President Kristin Johnston Largen
Prolog Week; Where We Are Going
In the spirit of not reinventing the wheel, I realized that I have actually given some very intentional, very thoughtful reflection on where we are headed as an institution already, and I shared that in my inaugural address last year, which most of you probably didn’t hear, so let me summarize now in 3 minutes what I said then in about 45!
Overall, I believe Wartburg’s identity as a particular, distinctive embodiment of “life together” is especially relevant in our current contemptuous, exhausted society. Life together is Wartburg’s identity, and it is also our promise to the church and the world; and I think God is calling us to live ever more boldly into this promise.
Wartburg has a critical role to play in God’s mission in the world. In this moment, the world needs a church that can be a “repairer of the breach.” And therefore, the church needs seminaries that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can form leaders to shepherd and shape the church for this difficult, rewarding bridge-building work.
Wartburg, then, is a community on the way into God’s future—continually becoming the kind of community God is calling us to be:
- A community that stretches, bridges and groans together; a community that knows something about the brokenness of life together and the polarization that we are experiencing now in our larger society.
- A community of joyous diversity and genuine belonging that is ever more deeply shaped by our conviction that justification and justice stand together in the proclamation of the gospel.
- A community that seeks to listen to and learn from each other; and then listens and learns some more.
- A community that is “other-focused,” a community turned outward for the sake of the other.
In this moment, Wartburg is called to form public ministers who are equipped with the imagination, determination, and pastoral affection that transformative leadership requires, leaders who are going to walk with the church into tomorrow, into the next phase of its existence, whatever that looks like; leaders who can accompany others on their own journeys of formation and vocation, leaders who embrace God’s call to envision a new future, not just dream about what once was.
And when we stumble or become anxious, we remind one another that God’s grace abounds. The future is God’s future after all. At Wartburg, we know that a life led by the Spirit who troubles the waters means wading in boldly, as she woos us into God’s future.
We are walking wet at Wartburg Seminary, following wherever God leads us.
Wartburg Seminary Landmarks
By Martin Lohrmann
September 8, 2022
As a way of introducing Wartburg’s communal identity, I’d like to describe some of the names that adorn the buildings and rooms around us.
Loehe Chapel is named after Pastor Wilhelm Loehe, the founder of Wartburg Seminary who never left Germany. Loehe was a pastor near Nuremberg and heard that German immigrants in North America needed pastors. To address the situation, Loehe set up a mission school that he called “an emergency seminary.” His idea was to give some initial training for ministry, send the “emergency helpers” over, and then connect them with communities in the United States for ordination. In 1853, a handful of these folks ended up in Dubuque, where no Lutheran church had been established yet. They founded the Iowa Synod and this seminary in 1854. Loehe is commemorated in the red ELW hymnal and is remembered for his support of global missions, social welfare efforts, founding a deaconess community, and important liturgical reforms.
The tower here is called Grossmann Tower, after Pastor Georg Grossmann, who was one of the original pastors of the Iowa Synod. With his background as a teacher, he’s also a founder of Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. It seems to have been his idea to name these schools after Wartburg Castle, where Luther translated the New Testament (500 years ago!) in 1522.
Fritschel Hall is named after several family members who taught at the seminary, beginning with the brothers Sigmund and Gottfried Fritschel, who were sent by Pastor Loehe in the 1850s. Each of them had a son who also taught here in the next generation, George and Max Fritschel. More recently, Dr. Ann Fritschel (a descendent of Gottfried) retired this past spring after teaching Hebrew Bible at Wartburg since the 1990s.
The refectory is where we refect, a word which means “to refresh oneself with food or drink.” It is named after Augusta von Schwartz, a German noblewoman from the Baltic region. During a fundraising trip to Europe in the 1860s, Sigmund Fritschel met Augusta in St. Petersburg, Russia, and offhandedly said that the school needed someone to oversee room and board. Already in her 50s, having raised a couple generations of her family, Augusta surprised Sigmund by immediately volunteering to move to the prairie and help out. She spent the rest of her life with the seminary, except for two visits back to see family, at which time she steadfastly refused her family’s wishes that she stay home: Wartburg had become her home.
