Good Shepherd Instituted 2019

 Good Shepherd Institute (GSI) drew to a close yesterday, though a few of the attendees stayed behind for a hymn writing workshop that took place in the afternoon following the official end of the conference. If you’ve been keeping an eye on the CTSFW Facebook page for the past couple of days, you’ll have noted the extra choral services as well as the special music featured in daily chapel on Monday and Tuesday. GSI is a learning conference with very strong ties to music; participants include pastors, church musicians, worship planners, and laypeople with a love for the hymnody of the Church.

This year’s conference was focused on the music of the Church as both a living tradition and something new, with the first main presentation on Monday morning focused on Heinrich Schütz, as this year is the 400th anniversary of his Psalms of David. Dr. Daniel Zager of the Eastman School of Music presented on Schütz’s psalm settings, with the Concordia Lutheran High School Chamber Choir singing samples of his setting for Psalm 98 to demonstrate the techniques used to capture the text-rich psalm.

Schütz lived from 1585-1672, and wrote music for multiple choirs to sing (you’ll notice in this presentation there are essentially two choirs singing back and forth, interweaving and echoing one another) as well as smaller pieces of sacred music, written when the church was struggling and he had only a few musicians at hand to sing or play. His settings were intended to help listeners understand the text, without the music sounding either perfunctory or overly long. For example, you can hear in parts where the voices themselves are used to indicate sounds, like the trumpets referred to in the text and the sound of rushing water with notes cascading down.

In this clip, Dr. Zager is explaining some of the musical techniques at work in verse 4 of Psalm 98. It’s hard to hear exactly what he’s saying, but essentially he’s explaining how Schütz used two full-part choirs to go back and forth, essentially imitating the text repetition as well as to capture the feeling of shouting for joy referred to in the text. You’ll notice that about half of the Concordia Chamber Choir is sitting in the audience, as they were unable to all fit on stage, with some singing along and others taking a break. The full choir sang the entire Psalm 98 setting in chapel less than an hour later, which you can watch here:

“Never have I presented a paper with singers present,” Dr. Zager said at the end of his presentation, as the choir filed out to prepare for chapel. “This is extraordinary.” He also answered a few questions at the end, one of which was from a church musician wondering if it would be possible to adapt the music as needed to different settings; for example, she wondered if she could have a small choir sing one of the choir parts and replace another with a brass part. Dr. Zager’s response: absolutely. This music was designed to be flexible, able to be tailored to any church setting. It’s one of the great blessings of Schütz’s work.

After chapel, Dr. Samuel Eatherton, a minister of music at Zion Lutheran Church and School in Dallas, Texas, where he teaches music to 3rd–8th graders, spoke on “Church Music for Children”; specifically, how hymns and liturgy form children spiritually. Music helps people connect emotionally with the truth of God’s Word and a child’s faith often develops through music. In fact, neuroscience has found that music binds movement, thoughts, emotions, and memory together in the brain. Regular patterns of bodily rituals ingrain neural pathways.

Children will be formed, whether you will it or not. So we ask ourselves: how are they formed? Liturgy is an excellent tool in the church. Children sing before they learn how to read, and music itself assists with memory (think of the many knowledge songs you learned and still know from elementary school). Liturgy’s predictable elements and repetition help children to internalize information. Though they may not understand all the words they sing, singing helps them carry these concepts in their mind until they are old enough to understand. This is the power of tacit knowledge: knowledge experienced by a child becomes a part of that child.

Monday afternoon then gave participants eight sectionals to choose from, with time for each person to attend three. Sectionals tend to fall on two lines: informational and practical. The library offered tours of the new art exhibit on display (“With Angels and Archangels”) and later participants had the opportunity to attend a class with Dr. Charles Gieschen leading a biblical study of the angels. Rev. Stephen Starke of St. John Lutheran Church Amelith in Bay City, Michigan, presented on another musician’s anniversary (Jaroslav Vajda, a fellow pastor and hymn writer born 100 years ago). Professor Robert Rhein of Bethel University, Mishawaka, Indiana, spoke on faithful hymn translation while his wife, Sandra Rhein, a hymnal consultant for LCMS international missions, held a class directly above him in the second floor of Wyneken Hall on the three new Lutheran hymnals recently published in Kenya, China, and Ethiopia.

Though not a hymn translator, Prof. Rhein translates opera pieces from Italian into English, and has experience preserving a text’s original meaning while making sure it still fits rhyme and meter. In music translation, you rarely (if ever) can use formal equivalence translation, which means word-for-word translation, and instead generally operate on dynamic equivalence, meaning translation that captures the original meaning and feel, though the words may not be an exact translation.

In the Missouri Synod, we prioritize the stricter formal equivalence for biblical translation. Hymns, however, are an appropriate place for the dynamic style, as it is necessary to retain the poetic nature of the form. Words don’t necessarily exist across languages, or sometimes they do but they don’t fit the rhyme or meter scheme. Take, for example, the solas: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and Sola Gratia. Grace is easy to rhyme, but what about “Scripture” or even “faith”? Thus “Word” is a popular replacement. You can also try inverting the word order. There are also opposing strengths and weaknesses in different language. English uses powerful and simple monosyllabic phrases, which is rare in most European languages. On the other hand, English also has highly variable stress patterns, which is difficult for poetry since a good rhyme rhymes on the stressed syllable. Italian and Spanish don’t have many monosyllables, but everything rhymes easily within the language; we pray, we eat, we sing all rhyme in Italian and Spanish.

Up the stairs from her husband, Mrs. Rhein was speaking on the international hymnal projects. These countries desire a stronger Lutheran identity, and when they see the treasures that hymnals hold, they desire it for themselves. In Africa, Pentecostalism has swept into the country bringing with it its soloist-style, damaging both doctrine and congregational singing. Interestingly, the grass roots movement demanding stronger hymnals comes from their young people. “They were tired of the overpowering volume of Pentecostal style singing,” she explained.

