Wednesday, October 26, 2011

November 1 "Quodlibet" featuring distinguished professor Richard Stewart

On Tuesday, October 25, "Quodlibet" Distinguished Professor Richard Stewart listened attentively to some 75 questions thrown his way by LTSP faculty, students and staff. The questions ranged from queries about technology and the church to church architecture appropriate for today, and hefty questions concerning sin and theology and African history as it relates to the church.  

The Panel of Seminarians
An attentive panel of seminarians - Christie Stratton, Jane Forry, Leslie Scanlon and Rodney Smith - sorted the questions into categories and fed them back to Prof. Stewart and the audience. Next comes the fun part. On Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 11:30 am in Benbow Hall at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP)'s Brossman Center, Stewart will respond to the dizzying array of queries. (In the role of listener on the 25th, Stewart was limited to shrugs, puzzled looks, and nods, depending on what he heard.)

LTSP Dean J. Paul Rajashekar introduced the quodlibet process to the seminary audience, which included Trustees attending a fall board meeting. He explained the program dates from medieval times, when a professor would be asked "any question whatever" by an audience including his peers. (The professor doesn't have to answer them all, just those of his or her choosing.)

Prof. Stewart (right) with trustees (from left)
Dr. Robert Blanck and Carl Phelps.
Stewart was decked out for the occasion in a pink "Heretics" T shirt, which the seminary football team will wear when it competes with other seminary flag football teams this weekend in the annual "Luther Bowl." 

Quodlibet is open to the public, and there is no admission charge. The LTSP campus is located in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia at 7301 Germantown Avenue.

reporting and photos by seminary writer Mark Staples

Seminary honors State Sen. LeAnna Washington

LTSP President Philip Krey and
Sen. LeAnna Washington
The inscription beside a newly unveiled portrait of State Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-PA 4th Senatorial) says simply, “Without her support and that of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, this facility would not have been possible.”

The facility in question is The Brossman Learning Center at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), and the portrait hangs outside of Brossman’s Benbow Hall, which hosts scores of community events each year. Washington has spearheaded efforts to secure funds from the Commonwealth to help pay for the structure.

Sen. Washington, whose district includes the seminary and the surrounding community, has supported the seminary's development of several facilities including Brossman. Most recently, the senator secured a $250,000 grant to aid in construction of a connector between Brossman and the century-old Krauth Memorial Library, giving handicap access to this historic and important resource. While integral to the academic work of the seminary, both the library and Brossman Center are open to the public, with the library often used by members of the community for research, and The Brossman Center hosting a variety of community events.

Rev. Dr. J. Louis Felton
Perhaps the prayer petitions by Washington’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. J. Louis Felton of Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, best summed up both the spirit of the occasion and the momentous community partnership with the seminary that led to the gift of state funds. “We have separation between church and state, but we do not have divorce,” Felton said. “We still have visitation rights.” Those visitation rights were also referenced in remarks by Dan Muroff, past president of East Mt. Airy Neighbors, a community organization which has its offices on the seminary campus, when Muroff referred to The Brossman Learning Center as “the Town Hall in Mt. Airy.”

LTSP Trustee chair Rev. Dr. John Richter
In brief remarks paying tribute to Washington, LTSP President Philip D. W. Krey said, “No public official has done more for this school than you have.” Krey described as an example of Washington’s life of public service her passion on behalf of victims of domestic violence and described an annual banquet on behalf of victims, hosted at LTSP and organized by Washington.

Unveiling the portrait
“These are challenging times for the seminary and challenging times for political leaders,” said the Rev. Dr. John Richter, chair of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, who expressed thanks to Washington on behalf of the Trustees. “We are grateful for your partnership and generous commitment to do what you have done for this little corner of God’s kingdom.”

President Krey, Trustee Richter,
Sen. Washington & Dan Muroff
After the portrait was unveiled, a grateful and visibly moved Washington, who was awarded an honorary doctorate by LTSP two years ago, said the initiative to raise support for the seminary was an example of her low profile commitment over 18 years in office to “getting things done” in the name of public service. “As soon as I met President Krey, I came to appreciate his vision for the seminary and its relationship to serve the community,” she said. “And I felt an immediate connection to that vision and a desire to help make his dream for that vision of a broader community relationship become more of a reality.” She cited the seminary as an example of putting public funds to good and visible use in terms of the community.

