This year’s Seminaries Sunday is celebrated in the month of September. Congregations have the opportunity to incorporate Seminaries Sunday throughout the month of September as it best fits into their local celebrations of Christian education. LCC’s seminaries are crucial for the continued provision of trained and qualified leadership in the parishes across the country. Designating a Sunday in September is a good opportunity for the churches to hear about the work of the seminaries. Speakers can remind listeners about the importance of the seminaries and invite congregations to pray for the schools and their students, faculties, and staffs.
Canada’s two LCC seminaries are working together to provide resource materials and to promote Seminaries Sunday. Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton, AB, and Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, ON, have developed joint material for use by local congregations. Sermon notes and a bulletin cover have been produced that LCC congregations can download and print. The art work is also available for mail out.
Both CLS and CLTS are graduate schools of Lutheran Church–Canada. With an undergraduate degree in hand, students prepare for pastoral ministry. Students preparing for the ministry take over 30 master’s-level courses; engage in a final-year research project; face an oral exam based on their research; are questioned twice in their first year by a committee which assesses their suitability for ministry; involve themselves actively in the life of a field congregation in which they’re placed for their first two years; uproot themselves in year three to serve as vicars in a 12-month internship in another congregation; and are assigned their first call - they go wherever LCC places them. Seminary preparation is disciplined and demanding work.
This graduate-level education carries no small price tag: tuition alone for the four years (including vicarage) costs over $24,000; add to that “incidental fees,” which are not so insubstantial; plus the cost of books, and lots of them; plus room and board off campus. Each student makes plenty of sacrifices to obtain this educational experience: the student pays his own way, albeit with financial help, usually from family, home congregation, district, church auxiliaries, and donors to the seminaries. Typically, students give up full-time work and income, borrow money, budget rigorously, and live austerely.
But the seminaries’ pursuits are more necessary now than ever: now more than 60 of the 320-or-so LCC churches have pastoral vacancies — that’s one in six; what’s more, 50 LCC pastors were eligible to retire during one recent three-year period, and some of them have retired; the situation is not getting better.
If there’s a shortage of pastors, if that’s the problem, then the seminaries are the solution: your seminaries forge pastors, well-schooled in ministry, well-grounded in the faith. You can’t have a pastor without a seminary! Think of the seminaries as the providers; think of the pastor as the end result of the seminary experience; think of the parishioners as being the beneficiaries of the seminaries’ ministry.