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MLC releases return-to-school plans

Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., the WELS college of ministry, released its “Knights Return to Campus Plan” on July 17, after months of planning. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, MLC had to conclude its 2019–20 school via alternative/distance learning.

The plan calls for students to return to the school’s campus in New Ulm for the fall semester, with classes starting on Aug. 24. Most of the courses will be delivered in person, with less than 10 percent being a blend of online and in-person instruction. The campus will host only essential on-campus events and provide virtual alternatives for other events where possible. Only students, faculty, and staff will be able to participate in the on-campus events at this time.

In a letter of introduction to the plan, Rev. Richard Gurgel, MLC president, shares that the fall planning team spent “hours listening to government officials, health professionals, collegiate organizations, new and returning students and their families, our faculty and staff, and many others in our synod” before putting together the document.

“Our top priority is providing the highest level of safety and confidence in our campus learning environment, while adhering to the spiritual and educational standards WELS expects from its college of ministry,” he says.

Students and administration will participate in daily screenings, including a temperature check. Isolation and quarantine procedures are in place for those who have symptoms for COVID-19, test positive, or have been in close contact with someone exhibiting symptoms or testing positive.

Campus officials say the plan may change as circumstances change. “We offer this plan trusting in God’s gracious care for us in our Lord Jesus,” says Gurgel. “At the same time, we also recognize that such trust does not diminish the responsibility God himself entrusts to us to be wise stewards of our health for the sake of our whole campus family as well as for the entire community of New Ulm.”

The other ministerial education schools—Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.; Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.; and Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.—are finalizing their return-to-school documents. As of right now all three schools are planning to have face-to-face, in-person instruction on their campuses for the start of the 2020–21 school year, with classes starting the week of Aug. 24. All four schools concluded the 2019–20 school year via alternative/distance learning due to COVID-19.

“The faculty and staff at Martin Luther College have done a remarkable job pulling together the many plans and decisions that have to be made to open safely this fall,” says Rev. Paul Prange, administrator of the Board for Ministerial Education. “We ask God’s blessings on the faithful work of everyone at MLC and the other ministerial education schools, and we keep them in our prayers.”

 

 

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MLC President Mark Zarling retiring

Rev. Mark Zarling, president of Martin Luther College (MLC) from 2007 to 2020, is retiring this summer.

During Zarling’s tenure, God has blessed the college in countless ways.

The campus saw the construction of beautiful new facilities funded by God’s people: Chapel of the Christ, the Early Childhood Learning Center, a baseball field, and a soccer pitch.

The academic catalog expanded to include majors in early childhood education and special education, many four-year secondary education majors, and minors in urban ministry and Chinese. The graduate program added two new degrees: Master of Science in Educational Administration and Master of Arts in Theological Studies. And continuing education offerings expanded tremendously, including New Teacher Induction, new certifications, and a full catalog of on-campus, online, and on-location professional development options.

Zarling’s keen sense of vision led the campus family through two strategic plans, two accreditations, a Master Site Plan, and a Master Staffing Plan. He put the spotlight on lowering student debt, broadening international services, expanding experiential learning, and recruiting new students not merely to fill current vacancies but to prepare for new ministries still in development. He also traveled extensively, serving as a warm and sincere ambassador all over the synod.

Through all these changes, he kept the campus focused on the mission statement: “To train a corps of Christian witnesses who are qualified to meet the ministry needs of WELS and who are competent to proclaim the Word of God faithfully and in accord with the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord.”

Faculty, staff, and synod leaders have called Zarling a man of faith, a pastor-administrator, a humble visionary, a Christlike leader, and MLC’s spiritual compass. He spoke God’s promises in the hallways, prayed with colleagues in their offices, and uplifted the college family with his “Letters from Home” chapel messages.

“President Zarling has left an impression on Martin Luther College,” said WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder. “He has worked tirelessly to ensure that our WELS College of Ministry faithfully carries out its purpose. He has personally guided and shaped hundreds, if not thousands, of students. And through his leadership he has instilled in our synod’s members a love for and a confidence in Martin Luther College.”

To MLC students past, present, and future, President Emeritus Zarling offers this encouragement: “The apostle tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Live daily with eyes on Jesus—and the only way to keep eyes on him is to stay with the Scriptures that reveal him. Make time daily to prayerfully read the Spirit’s inspired words that you may build up your faith. As Jude tells us, ‘But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (20-21).’ ”

Mark and his wife, Colette, are moving to Manitowoc, Wis., this summer and are planning road trips to the East and West Coasts to see children and grandchildren.

