By Roger Drinnon
WITTENBERG, Germany — Nearly 450 people — including Wittenberg residents, LCMS representatives and international church partners from around the world — took part in the dedication service for the International Lutheran Center at die Alte Latein Schule (the Old Latin School) here May 3.
The service, conducted jointly with leaders from both the LCMS and the Selbständige Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche (SELK), began at Wittenberg’s historic St. Mary’s Church, where Martin Luther preached more than 2,000 times. The liturgy alternated between German and English, with LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison preaching in both German and English.
The SELK is a partner church with the Synod.
“We are very excited to take part in the dedication ceremony of the International Lutheran Center,” said the Rev. Dr. Armin Wenz, an SELK pastor from Halle who periodically is a guest professor at the SELK seminary. “For us confessional Lutherans in Germany, this is a great day — we have a center and a meeting place in the capital of world Lutheranism where Luther and Melanchthon studied, and we are very thankful to all our brothers and sisters, especially those in the [LCMS], who made this day possible.”
During the service, Harrison delivered a sermon with the sting of the Law and then in full measure preached the pure Gospel, paralleling Luther’s last sermon given at St. Mary’s centuries ago. With a focus on Matthew, Chapter 11, Harrison echoed Luther’s emphasis on having childlike faith in God. Harrison’s sermon and other video coverage of the service are available at livestream.com/thelcms/wittenberg.
After the St. Mary’s service, the worshipers processed from St. Mary’s to the doors of the Old Latin School, after which local government officials — including the governor of Saxony-Anhalt and a representative of the regional Protestant church that includes Wittenberg in its territory — acknowledged the significance of the school and Wittenberg’s Lutheran heritage.
At a reception that followed, donors, church partners and other contributors were recognized for bringing the restoration of the Old Latin School to fruition. The Rev. David L. and Lois Mahsman received special recognition from the SELK and the LCMS for facilitating the Old Latin School project while working with other missionaries and international partners to spread the Gospel. David Mahsman is an LCMS missionary and managing director of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg, a German nonprofit corporation established by the LCMS, Concordia Publishing House and the SELK for joint ministry in Wittenberg.
Also during the reception, SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt thanked the LCMS for helping Germans remember their history and thereby helping them rediscover the Gospel, as Luther once rediscovered it.
“The Old Latin School helps us to recover our heritage, and we are so thankful for this,” Voigt said.
“It’s quite spectacular to bring Lutheran church leaders from around the world to celebrate Lutheranism where it all began,” said the Rev. Randall Golter, who serves in the LCMS Office of the President as special assistant to the president. In this capacity, he is responsible for leading the Synod in coordinating and planning for the 2017 Reformation-anniversary celebration. “God is working His mission among the nations, around the world,” Golter said.
To see photos from the dedication, visit lcms.org/photo/wittenberg-dedication or click on “Photo Gallery” button below.
Live-stream and archived video of the dedication service has been viewed on every continent except Antarctica, with nearly 13,000 views as of May 5. Archived videos of the event remain available at livestream.com/thelcms/wittenberg (or click “Videos” button below).
The day of festivities ended with a sacred-music concert in St. Mary’s, where singers and instrumentalists performed both sacred and secular music from Luther’s day. The concert’s printed program celebrated his love of music by stating: “That Luther appreciated music … is illustrated by the following quote: ‘Here cannot be a bad courage, where fellows are singing well. Here is no wrath, strife, hatred nor envy; all heartache must yield. Avarice, worry and what else is hard goes forth with all the sadness. The devil’s work is destroyed by the music.’ ”
Roger Drinnon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is manager of Editorial Services for LCMS Communications.
Posted May 5, 2015 / Updated May 6, 2015, and May 20, 2015