The Rev. Dr. Jayakirian Sebastian, chaplain of the seminary, led a brief religious service during the event. The service also featured a prayer of gratitude for the seminary and the service of Sen. Washington delivered by Pastor Felton.  

reported by seminary writer Mark Staples,
photos by seminary media consultant John Kahler

Thursday, October 20, 2011

LTSP to Recognize Sen. LeAnna Washington October 25

Sen. LeAnna Washington
(photo: Sen. Washington website)
Pennsylvania Senator LeAnna M. Washington (D-PA 4th Senatorial) will be recognized at a special ceremony on Tuesday, October 25 in acknowledgment and thanks for her continuing support of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) and the seminary's central place in the Northwest Philadelphia community. The ceremony will mark the unveiling and dedication of a portrait of Pennsylvania Senator Washington at 9:30 am in the public areas of The Brossman Learning Center on the seminary's campus, 7301 Germantown Avenue in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. The public is invited to join the seminary's community, administration, and members of the seminary Board of Trustees at the recognition event.

Senator Washington, whose district includes the seminary and the surrounding community, has supported the seminary's development of several facilities that are integral in the public life of Northwest Philadelphia, including The Brossman Center, securing state grants to assist in building these facilities. Most recently, the senator has secured a $250,000 grant to aid in construction of a connector between The Brossman Center and the century-old Krauth Memorial Library, giving handicap access to this historic and important resource. While integral to the academic work of the seminary, both the library and Brossman Center are open to the public, with the library often used by members of the community for research, and The Brossman Center hosting a variety of community events and activities, including a recent domestic violence event hosted by Senator Washington.

Senator Washington's portrait will be hung in the public lobby space of The Brossman Center, where it will be on view by members of the public and LTSP students, faculty, and staff as they enter to use the facility that was made possible thanks in part to the staunch dedication and support of Senator Washington. The seminary chose this event as an opportunity to publicly thank the Senator on behalf of LTSP and the community she serves and represents.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thursday, October 20 Prospective Student Day postponed

LTSP's Thursday, October 20th Prospective Student Day has been postponed until November 17th. Please contact if you would like to schedule an individual visit or to register for the November 17th Prospective Student Day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Congregation Day celebrating life of Henry Muhlenberg: Something for everyone

(see photos from Congregation Day at the bottom of this story)
Congregation Day, celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of North American Lutheran church organizer Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, had a little something for everyone.

If you enjoy listening to a thought-provoking, entertaining account of larger-than life figures, then Dr. Karl Krueger’s stirring lecture on the life and sea-tossed trials of Muhlenberg was right up your alley. Krueger directs the Krauth Memorial Library on the campus of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), which hosted this day, part of a series of events recalling Muhlenberg’s life and work, on Saturday, October 15, 2011.

If you were part of the German Evangelical Lutheran Conference in North America, then the day was an ideal highlight to this year’s Muhlenberg celebration.

If you were a young confirmand from Faith Lutheran Church in Mt. Penn, near Reading, PA, and you think in terms of Tweets and texting, then getting to look over Muhlenberg’s 250-year-old journals featuring his scripty handwriting with a quill pen might have opened up a “new” old world for you. Plus, you got a chance to try journaling the old-fashioned way in the Lutheran Archives Center in The Brossman Learning Center at LTSP. That exercise was led by the Rev. Ellen Anderson, director of Alumni and Church Relations for LTSP’s Office for Philanthropy. Natalie Hand, director of Foundation Relations for that office, was co-host for the event.

If you appreciate an important overseas perspective, then the presentation by Dr. Thomas Muller-Bahlke, director of the Director of the Francke Foundations in Halle, Germany, was for you. Halle was the place that sponsored Muhlenberg’s missionary exploits to North America beginning in 1742. Muller-Bahlke described the history and impressive work of the Francke Foundations today, with its sponsorship of four schools, including the teaching of gardening and music, and its remarkable Library.

