By Adriane Heins
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Freezing temperatures and precipitation that threatened “snowmageddon” were lost on pastors, seminarians and laypeople who gathered at Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) here Jan. 21-25 for its theological symposia.
This city is affectionately called “Fort Rain, Windiana.” And each year, ice, fur-lined hats and Lutherans from around the globe typically are on hand for the symposia.
This year, attendees from some 20 countries — including Argentina, Germany and India — braved the cold to engage two themes.
The exegetical portion of the symposia unpacked the question, “Where Does God Dwell? — A Real Presence Hermeneutics.” Speakers presented on topics ranging from worship in the Old Testament to the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.
Later in the week, the focus shifted to “Lutheran Distinctives in an Age of Religious Change,” when lecturers examined cultural conscience, Christian morality and what world Lutheranism will look like in 2015.
Those presenting included several of the seminary’s faculty. Among them were the Rev. Dr. Dean Wenthe, who is the Concordia University System’s interim president and former CTS president; the Rev. Dr. Gary Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Notre Dame and president of the Catholic Biblical Association; the Rev. Dr. Rune Imberg, former missionary and research director at the Lutheran School of Theology, Gothenberg, Sweden; and the Rev. Dr. Gerhard Bode Jr., chairman and associate professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
“What a joy it is each January to welcome hundreds of pastors, scholars and laypeople to the Fort Wayne seminary campus for the annual symposia series,” said the Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., president of CTS. “We are pleased we can provide stimulating presentations on contemporary theological and cultural topics while also offering the attendees the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and colleagues during their time on campus.”
LCMS Board of Directors Chairman Rev. Michael Kumm noted, “Well over 400 pastors and laymen braved the bitter cold and snow to participate in the academia and fellowship of the annual symposia. It is a theologically rich environment for the communion of the saints.”
“This is one of the best times of our year,” agreed Rast.
Emily Whitaker, a first-year student in the Master of Arts program at CTS, could already see the value of the event on its first day. “Symposia provides the opportunity for pastors and laymen to discuss vital theological issues faced by the church,” she said, “and more importantly, to implement what they’ve learned into their own parishes.”
But for some, the week started even earlier on Sunday, Jan. 19, with the seminary’s Kantorei Epiphany Choral Evening Prayer, held at the seminary’s Kramer Chapel. Members of the Kantorei, a 16-voice choir of men studying for the Office of the Holy Ministry, study both theology and music at the seminary.
“One of the high points of my time at the seminary has been singing in the Kantorei,” noted fourth-year student Aaron Uphoff who, along with the rest of the choir, just returned from an Epiphany tour through Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. “The truth and comfort of the Gospel are adorned by the beauty of music in the songs of the church, and it’s been a great blessing for me to sing of this truth and comfort with and for God’s people.”
As the symposium drew to a close and attendees packed to leave on Jan. 24, the consensus was evident: The week’s full-bodied dialogue made the frigid weather worth the trip.
“The welcoming camaraderie and commitment to Lutheran theology found at CTS means that symposia is a place where scholars and students, pastors and laity enjoy energetic theological conversation, which serves our church and Christian life in the world,” said the Rev. Anthony Dodgers, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Charlotte, Iowa.
Adriane Heins is executive editor of The Lutheran Witness.