Letters to the Editor (March)

Rebuilding New Orleans

I recently returned from Camp Restore in New Orleans, completing a week of mission work that I consider both successful and frustrating.  It was successful because 66 people from nine congregations of the Northern Illinois District of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod pulled together to complete 14 projects, bringing a number of families one step closer to returning to their homes.  It was frustrating because our group was being replaced the following week by only 16 people and no one was scheduled for the week after that.

It seems that New Orleans has dropped off the radar scope as memories of Hurricane Katrina are replaced by other disasters.  Indeed, much of the Gulf Coast is in shambles following last year’s Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and the flooding in places like Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and other Midwestern locales.

Much of the city is still on its knees.  The famed Lower Ninth Ward is still in shambles and, by my uneducated guess, fewer than one in 10 houses have been replaced.  While many people who were evacuated to other parts of the country following the hurricane and its deadly storm surge will never return, others have nowhere else to go. 

I urge my fellow pastors, along with congregation members and other mission-minded folks, to continue to support and participate in the work of Camp Restore as they endeavor to restore faith, hope, and community to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Rev. William C. Cate
Schaumburg, Ill.

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Miss America

I just received my February 2009 Reporter.

As I turned to Page 2 of this issue, I was very happy to see the picture of our recently crowned Miss America. I turned my eyes upward to the headline, thinking it would be a long article about our Miss America and the national pageant.  Instead, I saw, “Kieschnick statement notes possible changes, including life issues, with Obama’s inauguration.”

Granted, that is important and should be noted, but couldn’t it have been in another spot, so that this young lady could have received due publicity? 

I know most Americans don’t know the difference between Miss America [and other pageants], but there is a great difference.  The Miss America Pageant is a scholarship program. Those who become the title holder for their states are then given the honor to compete in the national Miss America Pageant and spend the ensuing year speaking in public about their goals for the good of society. Those young ladies who are competing for the state and then the national crown are gifted young women who have worked diligently and long to achieve this honor. 

Our young people need all the encouragement we can give them in regard to their participation in our church activities and in society, Katie Stam (Miss America 2009) is not only a member of an LCMS congregation, but a product of our Lutheran school system! 

I would like to see more information about her as an incentive to our young people to strive for high goals.  They are out there.  Let’s encourage them.

Phyllis Jastram
Underwood, Minn.

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Sem education

In his February letter to the editor, Rev. Edward Kast assures us that he places “the highest value on what I learned at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.”  It’s hard to see how that could be, since he informs us in the very next sentence that only 10 percent of what he learned there plays any role in “what I actually do now as a pastor.”  The implication Kast leaves is that three years of academic study could reasonably be truncated to three months of learning the 10 percent applicable to parish practice.  If we follow his reasoning to its logical conclusion, we’d have to concede that the traditional M.Div. program is such a poor investment of Synod’s resources that it ought to be scrapped altogether.

But this is not the case!  Seminary is where I learned Greek and Hebrew, indispensable tools for preaching, teaching, and understanding Holy Scripture.   Seminary training made me conversant in the Lutheran Confessions.  It is where I learned how to plan and lead worship, write a sermon and preach it, to know and defend Lutheran doctrine and hermeneutics. And most importantly, seminary taught me to despair of myself and lean solely on the sufficiency of Jesus.  These are things I use every day — without them I wouldn’t be much of a pastor. 

Has experience taught me  things I could never have learned in the classroom?  Of course!  Every dimension of pastoral care improves with experience.  But experience has no value where it has no foundation on which to stand!  Our people need pastors who are well-trained and well-educated. They need to know that those tending their souls are competent in the art of applying the healing balm of the Gospel to wounded consciences first. It’s true that strong interpersonal skills are important, but they are always secondary to delivering the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.

Rev. Brian T. Stark
Defiance, Ohio

Please send letters via e-mail to REPORTER@lcms.org or by mail to REPORTER Letters, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295.  Please include your name, postal address, and phone number.  Letters may be edited for length and clarity. – Ed.

Posted Feb. 26, 2009

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