When the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM) commits to a hymnal project, they appoint a committee; Mrs. Rhein serves that committee as an advisor and a liaison between them and the OIM. She has found that generally most of the work from these committees ends up with one or two people—those who have the most passion, skill, and vision. Usually pastors but sometimes church musicians. These projects are driven by the people in their home countries.

The other four sectionals were more practical in nature. Mark Knickelbein is an editor of Music/Worship at CPH (as well as composer and church musician), so he led a class on the Lutheran Service Builder and how to use this internet-based software as a tool to encourage hymnal use in congregations. Associate Kantor of CTSFW, Matt Machemer, led a class in the balcony of Kramer Chapel, sight-reading several Lent and Easter choral pieces with the church musicians and worship planners in attendance. This was the first class that primarily featured singing, but not the only one in which the audience broke out into song: the audience sang at least one hymn stanza in nearly every presentation. GSI participants tend to be musically trained, either through profession or simply through church attendance, and more than eager to accommodate a request from any presenter who asks for a congregational demonstration of a piece.

CTSFW Kantor Kevin Hildebrand also presented a sectional on singing, though his was focused in a more general sense on characteristics of good hymn tunes—essentially, what makes a tune easy for a congregation to pick up. Finally, Katie Schuermann, the soprano soloist featured at the choral vespers service the night before, who studied vocal pedagogy and earned a graduate degree in Choral Conducting, held a class on vocal health for amateur singers. She taught her class from the perspective of a conductor, stressing the importance of not only the voice but the whole body as a tool for singing. Dancers practice in front of mirrors, she pointed out, but who is the mirror for the singer? “The conductor,” she answered. “They’re likely going to use you as a model. Model the posture and expressions you want.” Conducting is a role that demands patience; successful conducting is communication between conductor and singers. “We discipline ourselves and teach our singers,” she explained.

Some basic tips included teaching singers where tension belongs—not in the shoulders, arms, or hands where they naturally want to hold it (singing is a very vulnerable act, so the tension is an act of protection), but in the abdomen and stomach. She doesn’t worry about the diaphragm, but focuses rather on the intercostal muscles around the ribs. Warmups are about making sure the body is active and ready, for singing is the act of breathing, supporting, and projecting and takes the whole body’s participation. She had the whole class go through practice exercises and stretches. It’s very hard to sing incorrectly when you have correct posture.

She also took a few minutes to talk about the aging voice. “As we age, something called presbyphonia happens,” she said. “What happens is collagen sets in the vocal folds. You can imagine what that does. You want those vocal folds to be moist and loose and agile, right? When collagen sets in the vocal folds it stiffens them. And that’s part of what you’re experiencing when that tone just is not as vibrant as it used to be, you’re not able to make as smooth of a sound. It’s not your fault, it’s just part of aging, okay? Another thing that happens with presbyphonia, the surrounding elastin fibers, you know that are around your vocal folds, those atrophy. They decay. Isn’t that terrible? I’m sorry. But our life in Christ is eternal; there are songs for us to sing in heaven.”

“It’s all normal but frustrating, I know,” she added. “You are just going to reach times where your voice just doesn’t do what it used to, but that doesn’t mean you stop singing. There is beauty in that change and sound as well.”

Two final main presentations finished up GSI the next day: Dr. Paul Grime, CTSFW Dean of the Chapel, on “An Embarrassment of Riches: Choosing What to Sing,” and Prof. Joseph Herl of Concordia University, Nebraska, and Peter Reske, Senior Editor of Music/Worship at CPH, spoke jointly on the LSB Companion to the Hymns, set to be released this December 5.

“We should know nothing to sing or say, save Jesus Christ our Savior,” Martin Luther wrote in a preface to the Wittenberg Hymnal in 1524. Dr. Grime pointed out that, while some of the later reformers like Calvin limited church music to that provided by the Bible (meaning the psalm hymns), Luther translated Latin hymns into German, improved medieval German hymns, and wrote his own. Though he only wrote about three dozen hymns, by not limiting church music to the psalms, he opened up the church to new music by hymn writers for centuries.

The breadth and depth of our hymnal reflects that. We have hymns from many continents and ages, from Europe to Africa and from the past age to the present. We don’t stop writing hymns or books of theology just because excellent hymns and books have already been written. “The Spirit continues to give gifts to the Church,” Dr. Grime said.

He went on to explain the gift of a wide variety of hymns: like the love languages (that each of us has a specific way in which we show and receive love), Dr. Grime suggests that people also have different faith languages. The analogy isn’t perfect and shouldn’t be taken too far, he added, but you can see this play out in our different dispositions and tastes. Matter-of-fact vs. poetic; complex vs. simple; cerebral vs. emotive. For example, LSB 655 “Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” is a textually dense hymn written by Martin Luther whereas LSB 543 “What Wondrous Love Is This” is a far more modern and repetitious piece: yet both are theologically sound, centered on what Christ has done for us. You need not pit these against each other, but instead recognize that they will appeal to different people, perhaps even in the same congregation.

The most important consideration when choosing hymns: the people who are doing the singing. And by drawing hymns from across countries, ages, and eras, you serve your whole congregation. “And,” he added, “you may learn something not natural to your faith language.”

As to the less theologically-meaty or even sound hymns, Dr. Grime suggests that you slowly introduce stronger hymns as substitutes. This is not a fast process; it can take five, ten, fifty years. When you serve a congregation, you take every member’s past and experiences into consideration. You are also not called to be pressured by other churches or congregations and what they do. “You serve your people,” he said. In every case, we trust God to bless the proclamation of the Gospel through the church’s singing.

Finally, Professor Herl opened the last presentation with the almost-published LSB Companion to the Hymns. It’s a 2,000+ page scholarly piece written with the assistance of 150 authors (about 10 of whom were in the audience), in which CPH went back to the primary sources for every hymn to better track who wrote the text, tune, and setting, and to track biographical information, historical contexts, and the Scripture upon which each hymn was originally based. Because of the work done for the Companion, CPH made over 500 changes to the attributions in the LSB.

