In the early days of January, ILT’s Dean of Student and Religious Life, Rev. Timothy J. Swenson, was welcomed by three congregations in eastern Washington state: Richland Lutheran Church of Richland, WA; Living Word Lutheran Church of Moses Lake, WA; and Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Walla Walla, WA.
On Sunday, January 3, Rev. Swenson and his wife, Dale Ann, worshiped at Living Word. This was the first time the Swensons had visited the congregation’s new worship and fellowship space. After worship and before fellowship, Pastor Lou Hesse invited Rev. Swenson to address the congregation on behalf of the Institute of Lutheran Theology where Pastor Hesse is a student. At the conclusion of his remarks, the congregation was able to ask questions and inquired about two things. The first concerned the necessity of ILT’s establishment. Rev. Swenson answered that ILT was established by the Word Alone movement so that there would be an intentional education enterprise dedicated to the continuance of the Lutheran tradition through educating pastors, who must make a vow to teach and preach according to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, by teachers who themselves have taken such a vow. The second concerned the availability of congregational opportunities. Rev. Swenson indicated that ILT provided Word at Word Events so that congregations could bring in ILT teachers to provide lecture series on a topic of the congregation’s choosing. The visit to Living Word concluded on the very good note of interviewing and recruiting a new student to ILT’s Master of Divinity program.
During that first week of January, Rev. Swenson and Dale visited Pastor Steve Ernst at Richland Lutheran Church. They, and Dale’s family, had worshiped with the congregation on December 27th. Pastor Ernst was a gracious host. There was an immediate affinity as they shared the necessity of keeping Jesus first. As the first hour of conversation turned into two, Pastor Steve invited the rest of his staff in to hear about ILT’s Elijah Project and its Word at Work events. Associate Pastor Corey Smith coordinates their Gedde Lecture Series, a perfect venue for those events. As the staff heard of the Elijah Project, they became quite enthused and invited the Swenson’s to return for a second time to make the Elijah Project presentation to the congregation’s Outreach Committee. They did so and received much appreciation from the committee for this new opportunity in mission and outreach.
Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Walla Walla was the Swenson’s destination for worship on January 10th. Pastor Mark Koonz welcomed them and announced he had arranged a special time for them to meet with the congregation on Monday afternoon. He introduced the Swenson’s and the Institute at each worship service and made the invitation for congregation members to come on Monday. Returning a second time on Monday, Rev. Swenson and Dale enjoyed lunch with Pastor Koonz and then went to the church to join the congregation members there. About thirty people from the congregation and community had gathered to hear Rev. Swenson’s presentation on ILT and to receive the printed material handed out by Dale Ann. There was excellent discussion of ILT’s role in educating the next generation of Lutheran preachers and teachers with the congregation expressing appreciation that the LCMC had such an institution dedicated to the advancement of Lutheran theology and to the achieving of educational excellence as evidenced by its drive toward accreditation. Pastor Mark sent the Swenson’s on their way with a parting gift of some very scholarly books for delivery to ILT’s library.
The Institute of Lutheran Theology thanks the pastors and people of Living Word Lutheran, Richland Lutheran, and Emmanuel Lutheran churches for their gracious hospitality and warm welcome to the Swensons and for the Institute itself. People, pastors, and congregations like these are the very reason for ILT’s existence. ILT appreciates all of its people, pastors, and congregations and extends a warm “Happy New Year” to those in eastern Washington.