Weiblen Commons is named after Bill and Ilah Weiblen. Bill Weiblen had been a seminary student here in the 40s. He returned to teach after doing his PhD with the theologian Paul Tillich at Union Seminary in New York. While Dr. Weiblen was serving as president of the seminary around the 1970s, he and Ilah were major advocates for Wartburg’s sustained focus on the global church, including strong support for Namibian independence from the apartheid regime of South Africa.
Just a few more:
Reu Library is named after J. Michael Reu, who was a Wartburg professor in the first part of the 20th century. He was a formidable self-taught scholar, whose high-quality independent work was recognized with a doctorate from the University of Erlangen.
Smith Seminar Room is named after Ralph Smith, who was Wartburg’s professor of liturgics from 1985 to 1994, when he tragically died in a car crash, a deep loss that is felt by many people in the community here still today. We sang one of his hymn texts as the Hymn of the Day in the worship service that opened this school year.
The amazing bronze work that you’ll find on campus is by Eva Leo, a skilled artist whose husband Paul was a professor here. Paul and Eva came to Wartburg, via South America, to escape Nazi Germany, because Paul had Jewish ancestry.
Mendota Hall, with the Mendota 101 classroom, is named after the town of Mendota, Illinois, where the seminary was located in the 1870s and 80s.
Finally, among many other stories to share, we have the Luther statue, which is modeled on the one in Worms, Germany, where Martin Luther had his famous “Here I stand” moment. It’s worth noticing that Luther is looking not inward at the school but outward to this world that God so loves.
These are just some of the stories of Wartburg Seminary, a school with a mission that we’re still living into and living out today.
WTS Prolog Week Convocation Fall 2022
By Nate Frambach
Where are we now? The question where are we now requires first, I believe, a response to the question “who we are?” We are a gathered and gathering community that is together, wherever we are. We are who we have been and hope always to be: a seminary centered in the Loehe legacy that serves the mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Having lived in and through a global pandemic—a pandemic that continues to impact the human community across the globe—we are here, seeking to be resilient, seeking to accompany, encourage, and support one another and those with whom we are called to serve, together, wherever we are. I’m hard-pressed to find a better image of that, than what I saw when Diane and I walked to the President’s reception after opening worship on the Monday of prolog week this fall: so many of us, so much orange, gathered, in that place, yet together, wherever we are.
Farmer-poet Wendell Berry concludes his collection of Sabbath poems, A Timbered Choir, with this short poem: “There is a day when the road neither comes nor goes, and the way is not a way but a place.” And what is that place? The heart of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The “Wartburg way” is rooted in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ—here, now, and always.
The “Wartburg way” grows out of and aspires to the Loehe legacy: worship-centered, profoundly communal, living faith, ever allowing for open questions, diaconal, missional, global—a way of being formed by the Holy Spirit and forming valued leaders in service to the gospel.
Where we are is who we are: an old/new, new/old community, seeking to embody the Wartburg way—same school, different time, together, wherever we are.
Rev. Dr. Jan Schnell
A Spoken Word Reflection
You’ve heard it already now hear it apace
Jesus is the center, who has been, is, and will be the dayspring of grace
For the church, a healthier setting has been wilderness, not empire
We refuse to dampen with discouragement in this world’s partisan mire
But recognize that living baptized, wet kindles the Spirit’s fire
It’ll be the strangeness of the gospel of Jesus Christ
Not the structures of an ivory tower raised to heights
That will characterize the future of WTS
Where learning leads to mission and mission informs
Everything. Because God’s movement in the world, with the Spirit loosed and Jesus found
Makes you free as free, and in that freedom love-bound
The future’s more colorful in so many ways
People who are Black, Brown, and Rainbow leading God’s praise
Wartburg will lead in telling the truth
Acknowledge land and labor, Löhe’s impact on Ojibwe neighbor
Honesty will not threaten existence
For it is the way “Open Questions” and “12 Practices” find their persistence
We all know you can’t make Beloved Community alone
So we sit down with those around, even on the days it feels more like groan or postpone, in order for God to hone
Us in the image of Jesus’ inbreaking
Where many-a-table become Eucharistic partaking
Some of us come on our feet and sit in this seat
Others are just as present online and in asynch time
Whatever your pathway, modality, program, or song
We call each other to our next better step because each of us belong
YOU help craft the future as the Spirit sees us
Rise up and proclaim the name of Jesus