Finally, if you are captivated by history, then the bus trip to Trappe in Montgomery County, probably made your day. First, you got to visit the Berman Museum at Ursinus College to view an exhibit on the life of Muhlenberg and his family entitled “Pastors and Patriots.” Trappe historian Richard Buckmaster escorted the attendees through the museum gallery and talked about the exhibit highlights. Then, you got to hear the Rev. Herbert H. Michel, D.D., pastor emeritus of Augustus Lutheran Church, tell the story of how farmers, who lived in simple log cabins with dirt floors, helped Muhlenberg construct the church building in 1743. Augustus’s original church is the oldest Lutheran building in the United States still in continuous worship use today. OK, the building (no electricity, heat or air-conditioning, just as Muhlenberg would have known it) is only used for worship between Father’s Day and around Labor Day, plus for Christmas Eve worship, where candles furnish the only scant warmth. The rest of the year the congregation praises God in the “new” 1850 building next door.

Krueger’s lively presentation to about 70 persons attending the day traced Muhlenberg’s birth in Einbeck in Northwest Germany’s Hannover on Sept. 6, 1711, and his historic career in the colonies. He described Muhlenberg’s study of theology at the University of Gottingen, and his efforts with classmates to teach disadvantaged children how to read, write and learn arithmetic. In Halle in Middle Germany, Muhlenberg spent 1738 at an orphanage for 2,000 children, which featured a school and pharmacy, and continues a vital mission in education today.

During that time, Muhlenberg was influenced greatly by August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), and gained a global perspective as well as a knowledge of an important approach to education and social work. August’s son, Gotthilf August Francke, was a considerable influence as well.

Then came Muhlenberg’s call to the agricultural community of Grosshennersdorf, east of Halle, in 1739, following his ordination in Leipzig. He was the assistant pastor until the patron for the congregation died. “Henry was downsized. His salary was reduced,” Krueger explained. “And he began to reconsider his possibilities.” He thought about an assignment to East India. But in Halle, Gotthilf Francke had “received a letter in 1733 asking for a pastor to be sent to congregations in North America,” Krueger said. “And in 1739 (after nothing happened) Gotthilf received another letter that basically said, ‘Hey, remember us?’ Things moved very slowly in those days,” Krueger said. And so on Muhlenberg’s 30th birthday, he learned he was to be sponsored as pastor to a new land.

In May of 1742, he got his letter of call for three years. Of course, once in North America Muhlenberg never returned home, but first he had to get to Philadelphia (via Savannah, Georgia) from London in what Krueger described as a harrowing trip aboard a packet ship with cargo and 10 cannons. The vessel was pushed across the Atlantic in zig-zaggy directions by ornery, contrary winds, and ran out of food and water before reaching the East Coast of the colonies. “On ships like these, about a third of the passengers could be expected to die,” Krueger related.

Then came a trip from Charleston, SC, to Philadelphia aboard a storm-tossed sloop. The journey lasted two weeks and featured times when a seasick Muhlenberg was “throwing up over the side.” There was another complication once Muhlenberg announced his presence to the three congregations he had been called to serve in Philadelphia, Providence (Trappe) and New Hanover (Falckner’s Swamp, near present day Gilbertsville, PA). “No one had told them he was coming,” Krueger said. Muhlenberg then had the indelicate task of not only introducing himself and his credentials, but also of unseating his less-qualified predecessors in the three pulpits.

Then began his remarkable decades of ministry in the colonies, organizing more than 100 congregations from Savannah, GA, to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. As both Krueger and Michel explained, Muhlenberg was really like a modern-day Bishop for the young church.

“He established a constitution for the church, a liturgy and a hymnal, and reviewed the qualifications for those seeking to be pastors,” Michel told visitors to Augustus Church. Krueger told his audience at LTSP that 280 people signed the young church’s constitution in October of 1762, “a declaration of interdependence signed 14 years before the Declaration of Independence in the colonies.” During the 1780s came the liturgy, and in 1786 came the hymnal. When Zion Lutheran Church was constructed in Philadelphia, it seated about 3,000 people and was the largest sanctuary in the colonies, hosting many events of the day. (The building no longer exists.)

