By Jeni Miller
Since May 2015, when the much-anticipated International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany, opened, thousands of visitors have worshipped, toured and bunked at the center — to engage in the city that made Reformation history.
With the renovations there complete, the Old Latin School now functions as a modern, multi-purpose international welcome, retreat and education center and outpost for proclamation of the Gospel.
“The response has been phenomenal,” said Kristin Lange, managing director for the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW), the body that governs the International Lutheran Center. “Since May 3, 2015, many guests have stayed here overnight, visited for a tour or wandered into the bookstore on a nice Wittenberg day.”
The center has hosted a number of conferences, seminars and college classes, keeping the building busy and bustling most days of the year. In summer 2016, the Eurasia Missionaries Retreat was held in Wittenberg and the chapel of the International Lutheran Center — which, according to Lange, is the brightest room in the building — “was filled every morning and evening with 60-plus voices singing the Lord’s praises.”
“I came on the scene one year ago in mid-February, and there have been few times that the building was empty,” added Lange.
As the ILSW managing director and sole full-time LCMS worker in Wittenberg, Lange is responsible for the practical and business end of running the nonprofit organization, in addition to working closely with the SELK (the German acronym for the name of the Synod’s partner church in Germany), planning programs for outreach and education, traveling to various sites for presentations and, of course, greeting and welcoming visitors to the Old Latin School. When she’s not out and about in the community, Lange guides visitors on tours of the building, shares the Christian faith and even manages the on-site bookstore that carries Concordia Publishing House titles.
The International Lutheran Center’s presence has been positive and growing over the last year and a half as well, with Lange explaining that it “has been very welcomed within Wittenberg, as we play a role in the church, tourism and historical spheres.”
Engaging in Wittenberg, day or night
As the 500th anniversary of the Reformation fast approaches, Wittenberg is seeing an uptick in the number of visitors and tourists to the city. Nonetheless, it’s not too late for LCMS groups, members and others to plan a trip, including a tour of the International Lutheran Center.
“The center would love to see more congregational, confirmation and study groups of all ages come and stay here and really delve into all the treasures that Wittenberg has to offer,” said Lange. “Visitors can even book a long-term stay with a window looking over Luther’s church! Even if folks are not staying in the building, they can use the chapel, as many day-trip groups have done.”
Tours of the International Lutheran Center can be arranged by appointment via an online form available on the center’s website, oldlatinschool.org/tours. Tour times follow general office hours during the week, and advance reservations are necessary to ensure that the director is in-house and available for the visiting group.
For lodging needs, the center relies on a nearby booking partner, Colleg Wittenberg, which manages all reservations, check-ins and lodging-related questions. While the International Lutheran Center does have current room openings for guests, visitors may click the “Lodging” tab on the oldlatinschool.org website or email Colleg Wittenberg (email@example.com) at their earliest convenience to inquire about upcoming dates and availability.
Getting ready for the big 5-0-0
The International Lutheran Center is taking part in the World Reformation Exhibition, May 20 through Sept. 10, 2017, by holding an exhibit in the building to highlight Lutheranism’s unique heritage as an historically confessional church. To meet the anticipated higher traffic, the center will host a pastor each week of the exhibit to serve as a greeter, guide visitors through the exhibit and share the Gospel.
“There are pastors primarily from the LCMS and SELK, but also other International Lutheran Council church bodies, who will spend one week to man an exhibit being hosted in the Old Latin School, telling the story of the Old Lutherans from the Prussian Union through the present day,” according to the Rev. Dr. Al Collver III, director of LCMS Church Relations and senior managing director of the ILSW.
‘All the possibilities’
“Currently the building is up and running and is occupied almost constantly,” noted the Rev. Dr. Michael Kumm, chairman of the ILSW. “We have Lutherans from all over the world visiting and studying in Wittenberg, while staying at the Old Latin School. This project and its continued operation will play a pivotal role in educating and reaching out to Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike well into the future.”
“Everyone in Wittenberg can only speculate what this year will bring — 500-year celebrations don’t come around that often,” said Lange. “We hope and pray during this highlighted year for Wittenberg — with its increased visits — that our presence, services, conversations and interactions will be a strong witness to our faith in Jesus Christ and the grace we receive so generously. We have the base, now we’re ready to grow into all the possibilities.”
Deaconess Jeni Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer and member of Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta.
Posted January 31, 2017