Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Advent Photo-A-Day

We all know there’s a little thrill in finding the appropriately numbered square cardboard door, peeling it back to reveal the world’s smallest chocolate Santa, and savoring the taste of mediocre chocolate for a few seconds – before we’re back to making lists and decorating the tree and wrapping gifts. But this year, Gettysburg Seminary invites you to mark the days of Advent a little differently. We invite you to look for God in the little things you do every day, and in the unique excitement of the holiday season. At home in the faces of family and friends, in shopping malls and grocery stores, in your faith communities, and beyond.

The word for each day comes from prayers written by members of the Gettysburg Seminary community as a part of our annual Advent Star Devotional. Scripture passages and prayers will be posted each day, or you may request your own Advent Star by calling 1-800-MLUTHER ext. 3011. As we watch and wait for the birth of our Savior, we pray that you will experience Advent through a new lens.

To receive reminders and see the posted daily prayers, like us on Facebook at Lutheran TheologicalSeminary at Gettysburg, and follow us at GettSem on Twitter and Instagram. And don't forget to include the #watchandwait hashtag!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I participate? Save the photo above to your phone, tablet, or computer, and each day, take a photo that corresponds to the prompt for that day. Post the photo to your own Facebook page, Instagram account, or Twitter feed, and include the prompt and the hashtag (for example, to caption for your photo on December 1 should include #anticipation and #watchandwait). There are no rules for what the photo must contain – it’s up to you. That’s all there is to it!

When is this happening? From December 1-25, 2013. The first day of Advent is also conveniently the first day of December, so the numbers match both the date of the month and the day of Advent!

How do I see the photos others have posted?  If you click on the #watchandwait hashtag on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, you will be taken to a page that includes all posts containing that hashtag. You can also search for the word of the day or the hashtag on those social networks. We will be collecting all the photos we can on our Pinterest page, so you can browse them there too.

I’m super busy and a little forgetful. How can I remind myself to take a photo each day? We recommend saving the prompt to your phone and setting it as your lock screen. At the bottom of the post, there is a wallpaper version of the prompt (1136 x 640) to make scaling a bit easier.

What if I miss a day? That’s okay! You can play catch up by posting a few photos in one day, or you can simply move onto the next prompt – whatever works for you.

This one will work better if you are trying to set it as your lock screen on an iPhone 5:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Social Media Ministry Moment

From the Rev. Kevin Clementson


Social media has forever changed the world and how we do ministry. This was brought home to me this morning as I sit with my coffee and bagel in the comfort of my neighborhood Panera. A message bubble pops up from a member of my congregation in Afghanistan. "Hey Pastor! Keep me and my buddies in your prayers today. We are about to go out on a mission." Suddenly what can at times seem so far away was brought to my table... the easy comfort of my space at the table suddenly feels different as I prayed for that young man and father of two who along with his buddies drive off base and into a world of purposeful violence. The world feels very small and dangerous today.

Kevin, MDiv '82, is Co-pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Westminster, MD

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Advanced-Practice in Ministry --

Exceptional. Practical. Enduring.

advanced-practice.jpgGettysburg Seminary Offers the new six course certificate in
Advanced-Practice in Ministry 

Designed for today’s challenging ministry settings at Gettysburg Seminary
Ministry isn’t what it used to be. The 21st century church is not your father’s (or mother’s) church, and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg now offers a course of study for rostered leaders to meet the new challenges of ministry.  In a rapidly changing world, we need places to vision and to be equipped for the challenges before the church.  Gettysburg Seminary created Advanced-Practice in Ministry certificate geared toward practicing pastors and other rostered leaders ready to engage practical and theological concerns on an advanced level in this new reality.

With intentional focus on real world challenges in current contexts for ministry, participants will be able to focus critical and creative energies on advancing their ministries. The Advanced-Practice program offers collaborative work, exploration of new models for ministry, and leadership formation in a six course intensive, residential learning schedule. Courses will be offered in October and January, and participants may begin at any stage of the course cycle.

More information, applications and course descriptions are available at the Seminary’s website
www.LTSG.edu/advanced-practice . You may also contact the Director of Lifelong Learning and Certificate Programs Rev. Dr. Michelle Holley Carlson at mcarlson@ltsg.edu.  Or leave a phone message with Ms. Danielle Garber at 717.339.1322.

Finding Straight Talk in the English Translation of a Modern-Day Psalm


Katy Giebenhain, Poetry + Theology Editor, Seminary Ridge Review

Four translated poems from SAID were included in the Spring 2013 issue of Seminary Ridge Review. The full 99 Psalms was just published in English by Paraclete Press. You’ll hear more about the book in the Spring 2014 issue. Here’s a taste of what’s to come. As part of a Paraclete Press blog tour this week, I would like to look at the text of the fifth poem in the book by SAID, the Iranian poet who makes his home in Germany, translated from the German by Mark Burrows. It appears on page 21. Poems in this collection have a relationship to the three Abrahamic religious traditions, yet are entirely their own.

let me be a water puddle
that mirrors your heavens
and murmurs your prayers
so that the cicadas might understand me
show yourself o lord
even if you have no other choice
than to come in the fierce coursing of blood
and take in the refugees
because every fleeing ends in your eye
even if those who flee forget you in their time of need
because only those who doubt in you
seek you

The “psalms” we tend to repeat most often are chosen for comfort, but that’s not what a psalm is limited to. It can bring us closer to God and closer to seeing ourselves as people of God in the world. A psalm can wear spurs. This psalm, thanks to SAID and to the attentive translation of Mark Burrows does not make nice. It also does not criticize or posture. This psalm, like the others in the collection, feels genuine and it offers what I crave in poems and in sermons: straight talk.