Muhlenberg died in 1787, and is buried outside old Augustus Church. The gravestone is marked with the words, “Who he was future ages will know without a stone.”

“We are sitting here today because of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg’s vision,” Krueger concluded.

The opening worship for the day was led by the Rev. Martha Kriebel, pastor of Trinity Reformed Church, United Church of Christ, Collegeville, Pennsylvania. The closing worship at Augustus Church was led by the Rev. John H. Van Haneghan, pastor of St. James Lutheran Church in Phillipsburg, NJ. Dr. Philip D. W. Krey, president of the seminary, welcomed the audience with brief opening remarks.

Photos from Congregation Day

Participants in the confirmation track listen to archivist John Peterson tell about Muhlenberg's papers. 

Confirmation track participants with the Rev. Ellen Anderson

Confirmation track participants making an entry in their diaries, as Muhlenberg did in the 18th century

Confirmation track participants at Old Augustus church, Trappe

The Rev. Herb Michel telling the group at Old Augustus Church, Trappe, about Muhlenberg and the church at Trappe. 

Congregation Day group assembled in front of Old Augustus Church, Trappe.
reporting and photography by seminary writer Mark Staples
updated October 25, 2011 to include information on the Berman Museum tour

Friday, October 14, 2011

Position Opening Announcement: TEY Director

Please share this opening with those who might be interested. The position description and posting announcement can also be downloaded from: 

The Lutheran Theological Seminaries at Gettysburg and Philadelphia invite nominations and applications for the position of Director for their joint Theological Education with Youth program. The candidate selected will be responsible for oversight of all TEY programs on a one-third to one-half time basis as program needs and candidate availability determine.  The director will work collegially in both schools’ efforts to expand outreach to young persons through an annual Theological Academy, a Crossroads “plunge” experience, facilitating counselor training at regional outdoor ministries, and other programs as needs and resources determine.  The director will coordinate the work of others who may be involved in TEY-related work, and will be a primary liaison to the Eastern Cluster’s Project Connect, as well as the Region 9 Bishops’ School held annually at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.    

The successful candidate will give evidence of mature Christian faith, commitment to theological education, demonstrated effective youth ministry experience, the ability to oversee programs and supervise staff and volunteers. The candidate will be able to develop authentic relationships and articulate, promote and interpret the mission of TEY among its multiple constituencies.  Strong verbal and written communication skills and comfort in two technologically sophisticated campus environments 140 miles apart will be essential.  The position will require some travel.

Resumes and applications will be reviewed as received.  In order to fill the position by November 15, 2011, it is anticipated that candidate interviews will be conducted in late October or early November.  The position remains open until filled.  Please download the  position description from, and send letters of nomination or candidate resume with an accompanying cover letter to: Personnel Officer, Lutheran Theological Seminary, 61 Seminary Ridge, Gettysburg, PA 17325; telefax 717/334-3469; e-mail  The seminaries are equal opportunity employers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Seminarians discover the wonders and challenges of ministry in the Port of Philadelphia

As part of a field work assignment, five scholars from LTSP learned about the work of Seamen’s Church Institute and visited crewmembers aboard a Chinese ship bearing a cargo of steel to Camden, NJ.

“I discovered the ministry of Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) to be such a positive thing, just what the church should be doing, caring for God’s beloved children in a time of real need,” said Susan Loney of Wilmington, DE.

“I was impressed to learn of the advocacy side of SCI’s ministry, looking after crewmembers often confined to visiting ships because they may be viewed here as potential terrorists,” said Kerri Walsh of Medford, NY.

“We sometimes think of shopping malls as representing the ‘religion’ of the marketplace,” said Daniel Spigelmyer of McClure, PA. “It’s neat to see malls as also a focus for ministry, places SCI takes seafarers who need a little time for respite away from their ships.”