 

 

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Assignments and graduations at our ministerial education schools

The recent disruptions caused by the COVID-19 virus have had a great impact on our synodical schools. In-person classes had to be canceled at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis.; Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.; Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.; and Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich. In addition, decisions have now been made to hold virtual events for the reading of assignments at MLC and WLS and for graduation ceremonies at all four schools. The Assignment Committee will be meeting via video conference to make the assignments in the days before the assignments are announced.

At MLC, 171 teacher and staff ministry candidates are available for assignment. At WLS, 26 pastoral candidates and 28 vicar candidates will be assigned.

Even though graduations and assignments will take place in an entirely different format this year, the reasons to celebrate remain the same. God continues to provide workers for his harvest field, and we continue to thank him for these blessings and for the faithful work done by our faculties and students.

You can participate in these happy events by joining the online events at the schools, accessible via the schools’ websites:

Martin Luther College
Graduation: Saturday, May 16, 10:00 a.m. (Central)
Announcement of assignments: Saturday, May 16, 11:15 a.m. (Central)

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
Graduation and announcement of assignments (pastors and vicars): Thursday, May 21, 10:00 a.m. (Central)

Luther Preparatory School
Saturday, May 23, 10:00 a.m. (Central)

Michigan Lutheran Seminary
Saturday, May 23, 9:30 a.m. (Central) (10:30 a.m. [Eastern])

If you know of a graduate from one of these schools in your congregation or extended family, let them know how much you appreciate them and that the entire synod is keeping them in our prayers.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Celebrating MLC seniors

Tomorrow, May 6, is MLC Day. Each year MLC Day brings together all who support the WELS College of Ministry around the world. Martin Luther College (MLC) supporters send messages to the college, pray for its ministry, share its ministry with others, and give gifts to assist in carrying out its mission. MLC students then share their stories and thanks with supporters.

This year, MLC Day will highlight family connections even more, especially focusing on MLC seniors.

“With students continuing to study off campus due to COVID-19 restrictions, our seniors are missing out on many end-of-year activities celebrations,” says Mr. Bill Pekrul, MLC director of public relations. “We decided to focus MLC Day on them this year and have photos and videos aimed at their reflections and encouraging others to send messages of congratulations and encouragement to these future called workers.”

Pekrul offers the following suggestions on how everyone can participate:

  • Current students can share prayers, blessings, encouragement, and thanks to a graduating senior.
  • MLC seniors can offer a message of thanks to those who encouraged and supported them throughout their time at college as well as offer advice to incoming students.
  • WELS families, schools, and congregations can record short videos or submit photos with notes of encouragement and prayers for a graduating senior. MLC is providing signs and message prompts to help the creative process.
  • WELS members can offer prayers and monetary support for MLC’s ministry. All gifts will go toward the Congregational Partner Grant Matching Fund, which directly supports students. A generous donor has agreed to match every dollar donated up to $50,000.

Visit mlcday.com to learn more. There you can also access resources and message prompts so you can show your support for MLC and its students on May 6.

 

 

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Martin Luther College announces commencement plans

In consultation with the 2020 graduating class, faculty/staff, and local health authorities, Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., has decided that its graduation and Call Day services will be held remotely, with graduating seniors viewing from their homes.

The 2020 commencement worship service will be broadcast via MLC’s Livestream page at 10 a.m. CT, May 16. The reading of the assignments will immediately follow the commencement service. Both events will be pre-recorded at the Chapel of the Christ on MLC’s campus. Assignment lists will be posted on MLC’s and on WELS’ websites immediately following the events.

To help the graduates celebrate, MLC is sending a “graduation box” to every senior and encouraging students to send pictures of themselves in their caps and gowns and videos of their watch parties. Stay tuned to MLC’s social media to see photos and videos.

In late March, MLC already had announced that alternative/distance learning would extend to the end of the 2019–20 school year, a decision made taking into account directives from the state of Minnesota. Distance learning started March 23.

“We thank everyone for their patience and their understanding in these crazy, crazy times as God has set them before us,” says Dr. Jeff Wiechman, MLC’s vice president for academics. “But we forge ahead knowing that he’s in total control and knowing that he has our best interests at heart. His will is being done for us and for our ministry in his kingdom.”

To help celebrate the graduates, MLC has decided to focus its annual MLC Day on its seniors, offering current students, families, friends, and MLC supporters an opportunity to give a shout-out to these future called workers. This online social media event, which also provides ways to support WELS’ College of Ministry with gifts and prayers, takes place May 6. Go to mlcday.com to learn more and to access resources and message prompts.