I appreciate the cadence and brevity. I appreciate the tolerance of a complicated God. I appreciate the tolerance of complicated people. A puddle is not grandiose or beautiful. It’s just a puddle. Familiar and small-scale. I appreciate the reminder that I should seek to reflect God, even to be aware of the idea of that reflecting, rather than to stay in the scope of my routines and identity. The emphasis is on the seeking. I love the combination of unending reflecting, back and forth, and the presence of cicadas without mentioning their sound.

Other examples of straight talk: acknowledging that we forget God, in times of panic. We doubt. But we are supposed to doubt. We are thinking creatures! Faith, in its broadest sense is meant to be a living, developing faith. I am relieved when reading the last two lines “because only those who doubt in you / seek you.” What about the art of demanding without being bossy? How does SAID do that? How does Burrows keep this tone?

I could go on unpacking each line of the poem, especially for the indirect tangents it sets me off on, but I mostly react with gratitude. Herzlichen Dank. Unpunctuated, this self-contained poem leads seamlessly to the next one in the collection, and to each of its 98 lean siblings, related yet distinct in their straight-talking wisdom.

Visit Paraclete Press at www.paracletepress.com/.
Visit Mark Burrows at www.msburrows.com/.
Visit SAID at www.said.at.
Visit Seminary Ridge Review at www.ltsg.edu/SRP/Seminary-Ridge-Review


Monday, September 23, 2013

Largen Posts "Real Islam" from Instanbul

"Real Islam"

Gettysburg Theologian Kristin Largen reports from an Instanbul interfaith conference via her blog.

As usual, it is worth the read: http://happylutheran.blogspot.com/2013/09/real-islam.html


Monday, September 16, 2013

Luminaries Honor the Memory of Those Injured and Treated in the Seminary Fixed Field Hospital

Seminary Transition from Field Hospital Observed by Founders Day with Luminaries

Luminaries, Dearest Home to Set the Tone for Seminary Ridge Museum Observance 150 Years After Field Hospital Closed

With a touch of Autumn in the air and the schools back in session, the Seminary Ridge Museum commemorates the soldiers who were patients in the Seminary hospital from July 1-Sept 16, 1863. The public joined Seminary Ridge Museum Founders at Day's End this Saturday, Sept. 14 for a program on the East porch of the museum featuring remarks by Dr. Carol Reardon.

A musical performance by Dearest Home began at 7:30pm and the formal program followed at 8pm. Luminary candles linking one civil war soldier to one living sponsor will be illuminated as darkness settles on the hallowed ground which 150 years ago was instantly and concurrently both a fierce battleground and a sanctuary for healing.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Dr. Monica Melanchthon to Offer Special Lecture on Biblical Interpretation and Indian Feminisms

Norma Schweitzer Wood Lecture at Gettysburg Seminary

Mark your calendars
"Fracturing the Iconic Feminine: Biblical Interpretation and Indian Feminisms" is title of Melanchthon's public talk on November 20th.

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg is pleased to announce that The Rev. Dr. Monica Melanchthon will deliver the Norma Wood Lecture on Wednesday, November 20 at 2:15pm. Mark your calendars!

“Don’t miss this year’s Norma Schweitzer Wood lecture, delivered by one of the most well-known international Lutheran scholars in our 21st century global context" said the Rev. Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen, faculty Theologian at Gettysburg Seminary.

Church worker, theological educator, and a student of the Bible, Dr. Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon belongs to the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church, India. A graduate of the United Theological College, Bangalore, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (Ph.D.), she currently teaches Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at the United Faculty of Theology, MCD University of Divinity, Melbourne.

Largen added, "Dr. Melanchthon is sure to enlighten, challenge and inform our understanding of justice, particularly as it relates to women and the Lutheran faith.  She brings an incisive interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and a deep awareness of women’s oppression in her native India.  Come and hear how the Bible can speak to us today in ways both fresh and faithful!”

The Norma Schweitzer Wood lecture is an occasional offering of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in honor of the Dean Emerita exploring subject matter of social justice. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Schramm to Lecture at Opening Convocation and Conferred with Kraft Chair

Brooks Schramm to Lecture at Opening Convo and Conferred with Kraft Chair of Biblical Studies

bschramm.jpgSchramm Lecturer for 2013 Convocation
Opening Convocation at Gettysburg Seminary Features Conferral of Kraft Chair of Biblical Studies Upon Brooks Schramm

 The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg will open its 188th academic year Wednesday, September 04, 2013 with the conferral of the Kraft Chair in Biblical Studies upon Professor Brooks Schramm.

The 11:55am event will include the traditional academic procession and lecture by Schramm, elected by the faculty to open this academic year. The lecture and convocation is open to the public and takes place in the Seminary’s chapel, 147 Seminary Ridge.

