By Jeni Miller
Nearly four years after the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany, opened its doors, the mission to share the Gospel in the city that made Reformation history is going strong.
According to the Old Latin School website (oldlatinschool.org), the school was “constructed in 1564 only 35 yards from the main entrance to the ‘Mother Church of the Reformation’ — St. Mary’s Church, where Luther preached more sermons than anywhere else.”
In 2007, a partnership of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and Concordia Publishing House obtained the Old Latin School and began working to repair and restore it. On May 3, 2015, the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School was formally dedicated.
Almost four years later, the center continues to host visitors, worshipers, students and neighbors who stop by to talk, learn and reflect.
According to the Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber, who has been called as managing director for the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW), the body that governs the International Lutheran Center, “It’s nearly exclusively locals coming in, [and] we have about 50–100 people sign the guest book every month.”
The visitors are varied, as are their reasons for visiting.
“We get Scandinavians, people from the Baltics and Asia, Roman Catholics, Protestants, secularized people, but also confessional Lutherans from across the world,” said Weber.
“A young man in a wheelchair comes around every now and again to [discuss the] depths of life and death. A male nurse working around Dresden has gotten to know the LCMS through social media. An LCMS member serving in the U.S. military in Europe came to visit to stock up on books from CPH. That was a long and intensive visit.”
The center has seen several new developments.
Kristin Lange Straueli, who had been serving as the ILSW’s managing director, has transitioned out of her role due to her marriage and relocation to South Africa. Weber has been serving since August, but will be officially installed later this month.
Weber presides over regular Divine Services at the center. He also shares weekly devotions with children at a local public school, 90 percent of whom are not baptized.
“[The children] are illiterate in matters of the Christian faith,” said Weber. “So that is a great mission opportunity and evangelistic outreach, teaching and preaching Christian basics to these young students at the local school.”
A place to study, celebrate
As part of a partnership with Concordia University, Irvine (CUI), Calif., the center is also hosting students for a semester-long study-abroad program, open to both students of the Concordia University System and “lifelong” learners. CUI has partnered with the Christian study-abroad organization PHoS to manage the program.
“The grand vision is to see Wittenberg be the first of many programs of this kind,” explained William Hartley, founder of PHoS. “There are so many places in the world where the Lutheran church is thriving. We need places where we can study the Bible and theology abroad in a context that upholds our Lutheran distinctives. We hope to see students live, study and serve in more of these places … and then bring the lessons they learn abroad back to their churches in the states.”
The credits earned through this program are transferable to any college or university. Students may apply at PHoSAbroad.com.
Other upcoming educational opportunities at the International Lutheran Center will focus on “Luther Highlights,” what Weber describes as “quarterly intensives on Luther’s life and theology, and on that of his friends and colleagues like Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, Jonas and others.”
In addition, the Lutheran Leadership Development Program (LLDP), a project of the International Lutheran Council, the LCMS, Concordia Publishing House and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., will host its first class of students at the Old Latin School this month. (Find out more here.)
The center also participates annually in the public commemoration of the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, Martin Luther’s wedding anniversary and birthday, the annual Reformation festival and the local Christmas market. The International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School is well-positioned in the city, right next to the city church, St. Mary’s, so visitors can be in the center of the action during these annual highlights.
Tours of the International Lutheran Center can be arranged through the center’s website at oldlatinschool.org/tours. Tour times follow general office hours during the week, with reservations necessary to ensure that the director is available. The director can also be reached by phone at +49 3491 420 290 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The Gospel outreach and other work at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg welcomes one-time or recurring gifts, which may be made:
- by credit card at ilc-online.org/donate (select Wittenberg Outreach in the drop-down menu); or
- by check at International Lutheran Council, P.O. Box 18775, St. Louis, MO 63118 (write Wittenberg Outreach in the memo line).
Deaconess Jeni Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer and member of Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta.
Posted Jan. 28, 2019