Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., held its combined Graduation and Call Day service on Thursday, May 21, 2020. The online service incorporated elements from the traditional graduation and assignment services, with the graduation portion first. The livestream began with a view of the traditional walk the seminarians take from the chapel, under the tower, and over to the auditorium.
WLS President Rev. Earle Treptow’s sermon, “Wait for the Lord!” reminded the graduates that waiting will always be part of their service as pastors. The message was based on the class passage, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31). Treptow encouraged them “to wait for the Lord, because the Lord never tires of empowering his servants to do what they could never do on their own.”
Usually after the service professors directly speak words of blessing and encouragement to the students. Because that wasn’t possible this year, Treptow read messages from professors as he announced the graduates. Then, during the singing of the class hymn “Lord Take My Hand and Lead Me,” a slideshow of the graduates was played.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf, chairman of the seminary’s board, sent a video sharing a message of gratitude for the three seminary faculty members who are concluding their ministries at the seminary. Professor Rev. Richard Gurgel will be moving to New Ulm, Minn., to serve as president of Martin Luther College. Professor Rev. John Hartwig, who had been planning to retire, instead accepted a call to serve as a chaplain in Europe. He and his wife will be moving to Germany. Professor Rev. James Tiefel is retiring after serving WLS since 1985.
WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder then announced where students would be assigned. First, 28 members of the middler class (those in their second year) learned where they will be sent to serve as vicars (interns) for the 2020-2021 school year.
After that, 28 men were assigned to serve as pastors. Of those, 23 were seniors receiving their first call, three were from the class of 2018, and two were students from the Pastoral Studies Institute. In addition, four were reassigned to one-year calls.
Over 2,000 computers were logged onto Livestream, and there were over 2,000 views on Facebook. In the comments section, people checked in from all over the U.S. In addition, people checked in from Canada and India.