Professor Brooks Schramm has taught Bible, Hebrew and particularly courses related to the Old Testament at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg since 1994. He received a B.A. in German and History from Texas A&M University in 1979, an M.Div. from Wartburg Theological Seminary in 1984, and a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from the University of Chicago in 1993. He served as Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Augusta, Illinois, from 1987-1994. Dr. Schramm was inducted into the faculty with tenure in 2000 and as a full professor in 2010. Active in the life of the local and wider church, he is a member of Christ Lutheran Church in Gettysburg.

Schramm’s scholarly interests include the history of the Hebrew language, Jewish biblical interpretation, and biblical theology. He edited the work of 23 colleagues in a festschrift entitled Raising Up a Faithful Exegete: Essays in Honor of Richard D. Nelson, his most recent predecessor in the Kraft Chair. His most recent book, Martin Luther, the Bible, and the Jewish People: A Reader was co-authored with his spouse, Kirsi Stjerna. He is currently working on Luther’s 1543 anti-Jewish treatise, “On the Ineffable Name and On the Lineage of Christ.” Schramm serves as editor of Gettysburg Seminary’s scholarly journal Seminary Ridge Review and has engaged with colleagues in collaborative work, including translations for two musical works: “Psalm 122: A Pilgrimage Song for David,” commissioned for the 275th anniversary of Christ Lutheran Church, York, Pennsylvania, and “Psalm 22: for the Maundy Thursday Stripping of the Altar,” both set to music by The Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Folkemer.

The Kraft Chair of Biblical Studies was made possible by a gift from the Kraft Foundation in 1955, resulting from the generous bequests from two members of First Lutheran Church, Wheeling, West Virginia, Ms. Julia Kraft and Ms. May Kraft. The gift was made to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in memory of Caroline Schmidt Kraft and Charles Christians Kraft. Previous holders of the Kraft Chair of Biblical Studies include Howard N. Bream, Lorenz Nieting, and Richard D. Nelson.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Music, Gettysburg! Announces 34th Exciting Season

MG2013-2014.jpgMUSIC, GETTYSBURG! ANNOUNCES new season of exciting music with favorites and new voices

Music, Gettysburg! will present a new season of inspired and inspiring performances in its 2013-2014 season, beginning with the Gettysburg Chamber Orchestra September 8th.
The new season will bring first time performances, including organist Bruce Neswick, soprano Stacey Mastrian, Ensemble Companio, and new guest performers with the Chamber Orchestra. The roster of performers in the 34th season also includes an all-star list of many of Gettysburg’s most-loved performers: Wayne Hill, Felix Hell, the Schola Cantorum, the Sunderman’s Metta Ensemble, Cormorants Fancy and others. 
Music, Gettysburg! concerts free and open to the public, thanks to the support of community and corporate generosity and especially by the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, which provides the acoustically magnificent Seminary Chapel, 147 Seminary Ridge.

Sunderman Conservatory faculty member Alexander Kahn said “What brings me the most joy about Music, Gettysburg! is that it adds such a rich and diverse array of performers and performances to our town. I’ve enjoyed every note I’ve heard, from the transcendent sounds of Tuvan throat singing to the heavenly voices of the Schola Cantorum to the triumphant peals of brass and percussion from the Gettysburg Chamber Orchestra.” He added, “the fact that I get to experience this great music in the beautiful and acoustically magnificent Seminary Chapel is of course an added plus!”


The 34th Season schedule is:

Sun., Sept. 8, 2013, 4:00 PM
Gettysburg Chamber Orchestra featuring Miranda Henne, Cellist
Sun., Oct. 20, 2013,  4:00 PM
Bruce Neswick, organist, the debut of one of the nation’s best known performers and improvisers

Fri., Nov. 1, 2013, 4:00 PM
Voices of Duty and Devotion: A Seminary Ridge Hymn Festival
Led by the Schola Cantorum of Gettysburg, and the Keystone Brass

Sun., Nov. 17, 2013, 4:00 PM
Metta Ensemble, Celebrating Verdi’s 200th birthday with overtures, arias, and ensembles from his operas.
Sat., Nov. 23, 2013, 4:00 PM
Happy Birthday
Two of our favorite performers – Wayne Hill and Michael Matsinko – 

Sun., Dec. 1, 2013, 7:30 PM
Advent Vespers with the Schola Cantorum leading a candlelight service filled with music of expectation, hope, and joy.

Sun., Dec. 15, 2013, 7:00 PM
Christmas Offering
The Gettysburg Children’s Choir, Teresa Bowers, Wayne Hill, Stephen Folkemer leading the Schola Cantorum, Michael Matsinko, and many other of our favorite performers gather around the Christmas tree to present a holiday sampler.

Sun., Jan. 19, 2014, 4:00 PM
Eaken Piano Trio As one of their favorite venues, Music, Gettysburg! is a stop on the Trio’s farewell tour.  

Fri., Jan. 24, 2014, 7:30 PM
Burns Night
Celebrate Robert Burns’ birthday with his poetry and Scottish music presented by Cormorants Fancy. 
Sun., Feb. 9, 2014, 4: PM
Felix Hell, organist  The pride of Baltimore returns to the chapel for his annual performance!
Sun., Mar. 2, 2014, 4:00 PM
Stacey Mastrian, soprano Sunderman Conservatory’s vocal professor brings her "intensity, focus and warm, passionate sound" (New York Times) up the hill!
Sun., Mar. 16, 2014, 4:00 PM
Ensemble New Amsterdam 
Gettysburg’s own Mary Hammann brings her ensemble back for some of the most compelling chamber music of the year!