Commencement plans for Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., will be finalized in early May. With the Wisconsin governor’s “Safer at Home” orders extended until May 26, WLS already has decided to hold classes online until the end of the school year.

 

 

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Evangelism Day at MLC

The annual Evangelism Day at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., in January, brought a break from classes as students attended stellar seminars and got fired up about proclaiming Christ.

“Evangelism Day,” says Maddy Leckwee, “is filled with energy and fire for the gospel. It makes you excited for the work you are training to do.”

Pastors, teachers, and laypeople presented on topics ranging from youth ministry and social media outreach to the gospel in East Asia and witnessing to Mormons.

Others snagged an opportunity to practice confessing their faith with Praise and Proclaim Ministries’ evangelism training. The group looks forward to canvassing later this spring.

View photos from the day.

Article from Martin Luther College’s e-mail newsletter KnightWatch.

 

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Rev. Richard Gurgel accepts call to serve as MLC president

Rev. Richard Gurgel has accepted the call to serve as president of WELS’ college of ministry, Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn. He will begin his new call on July 1, 2020.

Gurgel brings years of parish and teaching experience to his new ministry. Since 1999, he has served as a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., teaching homiletics, systematics, and Christian education. He also directs the continuing education arm of the seminary, the Grow in Grace Institute.

The MLC Governing Board issued the call Sept. 26, and Gurgel officially accepted Oct. 21, saying, “With a deep awareness of my weaknesses as a jar of clay but with a still deeper appreciation for Christ’s forgiving and empowering grace, I accept the call to serve as Martin Luther College’s next president. May God give me a double portion of the servant-hearted, gospel-filled spirit with which President Zarling has so faithfully served.”

Furthermore, Gurgel noted, “God has used and continues to use what happens on MLC’s campus to prepare one generation after another of Christian witnesses to proclaim the gospel of his kingdom in classrooms and congregations and communities around the world. Truly a city set on a hill cannot be hidden!”

Rev. Mark Zarling, retiring president of MLC, is grateful that such a faithful shepherd will soon assume the leadership mantle. “Prof. Gurgel is a shepherd gifted with many abilities and with a heart that beats with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Zarling. “I am thrilled that he has accepted and am confident that Jesus will use him mightily for the good of this important ministry.”

To learn more about MLC, visit mlc-wels.edu.

 

 

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Equipping Christian Witnesses effort underway

Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., is embarking on a two-year synodwide offering called “Equipping Christian Witnesses.”

Martin Luther College (MLC) is our WELS college of ministry. It prepares nearly all of our called workers, training teachers and staff ministers to serve when they graduate and providing college-level training to young men who will enroll at the seminary to prepare to serve as pastors. Our synod is experiencing a great need for more called workers, and that is what this effort intends to help address.

The offering will provide resources to increase recruitment efforts around the synod.

In addition to that, it will address one barrier to enrollment at MLC: the cost of education. Even though MLC strives to keep educational costs down (and is widely considered to be successful in doing that), the prayer is that this offering will assist in recruitment by providing additional resources for student financial aid, reducing the need for students to borrow for their education.

Another goal of this offering is to provide funds that will help the college improve its facilities, particularly student housing and recreation facilities. While certainly not the main motivation for studying for the ministry, campus facilities do play an important role in recruitment.

We pray that God will move the hearts of our congregations and their members to take part in this opportunity to support the important work that MLC is doing on behalf of us all.

To learn more, visit mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Assignments at Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

Last week the synod’s Assignment Committee met in New Ulm, Minn., to assign teacher and staff ministry candidates. The Assignment Committee is comprised of the Conference of Presidents and is assisted by various advisors.

One hundred forty candidates were assigned to the teaching ministry. All candidates who were able to go anywhere were assigned. Many candidates that could be assigned to limited geographical areas (due to marriage or other circumstances) were assigned, and more of those will be assigned in the coming weeks.

Two staff minister candidates who could go anywhere were assigned; two that were limited by geography were not yet assigned but could be assigned in the future if calls become available.

The complete list of assignments can be found at mlc-wels.edu.

This week the Assignment Committee moves to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis. There the committee will assign vicars and pastoral candidates. The announcement of those assignments will take place on Thurs., May 23, at 10:00 a.m. The service can be viewed live online at wls.wels.net.

Our gracious God has provided candidates to serve in the public ministry, and he has moved them to say, “Here am I; send me!” We thank God for these gifts to his church and pray for his blessings on their service.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder