Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of my ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry.
This trip began as odd as one would expect. My colleague, Scott Stiegemeyer, and I were serving as admission counselors at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. It was just a few short months since Dean Wenthe was elected president. It marked the end of the so-called Babylonian Captivity of the seminary (1989-1996), and the beginning of a new era of renewal in the Gospel. CTWFW was desperate to get its recruitment back on track after several years of much smaller classes. Controversy is never good for the health of an institution, even if sometimes it is painfully necessary. Scott and I were both planning on doing STM work (he had already done so for a year), and so agreed to see what we could do to be of service.
It took about six months for all of the paperwork and stuff to get figured out before we were actually called. So in what I believe is the only instance of this happening in the LCMS until that time, we were ordained into the Office of Recruiting and Admissions. The service was in Kramer Chapel, and was comprised basically of the faculty, my pastor (Richard Radtke), and Scott’s pastor (Peter Ledic).
I remember quite vividly having a conversation with Prof. Kurt Marquart about what it meant to be ordained into this work, plus having a contract, but not really having an altar in any meaningful way. “Sometimes the church engages in felicitous inconsistencies,” he said while paraphrasing Pieper.
Since that time I’ve been blessed to serve two amazing congregations (Messiah in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Holy Cross in Rocklin, California), We went through 9/11 and the Yankee Stadium debacle. I ended up suffering from major clinical depression, becoming suicidal, and going on disability for a year. My wife, Kathryn, and I have had four children, with two more in the bosom of Abraham. We spent the last ten years in Northern California, learning about being confessional Lutherans in a post-Christian society, and serving with some of the most amazing people anywhere. I also did a DMIN in preaching at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis.
The past six months has brought us back to Fort Wayne, where I am now teaching pastoral counseling, field education, and homiletics, and also serving as the director of vicarage. It has allowed me to serve students and help prepare the next generation of pastors. So in some ways I guess I’ve ended up back right where I started.
My colleague, Scott, has served two parishes, been back at CTSFW in admissions, and is now teaching as Concordia University Irvine. One could never hope for a better friend or colleague in the Office.
What will the next twenty-five years bring? I don’t know. What I do know is that serving as a pastor is both cross and blessing. But it is Christ’s office, not mine. We are but unworthy servants.
Go and thank your pastor sometime. Hold him up. Share all good things with your teachers. And rejoice that the Lord of the Church uses such earthen vessels to bring about His holy purposes.
Soli Deo Gloria