Sat., Mar. 29, 2014, 7:30 PM
Ensemble Companio
 Joseph Gregorio brings home his chamber choir with its “vibrant sound and moving interpretations.”

Sun., May 4, 2014, 4:00 PM
A Bachfest, with the Schola Cantorum of Gettysburg performs some of Bach’s finest vocal and choral masterpieces.
Sun., May 11, 2014, 4:00 PM
Gettysburg Chamber Orchestra
Mary Hammann returns again to play viola solos and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony

For more information about the Music, Gettysburg! schedule, please call 717-338-3000 ext 2197 or visit the web site at www.musicgettysburg.org where you may also sign up for additional concert reminders and updates.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Gettysburg Seminary Marks 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg with Museum Opening

Seminary Ridge Museum Opens

bp_hanson_0157.jpgELCA seminary marks 150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg


     GETTYSBURG, Pa. (ELCA) -- Exactly 150 years ago on July 1, 1863, Union cavalry commander Gen. John Buford observed Confederate soldiers advancing on Gettysburg from the west. He surveyed the advance from the cupola of a Lutheran seminary building. Within a few hours the fields surrounding the seminary became a battleground, turning the seminary building into perhaps the largest field hospital of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg.
     The Seminary Ridge Museum opened July 1, 2013, inside that building, historically known as Schmucker Hall on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. The seminary is one of eight in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
ribboncut.jpg      In a special ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Civil War re- enactors, tourists, dignitaries and others, the museum opened with its 20,000 square feet of interactive exhibit galleries that tell the story of the first day of the battle on Seminary Ridge, the care of the wounded and human suffering within the walls of the building, and an examination of faith and freedom.
      "When the seminary building and campus were overrun by warring armies 150 years ago, this place became a fierce battleground where the future of the nation was at stake," the Rev. Michael Cooper-White, seminary president, said in welcoming remarks on the steps of the museum. "In the battle's aftermath, it was a place of healing for hundreds, and a hospice where some 70 soldiers closed their eyes for the final time. We can, we must ponder the meaning of those who, in the words of one, 'have come here to stay.'"
      Care for more than 600 wounded Union and Confederate soldiers continued in the building until September 1863.
      The building itself is a historical artifact, according to Barbara Franco, executive director of the museum. The museum is designed to preserve Schmucker Hall in the historical interpretive period from 1832 to 1914.
      About 80 percent of the brick Federal Style building is original, according to Cooper-White. From the dark wooden floors to the wainscoting, to the famous cupola, the museum's purpose is not "to preserve the past; rather, in opening this interpretive center we look to the future," he said, adding that its purpose remains "education, the patient and persistent search for truth, for answers to the great questions of conflict and reconciliation, freedom and human bondage, faith and doubt, which remain the same as they were 150 years ago."
      Tens of thousands of people from the across the country have gathered here to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle -- from viewing skirmishes and re-enactments to photographing the more than 1,300 monuments and markers that line the Gettysburg landscape.
      "People come for the re-enactment, but my prayer is that people leave with a recommitment to reconciliation for racial justice and peace," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson in remarks following the ribbon cutting. "The 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement combined with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (serves as occasions where we) can come together and ask, 'What is the unfinished work bequeathed to us? What is the unfinished work of freedom?'"

For information about the Seminary Ridge Museum, call 717-339-1300
or write to Dneil@seminaryridge.org

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Promoting Life Holistically

Final Reflection by President Michael Cooper-White
From El Salvador Travel Seminar of Gettysburg Seminary

President Cooper-White and Bishop Medardo Gomez
"To go through life and not encounter God is a tragedy.  Our goal is to promote holistic life in this world, and to prepare for the life to come." In those words spoken during our concluding session with him, Bishop Medardo Gomez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church summed up his personal and his church's "theology of life."  In the land of The Savior, I believe we indeed encountered God and caught frequent glimpses of the abundant life that is possible even amidst the multiple ongoing challenges confronted daily by the vast majority of the Salvadoran people. 

The specifics of the current challenges faced in El Salvador formed the basis for our 90-minute session with four staff members at the imposing U.S. Embassy in San Salvador on Friday morning.  Our conversation was delayed due to the hyper-security measures triggered when front-gate guards puzzled over a granola bar discovered in a student's backpack!  An embassy communications officer acknowledged our frustration and shared that these days he often schedules private appointments outside the embassy grounds at a local Starbuck's so that visitors can avoid the security hassles.  While by no means on an equal par, the obstacles we encountered in the process of gaining access to the turf over which is flown the flag of the United States of America gave this U.S. citizen a glimpse into what it’s like for Salvadorans who aspire to our visit or reside in our land. 

The conversation with our embassy representatives was lively and covered a broad array of subjects.  The hot topic of the moment was the State Department’s issuance of a travel warning to U.S. citizens, indicating heightened concerns for personal safety.  Explaining the action, the staff indicated our government is not convinced the gang truce, which has resulted in a significantly reduced murder rate in recent months, will last.  This unexpected action angered the Salvadorans, of course, at the very time they are seeking to boost their economy through increased tourism.  As it is, more Americans come to Gettysburg on a typical summer day than visit El Salvador in an entire year.

