“I am about to do a new thing. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?”
For most of my life, one of my favorite Scripture verses has been Isaiah 43:19 — “I am about to do a new thing. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?” These words are meant to comfort and inspire Israel in a time of hopelessness and despair, and many Christians across the ages, including myself, have found in them the promise that God regularly surprises us, showing up where we least expect God to be, bringing hope and life where we were not anticipating it.
It will probably not surprise you that of late I have been thinking of these words a lot, again being reminded of, and thankful for, God’s commitment to surprise us with measures of grace and mercy we neither expect nor deserve. Lately, of course, the “new thing” that has occupied my attention is the intent of LTSP to join with our colleagues and partners at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg to create a new school. And the “newness” of this venture is central to my own excitement.
While many will construe this move as simply a merger, to do so falls short of perceiving the “new thing” we confess God is doing at this particular time through these two significant institutions. While mergers tend to invite participants to look back and wonder or worry about what they are giving up or, worse, to calculate every move in terms of “winning and losing,” we are setting out to do something different by forming a new school. Only by creating something of a blank slate on which to write the future history of our schools, we believe, can we respond to the deepest needs of a changed and changing world and church.
For this reason, creating a new school, rather than simply revising or reforming existing institutions, allows us an opportunity to re-think everything: curriculum, calendar, nature of and relationship to faculty, student aid, relationships with donors, contextual and competency-based education, and more.
We cannot do this work alone, of course. First and foremost, we need help in discerning just what kind of leaders the church needs today and, then, what kind of seminary we need to form those leaders. For this reason, we are hoping to gather the collective wisdom of the church as to what should be the hallmarks and major commitments of the new school. Please, therefore, stay updated on the developments related to the new school by frequently visiting our website at Ltsp.edu or signing up for text messages specifically for new school updates here, and I encourage you to email our communications office at communications@Ltsp.edu with your counsel.
We also need your support in two important ways. First, we covet your prayers while we are in a time of discernment and transition. Transformative change is always disruptive, and we do not take likely the human toll the moves we are making will have on staff, faculty, administrators, and students. While we are working hard to support all of our community, we rely on your prayers for confidence and trust during a challenging time.
Second, we also depend upon your financial support if we are to live into a new future. We need, in short, to develop a much more “cooperative” sense of the training of the church’s leaders. It’s my hope that we will be able to greatly increase the amount of financial aid available to students, making as many full-tuition grants as possible. From this point of view, students don’t purchase or even simply earn their degrees but rather receive their education and training as a gift of the church, a gift they will repay over the course of their professional lives through their faithful service. Similarly, congregations do not offer support only to “their” student while at seminary, but rather see their annual gift to the seminary as an investment in the future leadership of the church. Together, we can train a new generation of leaders committed to sharing the good news of Christ with the world God loves so much.
“I am about to do a new thing. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?” These words are indeed inspiring and comforting, but if we take them seriously they can also be challenging and disruptive. Change is not easy, but at this time we believe it is necessary, even crucial. So while the way is not always clear, we venture into this “new thing” grateful for your support and confident of God’s goodness and grace.
Yours in Christ,