Thursday, May 03, 2007

You Were Really Good!

From the Gettysburg PO
by Michael L. Cooper-White,
Seminary President

In a baccalaureate sermon to the Gustavus Adolphus College class of 1980, the Rev. Richard Quentin Elvee, GAC chaplain at the time, recounted a hurried graduation week encounter with another member of the college staff.  “Only Thursday, on my way to the Barn, after declining to come with me, Hamrum shouted after me, ‘Padre, tell them that they were good’!” *

Undoubtedly, it could be said of the student body of each and every one of our Seminary’s 180 years, “You were good!”  For so indeed they all have been.  Each year has been marked by many days full of grace and goodness.  Amidst the inevitable tensions and conflicts, challenges and difficulties that arise within any Christian community, every year there are the healers and helpers, those whose calm steady presence encourages others when times are tough, when the waters rage turbulent.  As we once again welcomed so many alumni back home to campus for our Spring Convocation and Alumni Banquet, I caught glimpses into just how good were their classes, even those who sojourned here in the turbulent times of the 1960’s and 70’s. 

But this year, you were really, really good!  In classroom, coffee shop and quiet one-on-one conversations that occur on a daily basis, you listened and learned from our faculty, but also from one another, and most of all, from God.  There seemed to be a special measure of fellowship in some quarters, extended to others last fall in the touch (well, by the end more mud-wrestling!) Lutherbowl tourney.  It continued throughout, manifested again at year’s end in another Crump-crowned croquet contest. 

When faced with disappointment at the announcement that the campus pastor position will be suspended at least for a while as Pastor Kathy Vitalis Hoffman concludes her marvelous tenure, student leaders went to work with the dean and others to find new ways of providing pastoral care and mission-mentoring.  In the aftermath of last summer’s multiple retirements coupled with painful “downsizing” and increased workloads for continuing staff and those newly hired, everybody pitched in and kept us marching full swing in our mission.

Theologically, of course, we acknowledge that all goodness comes from God.  Properly humble, we are appropriately reticent to claim too much credit for our feeble efforts to foster community, encourage one another spiritually, lead vigorously and at times even courageously.  But, dear friends of this great and growing Gettysburg Seminary community, remember those times when Jesus said to one or another of his followers, “Good job!  You got it right this time!  Not perfect, but good enough to offer up to God.”

So in this final P.O. entry of the 180th academic year, allow me as your president to offer this benediction on the LTSG community of 2006-07: You were good.  You were really, really good!  Thanks, and have a great summer.

* Richard Quentin Elvee, Kingdom of Identity, Gustavus Adolphus College 1987, p. 125

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Search for Words

By Christine Reimers

As a member of the seminary staff I had the privilege to meet and get to know [Gettysburg Seminary's late 10th President] Herm Stuempfle a little over these last four years. Today, the day after the tragic shooting at VA Tech -- as on other days when I have been at loss for words and filled with emotion I found myself at my piano looking through Stuempfle hymns for one that spoke to the pain, grief, and violence of these recent events. I found two. On Emmaus’ Journey is a wonderful witness to our human struggle to meet the risen Christ: “Who are you who walk in sorrow down Emmaus’ barren road, Hearts distraught and hope defeated bent beneath grief’s crushing load?’ Nameless mourners we will join you, we who also mourn our dead, We have stood beside graves unyielding, eaten death’s bare bitter bread.” This is, of course, only the first verse and Stuempfle moves from this poignant description through to the resurrection appearance and in-breaking of new hope. The second text is for choir, A Christmas Dialog and brings to life the power of the incarnation in the midst of the violence of the world: “Where nights are torn by siren’s wail an din of blaring horn, on streets where threats of violence lurk, the Child again is born. . . where life is harsh and hard, he comes with love for all.” This text is in dialogue through the piece with the vision of the Peaceable Kingdom where beast and humans alike will “all live in peace.” I give many thanks for the poetic gifts and vision of the Gospel in the world expressed by Herm Stuempfle in many many beautiful hymn and anthems.

The Rev. Christine E. Reimers, Ph.D.
Advancement Associate
Lutheran Theological Seminary Gettysburg


Saturday, April 14, 2007

New from the Faculty

See New Faculty Publications Case for recent additions:

Congratulations to

Jack Lundbom has a new article "The Lion Has Roared"
Gil Waldkoenig has four entries in a massive Encyclopedia of Appalachia
Lutheranism A to Z is now in paperback (Gassmann, Larson, Oldenburg)
      (and more affordable, too)

Church Administration by Bacher and Cooper-White hit the streets this week.

The Rev. John R. Spangler


Friday, April 13, 2007

Spring Semester's Tired Time

Spring Semester’s Tired Time

Those who serve in institutional presidencies soon learn how ours is a “sheltered existence.”  For various reasons, many in an academic community hesitate to bring everyday happenings or even news of greater consequence to the president’s attention.  In other words, I’m often the last to know, and I’m quite sure there are many things both insignificant and important that never come to my hearing or seeing at all.  In my younger years I had a greater need to be “in the know” about everything.  Now I’m quite content to let the many other capable hands, heads and hearts that surround me respond and support those whose needs escape my attention.