“My favorite part is the index,” Prof. Herl said, then, to laughter: “Actually, I’m serious.” They indexed each hymn according to an enormous number of attributes; i.e. which of the European Lutheran hymns were written by pietists? Was this Anglican hymn writer an Anglo-Catholic or only slightly Anglican? What was going on the world politically and theologically at the time this hymn was created?

Why do this? Because it tells you the original intention of the author. For example, LSB 663 (“Rise, My Soul, to Watch and Pray”) is about watching lest you fall into sin; lo and behold: written by a pietist, a religious movement in which adherents strive for a sinless life as proof of their faith. The emphasis of the hymn is on Christian obedience. Christian obedience is not a bad subject for a hymn, but its pietistic origin is a reminder that you must remember the Christian in the congregation struggling and failing to live a sinless life. There is no Gospel promise here to comfort him. So what do you do? Sing the hymn, and then follow it up later in the service with another: LSB 594 “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It.” Here is comfort: it points the struggling Christian to his baptism. “Both hymns are useful in pastoral care,” Prof Herl said, “but in differing circumstances.”

Mr. Reske then took a turn to talk about what wasn’t in the LSB Companion. While their research was thorough, there is still much lost to time. He told stories of the information they could find, the circuitous routes through which they could find some information but never found others, and explained that of the 104 still-living hymn writers who have attributions in the LSB, CPH heard back from 95 of them to confirm the facts presented in their biographies. By researching each hymns origins, you can find original sources and stories.

The 95th still-living hymn writer contacted CPH this summer. Bernard Kyamanywa was born in 1938 and wrote the Tanzanian hymn “Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia” (LSB 466) in the 1960s. Currently in the LSB, the music is simply attributed as “Tanzanian.” They can now update that: his son took a video of Rev. Kyamanywa singing the hymn he wrote, and he was able to confirm that he was not only the author of the text but the composer of the tune as well. It was one of many stories told that day.

GSI closed with the Litany for Travelers: ending with a service of prayer for safe travels, God’s blessings on the participants, and, of course, with singing.

To learn more about GSI (or to register for next year if you already know you’d like to come), go to Email [email protected] for any questions.

Prayerfully Consider Visit

PCV participants during the welcome and opening.

The Prayerfully Consider Visit (PCV) is a biannual event at CTSFW; you’ve likely heard us talk about it before. We hold this three-day visit for prospective students in both the fall and the spring, to give these men and women the time and tools they need during the discernment process as they consider whether a vocation as pastor or deaconess is in their future. About 30 PCV participants were with us from October 10-12, most of them pastoral program prospects with a few deaconess program prospects plus a handful of spouses. Spouses are always encouraged to come. They are absolutely a part of any future vocation—not just vital to the success of it, but truly a part of it.

Rev. Matt Wietfeldt

PCV began on Thursday with prayer in Kramer Chapel, then a welcome and orientation breakfast. Rev. Matt Wietfeldt, head of Admissions here at CTSFW, explained the purpose of these three days. “Take the name seriously,” he said. These men and women have taken time out of their busy lives to come to campus to consider these questions: will you become a pastor? A deaconess? Or is it better to remain in your current vocation?

By coming to campus, attendees share in the blessing of the CTSFW community. “We gather together first and foremost in worship,” Rev. Wietfeldt explained, describing the identity of the people who live, work, and study here. “We’re a community that is always in prayer. It is there [at Kramer Chapel] that we are formed and refreshed in the blood of the Lamb.”

He went on. “We are a community that is in study—but learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.” Much of the formation process happens between classes, in the student commons or in the dining hall as classmates talk and debate and pull their professors into the discussion. There is no faculty lounge at CTSFW, so the professors are always with the students and available to them. “We are community about fellowship,” Rev. Wietfedlt finished. “It’s about being together as brothers and sisters, in worship and study but also as we lift each other up in good and bad.”

After his welcome, Rev. Wietfeldt had the participants stand and introduce themselves. Participants came from as close as the Fort Wayne area but also from Virginia, Albuquerque, NM, and Seattle. A handful were seniors at university (there aren’t usually as many college students at PCV during the fall as most of them attend Christ Academy: College at the end of the month) and plenty were second career from a variety of backgrounds. Some of these men and women are lifelong Lutherans, but others have come to us by much longer journeys, like the former charismatic who loves the scriptural doctrine of Lutheranism.

“I’m here to see if this is a fit for my life,” one participant explained. “It’s been in the back of my head for a long time.” Another participant knew he wanted to work for the Kingdom but hadn’t decided whether that would mean as a pastor; he’s here to find that out.

Still others know they’ll be starting in the fall. “I was 15 or 16 when my grandma told me: you should be pastor,” one prospect admitted. “I laughed but haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.”

One deaconess prospect explained that she was a teacher and felt that diaconal work seems very similar to what she was already doing. She simply wants to get stronger in theology. An undergraduate still in college said she had attended the high school program for Christ Academy and wanted to become a deaconess.

One of the attendees who has been thinking about becoming a pastor for the past thirty years recognized his thoughts in the words coming out of his fellow brothers’ and sisters’ mouths. “I wondered: gosh, am I the only one who grapples with these things?” He looked around the group, grinned, and answered it for himself: “Nope.”

The student panel, left to right: Ethan Stoppenhagen, Anna Barger, Katherine and Aaron Schultz, Jeremy McDonald, Haley Kazmierski, Jeffrey Kazmierski (with admission counselor Rev. John Dreyer in the background between the Kazmierskis.)

They would hear much of their thoughts echoed back to them later that evening, during the student panel discussion. The Admission Department had five current students (plus two spouses) answer questions about what their own journey was like. One couple, for example, attended 3 or 4 PCVs before they officially joined the CTSFW community. “We took our time,” he explained. “There was no doubt we were going to come, it was just a matter of when.” It took them about four years to work first through the discernment process and then prepare for the move. They had to uproot their family, and the couples’ own parents were worried. “They thought we’d be on food stamps.” Instead, that Christmas they came home with an abundance—fresh produce, given to them by the Food Co-op that they didn’t want to waste. “In the absence of truth, the imagination takes over,” his wife explained.

