Wednesday, March 23, 2011




CONTACT: John Spangler 717-338-3010




The Rev. Dr. Cain Hope Felder will offer lecture and commentary as the 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg April 13, 2011 at 11:45 am.


Making the announcement for the seminary was the Rev. Dr. Nelson T. Strobert, Professor of Religious Education and Director of Multicultural Ministries. The annual lecture program is free and open to the public.


Felder is Professor of New Testament Language and Literature and Editor of The Journal of Religious Thought at the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC.  He currently serves as Chair of the M.Div. program at the School of Divinity, where he has been a faulty member since 1981. Dr. Felder, an ordained Methodist minister once affiliated with the United Methodist Church, now serves as the Resident Biblical Scholar for the District an Elder in the Second Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church where he has been appointed by Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson as.


Dr. Felder holds a Ph.D. and a Master of Philosophy degree in Biblical Languages and Literature from Columbia University in New York; a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York; a Diploma of Theology from Oxford University, Mansfield College in England; a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Greek & Latin from Howard University in Washington, DC; and a Diploma from the Boston Latin School.


A prolific writer, his publications include the newly published commentary True to Our Native Land (Augsburg Fortress, May, 2007), the first African American commentary on the New Testament;  Troubling Biblical Waters: Race, Class, and Family (Orbis Books, 1989) – 16th printing; Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation (Fortress Press, 1991) – 10th printing, and many more publications.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hanging On to Old Sermons

Hanging On to Old Sermons
From the Gettysburg PO by President Michael L. Cooper-White
March 17, 2011

Flipping through a file of old Lenten sermons the other day, I came upon my “farewell sermon” preached at Angelica Lutheran Church in Los Angeles in mid-Lent 1981.  It’s hard to believe that three decades have passed since I preached that message entitled, “Clean and Blind or Dirty and Whole?” on the Gospel for Lent III.  I can still recall the mixed emotions of the occasion: excitement as I embraced a new call, which I anticipated would be a brief hiatus away from parish ministry (I haven’t gotten back yet); and deep sadness at saying goodbye to this community of God’s faithful that I had served and come to love.


Running across that memory-sparker manuscript (I’ve always found it works best for me to write out a sermon, and then try to deliver it without too much dependence on the text) made me glad I’m in the clergy camp of the sermon-filers-and-hoarders.  Others—like those who have toted file boxes each time I’ve moved my office and household—might wish I were in the other camp of sermon-shredders (or now the growing cadre of recyclers).  I have always respected, and been a bit in awe, of colleagues who periodically jettison all their already-preached sermons, in part lest they be tempted to avoid the hard work of encountering pericopes anew and just reach for something “in the barrel.”  While I won’t profess that I’ve never drawn some material from old sermons, the constantly changing contexts in which I have preached for three decades as a synodical and churchwide staffer, and now seminary president, always seem to force me to start afresh on an old familiar set of texts. 


I suppose as much as anything, my drawers full of sermons from across the years constitute a kind of pastoral journal, with some personal memorable moments recorded therein as well.  Sermons preached on the occasions of my son’s baptisms remind of those special celebrations.  Funeral homilies recall the Godly saints over whom I was privileged to pronounce a final benediction.  Sermons preached in the aftermath of great tragedies—congregational or societal—bring back to life the pathos of the moment-in-time when they were delivered.  There are the sermons from my internship in Chile and homilies given in El Salvador during the war years.  And ones preached after the great Oakland fire and on the Sunday after 9-11.  Another retells the courage of a California congregation on the Sunday they confronted the sudden death of their pastor whose bicycle hit the rear of a truck when its driver suddenly slammed on the brakes.  Still other sermons remind me of the challenge as a bishop’s assistant in revealing to a trusting congregation that their pastor was guilty of sexual misconduct or had suffered a nervous breakdown.  There’s the sermon of a brash young pastor in San Francisco who preached to all the church’s bishops and admonished them to pay more attention to God’s beloved who are gay or lesbian (that one “got some legs” beyond the sanctuary and generated some pretty sharp letters!)


After her freshman year in college, daughter Macrina volunteered for several weeks in the Seminary library.  Her assignment was to catalogue the sermons of one of our distinguished alumni, The Rev. Robert Koons, who in his 90’s now still proclaims God’s word with his every breath and smile.  Expecting a boring task of archiving old yellowed manuscripts in manila folders, Macrina would come home some evenings talking excitedly about the content of Bob’s sermons.  “He was preaching about civil rights,” she was impressed to discover.  “He raised questions about how Christians should regard the war in Viet Nam,” she noted after cataloguing some of Pr. Koons’ sermons from the early 1970’s.  Bob’s sermons constituted a kind of written “oral history” of how a pastor engaged the Word and struggled to let it live among God’s people in times turbulent and triumphant over the course of a half-century or so.


Here at the Seminary we have the privilege of making at least some small contribution to the preachers of tomorrow, who from their first year are also today’s proclaimers as they anxiously approach a pulpit on their maiden homiletical voyages.  We also have an amazing talent pool of preachers among the Seminary’s faculty and staff, seasoned craftswomen and men who model what this chapel attender regards as some mighty fine preaching.  That the voices we hear in the Church of the Abiding Presence are equally divided between the higher and lower registers signals an exponentially enriched preaching cadre from the days when the preachers’ voices were all male.