As we lifted off from San Salvador’s Comalapa airport and headed northward on Saturday morning, I had a profound sense of gratitude—to our valiant hosts of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church, to our trip coordinator, Pr. Stephen Deal, the ELCA’s Global Mission staffer who truly embodies the mission stance of “accompaniment,” and to Prof. Erling and our students for being wonderful traveling companions and fellow pilgrims.  As I had first witnessed in two previous extended sojourns in El Salvador more than a quarter century ago during the fiercest period of the war, once again I left with no doubt that Salvadoran Christians are, in Bishop Gomez’s words, “building signs of the reign of God.”

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Amigos in El Salvador

Last post from the field from
Intrepid photographer/Seminary President Michael Cooper-White with host,
Pastor Vilma Rodriguez

And President Cooper-White with Bishop Medardo Gomez, sporting his new “mitre”
(That’s a Gettysburg Seminary version, by the way)  Amigos!

The Gettysburg Seminary community will welcome this traveling group home today, January 26th.  (not pictured here is Jennifer Crist)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Salvador, Where Martyrs Walk Still

Reflection by President Michael Cooper-White
from El Salvador Travel Seminar

On anyone's short list of theological giants of the past 50 years will appear the name of Jon Sobrino.  For an hour this afternoon, our group sat around a table with Sobrino at the Jesuit University of Central America here in El Salvador's capital city.  Upon arrival, the tranquil site on a lush gentle hillside gives no evidence of the horrific night in 1989 when Salvadoran soldiers brutally murdered six priests, their household cook and her young daughter.   But the museum to the martyrs, whose murders caused worldwide sorrow and outrage, is unrelenting in its truth-telling and call to renew one's commitment to work for peace and greater justice.  Therein reside some of the priest's personal effects, and display cases with blood-stained grass and stones from where they fell.  The same site exhibits similar artifacts preserved from the death-place of four U.S. nuns who had been raped and murdered years earlier by one of the infamous Salvadoran death squads.

In response to my question about how he felt upon hearing that his colleagues and friends had been gunned down in the bloody raid whose shots drew shouts of anguish around the globe, Sobrino spoke softly of his initial lack of surprise.  By the late 1980's, so many others who spoke for and worked on behalf of Salvador's poor and oppressed masses had been threatened, apprehended, tortured or murdered that no one was surprised when eight more were added to the growing list of those killed for simply living out their Christian convictions and vocations.  Fr. Sobrino went on to describe his anger, especially at the assassinations of the beloved Salvadoran women who worked and served alongside the Jesuit fathers.  In Thailand at the time as a visiting professor, Sobrino was asked by his students there how he was reacting.  After describing his sadness and sense of loss of those who constituted his primary "family," he went on to say, "but the good news is that I was privileged for a time to live with such good people."

One needs only a short time in his presence to recognize that beyond being a first rate theologian, Fr. Jon Sobrino is "good people" too.  He was eager to have each one of us offer more than a perfunctory self-introduction.  He carefully jotted down our questions and made sure to address each one (and all this by the native Spaniard in flawless English).  His affection for Bishop Medardo Gomez and Pastor Vilma Rodriguez was apparent.  His attitude toward the Vatican and current pope, who has tried to silence Sobrino's prophetic voice off and on for three decades, offers frank critique without a hint of arrogance or bitterness.  He was enthusiastically intrigued as I described our Seminary's efforts in creating an interpretive center that may become another "museum of conscience" wherein pilgrims will encounter the same call to peace and reconciliation as is offered at the UCA.

Now well into the stage of life where most workers are relieved to retire, Sobrino continues to teach, write and make himself available to groups like ours who simply want to glean some of his insights and inspiration.  In the course of our wide-ranging discussions about liberation theology, the role of the United States in the ongoing Latin American struggles, and other topics, Sobrino casually described his encounters and friendships with Archbishop Oscar Romero, UCA president Ignacio Ellacuria, Fr. Rutilio Grande and others.  Then, in a surprising shift from events past to his vision for the future, Sobrino concluded our time together this way:  "My goal now is to walk in history feeling that Romero, Rutilio, Ellacuria and the others are still around.  In my older years I am finding it more difficult to walk, but I can't stop walking.  And that, my Lutheran friends, that's grace!"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

From El Salvador #3: Contested Space in El Salvador

Reflection by President Michael Cooper-White
from Travel Seminar in El Salvador

The Continuing Struggle For Peace -- (see Romero)

Two decades after a peace accord officially ended El Salvador's 12-year civil war, in many ways peace still eludes this nation named in honor of the Prince of Peace.  Already mentioned in previous posts are the ongoing violent confrontations between warring gangs.  While there is widespread hope that a fragile  temporary truce between them may become permanent, police and military forces remain on high alert.  Our group of pilgrims experienced this first hand yesterday on the return from Cara Sucia when our van was stopped by national guard officers who demanded to review our driver's license and credentials.  While the street scene in San Salvador's downtown and more upscale neighborhoods seems as safe on the surface as in any major U.S. city, many areas remain off limits for Salvadorans and visitors concerned about personal safety.  We awaken each morning to the shrill whistles of a private security guard who periodically signals to his clients--neighborhood homeowners who band together to employ him--that he is on duty providing protection. 

