Christmas Marketplace

Katherine Rittner (far left), Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op, opens the door to let the students in for the Christmas Marketplace. The line out the door went all the way to the road this year. On the right, seminary families wait inside where it’s warm.

Held the last Thursday before Christmas break, the Christmas Marketplace is an annual tradition at CTSFW, put on by the Food & Clothing Co-op and so generously supported by all of you. This year, $48,240 went to 136 students, each single student or family receiving $340 in gift cards. More was still coming in, including a significant check just that morning; Katherine Rittner, Director of the Co-ops, guessed that, including all of the last-minute giving, the total would end up being right around $58,000 in gift cards and cash. The extra $10,000 will either be distributed later as more gift cards, or saved as emergency funds for our students and their families in the case of unexpected need.

Another major part of the the Christmas Marketplace are the quilts gifted to our students from LWMLs, congregations, sewing circles, and other groups and individuals from across the LCMS. Each family receives one of these quilts each year while they are with us. One student explained how he had been here long enough for each of his children to pick out their own (this year’s was a pink one for one of his daughters). The quilts are displayed in two rooms during the Marketplace so that the students can choose their favorite to take home.

One of the quilt rooms, as students and spouses pick out the perfect quilt for their family.

The Co-op also provided food, door prizes (names drawn out of a bowl by Dr. Gieschen, our Academic Dean), and large gift bags. The students put themselves into the drawing for these 16 gift bags, choosing which ones appealed to them. The bags tend to be themed along certain lines, like kitchen supplies (I overhead one student explaining the Marketplace to his wife by reminding her that this was where he’d gotten her crock pot), baking, home items, toys for children, games, and the like.

The kids always know exactly where to go. The long table full of Christmas treats and goodies took up the center of the room.

God’s richest blessings to all of you as Advent quickly rushes toward Christmas! Our students are headed off for Christmas break, and Winter Quarter will resume on January 7. We’ll be taking a break from daily chapel during the next couple of weeks, though we’ll keep the morning devotions going along with the Scripture readings while they’re gone. Thank you again for your generous support and care for our future church workers!

Military Project

Deaconess Carolyn Brinkley works here on campus, in a small windowless office from which, she explains with a smile, she gets to serve as a deaconess all over the world. She works as Military Project Coordinator, answering requests from chaplains and putting together projects to support our servicemen and women. “I am truly blessed,” Deaconess Brinkley said, speaking of all the support she receives from individuals, schools, churches, and other organizations across the country that fund these projects. “I have never had to turn down any requests that have come in.”

One of the ongoing projects is body and soul care packages, which include notes of encouragement. Yesterday after chapel, students, faculty, and staff signed these notes during coffee hour. They will go to a number of LCMS chaplains and those servicemen and women whom Deaconess Brinkley has been specifically asked to keep in mind. In the Fall Quarter at least one of these servicemen was a near-seminarian who had to put off his theological training for deployment; this quarter some of these letters will go to the brothers of current students.

To learn more about the Military Project and how you can help, go to

What Child Is This?

In 1865, the manager of a maritime insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland, lay bedridden with a sudden, severe illness. Suffering from both physical and mental despair, William Chatterton Dix leaned on the promises of Christ during this period, penning the poem, “The Manger Throne.” The title probably isn’t familiar, but many of the words, phrases, and lyrics are; go to LSB 370, and you’ll find the very familiar Christmas hymn this poem eventually formed, one which asks a very well-known question:

“What Child Is This?”

The world of the 21st century wants to avoid this question. For many folks, Christmas becomes a time to reflect on the activities of the past year and to launch into the New Year. It has lost meaning even as a season to share a religious observance with family and friends. But with the stroke of a pen, Mr. Dix answered in song the most important question ever asked in the history of the world: what child is this?

In his hour of great need, the hymn writer found comfort in what This Child—the Word made flesh—does for him. One day nails and spear would pierce through This Child. One day This Child would bear the cross—for me, for you. That’s the way the King of kings pleads for sinners here and brings salvation.

Here at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, we form and equip servants to bring the Good News of Jesus, This Child of Bethlehem. We prepare these servants to answer the questions of a world desperately in need of a Savior.

In the third stanza, Mr. Dix reminds us that gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh are freely given. Such gifts—given out of love and reverence—become traveling money for the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, in their hour of great need.

