Tag Archive for: wels europe

OWLS reflect on Christian vocation at annual conference

The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) met in Stevens Point, Wis., Oct. 10–13, for its annual conference. The conference revolved around the theme “Called to Be a Blessing,” which offered opportunities for the 130 attendees to reflect on their Christian vocation through worship, keynote presentations, and workshops.

The three keynotes reinforced that, even in retirement, God calls believers to be a blessing to those around them. In Wednesday’s opening keynote, Prof. Kenneth Cherney, Jr., from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., gave an overview of Luther’s understanding of Christian vocation, in which God makes us channels through whom he pours out his blessings on others. Thursday’s keynote speaker, Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, talked about the vital role WELS seniors will play in the next decade as WELS churches meet challenges stemming from the loss of younger members, reaching out to those who don’t see the need for church, and the need for more people to enter the gospel ministry. The final keynote on Friday featured Mr. Randy Breuer, a retired professional basketball player, speaking about being a Christian in the world of the NBA.

One of the highlights of this year’s convention was a special presentation and Q&A featuring Rev. Robert Weiss and his wife, Rachel, who joined the convention via video from Munich, Germany. Weiss was commissioned in August as the new WELS European civilian chaplain. The Weisses gave an update on their work throughout Europe as they serve both WELS military members and their families and civilians as well. Weiss encouraged those who have loved ones living and serving in Europe to fill out the form at wels.net/refer so he can connect with and serve them.

Each year, the OWLS designates its convention offerings to support the WELS European civilian chaplaincy. This year, the OWLS again presented the chaplaincy with a check for $50,000. Convention offerings and proceeds from the silent auction, which raised a record $2,675, were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplaincy. During his video call, Weiss expressed his gratitude: “Thank you to all of you in OWLS for the support you give the European chaplaincy,” he said. “It puts a pastor with his people. Thank you also from all those over here who receive Word and sacrament because of what you do.”

Sharon and Jay Stuedeman from Bethlehem, Hortonville, Wis., were excited to return this year for their second convention. “I believe this convention just gets better every year,” Sharon says. “The presentations were excellent. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.” Jay enjoyed seeing old friends and making new ones: “One of the biggest things is the friendliness of everyone. The connections with other Christians are something I like most about the convention,” he says. “I don’t think anyone could come to this convention and not enjoy it.”

John Paulsen, OWLS executive director, says, “This year’s convention seemed to strike a chord with everyone.  Even first-time convention goers were impressed by the quality of the presentations and the fellowship of the group. We all get to grow in faith together!” Paulsen encourages any congregation with a seniors’ ministry to look into the OWLS program because it offers meaningful ways for seniors to gather and serve.

The 2024 OWLS convention will be held Oct. 14–17 at the Omaha Marriott, Omaha, Neb. The convention is open to all seniors 55 and older in WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, regardless of OWLS membership.

Learn more about the OWLS at wels.net/owls.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Two new chaplains for WELS Military Services

WELS Military Services commissioned two new chaplains this summer to serve WELS members in the military and their families. Rev. Robert Weiss was commissioned Aug. 6 as the new European civilian chaplain, replacing Rev. John Hartwig, who retired. Rev. Paul Horn was commissioned Aug. 19 as the new WELS national civilian chaplain, replacing Rev. Paul Ziemer, who also retired.

Weiss and his wife, Rachel, will be moving this week to Germany, where the European civilian chaplain is based. From this central location, he will be able to serve members of the military, their families, and other ex-pats living abroad with God’s Word. He was commissioned at St. Peter, Chilton, Wis., where he has served as pastor since 2014. Prior to serving at St. Peter, he served at King of Kings, Little Rock, Ark., where he was assigned in 2004 after graduating Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. While in Arkansas, Weiss served as a military contact pastor to nearby military installations. And, it’s where he studied German at the University of Arkansas. Weiss also has a little experience as the European chaplain, as he filled in for a couple months when his predecessor was on furlough.

