By Stacey Egger
Since 2008, DOXOLOGY: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization, has offered training, mentorship and respite to LCMS pastors through innovative study-based retreats. Now the program will continue that legacy under the leadership of its new executive director for Spiritual Care, the Rev. David Fleming.
On Sunday, Aug. 2, Fleming was installed during a Vespers service at Elm Grove Lutheran Church in Elm Grove, Wis. — fittingly, as it was in this church building that the initial meetings that led to the creation of DOXOLOGY were held. Attendees, including many DOXOLOGY graduates and two district presidents, came from several states to attend the service of installation.
The Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil, who has served as the executive director for Spiritual Care for DOXOLOGY since it was founded, and who will now serve as the organization’s executive director emeritus, preached at the service.
“By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit has richly blessed the work that originated here in this church and now has enriched the lives of thousands of people. … What a joy it is today … to be a part of passing the baton … to carry that conversation on into these tumultuous times and beyond,” said Senkbeil in his sermon.
“With the installation of Rev. David Fleming as our new executive director for Spiritual Care, DOXOLOGY celebrated a wonderful milestone in our history,” said Dr. Beverly Yahnke, who has served as DOXOLOGY’s executive director for Christian Counsel since its inception. “We rejoice in DOXOLOGY’s service to pastors and their people for the last 13 years and are confident that God will continue the good work which He has begun through DOX.”
Fleming has served as DOXOLOGY’s associate director for Spiritual Care since 2018, and as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Mich., since 1993. He became involved with DOXOLOGY when he was inducted as a fellow in the DOXOLOGY Collegium in 2014. DOXOLOGY fellows are program graduates who serve in an advisory capacity.
“DOXOLOGY has been vital in equipping me and over 800 other pastors in advanced pastoral skills for the care of souls. It is an unmitigated joy to serve with Dr. Beverly Yahnke and carry on this work of equipping, supporting and encouraging pastors and congregations in these gray and latter days,” said Fleming.
“I’ve heard from many pastors who consider DOXOLOGY the most helpful pastoral care training they’ve ever had. It’s a joy to be able to continue this conversation on the care
Caring for pastors
As DOXOLOGY undergoes this transition in leadership, it is forging ahead with its work of caring for LCMS pastors.
In response to COVID-19 and the stresses it has placed on congregations and their pastors, DOXOLOGY is partnering with the LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM) to provide guidance and relief. A series of “Take Heart” retreats, sponsored by the ONM and DOXOLOGY, will focus on offering respite and resources for pastors who have struggled with the changes and stresses of the past year. “Take Heart” retreats are currently scheduled for Sept. 28–30 in Kansas and Oct. 5–7 in Indiana.
These retreats have four emphases: sustaining the work of pastors, helping pastors to diagnose existing ministry challenges, providing strategies and assistance to help pastors respond to those challenges, and equipping those pastors with both spiritual care and psychological resources.
The Rev. Robert Zagore, executive director of the ONM, said, “Our churches and church workers were already under stress from their daily battles with the devil, the world and their sinful flesh. COVID has added an element of confusion and uncertainty. It’s changed the very nature of the way we offer pastoral care and gather as the Body of Christ.
“We need to keep our workers healthy for the fight, and that means providing the best resources to aid them in the battle. We’re proud that this enhanced partnership with DOXOLOGY will be another way we can help and support each other. The Lord does not want us to face this alone.”
As the church faces mounting challenges, DOXOLOGY’s leadership is aware that its task will continue to grow.
“I expect that the shape and focus of the DOXOLOGY program in the coming decades will morph to fit the circumstances of pastors and churches in our fast-paced world as they continue to do the Lord’s bidding under pandemic conditions and in an uncertain future,” said Senkbeil. “What will not change, however, is the conviction that in order to equip pastors with advanced skills for the care of souls, they must themselves receive that very same care.
“Every pastor needs a pastor. In Rev. Fleming, DOXOLOGY has a true pastor’s pastor to oversee that care and partner with Dr. Yahnke in the blessed work that has already forever impacted the shape and effectiveness of ministry all around the world.”
For more information about DOXOLOGY, see doxology.us.
Posted Sept. 18, 2020