The transition was far faster for another couple. A Lutheran school teacher for ten years, the thought of becoming a pastor had always been with seminarian Aaron Schultz. “I felt a restlessness,” he explained, which grew alongside those long-held thoughts of becoming a pastor. He told his wife he finally wanted to go for it in October, and he was attending classes by the next September. She was on board from the first. “It was a quick process for us,” she explained.

Another student was a former Specific Ministry Pastoral program graduate, whose District President encouraged him to go back to Seminary to earn an MDiv so that he could serve full time. “I made a decision and went for it…God finds you and steers you,” he explained. “I had a lot of people praying for me. I’m not a lifelong Lutheran, and this doctrine is important to me.”

Second-year deaconess student, Anna Barger, is the daughter of a deaconess. So naturally: “No way, I thought. Not me.” However, she has long been interested in sign-language and, during a weeklong intensive course about the incredibly specialized vocabulary of signed liturgy, learned that 85-90% of the deaf community had no faith. “No one speaks their language,” she explained. “That didn’t sit well with me. I realized how much I took it for granted that I can go anywhere in the country—even the world—that I can sit in a pew and know what’s going on.” She gave in: she would become a deaconess, continuing to hone her skills in sign language alongside the specialized niche of theological language.

Another second-year seminarian came to us immediately out of college. Ethan Stoppenhagen has known his course for years. In high school, he explained to a teacher that he too wanted to become a teacher. “Why not a pastor?” she asked. His immediate response: “Well I can’t do that!” It stuck with him, though. He attended Christ Academy High School and by the time he was in college he knew exactly where he was going to go.

Rev. Wietfeldt summed it up well: “The discernment process is specific and unique because they’re all specific and unique,” he pointed out. Their ages are different, the length of discernment is different, and the transition process too is shaped by the individuals going through it.

Earlier in the day, Dean of the Chapel, Dr. Grime, had introduced himself to the participants of PCV as they began the three-days of discernment, speaking briefly on bringing Christ to a fallen world. “Into that hopelessness, you have interest in taking a sliver of that hope into a corner of the world. And it is a corner. Thank goodness we haven’t been asked to save the world.” And why are some called to these unique vocations? Or, in the words of the late Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel, “Why would you want to do it? Because it was given us to be done.”

Coffee hour following chapel. PCV participants mingled with both current students and faculty (that’s Dr. David Scaer in the foreground talking to one of the prospective students).
Prospective deaconess student meets and talks with current first-year deaconess students.


We’re three weeks into the academic year at CTSFW with a number of events to show for it. We have visitors on campus for the second-to-last continuing education course of the season, our distance students from the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program here for a week of intensive courses, and by this Saturday both groups will be gone, only to be replaced by the Fall Retreat attendees who will be on campus all day Saturday and half day Sunday.

The SMP students spend much of their first day together, but by Tuesday and for the rest of the week before returning to their respective homes to continue courses online, working with their mentors, they’ll spend most of their time in their own classes. Pictured is Dr. Benjamin Mayes with the first-year SMP students as they tackle the Lutheran Confessions: Intro and Overview. Each day begins with early breakfast then Morning Office in chapel at 7:35 a.m., followed by a two hour class until daily chapel at 10, an hour long class at 11, with a three and a half hour class to finish out the learning for the day. Each day concludes with Evening Office in chapel at 6. Wives also take a handful of classes (most of them about networking and support) when they accompany their husbands to campus, though their days are less rigorously scheduled as they have time to see the campus, the city, and to fellowship with one another.

This year’s continuing education course with Dr. John Kleinig (who makes the journey from Luther Seminary in Australia to Concordia Theology Seminary in Fort Wayne every year) is on “The Role of Choral Music in the Divine Service According to Chronicles and the New Testament.”  He has covered many facets of the discussion, from historical use of instruments in worship to the arrangement and rites of the Divine Service (as per the Old Testament in Exodus, Leviticus, and the Books of Chronicles). Dr. Kleinig teaches not only the description of these rites but their theological significance as well in the Lord’s coming to His people to bless them and to dwell among them.

For example, as opposed to the teachings of pagan worship (that choral music in worship is entertainment for the gods, to put them in a good mood) as well as Pentecostalism (that worship is primarily praise singing to help ascend—via the Holy Spirit—into the heavenly realm), the true role of choral music can be found in Psalms and Exodus: “My tongue will sing of your word” (Psalm 119:172) and “The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…’” (Exodus 34:5-7). We sing His name as a proclamation of who He is, and to proclaim the richness of the grace He has poured out on His people.

From his Logia article “Bach, Chronicles and Church Music,” Dr. Kleinig noted that the common refrain “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever” found throughout Chronicles does three things:

“First, they invoked God by using his holy name: Yahweh, translated as Lord in English. They, as it were, identified him and introduced him by name to the congregation, so that the people had access to him there through his holy name. Secondly, they praised the Lord. They did not address their praise to God but to the congregation. In their praise they sang about his goodness and proclaimed his loving kindness to the assembled congregation, even as they stood in God’s presence…Thirdly, as is shown by the psalm given in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36, the singers called on the congregation, all the nations, and the whole of creation to join them in acknowledging God’s gracious presence with his people and in praising him for his steadfast love for them and his whole creation…

“[The theology of praise in Chronicles] connects the glorious presence of God with the performance of praise at the temple. Like the sun behind a dark cloud, God’s presence with his people is hidden from their sight. In fact, God conceals himself in order to reveal himself to them, without dazzling, overwhelming, and annihilating them. His glory remains hidden from them until it is revealed by the performance of praise. Praise announces God’s invisible presence.”

The doxology performs the same function. “The naming of God in these doxologies serves a very important ritual and theological function,” he wrote in another essay, The Mystery of the Doxology. “It identifies him by name and accounts his presence. More importantly, it also acknowledges that access to his divine presence and glory is gained by the invocation of that name rather than by contact with an idol…by performing that doxology, we tell the world that in and through the risen Lord Jesus we have access to heaven here on earth; we acknowledge, laud and proclaim the gracious presence of the Triune God with us.”

