I talk about the seminary a lot. I can’t help it. I loved my time in Fort Wayne. I changed. I grew. I learned what it means to be Lutheran.
I remember orientation, sitting in a lecture hall with 50 other students learning about what was expected of us from our teachers and what we could expect from them. I remember standing in the hallways at breaks and around a table of food at BBQs, learning the names and histories and stories of my classmates.
I remember the first time I sat in Kramer Chapel and listened to the men sing. I remember thinking I never wanted to leave that place, that it really was a little foretaste of heaven. I remember communing with my classmates, receiving my Lord’s body and blood from the hands of my teachers, the familiar sound of the cement floor under my feet as we left the Communion rail.
I remember my classes and the way that some discussions stuck in my head for days because they were so new, so formative. I remember my professors’ quick wit and pastoral care, their banter with one another and their genuine concern for our theological formation.
I remember Gemutlichkeit, red Solo cups, pretzels, beer. I remember there being a lot, a lot of laughing, great joy, hearty earthiness. And sometimes even chili.
I remember dorm parties, nights at the local bar, weird looks from people who couldn’t figure out why 10 people were drinking and talking theology on a Friday night. I remember bocce ball and croquet parties, dinner parties, wine and cheese, attempts at actually acting scholarly.
I remember going to church every Sunday, knowing that the people there were like family, hearing sermons that felt like Pastor could read my mind, and saying as much over donuts and coffee afterwards. I remember playing the organ while my best friend prepared the altar for Sunday, helping with seminary-welcome-back brunches, and teaching Sunday School to children we had no business attempting to teach.
And I remember my class, and how smart these future pastors were and are, how ideas flew back and forth faster than I could keep up, how they couldn’t learn enough quickly enough, how they always wanted more and still weren’t satisfied, and how the perfectly timed one-liner could break the most intense of theological discussions with uproarious laughter.
I remember graduating with them, being so proud of them, wondering how the Lord could take young men from cornfields and inner cities and Concordias and state colleges and turn them into thinking, speaking, articulate defenders of the faith.
I remember not wanting to leave, wanting to stay on that mountain forever, wanting that perfect little microcosm of Lutheranism to go on forever and ever.
And this past Sunday, when I sat in the pew at a church in Illinois, listening to one of my classmates preach and watching one of our upperclassmen conduct the liturgy with poise and reverence, I almost cried for the joy of the what the Lord did in that place, how He took four years, one seminary in the middle of Indiana, 50 classes, a few thousand dollars, and time . . . and how He used it all for good, molding and shaping and retooling and forming these men into His men in His timing in His perfect way.
I talk about the seminary a lot. I can’t help it. I loved my time there. And I will never forget it.