COVID Update: On-Campus Students

A handful of snapshots of our seminarians’ classrooms, featuring fourth-year Nathan Wille’s setup, first-year Mark Gaschler’s (also featuring an onscreen Dr. Roland Ziegler), PhD candidate Tsegaye Rebu’s, and second-year Mark De Young’s setup.

So what’s it like for the students left in the dorms? Here are some of their stories and pictures. First, from first-year seminarian Dale Krienke:

A look inwards into first-year Dale Krienke’s dorm (and study) room.

“Living in the dorms at a time like this is very quiet. Normally, you hear cars and people outside, but now it’s very quiet. A bustling campus with more geese than people! No activities on campus and it’s especially hard when you are living right there and see the buildings but they aren’t being used. I especially miss participating in chapel services and Divine choir. You can still sing alone, but singing the Introit and other hymns with others definitely has a different context to it.

“My living quarters (dorm) is now the classroom and study area as well. I have come to realize that I definitely learn better in a classroom setting than online, which is why I would definitely recommend the residential program. On a positive note, at the top and half hour, I can still hear the church bell chime and I can still walk around campus on these many acres for exercise and occasionally see someone else walking/running as well.”

Second-year seminarian Mark De Young noted some of the accommodations made for those still here:

“Seeing as there are only a few people left on campus, and we aren’t going to the physical classroom for instruction, the seminary assigned another room in the dorm to those who asked, in order that they (we) may study without the distractions found in our rooms (TV, stereo and the like). They also offered rooms in Jonas for married students that may have either no internet or slow internet. For the most part, I can be found either in my study room, my room or getting my meals from Katie Luther Hall.”

Fourth-year seminarian Nathan Wille sets up the screen to watch daily chapel in the dorm.

Fourth-year PhD candidate, Tsegaye Rebu (Rev. and Dean of the Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, of the Lutheran Church in Ethiopia), spoke to the even broader changes that this pandemic has caused:

“The current time reminds us that life has definitely different versions. It offered me an opportunity to think deeply about the ups and down, the light and darkness, the happiness and sadness, health and sickness, richness and property, pleasure and depression etc. oriented time in this world. Covid-19 pandemic showed us an entirely different situation to pass through, events that were not expected before. It posed an automatic paradigm shift in life and work in our planet that turned regular studies to online, outside busy business to calm kind, office work to work from home, travels to stacks, social gatherings to physical distancing etc. to the extent of doubting our own hand to place on the surface of our face.

“It appears to be the time when totally new lessons are taken to prepare for future challenges. We as residential students are part of this experience and part of the world that is eagerly looking forward for good and hopeful time to come. This will absolutely happen and the smiling as well as shining time will come because God is Omnipotent to get it under control.”

Outside social distancing time with STM student (and graduate assistant) Joe McCalley.

Thank you to all the students who answered questions about what it was like living in the dorms throughout these days and to those who served as today’s photographers (with thanks to Mark De Young, Nathan Wille, Tsegaye Rebu, and especially to Mark Gaschler, who sent most of these pictures and yet managed to keep himself out of all of them).

COVID Update: Dining Hall

For those few students who are still on campus, living in the dorms (either because they are international students and are here for the duration, or are numbered among those students who simply came back to campus before the face-to-face shutdown went into effect), the Dining Hall remains open. Last week they had to switch to a boxed-meal-style of service, to stay aligned with federal and state regulations.

Left to right: Nathan Wille (Sem IV), Dale Krienke (Sem I), and Jason Smith (Creative Dining Services)

These photos give you a visual look at what that looks like for these men. Our thanks to the Creating Dining Services crew, who continue to feed these servants of the Word with daily bread (and other excellent food). Today’s particular shout-out goes to Jeff Rude, Coordinator for Creative Dining Services, who knows and cares for all those he serves.

“I love featuring Jeff Rude and the way he has gotten to know us all and cares for us,” Carrie O’Donnell, Assistant to the President, explained in an email (over a discussion about the different services across campus). “He not only remembers my name but also Lance’s name [her husband] and even what’s going on with my kids. And I know I’m not the only one he does this with — he’s just that amazing.

“This is just an example of the body of Christ — of Christian vocation. Sharing Christ with your neighbors regardless of your vocation.”

Back row (left to right): Olif Dufera (Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies), Tsegaye Rebu (PhD—Missiology), and Abdi Mulat (PhD—Missiology)
Front row (left to right): Michael Ijah (PhD—Missiology), and Mulugeta Adane (Doctor of Ministry)

(With thanks to fourth-year seminarian Brock Schmeling and Doctor of Philosophy–Missiology student Tsegaye Rebu for providing today’s pictures.)

COVID Update: The Food Co-op

The Food Co-op also continues to serve the students who remain in the Fort Wayne area, from the handful of students who remain on campus to the many married students families who live off-campus with their families in town. From Deaconess Katherine Rittner, Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op:

“Bari, Amanda and I packed 73 boxes with canned and dry goods, 73 bags with donated pork, 73 bags with fresh produce (528 lbs worth). We also provided 10 lb rolls of ground beef, 80 gallons of milk, and laundry detergent as well as diapers and wipes to our families with infants.