The course will continue through tomorrow, the 25th. This is not, however, the last opportunity for theological learning here on campus this month. You can still register for the course on angels and the Book of Revelation that is coming up this weekend, September 28-29. Learn more and register at For those of you too far out of reach, you will at least be able to watch the livestream of Choral Vespers on Sunday, September 29, at 4 p.m. Eastern Time, celebrating St. Michael and All Angels.

2019 Field Education Assignments

Supervising pastors and first-year seminarians sign in before the Field Ed convocation.

Today after chapel, our first year class of pastoral and diaconal students received their field education assignments. Each student is assigned a congregation, where they will serve under a supervising pastor for two years during their education. Prof. John Pless, Director of Field Education and head of these assignments for 20 years, began his short lesson about the role of field education with Paul’s first letter to the young pastor under his wing, Timothy:

“Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:15-16).

“‘Practice these things,’” Prof. Pless repeated. “It’s really the purpose of field education to put into practice what you are learning in the classroom.” He spoke of his joy as a teacher as well as the joy of a congregation in seeing the progress of their fieldworkers as they begin this first step of many. “You are being entrusted with the Lord’s Word,” he continued. As fieldworkers, these students are already expected to look beyond the demands of the classroom to those they will serve for the next two years. “It’s about the salvation of the people He is placing in your care, who need to hear the Word of the cross…that they might be strengthened, built up, and know themselves to be sheep of the Good Shepherd.”

Prof. Pless begins the convocation.

The students stood as each of their names were called and their assignments given, to exchange waves and/or nods with their supervising pastor. A meet-and-greet lunch in the Dining Hall always follows field education assignments, giving these men and women a chance to meet and begin getting to know one another.

The Seminary Guild was also on hand to gift a copy of the “Pastoral Care Companion” to each residential pastoral and diaconal student who received a fieldwork assignment today. Though the book has “Pastoral” in the title, the content is useful and appropriate for both male and female churchworkers as it is designed to guide those caring for individual in times of both celebration and distress with suggested readings, hymns, liturgy, and prayers.

Women of the Seminary Guild hand out copies of the Pastoral Care Companion as the students were leaving with their supervising pastors.

Donors from across the country have made this project possible for the third year in a row. Mrs. Ilona Kuchta must, in particular, be pointed out this year, as her generous donation paid for all of this year’s Care Companions. You can learn more about the Legacy Project at Mrs. Deborah Steiner of the Seminary Guild spoke to the students, introducing the women who made this particular gift happen, and then finished on the words of the apostle to the saints at Colossi:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

Thanks be to God for all those who care for these students as they train, including the many local and area churches who volunteered for a fieldworker but were not needed this year. Your interest in serving in the training process and your love for our future pastors and deaconesses is a source for much joy. As always, we also look to you, our brothers and sisters, to pray with us as we ask the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers, so that next year we need all 62 volunteering congregations and eventually every church seeking a candidate receives one. The harvest is plentiful and the sower continues to sow.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:10-11

To learn more about the pastoral or diaconal programs at CTSFW, visit If you would like to recommend anyone as a pastor or deaconess, you can also contact our admission counselors at [email protected] or by calling (800) 481-2155.

Joint Seminary Board Meeting Builds on Collegial Efforts

A couple of weeks ago, we published a number of Facebook posts on the joint booth we ran together with CSL for the Synod Convention in Tampa. The collegiality continued with a joint Board of Regents meeting that took place at the end of last week. BOR chairmen from both CTSFW and CSL met here on our campus. You can read more about our joint efforts here:

The chairmen of the joint BORs. Dr. Rast and Dr. Meyer stand on the bottom right.FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CTSFW)—The Rev. Dr. Ron Garwood and the Rev. Todd Peperkorn, chairmen of the Boards of Regents of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (CTSFW), and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (CSL), respectively, celebrated the conclusion of a productive joint meeting of the seminary boards, held August 8–9 in Fort Wayne. They spoke highly of both schools and seminary presidents, the Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr. of CTSFW and the Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer of CSL.

“I want to commend Dr. Dale Meyer and Dr. Lawrence Rast for their leadership, which has helped the two seminaries work together even more closely over the last triennium,” said Chairman Garwood. “The seminaries collaborated to host a joint reception and a joint welcome booth at the Synod Convention this summer. Our faculties and boards, through ongoing dialogue, jointly submitted a number of overtures this year as well, and we look forward to continuing close cooperation as our seminaries work to prepare faithful and loving pastors for our Synod.”

“As an alum of CTSFW while serving on the CSL board,” continued Chairman Peperkorn, “it is a particular joy for me to be on campus in Fort Wayne, seeing my new friends and colleagues working so closely with the school that formed me as a pastor. We have an almost unprecedented opportunity to shape the Church of the future with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We hear in Proverbs that ‘Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another’ (Prov. 27:17). It is my prayer that our work together will continue to strengthen both schools, and that more men will be formed as pastors in the years to come.”

Among the actions approved, the joint boards agreed to establish a formal process for the leadership of each board to meet regularly, in addition to the bylaw-established annual joint meeting of the full board. This leadership group will help increase dialogue and coordination between the seminaries, and will assist in setting the agenda for the annual joint board meeting.

During the joint board meeting, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Chief Mission Officer, the Rev. Kevin Robson, presented to the boards on matters before the Pastoral Formation Committee, including the comprehensive church worker recruitment initiative being planned by the Synod, seminaries, Concordia University System, and districts. The boards also engaged on cultural changes facing the Church and how they are affecting the work of the seminaries. Additional reports included a presentation by President Rast on “Sustainable Futures: Recognizing and Confronting the Challenges Facing Christian Colleges and Universities” while the Mid-South District President, the Rev. Dr. Roger Paavola, spoke on “The 10 Tsunamis Impacting Ministries: How Do we Survive What’s Coming?”