Since Easter Sunday I have overheard a couple of conversations relative to the current “student state” on campus.  “They’re tired,” is the synopsis.  I’m sure many of you student readers are no more tired than usual at the end of days crammed with classes, course work, commuting for some, and all the ordinary events and deeds of daily life.  But perhaps there is a collective fatigue that sets in midway in second semester.  While I don’t exactly recall such feelings in Seminary, I know that a couple of college spring times brought depression and deep struggles to press toward the goal line of summer vacation.

When I teach about conflict, students, parishioners or other hearers are always stunned to see Speed Leas’ research on the most conflict-prone times in parish life.  Number one on the list is Easter.  Easter!?  The most joyous of all days for the Christian community; how can it be the time of year when church conflict spikes?  The simple short answer: it comes at the end of Holy Week when everyone, including the pastor, is fatigued and maybe famished for rest and family time.  Besides, all those C&E (Christmas and Easter) Christians have descended in droves, upsetting normal patterns of parish life.  And the post-Easter let-down sends some into the doldrums.  A close reading of the gospels suggests it may have been so for the first resurrection celebrators as well.  “Thomas, where the heck have you been?”  “Oh, come on, you foolish women, stop telling these idle tales . . .”

Hearing or reading simple exhortations to “cheer up” or “get over it” probably are not helpful.  With your nose to the grindstone, hearing the perspective of one who finished the Seminary marathon three decades ago counsel “it will pass soon enough” likely offers little relief.  As your president, there’s probably precious little I can do—in that recognition centers my fatigue and sense of failure.  Does it help simply to know that at times I do sense and “hear” the collective sounds of silence and sighs too deep for words? 

I pray for warm sunny days, and soon—they do help many of us!  I encourage sharing one with another.  If the end-of-winter and not-close-enough-to-end-of-semester blues are of deep hue, I strongly suggest seeking professional counsel or conversations here on campus with those who can help by listening.  A bit of corporate “realized eschatological” cheerleading might be in order, too.  The end is already upon us.  Seniors, the diplomas will soon be signed and in your hands.  As for the rest of you, I can only speak of what I know from personal experience: Your 31st anniversary of graduation will be here before you know it!    

Michael L. Cooper-White, D.D.
Seminary President    

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

My Holiday Reading List

By President Michael Cooper-White

Here’s hoping that for you and yours Christmas 2006 brought a goodly measure of joy, and that this new year of 2007 begins with hope and energy for our common calling.

The advent of Amazon .com and its “wish list” posting possibility results in a far higher percentage of Christmas gifts hitting my strike zone. This year’s list was heavily weighted with books, the sum total of which amount to several pounds and two or three thousand pages. A good ten-day stretch of travel and at-home leisure provided ample hours to make my way through a heavy dose of the new pile. In this first P.O. column of 2007, I share a few highlights and recommendations for your own reading.

“Ten Poems to Change Your Life” (2001 by Roger Housden) may be a bit of an exaggeration, but this gift book from our daughter’s California godparents brought delight. One entry, by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, reminded me of viewing his home on the rocky coastlands near El Tabo where, while on internship, I welcomed in the new year of 1975. In “Ode to My Socks” Neruda celebrates the simple joys of life, and how “what is good is doubly good when it’s a matter of two woolen socks in winter.”

In the same vein of reverie for past times that are unrecoverable, and lost loved ones who live on in memory alone, Will Weaver’s “Sweet Land” is both a charming collection of short stories set in Minnesota, as well as a current highly acclaimed big screen movie. Also by this Bemidji State University professor, “The Barns of Minnesota” captures both in print and photograph so many memories of the countless hours spent in father Bennie’s barn on our farmstead, of which now no trace is visible to any but the sharpest eyes.

Always good for a quick read are the novels of Nicolas Sparks, best known for “Message in a Bottle,” “The Notebook” or “A Walk to Remember.” In his most recent book, “Three Weeks with My Brother,” Sparks shifts from fiction to autobiography, describing both an around-the-world trip with his sibling, and the pain and poignancy of their childhood and young adult years that involved burying both parents and a sister at young ages. In a burst of true confession, I herewith acknowledge that this book was part of my Christmas gift to my own brother Dave. Late at night and early in the mornings I slipped it from under the Christmas tree and read it ahead of its recipient—may he forgive me!

The heavier and more serious Christmas reading took me into two books on most bestsellers’ lists: Bob Woodward’s “State of Denial,” and Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat.” Volume III of his trilogy on Bush at War, “State of Denial” is a kind of postmortem on a presidency still breathing and kicking, even if barely by some assessments. And “flat” surely does not describe the writing style of Friedman, whose 600-pager finally explained for me why phone calls to United Airlines or many other purveyors of goods and services seem to connect with call centers in foreign lands (they do, in fact!) Among his many claims and calls, Friedman’s guide to the new flat world sounds a strong plea for more attention to education that embraces multicultural realities and the prospect of an unparalleled global future. These are themes we’ve already begun discussing in earnest as we engage in planning for the future of education at Gettysburg.

While there were other books and wider browsing over the holidays just past, let this suffice for a whirlwind tour based on one reader’s Christmas wish list. I’d like to hear what you have been learning in your own readings of late.