I had the pleasure of being able to take some time out of my work day to attend chapel at Luther Seminary yesterday. I felt it was important to do so as this was the final chapel service of the academic year, and it was a special one of “Farewell and Godspeed” for a place itself that is in the midst of great transition and change.
A number of great Lutheran minds, teachers and Luther Seminary leaders are retiring, leaving because of budget challenges, or taking new calls. Among these include two of my absolute favorites- Dr. Terence Fretheim and Dr. Roland Martinson. Though both have great heads of “white hair” they both have more youth and energy than most people I know under the age of 40 (probably even 30). They have such hopeful smiles, encouraging words, and brilliant minds. For so long they have shaped the leaders of this church and future leaders. Yesterday was a chance to, as Dr. Martinson put it in his sermon, to have the rare opportunity and gift “to say goodbye.”
It was very sad to see Dr. Fretheim go up for communion for his last time as a current faculty member. Part of why it was sad, is that it hit me, he has been doing this consistently in chapel at the seminary since the 1960s. Can you imagine the history? Yet, Fretheim is as active as ever in his scholarship with new works due to be published by 2016. So I guess for him, retirement should be written as “retirement” in quotes. For Dr. Martinson, retirement is more uncertain. Will he move into being a grandpa 24-7? Something tells me, he would drive his grand kids crazy with his endless energy and vision for the church. There is some great next calling he will have (in addition to his family), we will just have to wait and see.
There are far too many others who also were recognized today for their service to comment on here. But I hope they know how much they are appreciated, as my wife echoed in her post today. They have shaped the future of this church and have served well and oh so faithfully. They are a blessing and will continue to be. Though today is a sad day for us as Luther Seminary alumni and friends, it is also a hopeful one. These great servants will keep serving in new ways, and their good work will continue to bear fruit in the work of all those whom they trained, taught and shaped in some way whether through lecture, idea, or even their written word and publications. For the rest of the Luther community, they serve as an inspiration and reflection of what the seminary’s mission is.
Luther Seminary’s future may not be financially secure at the moment, but I do believe that it has a bright future as the participants of God’s mission in the world will continue to need leaders and those leaders will need some kind of training from some place or places.
Thanks be to God for these servants and their leadership. Thanks be to God for the way they helped me to think and be comfortable asking questions I very well may never know the full answer of (especially Dr. Fretheim’s unique way of getting me to wrestle with a text and ask the sometimes bizarre and challenging questions which emerge just below the surface). Thanks be to God for the hope we have in God for today and tomorrow. We may not know what the future of the church looks like, but God is at work in the world. This much I do believe is certain.