Together, Presidents Rast and Meyer presented on the state of the seminaries. They completed their presentation with frank truth and in the hope we have in Christ: “The challenges facing our seminaries and our Church are many, but our Lord is faithful and He will see us through these current and future challenges just as He has in the past.”

Deaconess Placements

Yesterday in chapel, Dr. Bushur, Director of Deaconess Formation, announced three placements and one internship of our deaconess students. He began with his thanks:

“As I announce these placements, I again, of course, also express my appreciation to the whole Placement Department and all who contributed to the process. I especially give thanks to God for Deaconess Amy Rast, my Associate Director, for all of her work. The placement process of deaconesses is a little bit like farming. Placements take cultivation and maybe even a little nourishing and fertilizing, maybe even some weed pulling, that are involved before they come to fruition. And let’s just say Deaconess Rast has become a pretty good farmer over the years. So I certainly appreciate her work.
“And finally, we must also, as always, give thanks to God for these calling congregations and institutions. And so, as always, these placements are made with our fervent prayer that the Lord bless our students, blesses these congregations, institutions, and their pastors as they now together fulfill their service to Christ.”
Deaconess placements occur throughout the year, and in this particular case all four women were placed in the Indiana District:

Wendy Boehm (2019 grad)
Placement: Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Ossian, IN

Amanda Hahn (2018 grad)
Placement: St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church, Brownstown, IN

Katherine Rittner (2019 grad)
Placement: Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN
(Note: Serving as Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op)

Taylor (Brown) Fickenscher (Intern)
Internship: Grace Lutheran Church, Columbus, IN

2019 Student Academic Awards

Fourth-year seminarian Paul Gaschler, President of the Student Association, begins the awards convocation.

“All of us are aware that the Seminary principally prepares pastors and deaconesses for service in the Church,” Dr. Charles Gieschen, Academic Dean at CTSFW, said in introduction to the awards convocation following chapel today. “In preparing individuals for these vocations, however, we have rigorous academic programs that involve a wide variety of learning experiences, which are constantly evaluated, as you all know only too well. Although academic achievement is by no means the sole aspect of these formation programs, nevertheless, high academic achievement merits our respect and our recognition. This annual academic awards convocation is one small way through which we recognize these outstanding academic achievements. So on behalf of the entire faculty, I express our sincere appreciation for the many ways that you student pursue academic excellence in your theological studies.”

Dr. Gieschen first acknowledged and thanked the seven graduate students in this current academic year (while pursuing further study): Jacob Benson, Daniel Broaddus, Christopher Maronde, Roger Mullet, Justin Mason, Eli Voight, and Aaron Zimmerman. He then announced next year’s graduate assistants: Daniel Broaddus, Christopher Maronde, Roger Mullet, Hayden Folks, Keith Kettner, Joseph McCalley, Titus Utecht, and Jay Weideman.

He also announced that seminarians Robert Schrader and Eli Voight will be involved in archaeological digs in Israel, as funded by the Lois Ann Reed Endowment Fund for Archaeology. The awards, as broken down by departments, were then presented as follows.

Dr. Arthur Just, Exegetical Department

St. Timothy Award (established some years ago by an anonymous donor to encourage a second-year student in his continued study of the Holy Scriptures): Dylan Smith

Zondervan Biblical Greek Award: Hayden Folks

Zondervan Biblical Hebrew Award: Kyle Richardson

Exegetical Theology Department Writing Award: Carl Hingst, “The Song of Hezekiah as a Universal Song of Lament: A Study of Isaiah 38:9-20”

The Classical Association of the Middle West and South Award for Outstanding Accomplishment (for exemplary work in advanced Greek class, producing an outstanding term paper): Joshua Ralston

Dr. David Scaer, Systematic Theology Department

Lepper-Draves Scholarship, awarded to a fourth-year student for outstanding academic accomplishment and analytical thought in the study of Dogmatics and Confessional Theology: Timothy Sheridan

Zondervan Theology Award: Kyle Brown, for his paper on “The Resurrection and Theology of Benedict XVI”

Systematic Theology Department Writing Award: Titus Utecht, “How Real Is the Resurrection? A Review of Stefan Alkier’s ‘The Reality of the Resurrection?’”

Dr. Carl Fickenscher, Pastoral Ministry and Missions Department

First, he asked for a round of applause in acknowledgment of Dr. Don Wiley and the three students currently serving a Spanish-speaking congregation in Columbus, IN: Vicar Gino Marchetti, third-year student Daniel Fickenscher, and second-year student Tyler McMiller. All four take turns recording a sermon that is sent to the Spanish-speaking worshippers at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, which are also uploaded to the Seminary YouTube channel “CTSFW en Español.” Dr. Fickenscher then moved on to the following awards:

Gerhard Aho Homiletics Award (Outstanding Sermon Award): Matthew Schettler, for his funeral sermon, “Pearl Was Ready” based on Luke 2:25-33

Pastoral Ministry and Missions Department Writing Award: Robert Ricard, “Luther’s Creedal Explanation for Stewardship”

Dr. James Bushur, Historical Theology Department

Historical Theology Department Writing Award: David Wurdeman, “Johann Gerhard’s Christology in Consideration of the Crypto-Kenotic Controversy”

Finally, Paul Gaschler, President of the Student Association (which helped plan the awards ceremony and funded the reception that followed), presented the 2019 Shepherd’s Staff Award to Michael Terkula. “[It] is given to a member of the graduating class who displays the most pastoral qualities, as voted on by the graduating class,” he explained.

President Rast addresses the students, following presentation of the awards.

Dr. Rast, President of CTSFW, concluded the presentations with the following thank you and encouragement to our students, with a nod to the fact that today is the commemoration of C.F.W. Walther:

“The striking thing of a convocation of this sort is the variety of gifts that the Lord gives to His Church. And it never ceases to amaze me how the Lord provides, in respect to the wellbeing of His Church and the carrying out of its mission. A hundred and thirty-two years ago today, our second seminary president passed away; Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther—C.F.W. Walther—passed away and he brought to the Missouri tradition, along with our first president, Wilhelm Sihler, a strong emphasis on the wedding together of academics and pastoral formation. And so we see today, as we are nearing the end of our 173rd academic year, the continuance of that translation. My hearty congratulations to all of the students recognized here today, and my thanks to all of our students for the excellent work you do and the excellent work you will continue to do as you move out into Christ’s Church, whatever your area of service.”