“The number one thing I’m looking forward to is being able to focus very intensely on a specific area of ministry. Military ministry is a specific demographic of people within the synod who are in a specific situation that’s not normal,” says Weiss. “Being able to serve WELS members in the military and have that be my complete focus—I’m very much looking forward to that.”

Rev. Joel Gaertner, director of WELS Special Ministries which oversees WELS Military Services, presided over the commissioning service. Gaertner says, “Rob Weiss is ideally suited for serving as our next European civilian chaplain. With his German-speaking skills and experience in serving our military members with the gospel, he is perfectly suited to take on this role. We pray for God’s richest blessings for Chaplain Weiss and his wife, Rachel, as they move to Germany.”

Horn was commissioned at Grace, Milwaukee, Wis. Horn has been involved with military ministry for 19 years, beginning with his first assignment after graduation to Faith in Radcliff, Ky., where he served as a military contact pastor. He has served on the WELS Military Services Committee since 2013. Horn and his wife, Rebecca, are in the process of moving from Lafayette, Ind., where he served as pastor at Lamb of God, to San Diego, Calif. He expects to begin his call as national civilian chaplain in San Diego in September, where he will not only serve as the liaison to the military, but also orient, train, and mentor WELS military contact pastors around the country.

Horn’s call is a change for WELS Military Services. It is the first time the call will be full time and the first time it will be based in San Diego, home to nearly all the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and in close proximity to the Pacific fleet. “The pivot to a full-time national chaplain is necessary because ministry to our military is too important to do part time,” says Horn. “The military mindset and culture is often misunderstood by civilians and because of that we often miss opportunities for meaningful outreach and gospel ministry and we miss opportunities to engage military families in meaningful service in our congregations.”

If you, or someone you know, is in the military, Weiss and Horn want to know who you are and serve you with the Word and sacrament. Visit wels.net/refer to sign up with WELS Military Services to get connected with them or a military contact pastor.


Watch Rev. Horn’s installation service



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

New chaplain moving to Europe

Rev. John Hartwig is moving to Germany to serve WELS military members and civilians living abroad as the European civilian chaplain, a ministry of WELS Military Services, part of WELS Commission on Special Ministries. Hartwig received the call following the retirement of Rev. Don Stuppy, who has been serving as the European civilian chaplain since 2017. The WELS European civilian chaplain is based in Spiesheim, Germany, serving people in a number of German cities but also traveling to serve those in Italy, England, and Switzerland.

Hartwig and his wife, Helen, plan to move to Spiesheim later this month. Hartwig has spent the last 25 years of his ministry serving as a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. Prior to his call at the seminary, he served as a missionary in Thailand from 1993 through 1995 and in Malawi, his first assignment when he graduated in 1983.

“It interested me to serve as a pastor again after being a seminary professor for 25 years, to worship with people and lead them in Bible study,” says Hartwig. “And the military aspect is something I’m very eager about. These are generally young people who are away from home, probably for the first time, and need to hear God’s Word and to be grounded in their faith.”

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the work of the European chaplain as travel has been restricted as well as visits to the bases. Hartwig says it’s starting to open up a little and hopefully he’ll be able to meet the people he serves when he gets there.

“I’m looking forward to serving people directly with Word and sacrament,” says Hartwig.

One of the newer initiatives from Military Services that Hartwig will undertake is working to identify lay leaders within the military who can help serve their brothers and sisters in arms and in Christ, whether at base or in the field. In addition, particularly in a post-coronavirus world, the Military Services Committee is exploring options for more online interaction, so that the chaplain can meaningfully interact with members more frequently.

If you, a family member, or a friend is living or working in Europe, Hartwig wants to be able to serve you. He, along with Military Services, request that you fill out the online referral form at wels.net/refer. Whether a military service member is based in Europe or in the United States, the referral form connects service people with either the chaplain in Europe or a military contact pastor in the U.S.

Learn more about WELS Military Services at wels.net/military.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email