WTS Begins a New Academic Year

Hybrid Prolog Week Kicks off 168th Year at WTS

Together, we kicked off a new academic year at Wartburg Seminary with a hybrid model of Prolog Week! With more than 75% of the student body present on campus and the remaining 25% participating virtually, we began the year in the way we always do: centering our community in worship. The worshipping community at Wartburg Seminary gathers to receive God’s Word and sing God’s praise throughout the year as the center of life together as a learning community.

Opening Worship at Wartburg Seminary is a long-held tradition, taking place on the afternoon of Labor Day in September. It is a time to gather as a community for the first time in a new year, but also to welcome the new students in our midst. Each of their names is read by our Admissions team, and they are officially welcomed into the student community by our Academic Dean and Seminary President. Rev. Dr. Craig Nessan, Academic Dean, shared on the addition of this class to our community: “As Academic Dean, I am thrilled to welcome our new incoming class. We had an amazing experience of orientation and community building during Prolog Week. Already I observe many gifts for ministry and am confident how these new students will both be formed by and contribute to the Loehe legacy of Wartburg Theological Seminary.”

Another long standing tradition is Convocation. Convocations at Wartburg Seminary are community conversations about topics that matter. They focus on current, often-challenging topics that deserve face-to-face dialogue. Convocations strive to host discussion in ways that bring us together as community, invite open-ended questions, and welcome everyone’s voice. Convocations are neither lectures nor simply presentations. They are face-to-face conversations, inspired by Jesus’ teachings (Matt 18:15-20), that strive for mutual understanding, solidarity, and wholeness in communities today. Our Prolog Week topic was “Community as Sacred Trust and Spiritual Practice.”

Troy Troftgruben, Associate Professor of New Testament and Community Life Chair, shared: “This Fall, all of us at Wartburg are navigating complex relationships and modes of communication under the stresses of an ongoing pandemic, making it likelier for us to not bring our best to honoring one another in community together. In view of that, we thought it essential to kick off the academic year with intentional conversation about practicing community faithfully and well together, with special focus upon community members whose voices are less often heard in broader society. We had opportunity to hear student leaders tell about their experiences as people of color, as LGBTQ community members, and as people with physical limitations. These voices, along with insights on community from faculty and staff, helped us pause to reflect on how we can be more intentional about practicing community more faithfully here at Wartburg — and beyond.”

Student Tori Richard shared, “I walked into seminary with many fears but one solid reassurance, I am supposed to be here. As a person who has walked their entire life with a disability, I knew there would be additional challenges when accepting a call to serve the church. However, the community I have experienced here has allowed me to find a new sense of belonging and peace. Luther teaches us to live as theologians of the cross. When applied to a disability, we have to acknowledge and name that disabilities are seen and unseen. Each person’s experience is unique, so is a community’s response. God’s grace is freely given, and paradoxically, God’s grace is manifested through communities that walk in solidarity with minorities. All of us are called into faith with Christ. Paul said that “when I am weak, I am made strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). When applied to disability, disability says where I am lacking; I am full in the light of the cross.”

Looking Forward

Rev. Liz Albertson, Vice President for Admissions and Student Services reflected on how we might take what was learned during Convocation and move forward after Prolog Week sharing, “What does practice community, Wartburg style, look like?  The key word is “practice.”  It is for good reason that the Bible is full of stories, advice, and rules concerning how we as humans and we who gather in God’s holy name should act and what to do when we (the community) fall short.  Life Together as the Wartburg community is not simple or easy, but it is good.  The work is worth it for the ways God expand hearts and minds, bring joy and delight, and deepen faith and understanding through this community.  Humility, playfulness, worship, prayer, curiosity, speaking truth with love, and the powerful gift of forgiveness – these are the things that Wartburg students, faculty and staff learn and practice as we engage in community life together.”