servants who have served as pastors in the faith for such years. And also for those whose term of service has been shorter…let us recognize them for their excellent service over these many years.”

[The congregation acknowledged and thanked these men with applause.]

“I have been the student of some of them,” Dr. Rast went on, “I have been the professor of some of them, but they are all my pastoral colleagues. Thank you and God bless you, brothers.”

A photo album of the Alumni Reunion has been uploaded to the CTSFW FB page (, which includes class pictures of all those who were on campus with us, as well as the golf outing that took place earlier in the week.

Rev. Jim Strawn: Giving Back

Last week, the guest preacher for daily chapel on Thursday, January 25, was Rev. Jim Strawn, a 1988 graduate of CTSFW and pastor of St. James Lutheran Church in Archbold, Ohio. I had the chance to speak with him afterwards about his congregation’s unique way to alleviate student debt. Once a seminarian graduates, the church uses a fund set aside for this purpose to pay off the loan. The student (or new pastor, at this point) then repays the church for the loan, but at zero interest. Once enough of the loan is paid back, the congregation is able to take on another student’s debt, and thus the cycle continues.

They began this fund about 25 years ago, when a couple in the church (a successful potato farmer and his wife, named Gene and Dolores Bernath) first came up with the idea. “There is zero overhead,” Pastor Strawn explained. “Everything goes to the student. Every penny that has ever been given is still in there.”

He hopes that by reducing financial burden, pastors are able to devote more time to theological study. When I asked what the response was from the pastors who have participated in their repayment plan, Pastor Strawn simply smiled and said, “Really, really thankful.”

If you have more questions about the specifics of how this program works, feel free to contact St. James Lutheran Church. They can be reached at (419) 445-4750.

Article Share: Great Sinners

As we move deeper into the Advent season, our focus turns evermore to the baby in the manger and the promise of salvation for all people. We receive mercy though we are merciless; forgiveness for the unforgivable. In this present day we have much to drive us to repentance.

Rev. Dr. Scott Murray, current member of our Board of Regents and a 1983 CTSFW grad (as well as pastor at Memorial Lutheran Church in Houston), wrote this piece about abortion over two years ago, in November of 2015. You can click on the link or go to to read it. The message is as timely as ever. Not only because we are still sinners but because we are still saints, forgiven in Christ and called to serve our neighbor.

If you are looking for pro-life opportunities, our Seminary Life Team is planning on attending both the March for Life in Washington, D.C. (January 19) and the Allen County March for Life here in Fort Wayne (January 27). Led by Jacob Benson, a fourth-year seminarian, and Hanna Hoffbeck, a deaconess student, this is our Life Team’s second year in existence.

All are welcome to join the seminary community for either one or both marches. The Sem Life Team is offering travel stipends to students who want to attend the march in Washington, D.C. For the Fort Wayne rally, the plans are to meet beforehand, then march together behind our banner.

For more information, contact Jacob Benson. He can be reached at or (307) 431-6544.

International LCMS Disaster Response Conference

Dr. Douglas Rutt, international director of Lutheran Hour Ministries, shares his presentation on LHM resources that bring spiritual comfort after tragedy.

As recovery for the devastation caused by earthquakes and hurricanes continues in some places and begins in others, we thank God for the opportunity to come together to learn from those who have firsthand experience of disasters around the world. CTSFW welcomes the 2017 International LCMS Disaster Response Conference, which began yesterday morning in Sihler Auditorium and goes until Thursday.

Rev. Nicolas Ranara, pastor in Tacloban City, Leyte Island, Philippines, speaks on “Looking Back at Typhoon Haiyan – 4 Years Later.”

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home:

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Soon bears us all away;
We fly forgotten as a dream
Dies at the op’ning day.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while life shall last
And our eternal home!

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

Mireya Johnson, a deaconess who received her M.A. in Religious Studies from CTSFW in 2002, translates for the Spanish-speaking members in the audience. Mireya is married to Dr. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response and another CTSFW grad (M.Div. 2006; D. Min. 2017).

Hurricane Irma Update

Rev. Jim Kress, CTSFW 2003, has his waterproof communion kit ready to go to care for his flock in the wake of Irma. He and his wife, Lisa, have prepared their home, church, and early childcare center as best they can to withstand the hurricane. Jim serves at Redeemer in Englewood, FL (lives in Port Charlotte). They have provisions stored at the church ready to share with others afterwards.