By Cheryl Magness
During a Nov. 4 chapel service at the The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) International Center in St. Louis, the Rev. Dr. David Wurster and the Rev. James McDaniels were honored with the Christus in Mundo (“Christ in the World”) award in recognition of their “significant, sustained contributions” in LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry (SPM).
SPM trains and endorses ordained and commissioned ministers to serve people who are sometimes described as living “on the edge.” People “on the edge” live in a variety of locations under unique and difficult circumstances. They may be ill, imprisoned, isolated, aging or troubled, but they need what everyone needs: compassionate care and the saving message of God’s love in Jesus Christ. SPM pastors provide both as they seek to serve the suffering wherever they may be.
Preaching on Acts 20:29–38 at the Nov. 4 service, the Rev. Robert Zagore, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission, said, “Today we have the high honor of giving out what Specialized Pastoral Ministry recognizes as the highest award given to its practitioners within Lutheranism. … It recognizes a lifetime worth of service … in the midst of some of the worst things you’ve ever seen … [in] the most difficult circumstances … armed with the Word of God and the promise of His grace.”
Zagore continued, “Our SPM folks sign up for jobs and they don’t even know what it’s going to mean. They stand there with the Word of God and the promises of God … at the times when they’re needed most.”
‘We are all chaplains’
As he accepted his award, Wurster said he was surprised, humbled and grateful to be recognized, adding that, in his years working “on the edge” as a chaplain in many challenging contexts, he often thought of 2 Cor. 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Wurster currently serves as a consultant and member of the Board of Directors for Samaritan Counseling Center of Buffalo, N.Y. After graduating in 1969 from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (CSL), he was a Wheat Ridge Fellow and was accepted into the STM program in Pastoral Counseling at CSL. He began his clinical training at Care and Counseling in St. Louis and completed his Ph.D. in Pastoral Counseling at St. Louis University.
Wurster was mentored by family psychiatrist Dr. Carl Whitaker and the Rev. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, speaker of “The Lutheran Hour” radio program. He taught homiletics at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario. He has also taught and consulted in Sri Lanka and Nagercoil, India, and has served as a consultant for LCMS mission work in Asia.
McDaniels, the second recipient of the Christus in Mundo award, attended Concordia College New York, Bronxville, N.Y., and Concordia University, St. Paul, St. Paul, Minn. He earned his Master of Divinity from Christ Seminary (now part of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago) and his colloquy from CSL. He has served congregations in New York, N.Y.; Omaha, Neb.; St. Louis; and Greensboro, N.C.
McDaniels is a member of the Interim Ministry Network, Inc., and during the past 15 years has worked with seven congregations in transition. In 2002, he completed a two-year residency in Clinical Pastoral Education at Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington, N.C. He worked as a chaplain at the Lutheran Home (now Trinity Glen) in Winston-Salem, N.C., and currently serves as pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church in High Point, N.C.
After expressing his appreciation for the award and thanking those who encouraged him, McDaniels said, “For all of us who know Jesus Christ, we are all chaplains. We are all caregivers for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. … Thank you for the spirit that you all have … to be good caregivers for all of God’s children.”
The Christus in Mundo award is given every three years in both the LCMS and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Each body has its own criteria and procedure for selecting and recognizing award recipients. Wurster and McDaniels were nominated by their SPM colleagues in the LCMS and chosen by an LCMS committee.
For more information about LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry, see lcms.org/spm.
Posted Jan. 21, 2020