December 16, 2018 proved an eventful day for Palmer, Kansas. One of its own graduated from seminary. Stan Ericson graduated from the Institute of Lutheran Theology (ILT) having earned a Pastoral Ministry Certificate with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that are accorded his new certificate. St. Paul Lutheran Church's sanctuary was filled to capacity in honor of Stan's work in obtaining his certificate and in honor of his service to the congregation and parish. The Rev. Timothy J. Swenson, Dean of Chapel at ILT, presided at the graduation ceremony and delivered the certificate to the newly graduated Ericson. Pastor Tom Sahl hosted the ceremony during Sunday morning worship. A celebratory mood descended on the congregation during the worship service and the meal following. Many thanks to Pastor Sahl and the St. Paul congregation for all the hospitality they extended to the Institute of Lutheran Theology (ILT) and its graduating student.
Graduate Ericson began providing pulpit supply to his local congregation in 1993 as its shrinking demographics curtailed its opportunities to call a pastor. Through the years, Stan's opportunities for pulpit supply increased and he entered into the regular preaching rotation of several local congregations. His own congregation has since closed but Stan has kept preaching. In January of 2013, Stan enrolled in ILT's Pastoral Ministry Certificate program. He progressed through the program, diligently taking one course per semester. Stan is a very bi-vocational preacher. He runs a farm, planting corn and soybeans, and dealing with all the hazards and difficulties an agricultural life brings. But there's more, Stan is also a carrier for the USPS. He delivers mail every day, rain or shine. These vocations have not prevented him answering the call to be a preacher of God's Word.
Ericson becomes the twenty-ninth graduate to earn the Pastoral Ministry Certificate and the sixty-first overall graduate of the Institute of Lutheran Theology. ILT achieved accreditation from the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) in February of 2018. By ABHE standards, ILT achieved one hundred three enrolled students in the 2017/2018 school year. Of the accredited Lutheran seminaries in North America, ILT-after only ten years-has a larger enrollment than seven seminaries decades older.
The Institute of Lutheran Theology has programs which prepare candidates for pastoral ministry and it has academic programs to enhance the pastoral skills and theological acumen of those already in the ministry or those just wanting to be more useful in the congregation. ILT's graduate school prepares pastors with its Master of Divinity degree; and its certificate school prepares potential pastors with a Pastoral Ministry Certificate. Likewise, its graduate school provides Master of Arts in Religion, a Master of Sacred Theology, a Doctor of Ministry degree, and, in the fall of 2019, a PhD program. The certificate school helps congregation members be more useful through its Faith and Life Certificate; its Youth and Family Certificate, and its Bethel Bible Series certificate.