Today's morning visit to San Salvador's imposing cathedral provided a stark reminder that streets and gangland turf are not the only arenas of contested space.  As I write this reflection twelve hours later, I still find it difficult to absorb the change since I last visited the final resting place of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.  A quarter century ago, Romero's grave held prominent place in the cathedral's main transept.  In the fashion of medieval cathedrals, the common people would stop by for a brief visit en route to work, at lunchtime or whenever the spirit would move them to pray and draw strength in remembering their beloved slain spiritual giant.  Today one has to descend to the cathedral basement to visit Romero's tomb and view his portrait.  Upstairs in the main sanctuary is displayed a portrait of a prominent leader of Opus Dei, the Roman Catholic group regarded by El Salvador's poor as the extreme reactionary fringe.  A few years ago, the current Archbishop of San Salvador ordered removed from the cathedral's external walls the compelling folk art panels painted during the war years by artists of the world-famous La Palma community.  Clearly, the central see of El Salvador's predominant ecclesial community remains highly contested space.

Following our visit to the downtown cathedral, our group of pilgrims boarded our minibus for the ride to the cancer patient hospice where Romero lived for the duration of his ministry as Archbishop.  We were welcomed warmly by the sisters who steward the humble house where he took up residence after refusing to abide in the more luxurious official bishop's palace.  Then, following a brief reflection on a reading from the book of Hebrews, we sat for a prolonged period of silence in the hospital's chapel where Romero was gunned down while celebrating mass with some family friends. 

As I ponder all that I have experienced during three sojourns in this land of "The Savior," which now span the period of nearly 30 years, the overarching feelings are of humble gratitude and fervent hope.  For if, as we profess, the greatest glory comes only from the most contested space the world has known--the cross of the Savior for whom El Salvador is named--then we have been privileged to spend these few days on this turf surrounded  by those both living and departed who constitute what Hebrews calls the "great cloud of witnesses."  And as the polarization that underlies Salvador's continuing violence continues to cause so much suffering for so many, we must continue our fervent prayers that contested space here and everywhere may be ever-shrinking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In Cara Sucia ("Dirty Face")

 Reflection #2 from El Salvador
by President Cooper-White

"We are tired of seeing our local politicians ride in on a bicycle and go out in luxury cars." The Salvadoran Lutheran pastor who expressed his impassioned sentiment was conveying the frustration of many residents along the Paz River, where floods almost every year disrupt their lives and destroy their homes and crops. Multiple attempts to bring sufficient governmental money and technical engineering expertise that will keep the river within its banks have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears of those who can fix the problem.  In short, there is yet no lasting peace between struggling campesinos in the Cara Sucia communities and those elected to be their public servants.  But there is considerable hope as a result of work by a Lutheran-led organization called ADICOS, which has organized 30 local campesino communities into a powerful advocacy contingent. In explaining his pastoral stance to us, the "second career" minister who fought as a guerilla soldier during El Salvador's civil war (and who does make pastoral calls throughout his extensive rugged rural parish by bicycle!) declared, "We can't put God to the test by expecting the Divine One to provide for us while we remain sitting on our hands."

Never sitting on their hands, the valiant Christians of El Salvador have rolled up their sleeves and are carrying out works of mercy, justice- and peace-building in every corner of this Central American nation that has suffered so much for so long.  Salvadoran parish committee structures and job descriptions are quite different from those in most U.S. churches.  At the Lutheran Church in Cara Sucia (which means literally "dirty face") there are human rights promoters and psycho-social assistance teams.  Our study tour group was led by the latter in a fascinating workshop whereby they demonstrated how to help prepare communities for crises and recovery from natural disasters.  A still-small church by statistical measures, the Lutheran Church looms large in Salvadoran society, and in our visit with the Cara Sucia pastor we learned its secret.  "We work as a team.  I am never alone.  We trust the people." It's just that simple.

Not so simple are relations between the governments of tiny El Salvador and its mighty neighbor to the north.  As our group began a meeting Monday morning with Mr. Carlos Castaneda, the Vice Minister of Foreign Relations, I asked, "On this day when our nation inaugurates our president, what key message would you wish us to carry back home." Castaneda shot back immediately, "Your president Obama was reelected by Latino voters!" Castaneda went on to speak passionately of the need for immigration reform that will ease the burdens for some 2 million Salvadorans living in the United States.  He reflected on the suffering of so many families kept separated by unnecessarily restrictive U.S. inter-American travel and visa policies.  Our group will have immediate opportunity to engage in dialogue about this and other issues with our own governmental officials during a 90-minute session at the U.S. embassy on Friday.

As we traveled back from near the  Guatemalan border in our crowded mini-van, we were unable to tune in 92.5 on the vehicle's radio.  Had we been within range we could have listened to the broadcast from Radio Arpas of an interview I had been privileged to record earlier in the day.  The announcer/interviewer asked me to share the purpose for our visit and my impressions of the current situation in El Salvador.  In my far-less-than-perfect Spanish, I was able to testify to the courageous, holistic and inspirational work of the Lutheran Church in El Salvador.  Often when asked for advice by seminarians, I tell our students to be open to surprises--to really believe that tomorrow God will take us to places we cannot imagine today.  When I began my preparation for public ministry four decades ago, I certainly could not imagine my own voice being beamed out from some 20 transmitters throughout much of the countries of El Salvador and Guatemala. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Seminarian Preaches Sermon in Spanish while in El Salvador

Seminarian  Jennifer Crist, Lower Susquehanna Synod,
preaches her first sermon in Spanish, in El Salvador, Sunday.  
Crist is co-founder and president of "Tree 4 Hope" in Guatemala, a project for mission and service for young people in Guatemala, where she and her husband live four months each year
Photo by President Cooper-White

Pilgrims At Famous Civil War Site

From El Salvador – a Photograph from an important site

Fe y Esperanza community north of the capital once housed 1500 refugees during the civil war.  Today the site is a training center in organic farming and other "greening" initiatives.