Today we ask for your prayers and your financial support. Please consider a gift to the Seminary to prepare men and women to deliver the Good News of This Child. You can give today at

As a point of interest, here is “The Manger Throne” by William Chatterton Dix in full:

LIKE silver lamps in a distant shrine,
The stars are sparkling bright
The bells of the city of God ring out,
For the Son of Mary is born to-night.
The gloom is past and the morn at last
Is coming with orient light.
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Never fell melodies half so sweet
As those which are filling the skies,
And never a palace shone half so fair
As the manger bed where our Saviour lies;
No night in the year is half so dear
As this which has ended our sighs.
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Now a new Power has come on the earth,
A match for the armies of Hell:
A Child is born who shall conquer the foe,
And all the spirits of wickedness quell:
For Mary’s Son is the Mighty One
Whom the prophets of God fortell.
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The stars of heaven still shine as at first
They gleamed on this wonderful night;
The bells of the city of God peal out
And the angels’ song still rings in the height;
And love still turns where the Godhead burns
Hid in flesh from fleshly sight.
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Faith sees no longer the stable floor,
The pavement of sapphire is there
The clear light of heaven streams out to the world
And the angels of God are crowding the air,
And heaven and earth, through the spotless birth
Are at peace on this night so fair.

Donation Day 2018

The Annual Donation Day is an incredible gift to the Seminary. Begun in the 1900s during the early Springfield days, Donation Day is instrumental in stocking and providing gifts to the Food & Clothing Co-op, which both feeds and clothes our students and their families at no cost to these future church workers and their spouses and children.
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To give you an idea of the kind of generosity we’re talking about, click on the following graphic of the incredible amounts of food both gifted and purchased by gift from July 2017 to June 2018. We’re talking nearly 50,000 pounds of food (49,130 when you take into account the fact that the two butchered cows provided about 1,000 pounds of beef), which still doesn’t take into account the weight of milk, bread, eggs, all the unknown poundage donated from farms, and the money spent in grocery stores for additional items (canned food, medicine, diapers, etc.).

Some additional items missing from this list are 2,000+ dozen eggs; an unknown poundage of farm produce; 50 weeks of bread and treats from Panera and Kroger (equaling about $650/week).
Katherine Rittner, Director of the Co-ops, speaks after chapel, thanking the Seminary Guild and the LWML.

“You provide for the bodily needs of the students with generosity,” said Katherine Rittner, Director of the Co-ops, speaking to the women of the Seminary Guild and the LWML visitors. “We thank God for you every day and ask that you continue to support the students, faculty, and staff by keeping us in your daily prayers.”

The Student Association President, fourth-year Paul Gaschler, extended a thank you on behalf of the whole student body, for both those living in the dorms and those living off-campus. He has experienced both (spending the first two years of seminary in the dorms as a single student before he married during vicarage), and on his own account thanked the LWML mission grant that paid for laundry (one of the many often overlooked expenses of a life in higher ed, but one which is covered for our students because of the LWML), and the Clothing Co-op, which provided 90% of the furniture and appliances for him and his new wife that would have otherwise cost them hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Donation Day is in part a time for the day’s visitors to drop off donations (there was a long line of cars outside of the drop-off donation area this morning from the 80+ attendees using the time to drop off the items they’d gathered from their own churches and congregations), and on another part a chance to thank these ladies. Phyllis Thieme, President of the Seminary Guild, is pictured on the right, stepping up to the podium to address the room of about 80 women (with a few men in attendance as well). During lunch they were treated to a “fashion show” in which the wives and children of seminarians walked the room, showing off the clothing that came from the Co-op. Dr. Zieroth then served as keynote speaker.

The fashion-show models. It was also a good chance for the Donation Day attendees to get to know some more about the families they were serving — Katherine Rittner described who they were (including what the kids loved to do and wanted to be when they grew up; I believe a multilingual spy was among them, as was a hopeful future deaconess) as they walked through the tables.


The L7 and W8 Auditoriums have long been our most complained about rooms on our student evaluation forms at the end of each school year. If you’re a Fort Wayne alum, you probably know what we’re talking about. This summer we’ve finally been able to prove that we’ve heard these cries, due to the generosity of one of our donors who particularly enjoys tackling brick-and-mortar projects. The remodel is going to be finished in time for the new school year, though the pileup of desk chairs outside each auditorium has become a familiar sight in our classroom buildings.

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On a historical note, while doing some research in the book “Prairie School of the Prophets: The Anatomy of a Seminary 1846-1976” (by Erich H. Heintzen), I found a familiar lament on page 91: “[The Board of Control] would never be free of concern over ‘bricks and mortar.'” The statement followed a handful of notes from their meeting minutes. The following were both recorded on February 5, 1877:
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“Craemer offered his horse to the seminary for drayage purposes but warned that the harness was not strong enough to bear the strain imposed by the bottomless streets; it was resolved that Mr. Sell should look for stronger gear.”
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“The professors requested action by the board to prevent the college animals, particularly the pigs and the cows, from running about between the college and the professors’ homes. The board was sympathetic.”

