Forty-five years ago, Christ Lutheran Church in St. Catharines was full as people gathered for the opening service of the first academic year of the newly formed Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary. Dr Robert Preus was the preacher and Dr Albin Stanfel was the officiant. It was a time of great excitement. Here, finally, was a seminary that would prepare men to fill the pulpits of Canadian Lutheran churches. It was modest. Rev. Roger Human served as Dean (the first full-time faculty), and eight small classes were held in the basement of Resurrection Lutheran Church. With pride people talked about OUR seminary.
As we enter our 46th academic year, we observe a significant transformation from those modest beginnings. This year we welcome new students from across Canada (Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia), the United States, Nigeria, and Germany in addition to our returning multinational student body that includes China, India, and Brazil. Almost as many students are enrolled in the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) programme as in the more traditional Master of Divinity (MDiv) programme that leads to ordination. Many of the MTS students are already pastors seeking advanced degrees. Others are laity involved in church work.
Not only is “our” seminary starting out this year blessed with a healthy student body, but it also starts on a firm financial footing. Thanks to our many benefactors who generously responded to our spring appeal, we were able to close out the fiscal year in June with a surplus which has been put aside for future needs.
COVID-19 restrictions have brought their own unique set of challenges. Several students who were planning to be on campus in person are unable to enter Canada. As a result, many of the classes have a majority of students participating online. In some classes, there will only be two or three students physically present with five or six joining virtually. Our American adjunct faculty member, Rev. Duke, has been unable to cross the border with ease and has had to conduct all his classes online.
The restrictions also affected the annual student retreat. Normally held at Mount Carmel Retreat Centre in Niagara Falls, the event was moved to Trinity Lutheran Church in Niagara-on-the –Lake. This turned out to be an unexpected blessing as students and faculty were able to enjoy meals outside and leisurely walks in the sunny vineyards in between sessions.
Restrictions also affected larger events. The opening service for the 46th academic year took place on Sunday, 12 September, in the Martin Luther Chapel with a restricted attendance of 40. During the service, Rev. Robert Willie, pastor emeritus in the Western Region, was honoured with the Emeritus Crucis (Veteran of the Cross) award and Rev. Dr Thomas Korcok was installed as Associate Professor of Theology. Dr Korcok had formally accepted the divine call to teach in December of 2020.
The beginning of a new year is exciting and frenetic. We thank you for your prayers and love that help us get started.