“In addition, we also put together boxes for our few dorm students remaining on campus also with fresh milk and fruit, meals and snacks that they can keep in their rooms as well as personal hygiene items as requested.

“With what is already a unique living situation for our families while preparing for full-time service in Christ’s harvest field, during these times of uncertainty it is even more important that the Food Co-op continue to care for our students and their family’s grocery needs during this time. Today [yesterday, March 31] was no different. It was great to see them all while maintaining distances and do just a quick check in to make sure all of them were doing ok. As I see it, this is a BIG part of the mission statement of CTSFW to care for all, and one that we take very seriously.”

Deaconess Rittner and two additional Co-op staff members (Bari Robinson and Amanda Domres) set up this drive-by station on Tuesday of this week, so that the students could drive in to receive these gifts. The ladies then loaded the boxes and bags into their cars, thus serving our students while also taking care to keep their distance.

Thanks be to God who provides for His future workers through you, of whom we are so proud to boast! Today we especially thank those who give to the Food & Clothing Co-op (which will continue to serve our students throughout these strange months) and to the staff who take every care to channel your generosity and encouragement to the students and their families.

COVID Update: Quiet in the Library

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the library during this very unique Spring Quarter:

The stacks in the Wayne & Barbara Kroemer Library are dark and quiet sans students, but the work continues to hum along as the library staff (part of our workforce who have to be physically on campus to continue their tasks) worked long, busy days to scan all needed class materials. Since the students are unable to come to the library, staff are making it possible for the library to come to them. Here, Rev. Richard Lammert, Technical Services Librarian, mans one of the two Zeta Book Scanners that have been in constant use for the past couple of weeks. The books stacked up on the desk represent one week’s worth of class reading material. Shared surfaces get wiped down every day since the staff have to share space in order to complete their work.

They recently completed this project to scan all class reading materials for the rest of the Spring Quarter, and are now busy putting together instructions and other helps for students to find resources while off campus. They also just began offering something called “Hangout with a Librarian”—essentially, students can make an appointment to meet with a Kroemer librarian via Google Hangouts if they need remote help with their research. During this time, our librarians are serving as the channel through which students can still access the library to find the materials they need.

Our thanks to all the library staff for their hard work. Special thanks to Renée Wiley, Access Services Coordinator at the library (and organizer for the weekly Word for the Wee Ones, which is also currently on hold), for the behind-the-scenes pictures and descriptions, and to Rev. Roger Peters, Assistant to the Director of Library and Information Services, for answering my questions about their current projects.

Open Letter: COVID-19 & Campus Plans

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Seminary’s leadership team met this week to discuss the recent orders and recommendations that have been made by the CDC, Indiana Governor Holcomb, and the federal government. With Governor Holcomb’s recent executive order extending the closure of schools and the continuing escalation of COVID-19 cases, we have decided to extend the online delivery of courses through the remainder of the Spring Quarter.

This decision is not made lightly, but out of love and concern for our students, staff, faculty, and community. It is important that in these days of uncertainty we give our students some continuity and stability. With this decision made, faculty, staff, and students will be able to make plans for the next couple of months.

This also means we are canceling or postponing all on-campus events through mid-May.

PLEASE NOTE, however, that we will be holding our Vicarage & Deaconess Internship Assignment Service along with our Candidate Call Service in a combined service on Wednesday, April 29.

While these services cannot be held in person, we will broadcast in an online format. We are currently working on the logistics. For updates and details as they develop, keep an eye on, where the service will eventually be streamed live.

Though classes will take place solely online, we remain prayerfully hopeful that we will be able to gather in person for Baccalaureate Service and Commencement Exercises. That decision will be made on May 1 when we, hopefully, will have a better sense of the duration of this outbreak.

While this is not the formation process we planned for our students, especially those who are coming to the end of their time with us, we trust in the God who knows all things and uses them for our good. We persevere with Paul, who faced abuse, exile, and martyrdom, and still wrote these words in Romans 8: 18, 24-28:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Thank you for your prayers, your support, and your faithful perseverance through this time of frustration, fear, and disruption. We, too, pray for you. Our Lord will see us through this as He has promised.

In Christ’s service,
Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr.

Orphan Grain Train

Last night, over 30 students, families, and staff members gathered for Mercy Meal Packing for Orphan Grain Train, packing 57 boxes in just over an hour. Each box contains 36 bags, each bag comprised of six meals. Plenty of fellowship and fun was had as the community carried out Christ’s love in this mission. Packing will continue today as we work to fill more boxes.

Deaconess Katherine Rittner, Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op (the Food Co-op received donations from orphan Grain Train as well), organized the times for packing as well as got word out to the CTSFW community. These particular meals will go to Haiti. She also explained one of the examples of how these meals are used for evangelism, as in the case of a pastor and missionary in the Philippines who uses these meals to bring children into the Lutheran school for education. “What an incredible way for our CTSFW students to not only live out the mission statement of CTSFW to teach the faithful, but how these are used to reach the lost and especially care for all in all of the world!!!! How wonderful and merciful is our God!!!!”

Also of note is the math: the number of meals per box comes out to 216. Deaconess Rittner then pointed out the number’s connection to James 2:16: “and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”

Thanks be to God, that He gives us the opportunity to share both Word and bread!

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 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 or by calling (800) 481-2155.