Front Row: Academic Dean Dr. Charles Gieschen, Hayden Folks, David Wurdeman, Kyle Brown, Matthew Schettler, President Lawrence R. Rast Jr.
Middle Row: Joshua Ralston, Dylan Smith, Kyle Richardson, Robert Ricard, Carl Hingst
Back Row: Michael Terkula, Titus Utecht

The Harvest Field

A CTSFW alumnus (Rev. Jacob Hercamp, 2017), wrote the following article on the “What Does This Mean?” blog that is run by one of our CTSFW librarians, Rev. Bob Smith. It’s a timely article on the harvest field and those laborers called to it; from the post:

“Likewise the seminaries of Ft. Wayne and St. Louis have been cultivating not the ground but men to serve as pastors. They have worked hard to send these men into the the Lord’s fields to plant the seed of our Lord’s Gospel. Soon they will be planted in their first calls working in the Lord’s fields of their respective congregations. What a joyful time!”

You can

Call services at CTSFW concluded last night (though you can still watch at and CSL’s Assignment of Vicarages and Internships Service will begin in an hour (3 p.m. CDT/4 p.m. EDT) and their Assignment of Calls Service will follow at 7 p.m. CDT/8 p.m. EDT. You can watch both at their own Call Day website at

And finally, as a point of interest to those who saw the post about the dart-toss, here’s the conclusion:

Mark Matheny won the vicarage/deaconess intern toss with 128 miles between Bellefontaine, Ohio (toss) to Belleville, Michigan (actual vicarage). Ian Kinney placed last with 4,240 miles between Honolulu, Hawaii (toss) and Basehor, Kansas (actual vicarage).

Matthias Wollberg won the candidate dart toss with 75 miles between Riceville, Iowa (call) and Wabasha, Minnesota (dart toss). Michael Terkula placed last with 3,995 miles between Huntertown, Indiana and Hanalai, Hawaii.

Call and Assignment Services: More Quotes

Here’s a behind-the-scenes insight into the news release that went out this morning: as social media manager for the CTSFW Facebook page, I took a lot of notes during both services to gather quotes. However, to keep the release at a manageable length, I ended up only quoting President Rast—but the rest are too good not to share. God has clearly and richly blessed our Synod with faithful pastors and leadership.


PREACHER: Rev. Steven Turner, President of the Iowa West District

“You see, as church workers—as deaconesses and pastors—there are times when you will fail. There are times when you will fall. And there are times when you will sin. And when you do, please remember this sermon, because Christ died to take away your sins. When you feel inadequate, when the words you say are misunderstood, when people react in unkind ways toward you, remember Christ has died. And this means the sacrifice was complete to cover all sins and that means it covers your sins and mine. That Christ was buried, that he was truly dead, and so are you. Because you died in the water of holy baptism. You were drowned and the new man has come alive. That old sinful person has been put to death, and the new person comes forth…”

“He’s alive today and he’s called us to be his servants and to live our lives every day in his grace and his mercy. Now I have no expectations that you will remember me tonight or even remember this sermon that was preached when you received your deaconess internship or your vicarage. But I am positive that you will remember the content of this sermon. Why? Because you’ll speak the content of this sermon every time you gather together in worship; every time you confess the creeds of the Church, because Jesus He died for your sins. And He was truly dead and buried. And He has been raised and He is really alive, which is why at Easter we can say, ‘Christ is risen!'”

Congregation: “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

DISTRIBUTION OF VICARAGE ASSIGNMENTS: Dr. Gary Zieroth, Director of Vicarage

107 of 122 applications–“15 congregations were available to receive a vicar but this year did not. And so we pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers into his harvest field, as those needs within our Synod are met, not only for vicarage but also for calls as well.”

Note: Holy Cross in Moline, IL received their fiftieth vicar: Paul Marks.

At the conclusion: “And so there is no reneging or trading. What is said is done and what is done is said and so the Lord’s continued blessings as you go forth and serve the Lord.”

DISTRIBUTION OF DEACONESS INTERNSHIPS: Dr. James Bushur, Director of Deaconess Studies

“It is, of course, my privilege as Director of Deaconess Formation to announce internship assignments for our deaconess students. In my eight years serving as director of the program, I have learned at least one thing about my job: that is, the secret is finding good people to do your work for you. I have certainly been richly blessed in that regard…I want to certainly express my great appreciation to those who have made my burden a little bit lighter, my yoke a bit easier.”

“I certainly am deeply appreciative of Deaconess Rast’s persistence in bringing these internships to fruition. And finally I want to express my deep gratitude to the congregations, the pastors, and supervisors who are now receiving our interns and collaborating with us in the formation of our students. We certainly give thanks to God for their partnership with us in the Gospel, and pray that the Lord blesses their work.”

GREETINGS: Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of CTSFW

“It is truly an honor and a privilege to share this particular point in preparation for these future pastors and deaconesses as they prepare for their vicarages and internships. The vicars-elect and deaconess interns-elect now, we look forward to continuing to partner with you in your formation. It is just a delight to be a part of your lives.”

“As a historian my job is remembering, so that resonated well.”

“I continue to be amazed at the grace of God and the mercy that He demonstrates in concrete ways through our Lord Jesus Christ in continuing to raise up pastoral leaders and deaconess leaders for the congregations in mission of our Church…here’s the next generation. God is faithful and He keeps His promises.”