Dedication Service: Library Patio

“Since the Lord has taught us in His holy Word that all things are holy when sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, it is fitting that we bless and sanctify this Rad & Joyce Finch Alumni Patio, that it may be a place where all may rest and reflect on the knowledge and wisdom of the only true and saving God.”

So said Present Rast in today’s dedication of the new library patio, a study and gathering area for the many students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other visitors who come to the Seminary. The combination tables/chairs were designed at two different heights: one just the right height for writing and the second just the right height for putting your feet up (and then studying with your iPad or laptop, as is often the case with today’s students).

After the short service, Dr. Rast thanked the Finches for their generosity in providing this “lovely, lovely place,” as he put it. The patio overlooks the water, across acres of green lawn grown up around the Seminary “village.”

Thanks be to God for the many and various ways His people serve the Church, with our thanks to the Finches. Future church workers will use this space as a place of study and rest. We’ll close with the prayer from the dedication:

“O God…You both enlighten the minds and sanctify the lives of those whom You draw to Your service. Look with favor on this Seminary, blessing those who teach and those who learn, that they may apply themselves with ready diligence to Your will and faithfully fulfill their service according to Your purpose, through Jesus Christ…Amen.”

Summer Greek Begins

Our Summer Greek students started their first class as seminarians this morning at 7:30 a.m. with Dr. Nordling. Yesterday, however, was the official “Meet the Greeks” Ice Cream Social, an annual event held to welcome the new Summer Greek students and their families.

Dr. Nordling (pictured above) addressed the entire crowd, though he had to throw in a reminder for the Greek students to remember to come to class at 7:30 the next day. Dr. Nordling joined the CTSFW faculty in 2006 but since he’s taught in Universities since 1994, this year is his 24th year teaching Greek.

Yesterday’s rain forced us inside, where we had ice cream, face painting for the kids, and you could overhear current students (and their wives) sharing stories with the newcomers.  We had leopards, butterflies, and at least one snake running around the Student Commons by the end of the social.

The Seminary Women’s Assembly (more commonly referred to as SWA; so much more commonly, in fact, that I just had a long discussion with one of the officers because neither of us could remember if the “A” stood for “Association” or “Assembly”) hosted the event, who recruited a handful of MDiv students to scoop the ice cream. The W. Paul Wolf Family sponsored the social.

On the left (l-r): SWA Secretary Mary Durham and President Karlie Heimer, whose husbands are both 2nd years. On the right are three of the 2nd-year MDiv students, recruited for the cause: (L-R) Jess Heimer, Cory Kroonblawd, and Adam Sternquist.

You may recognize the W. Paul Wolf Family name from the 172nd Annual Commencement folder, as they also sponsored the CTSFW Community Reception that took place just before Graduation Exercises last month. This is one of the ways this family likes to serve the Seminary community, by donating funds for the food-and-fellowship events that strengthen the bonds between the students, faculty, staff, and all our families. Thank you! And God’s richest blessings to our Summer Greek students as they recover from their first day of class. Only four more years to go.

Seminary Guild Project: Furniture for the Dean of Student’s Office

Thanks to the Seminary Guild, Student Services and the Dean of Student’s Office recently upgraded its furniture, creating a more comfortable space for the students. The ladies of the office had been wanting to purchase furniture that lent itself to conversation and, hearing that the Seminary Guild had been looking for a project, partnered with the Guild to accomplish their goal. So far they’ve rearranged the furniture three times based on what students have said as they come in; they’re thrilled with the response.

From left to right: Helen Witte, vice president of the Seminary Guild; Joyce West, former president (the current president, Phyllis Thieme, was watching from behind me, but as this project came about under Joyce’s time, she wanted her in the picture); Trena Merryman, admin. assistant, Financial Aid; Jacqui Petersen, admin. assistant, Dean of Students.

Trena and Jacqui were responsible for connecting with the Guild, and for picking out the furniture both for this corner and for the Dean of Student’s office. Funds paid for the couch, chairs, tables (one of which is off screen), and the lamp in the waiting area. As to Dr. Zieroth’s office (he is sitting on the far right), he already owned the couch but the Guild was able to add four matching chairs (one of which is outside his office door for any student waiting his turn), the coffee table, and two end tables. Trena, a financial aid person to the core, gladly shared with me the shopping process, down to how much of this they were able to purchase on sale and on clearance.

Money for these and other projects come from Guild membership dues and additional small donations to the Guild. Each year these faithful women fund the Legacy Project (which provides a copy of the “Pastoral Care Companion” to every new diakonal and pastoral student; the book is appropriate for both male and female churchworkers as it contains prayers, readings, hymns and liturgy that guide those caring for individuals in times of both celebration and distress), and then tackle additional projects as funds become available. For more information about the Seminary Guild and their work in caring for the students of CTSFW, contact Guild President Phyllis Thieme at 260.485.0209 or [email protected]