While roaming through the Facebook pages of our Concordia Higher Education System, Congregations Matter came across this posting from our Seminary in Fort Wayne about a group building “bridges of gratitude” at the seminary:
The visitors here with us this week at CTSFW are calling themselves, quite appropriately, “Friends of the Fort.” Made up of LCMS pastors and congregations from around the country (Florida, Texas and Nebraska are among their home states), this group serves the church by supporting her seminaries. If you’ve been watching our chapel services this past week, then you’ve heard two of their number, guest preaching yesterday and today.
So far they have provided coffee, fruit and pastries for coffee hour following chapel yesterday, hosted a meal for the faculty last night, and are hosting a barbecue this evening for the Seminary community. They have also spent the last two days stopping by every office on campus to pass out gifts that show their appreciation for everyone who works here, from the maintenance staff to the office workers to the CTSFW Facebook page manager sitting at her desk on the third floor of Dorm B, writing the posts for the day.
The best part of these gifts are the words that come with them: a thank you card illustrated and written by children in their congregations and schools, the encouraging, “You are building the Kingdom of God,” and “Your work gives us Sundays,” and a note that says, simply, “1 Cor. 15:58.”
Thank you, Friends of the Fort!
(“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”)
Thanks, Gifts — And the Word!
Congregations Matter has come to learn that the preachers in the Chapel were Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Skopak of Jacksonville, Florida (Concordia Seminary — St. Louis class of 1992) and Luke Schnake (Concordia Theological Seminary — Ft. Wayne class of 1978). Both of their chapels are on the CTSFW Facebook page. We reached out to Dr. Skopak for comment regarding the event and he said:
“Over the past few years I have become friends with Dr. Larry Rast, the president of CTSFW. I have participated with “We Love the Sem” event in St. Louis (my alma mater) and asked if it would okay if I brought a group of pastors who simply wanted to build bridges of gratitude with his faculty, staff, and students. Dr. Rast happily accepted our offer.
Our goal was simple: Let the community of the Seminary know that the greater church appreciates all that they do for the sake of the Kingdom. We brought simple gifts of gratitude to all 93 staff members and 25 faculty. With those gifts we included “Thank you cards” prepared by students in our Lutheran Schools. We provided a coffee fellowship after chapel, a sit down steak dinner for the faculty, and a barbecue for the whole seminary community.
Our funding came from the churches we serve and we paid for all of our travel costs. Even congregations that couldn’t send their pastor pitched in. We didn’t want to burden the seminary…we wanted to bless it. I feel as though I have a greater appreciation for our seminary in Fort Wayne, the gift their faculty is to the church, and the dedication their students (both those preparing for the Ordained Ministry as well as those preparing to be Deaconesses) have to serve their Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. And one final thought: What a privilege and honor it was to serve as Celebrant and Preacher in Kramer Chapel. I know Luke (Schnake) feels the same!”
Imagine How It Could Be in the Synod
Building Bridges. Finding common ground. Blessing and lifting one another up. Doesn’t this sound just like St. Paul?
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart…” (Philippians 1:3-7a, ESV)
Maybe this group of congregations and their pastors are giving us a picture that is worthy of our attention and duplication. When eight pastors representing seven congregations from ALL FIVE of our LCMS regions (with additional churches that helped fund the effort) can make such an impact on our Seminary in Fort Wayne, the Kingdom is blessed, people are affirmed, and we can say with certainty: Congregations Matter!