And Alexa Epstein of Philadelphia, PA, remarked about “the complexity” of those who participate in the life of the Port of Philadelphia. “All the different goods that come through the port, and all the agencies that are a part of the work – the ministry of SCI brings a humanizing dimension to it all.”

Loney, Walsh, Spigelmyer, Epstein, and their colleague from The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), Rachel Anderson of Newington, CT, were part of an historic field work visit to SCI today. The first-year seminarians learned about the many aspects of the ministry. They toured the Maple Mighty, a steel cargo ship from China delivering goods to the Camden-Beckett Terminal in New Jersey along the Delaware. It was the first time in SCI’s 168-year history that seminary students had made a field work visit to learn about the ecumenical and interfaith ministry that serves 50,000 seafarers annually. The quintet discovered that SCI visits 1,500 ships in a given year in the Philadelphia Port’s 31 terminals along 125 miles of Delaware River shoreline – from Fairless Hills to Marcus Hook in Pennsylvania and from Burlington to Paulsboro in New Jersey. They learned that the vast array of cargo ships bring to Philadelphia includes fruits, cocoa, oil products, steel, wood and gypsum to make sheetrock, and that 95 per cent of goods made use of by regional citizenry come to them by water. The seminarians were hosted the Rev. James Von Dreele, an Episcopal priest who serves as executive director of SCI; the Rev. William Rex, a Lutheran chaplain to SCI on call from Seafarers International House in New York City, and Mark Staples, seminary writer for LTSP, and a volunteer shipboard visitor for SCI. Arrangements for the visit were made by the Rev. Dr. Charles Leonard, a one-time U.S. Navy Chaplain who supervises contextual education at LTSP.

Von Dreele shared many stories and anecdotes, exploring the ecumenical scope of the SCI ministry, which includes Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, as well as Lutheran and Episcopal chaplains. Volunteer ship visitors also include a Muslim Imam. He explained that worldwide there are 750 seafarer ministry programs, with 150 in the U.S. He emphasized that the SCI outreach is incarnational – a reflection of Christ, and that the ministry focuses on the goodness of Creation – which includes the essential importance of water.

He emphasized the hardship seafarers endure to get us goods that we need – nine months or more away from home and family at a time, voyages over storm-tossed seas that can last as much as seven weeks, and then, when seafarers reach port, only about 25 percent may qualify for shore leave because of tight, post 9/11 security restrictions. Shipboard visitors from SCI thus provide critically important affordable cell telephone services and MIFI equipment, making it possible for seafarers to contact loved ones by phone or via the Internet. “We are ambassadors,” Von Dreele and Rex pointed out. “We provide the only hospitality that these visitors really receive. That makes us not only the face of Christ to them, but also the face of America.”

Von Dreele and Rex told the seminarians they are hoping a new generation of chaplains may be found for ministries like SCI, including pastors who, like Rex, may serve a congregation and also serve part time in America’s seaports in chaplaincy. In addition to his service as a Lutheran chaplain, Rex is pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Ferndale, Bucks County, PA. Anderson is a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Newington. Epstein is a member of University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation in Philadelphia. Loney belongs to Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Wilmington. Spigelmyer belongs to Trinity Lutheran Church in McClure, PA, and Walsh belongs to the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Pachogue, NY. All are candidates for the MDiv degree, which makes them candidates for ordination.

Five LTSP scholars took part in the first ever field work visit from the seminary to the Seamen's Church Institute (SCI) Sept. 24. From left are Pastor Bill Rex, Lutheran Chaplain to the Port of Philadelphia; seminarians Daniel Spigelmyer, Susan Loney, Rachel Anderson, Kerri Walsh, Alexa Epstein, and the Rev. James Von Dreele, SCI executive director and chaplain to the Port of Philadelphia. The seminarians learned of SCI's ministry of hospitality to 50,000 seafarers visiting the Philadelphia Port each year. They also visited the crew of the Chinese-flagged cargo ship Maple Mighty, seen behind the seminarians. The ship was delivering steel to the Camden-Beckett Terminal in New Jersey.
reporting and photography by seminary writer Mark Staples