From the Nation Named for the Savior

A Reflection from Travel Seminar to El Salvador
By President Michael Cooper-White
"I don't regard myself a hero.  There simply comes a time when you have to consider your calling and decide what you're going to do." In fact, our primary host for this 2013 study tour in El Salvador is a hero.  At the height of persecution for Lutheran and other church leaders during El Salvador's prolonged civil war two decades ago, word came that Pr. Vilma Rodriguez's and Bishop Medardo Gomez's names were atop the list of those slated for assassination by the infamous death squads.  With tears in her eyes, our sister Vilma described her <![if !vml]><![endif]>and her family's suffering during years of exile and being constantly on the run.
By the time Vilma shared her story on our second day in this small nation named for The Savior, we had already been welcomed by Bishop Gomez and his wife Abelina, herself a pastor in charge of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church's impressive youth and women's ministries. And we had been inspired by Dr. Angel Ibarra, who leads ecumenical environmental stewardship initiatives.  As repression of church leaders mushroomed in the mid-1980's, Ibarra spent 8 months imprisoned until he was finally released as a result of international pressure from the highest levels of U.S. and other governments.
Seminary students and their companion faculty members are rarely granted such privilege as being in the presence of contemporary heroes of the faith.  No less inspiring is the privileged opportunity of worshipping and conversing with the church's current and future heroic leaders.  On Saturday we were treated to a half-day workshop with leaders of the national Lutheran youth council.  In the current context of a fragile truce among the several gangs and drug warlords, wherein warfare may resume at any moment, major efforts are being launched by the youth to engage their peers in conflict-resolution and peace-building engagements.
As is the case everywhere for Christians, Sunday in Salvador is set apart for worship, fellowship and holy conversation.  Today's rich menu included all three in abundant measure, plus a Sunday supper of the most famous national food fare, traditional Salvadoran "pupusas.". Memorable for our entire group of pilgrims, this third Sunday of Epiphany is unlikely to ever be forgotten by Gettysburg seminarian Jennifer Crist, who preached her first-ever sermon in Spanish.  As she breathed sighs of relief and heard praise during lunch for a most commendable message on the wedding at Cana, Ms. Crist was surprised at the invitation for a repeat proclamation at the day's second service in a remote village called El Paisnal!
Thankfully, all group members are in good health, and a cohesive spirit is evident among us; this bodes well on the eve of beginning a very intense week of visits throughout the country.  At left, we are pictured with members of the Salvadorant youth leadership.  
Our first appointment Monday morning is with El Salvador's equivalent of the U.S. Undersecretary of State.  Few groups of visitors are granted access to such high-level government officials; the fact we will discuss critical current national issues like gang violence and church-state relationships with Sr. Carlos Castaneda is further witness to the powerful and prophetic profile of the small but dynamic and growing Salvadoran Lutheran Church

Friday, January 11, 2013

What's that? Worry about the Sunday Bulletin?

Religion Meets 21st Century Media
By John Spangler

When I offer communication primers, guest presentations in classes here or there, I often like to make the point that "Its not always high tech."  Among the several guests who were linked to the Religion and Media classroom this week was the Rev. Elise Brown, pastor of Advent Lutheran Church on the Upper West Side of New York City's Manhattan borough. She said that the look and feel of the Sunday morning bulletin reflects the self esteem of the congregation. This simple point resonated within the class, so much so that I would guess that it is one of those very true and yet very neglected aspects of regular parish activity.

Recent graduate John Wolf spotted the comment on facebook and responded with a brief video (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151513168020561) demonstrating the ability of a congregation that projects information on the worship space's wall to avoid printing such a bulletin.

Nevertheless, my guess is that more than 90% of congregations are still printing something for distribution for its primary gathering times, and most of them include notes and calendar items that they wish to be useful after one returns home.

Bulletins that interpret and guide people through worship may be seen as "low tech," but are aesthetically important and signify things about a ministry beyond the worship order or the seven days ahead. And in fact, require some technological and design skills to make good use of the current tool box. Desktop publishing changed bulletin printing a long time ago, and for the good. In my first call, the volunteer printing bulletins and news letters "donated" lots of dress shirts to the dumpster because the mimeograph was spreading ink all over him in collateral printing.

I suspect strongly that the "Sunday bulletin" is still the most read publication in the life of the church. Care for the primary guide and announcement tool for congregational use will be around for at least a little while longer. And if it is a barometer of self esteem, a sign of confidence and purpose, and a subliminal source of identity and messaging, then it is time and energy well spent to make sure it is doing its work. Let the bulletin be as effective as all the other forms of preparation, communication and hospitality that your ministry's mission demands. More than we know, it may even reflect upon the credibility of the experience, if not the message itself. What would a visitor conclude about the self esteem level of your congregation?