PREACHER: Rev. Terry Forke, President of the Montana District

“For all the fine education that you received in this place, these wonderful men could not make you shepherds; Jesus does that. Jesus does it. It is His work in you. Even now He is at work to prepare you to be the shepherd for the flock to whom you are sent. He will feed you. He will carry you. He will tend to all your needs. And He will speak through you. By the gift of His Holy Spirit your lips will be enabled to speak the holy Word of God in such a way that you never imagined it could be done by you. Of that you can be assured. The Shepherd heralds the Good News through you.”

DISTRIBUTION OF CALLS: Dr. Jeffrey Pulse, Director of Certification and Placement

“Greetings in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. First I’d like to thank President Forke for his words of encouragement and wisdom for these men prepared to go out into the harvest field to a place where there are many sheep without shepherds.”

“We see the One who is guiding the whole process. The Lord remains in control. And as we look out upon the whole Church we give Him thanks that we are part of this great and wonderful thing called the work of the Kingdom.”

“147 applicants made for candidates, which means there are currently 22 applications unused at this time. We do still have need in our Church for more men to enroll in our seminaries, prepare to be shepherds. Please keep this challenge in your prayers, as well as those congregations not receiving a candidate at this time.”


“Go then, take heed unto thyself and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made thee an overseer, to feed the Church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood.”

President Rast (own words): “The Easter season is one of great celebration and joy and no day is more joyful for us as a community than call night as we prepare to send these marvelous servants of Christ out into His harvest field.”

GREETINGS: Rev. David Maier, President of the Michigan District and Chairman of the Council of Presidents

Ephesians 2:8-10: “Talks about grace and salvation; it says, ‘for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.’ God saw this night. God saw you. God has brought you to this point. He has never left you or forsaken you, and He is not about to do that even now. And as we live in this Easter season, brothers, you are going to be able to take a particular message out to your people that is one of hope.”

GREETINGS: Rev. Matthew Harrison, President of the LCMS

“Let’s pray: we need pastors. And church workers. We’re so proud of all of you and so thankful for you. You are the answer to our prayers. You are the answer to a thousand prayers tonight. You. And the Lord has gone before you. He is already there. He knew full well you’d be coming there from eternity. He’s already got the folks lined up to hear your blessed words. He’s got them lined up for you to meet, to visit, to love, to share the Gospel with. To proclaim Jesus’ blessed resurrection. The Lord be with you.”


“But He does promise to be with you always; never to leave you or forsake you. And for that be thankful, as we are thankful for you and your commitment which you have shown over these years, now preparing to go forth. It is an honor to be your colleague.”

“It is a great thing to be a part of a community like this. There are few places like this in the world. I would say perhaps two: one in Fort Wayne and one in St. Louis. But what a blessing the seminaries of our church are as they commit themselves to their mission of preparing pastors and deaconesses, lay leaders and missionaries, for our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and its partner churches and missions throughout the world. The work that is done touches the entire globe. And though we recognize that we need more pastors, we know at the same time, God the Holy Spirit is currently calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying future workers for his harvest field and we look forward to welcoming them to the campuses of our church.”

Finally, one of the best things about having such a late Easter this year? Almost every single pastor that had the opportunity to speak in the services declared that beloved refrain: “Christ is risen!”

“He is risen indeed!” the congregation answered every time. “Alleluia!”

Assignment and Call Services Wrap-Up

Here’s the wrap-up from Call Night as well as from Vicarage and Deaconess Internship Assignment Service the night before. We go over some numbers, thank God for His rich gifts, and remember our brothers and sisters in St. Louis, whose services take place today (Assignment at 3 p.m. and Calls at 7 p.m.–in Central Time, so 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. if you’re in our eastern time zone). You can watch their services at

As to the livestream, our videographer gathered some interesting facts:

We had viewers from 45 states (none in Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, Delaware, or West Virginia, though we did have some views from Washington DC) and 11 countries: America, Canada, Scotland, South Korea, Germany, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Australia, France, Belize, and Puerto Rico. Our videographer was sorry to report that we had no viewers in Antarctica. However, he expects these stats to change (though probably not the Antarctica one) over the next week as more people take the time to check out the services and find out where our candidates have been called and where our new vicars and deaconess interns will be sent. You can also check out our interactive map, showing where all these men and women are headed, at

Candidates read their bulletins and silence their cell phones as they line up in anticipation of entering Kramer Chapel to receive their calls.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CTSFW)—“Go then, take heed unto thyself and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made thee an overseer, to feed the Church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood.”

So begins the charge to the pastoral candidates, read by the Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr., President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (CTSFW), after these men received their Divine Calls to the Office of the Holy Ministry. The Candidate Call Service on April 30 concluded two days of services at CTSFW, following the Vicarage and Deaconess Internship Assignment Service the night before on April 29; students at the assignment service learned where they will serve in the field for the next year of their formation as future pastors and deaconesses. To see where each candidate, vicar-elect, and deaconess intern-elect have been sent, or to re-watch either of the services, go to

“[God] does promise to be with you always, never to leave you or forsake you,” President Rast concluded, following the charge—just one of many words of promise and encouragement to the candidates that evening. “And for that be thankful, as we are thankful for you and your commitment, which you have shown over these years, now preparing to go forth. It is an honor to be your colleague.”

CTSFW announced assignments for 41 vicar-elects and five deaconess intern-elects, followed by calls for 39 students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Alternate Route (A.R.) programs. Later today, May 1, our sister seminary, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, will announce 66 vicarage assignments and calls for 41 MDiv and A.R. students. Along with those students who completed their training through SMP and Colloquy-SMP, 126 calls will be answered in all.

As has been the case for a number of years, more churches asked for men than received them: 15 congregations did not receive a vicar and 22 will not receive a candidate. As we pray to the Lord of the harvest for more workers, in particular we ask that you keep those congregations who did not receive a candidate in your prayers. If you or anyone you know would like to learn more about the pastoral and diaconal programs at CTSFW, go to

Yet we remain hopeful, standing firmly on Christ our cornerstone. “Though we recognize that we need more pastors,” President Rast said, “we know at the same time God the Holy Spirit is currently calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying future workers for his harvest field, and we look forward to welcoming them to the campuses of our church.”