By Roland Lovstad
Visitors to the new museum at the LCMS International Center will be reminded of a “cloud of witnesses” who testify to the power of faith and to God’s faithfulness.
Those witnesses cheer on believers today to persevere in their race “with eyes fixed on Jesus,” said Dr. Raymond Hartwig in his message at the July 26 dedication of the Concordia Historical Institute (CHI) Museum. The exhibits recall faithful people — reminders that the pure Gospel of Christ is “finally the only important thing in this life” — who encourage visitors “to their own finish line, taking as many people with them as they can,” he said.
LCMS Secretary Hartwig used Heb. 12:1-3 as his text, a passage that encourages believers to run with perseverance since they are surrounded by “such a great cloud of witnesses.” Hartwig serves on the CHI Board of Governors and was the International Center liaison with CHI during the construction project.
LCMS President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick conducted the service, the Rite of Dedication, noting that the museum space is set aside to show the work of God, provide a historical trail, encourage further study of the past, explain the vision of predecessors, and encourage Christ’s continuing mission to the church, communities, and the world.
“More than 100 years ago, the Synod realized there was more than finding and sharing the Gospel with just German Lutherans,” Kieschnick later told the Reporter. “The mission goes way beyond gathering our own; it is finding people who don’t know the Gospel.”
The museum, located on the second floor of the LCMS International Center in Kirkwood, Mo., is open to visitors from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays.
Museum exhibits include the Lutheran Reformation; the background of the various German immigrants who formed the Synod; mission work among Native Americans and African Americans; military chaplaincies; LCMS world mission; and the ministries of auxiliary organizations.
“The designer and builder tried to develop the different areas with a feel for the time period and the culture,” said Rev. Marvin Huggins, CHI interim director. “There are several places that use media pieces like videos and slide shows.”
Books by Martin Luther, the carriage owned by C.F.W Walther (the first LCMS president), excerpts from early “Lutheran Hour” broadcasts, and cultural items from early foreign mission fields were drawn from some 7,500 artifacts in the CHI collection. Founded in 1927, CHI also has gathered 2.5 million documents in its building on the Concordia Seminary campus in St. Louis.
Huggins expressed hope that the museum will increase CHI’s visibility. While the institute gathers materials and assists history researchers, he said the institute wants to be more proactive in presenting the Synod’s history and heritage. “We look to the past to praise God for what He has done through His Gospel, but also to move on with our mission today in the same light,” he said.
Staff from CHI and Concordia Publishing House are exploring ways to use resources from the museum and archives for Lutheran school curricula and resources in both print and online formats, Huggins said. “The possibilities are rather broad with today’s technology,” he added.
While volunteer staff will welcome visitors to the museum, the tours will be self-guided. Groups and tours are welcome, and Huggins asked that large groups inform CHI of plans to visit by calling 314-505-7900.
CHI will continue to host special thematic exhibits at its building on the seminary campus, Huggins said. The museum project has allowed the institute to convert some of its former exhibit space for additional storage.
Roland Lovstad is a freelance writer and a member or Immanuel Lutheran Church, Perryville, Mo.
Posted July 29, 2009