As far as I recall, no seminarian has ever asked me about whether or not to hang on to sermon manuscripts, outlines or worksheets once a preaching moment has passed and the homily has been delivered.   But I’ll offer my unsolicited advice nevertheless: Yes, keep them!  Bother to move the files with you when you may go from one call to a new one (it’s a lot easier these days when you can just keep them on your computer or a flashdrive).  On your bad days, go in search of some old sermons that remind you of your happiest times in ministry.  When your ego gets inflated, go back and reread some that bombed, just to be reminded that a good preacher is like a fine pianist who can never rest on her/his laurels but must open up the keyboard day after day and practice, practice, practice what you preach!


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Peter the Repeater and Other Public Theologians

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

March 1


Several events in recent days have caused me to ponder anew a phrase that readily rolls off our tongues in this place that we say sends forth into Church and society public theologians and mission leaders. 


Among those heroic public figures I have been privileged to meet in person was the Rev. Peter Gomes, whose unexpected death at age 68 brought back fond memories of when he came to campus a few years back for a special lecture.  In both his public presentations and private lunch conversation with a few of us, Gomes was gracious and engaging.  As an African American, he seemed particularly interested in the Lincoln legacy at Gettysburg and our description of how the Seminary’s founder Samuel Simon Schmucker was among the small band of prominent Civil War era religious leaders who accepted the call to speak out against slavery.  


One cannot be Minister of the Memorial Church at Harvard for four decades and avoid a certain public prominence.  But Peter Gomes’ influence was not limited to Harvard or broader lecture circuits and campus ministry circles.  As the years went by, he came to be counselor and confidante to prominent public figures in this country and around the world.  Often provocative and always prophetic, his sermons and books circulated in ever-widening circles.  As a Black man who contended lifelong with racism, and particularly after he “came out” as a gay man, Gomes faced frequent criticism and verbal threats against his person.  Rather than cower in the face of opposition, he became emboldened in preaching the gospel’s constant call for a greater measure of God’s justice.  


Another named Peter—Bishop Rogness of the ELCA’s St. Paul Area Synod—recently published an op-ed piece in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, in which he based a call for public civility on Christian principles.  Amidst all the publicity surrounding Wisconsin’s struggles over unions, bargaining and budget balancing, the state’s ELCA bishops issued a joint call to the governor and state legislators, urging that they pay particular attention to people who may be vulnerable if certain state programs are eliminated or reduced.  In still other recognition of the value offered by the “mainline denominations” in public debates over what makes a good society, both ELCA and Episcopal presiding bishops are among religious leaders recently named by President Obama to a White House advisory council.


In a recent round of visits in several congregations that host Gettysburg Seminary interns, I have been reminded that one need not be a bishop or prominent Ivy League university preacher to serve as a public theologian.  This year’s interns in Washington, D.C., Lincoln, Nebraska and Hartford, Connecticut, for example, have front-row seats as St. Paul’s, First Lutheran and Emmanuel offer their public witness in the nation’s and two state capitals.  Even in the most remote rural communities, there will be opportunities to publicly offer pastoral perspectives and issue calls to civil discourse, concern for the poor, and respect for the dignity of all persons.  Local newspapers often are eager to publish a pastor’s op ed piece on local vexing issues.


In his book, “The Good Life” (Harper 2002), a treasured Christmas gift from valued colleagues, Peter Gomes shares the painful story of his first major failure.  After he failed to pass the second grade, he was taunted on the school playground as “Peter the Repeater.”  As a high school senior, his application to Bowdoin College in Maine was rejected, a fact for which he thanked the prestigious institution decades later when Bowdoin awarded him an honorary doctorate!  As he now moves on into the Church Triumphant, I thank God for the life, generous pastoral spirit and bold public witness of Peter the Repeater.  May we all have at least a small measure of the courage with which over and over and over again he kept on repeating the Good News that makes for a good life and better world!   




Tuesday, March 01, 2011

FW: Choral Vespers Sunday March 6


CONTACT: John Spangler 717-338-3010



Festival Choral Vespers for Transfiguration Sunday Featured in Next Music, Gettysburg! Seasonal Offering


Description: schola-detail.jpgGETTYSBURG, PA—Music Gettysburg! presents Festival Choral Vespers for Transfiguration this Sunday evening, March 6, at 7:30 P.M. in the chapel of the Gettysburg Seminary.  This one hour pre-Lenten Sunday sung prayer service opens with a candlelit evening prayer, led by the Schola Cantorum of Gettysburg, and includes a setting of the Magnificat, psalms and motets.  The choral concert is free and open to the public.


The choral vespers will include festive music for the Sunday of the Transfiguration, the last Sunday before Lent begins, and includes the Magnificat by Leonhard Lechner (1553-1606), Heinrich Sch├╝tz (1585-1672) motet “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt” (John 3:16), his setting of the Lord’s Prayer, and an original arrangement of Stephen P. Folkemer’s “How Good Lord to Be Here.” The evening prayer service will include the singing of hymns for the Transfiguration for the whole assembly. 


Under the direction of Stephen Folkemer, Gettysburg Seminary’s Cantor and Professor of Church Music, the Schola Cantorum is a vocal ensemble of 30 singers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia which has in its more than 20 years of performance, presented some of the most beautiful sacred choral music of the 15th through the 20th Centuries. 


Be sure to join us in welcoming this late winter choral feast.  The Seminary Chapel is located at 147 Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg. For more information about this and other concerts in the Music, Gettysburg! schedule, please call 717-334-6286 ext 2197 or visit the web site at .