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Vocational Choices a Century Apart

Religion Meets 21st Century Media -- Day 3
by John Spangler

Last evening, the Religion Meets 21st Century Media class watched the film Network, which tells the unseemly story about the dramatic origins of Mark Zuckerman's Facebook. It is a work filled with poetic license taken by the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (West Wing fame). Zuckerman created the phenomenon known and identified among fellow students as the major platform for social media. But since it began as a student facebook for the purpose of enhancing "social life," it is filled with cringe inducing portrayals of undergraduate women, ivy league privilege, and for that matter, "dot com" culture.

An hour later, I was encountering media again, this time a PBS American Experience opener on The Abolitionists. In this 150th anniversary year of the great Battle that overtook the seminary grounds, I've been quite interested in aspects of the Civil War that intersected with the anti slavery advocacy and preaching of Gettysburg Seminary founder Samuel Simon Schmucker. Moreover, slavery and abolition represents another current among my present set of project priorities, culminating in the creation of the Seminary Ridge Museum (www.seminaryridgemuseum.org ) in the Seminary's historic, oldest building. This museum exhibit includes the 19th century dynamic of the way slavery was tearing the church's apart as it was the nation. The PBS program on the Abolitionists introduced William Lloyd Garrison as a 20 year old young man trying to find a purpose which would give his life's work meaning. Garrison chose Abolitionism, and specifically the publication of an Abolitionist newspaper.

Two young adults, about 20 years of age, finding a purpose that centered on communication platforms. One was driven by the cause of the injustice of slavery, the other by a complicated social revenge. One was threatened by society around him for his radical commitments to eliminated the economic and social structure of slavery. The other was the object of law suits by business partners and competitive fellow students. One was a "Gutenberger," the other a "digital native." 

Garrison stirred the pot in both northern and southern United States, and helped build momentum to end the institution of human enslavement left over from the nation's beginnings and often called its "original sin." Zuckerman created a system of communication that has become instrumental in the liberation movements in China and the Arab spring, as well as an identifiable place where young people spend a lot of digital time. In this class, students, including veteran pastors and seminarians pursuing ordination fill the room with observations, cases and examples in which the social media medium is a place where ministry can and does take place. I wonder what would have happened if William Garrison had the platform of facebook or if Mark Zuckerman had taken on the passion of the cause of ending slavery. That might also make a good movie.  

Ecotheology to be Taught Again this June (with or without the Bear)

CONTACT: John Spangler 717-338-3010 jspangler@ltsg.edu  www.Ltsg.edu/news

EcoTheology Course Offered in June, (with or without Bear)

The Rev. Dr. Gil Waldkoenig, having successfully recruited a bear to help teach an intensive traveling seminar on Eco Theology in the Northern Appalachian Landscape,  created a video describing the course at http://vimeo.com/56998261 . It is designed for seminarians and religious studies students, and will take place in this coming June.
Click on this link to see a 2.5 minute video introduction http://vimeo.com/56998261

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Assembling the People of God -- And New Media

A blog entry by John Spangler from the course "Religion Meets 21st Century Media"
From January 7-11, 2013, 17 learners, plus addtional experts from across the country are participating in an intensive course: Religion Meets 21st Century Media at Gettysburg Seminary

For a long time, I have defined the church’s first task and mission as that of gathering. Communication has been very much a part of that assembly, call to assemble, and the shape of the transcendent sense of what the dispersed, diverse church is that gathers as one, but in many
places. Guest presenter (via skype) Verity Jones of the New Media Project identified gathering as an important part of the gift and scope of new media. I agree, and believe that this is one of those cases in which new media is a ready tool to apply to helping the ministry of gathering. And I appreciate her pastoral sense of the tools of ministry, and her ability to move between old and new with grace and elegant style.

People are connecting through new media. Nothing really new there. They are being empowered to respond to large and pervasive societal and social questions. “Liberative” is a word she used where I might have said “liberating,” but the point is a strong one. As Christians, we ask the tough questions driven by the content of the gospel: are the words/stories/song liberating people from oppression, freeing people from that which binds them? Newer media in ministry seems to be helping the cause when it emerges naturally from the leadership of the congregation, seen and accepted as a natural extention of a coherent ministry.

The church still gathers, but the way in which it does so is part of what is changing. As a Lutheran, I hear the echo in the catechism’s explanation of the third article of the creed, in which Martin Luther reminds us that we 'cannot by our own understanding or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightended me...made me holy....' So we are called, contacted, invited to be in touch in new places and spaces often created by new media function.

Here is an example: The Seminary's Board Chair, a veteran pastor serving an interim ministry in a very large congregation, used facebook this week to explore an idea for his sermon.

"When we allow ourselves to see and hear in the midst of the noise in our heads and the busyness of our lives, maybe we will discover the Holy where the Holy always is: in the moments of silence that speak louder than thunder in our souls . . . in the right word spoken at the right time that touches the heart with healing; in joy of human laughter." (sermon thought for sunday)

One of several comments came in response: "I look forward to your sermon teasers. Glad they are back! Your words always make me think extra hard."

This exercise works on at least a couple of levels. A pastor gets the opportunity to prime the pump among those listening to his or her listeners, who begin to think about this word of God outside the 15 minutes of a sermon. And secondly, the preacher can listen to the way an idea lands in the lives of those people attached to a living community. Win win. Facebook created a space for ministry.