Welcoming convocation features greetings, information for new LTSP seminarians

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President Philip D.W. Krey welcomed new students to The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) Tuesday, August 27, by inviting his audience to take a brief Civil War journey.

LTSP Opening Convocation 2013Krey referenced time he had spent in Gettysburg recently looking into the turmoil embroiling that community at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, when he said the most lives in wartime on American soil had been lost. “The battle devastated the community, and I discovered visiting the Exhibit Center in Gettysburg that it was almost impossible to live there after the battle.” Those bloody circumstances in part led a small breakout group of faculty from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg to found LTSP in 1864, he noted. “There were confessional differences as well,” Krey said. “But it was decided that it was the right time to move to found a seminary in the Philadelphia context.”

Krey said the wartime challenges of long ago are not unlike the devastating financial catastrophe visited on families, the church, and organizations of all kinds in the U.S. and worldwide over the past several years. He commended the students and entire seminary community in his audience for “taking up the challenge” to be leaders in today’s church. He told of a recent seminary graduate who had said to him in recent months, “Stop worrying about our context and let us have at it!”

“And so I commend you all for your commitment to serve in this context,” he said, reminding that the theme for the anniversary year is “The Battlefield and Renewal of the Church.”

Krey also talked about the new “flexible, affordable, and relevant” curriculum designed to make LTSP as affordable as possible, noting the efforts that continue to be undertaken to place the seminary on a firm financial footing. “We’re excited when we see you (new students) coming here because this is our vocation,” Krey said.

The president, who steps down from his post at the end of 2014 after 15 years of service in office, urged the student body to think beyond the immediate campus community to the regional community including Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, and beyond, and how to contribute to it. “Find someone among you about which you have no idea, and make a close friend,” he said. “Benefit from the diversity in our midst as a way of preparing yourself for public service.”

In bringing his greetings seminary Dean Jayakiran Sebastian also reminded of the new curriculum and anti-racism, anti- discrimination workshops, and a workshop to deal with sexual harassment issues that the student body will take during the academic year. He said the workshops and curriculum are designed for one thing: “to foster the best public leaders who will be accountable to the hope within us even in the midst of difficult conversations that are part of the church today. We want to prepare leaders who will make a mark in civil discourse in whatever region they find themselves.” He noted that LTSP’s diverse student body includes individuals from Myanmar, Liberia, Ghana, and South Korea.

Seminary Chaplain the Rev. Dr. Nelson Rivera invited students to be strong participants of campus worship. “Our worship is centered in Christ, loyal to the worship traditions of the church, with theological and ecumenical commitments of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” Rivera said. “Our chapel services recognize the gifts within our community. It is a teaching ministry designed to be a reflection of us. We respect and support each other in our individual callings and commitments. We listen to God’s word and share our divine gifts and experiences.”

The Rev. John Puotinen, vice president for Philanthropy at the seminary, introduced himself by saying he and his staff are working as hard as they can to reduce the tuition paid by seminarians by getting donors to underwrite the cost of their preparation. He told the orientation audience that LTSP has about 2,000 donors.

Rachel Zimmermann, an alumna who handles the distribution and collection of student assessment forms, described assessments returned by students and alumni as a way to determine whether the seminary is being accountable to the standards it has set for itself. The assessments are a way of keeping to the accreditation requirements demanded by the Association of Theological Schools and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. “These assessments help us make things better,” she said. The assessments are taken when students enter the school, upon graduation, and after alumni have been in the field for four years or so. Professor John Hoffmeyer reminded the audience the assessments are of the school — not of students.

Student Body president Dan Purtell offered greetings and invited new students to participate in student body governing life. “There are opportunities for everybody in what we do,” he said.

The orientation/greeting event in The Brossman Center was moderated by the Rev. Heidi Rodrick-Schnaath, coordinator of student services.

The seminary has a student body of about 350 as part of all its programs. About 66 seminarians began their studies this calendar year.

Meet some of our new students

Opening Reception (click any image to go to the gallery)

Opening Convocation (click any image to go to the gallery)