“Fear God and Fear Not”

The 2021 Baccalaureate, Organ Recital, and Commencement Ceremony at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne

FORT WAYNE, IN, May 25, 2021—The 175th academic year of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (CTSFW) has officially reached its completion. On a beautiful, sunny day in May, faculty, staff, students, and loved ones gathered together to send graduates out into the world to teach the faithful, reach the lost, and care for all. While much has changed in 175 years, the Seminary’s vision and purpose remain the same as they were at its establishment in 1846: a clear Lutheran confession coupled with a vigorous missionary effort. CTSFW was blessed to see 88 students graduate from across the country and around the globe, going forth to bring the Lord’s healing Gospel and mercy to those in need. This year saw placements in Italy, Uruguay, Germany, and all over the US—along with a number of international students who will serve in their home countries.  It is truly exciting to be a part of furthering God’s kingdom on earth and to “Make Known His Deeds!” all over the world.

The day opened with a beautiful Baccalaureate Service featuring a sermon by CTSFW Chairman of the Board of Regents the Rev. Dr. Ronald Garwood. Garwood spoke of frightened disciples, waiting, huddled together in fear in an upper room, when Jesus came to show them his hands, feet, and side. “Their sorrow would turn into joy at His resurrection.” Garwood reminded us that “all of our troubles, difficulties, and problems here are temporary.” The joy of our salvation is “an ongoing joy, a permanent joy, a joy that no one can take from us.”

A luncheon followed for soon-to-be graduates of the Deaconess Formation Program, their families, and Seminary leadership. Dr. James Bushur gave an inspiring farewell, noting that the vocation these women have chosen is one of sacrifice and the doing of many small things, but there doesn’t need to be trumpets and fanfare for the impact on His kingdom to be great. President Lawrence Rast, Jr. commended the outgoing deaconesses, noting that their alma mater supports and will pray for them in the great and challenging calling of church service and mercy work. Deaconess Amy Rast also gave words of encouragement and gifts to the students, as each introduced themselves and told of their upcoming or pending placements. Gifts in support of the women were also presented by the CTSFW Food & Clothing Co-op and the Lutheran Church Extension Fund.

The Organ Recital by Kantor Matthew Machemer was wonderfully performed and enthusiastically enjoyed by all in attendance. “Prelude and Fugue in D Major” by Johann Sebastian Bach came first, a piece in constant motion ending with great exclamation. The second piece was “Rubrics: A Liturgical Suite for Organ” by Dan Locklair, with each of its five movements based upon the liturgical instructions present in The Book of Common Prayer. The recital concluded with “Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain,” written by Maurice Duruflé in honor of Jehan Alain, a celebrated French organist and composer who was killed in World War II. 

After the recital, guests enjoyed light refreshments and fellowship amid the trees and fountains in the bright and bustling upper plaza beside the chapel, while students, faculty, and honorees donned robes and assembled for procession.

Commencement saw Kramer Chapel filled with loved ones and supporters of the Seminary, with plenty of vocal little ones squirming while waiting for mom or dad to come and scoop them up, diploma in hand. The Rev. Larry Vogel playfully noted that while many commencement addresses “were stirring calls to action on the field of life…by great figures and recorded for posterity,” many are inevitably forgotten. The audience, both in person and online, overwhelmingly emphasized that this was one not to forget. Vogel relayed many of the joys and challenges of his ministerial career thus far, reminding us to “be joyful in hope, patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer….Commence your callings in confident hope, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” His conclusion was simple and memorable: “fear God and fear not.”

During the Commencement exercises, CTSFW was honored to award the Doctor of Divinity (DD) degree, honoris causa to the Rev. Dr. Christopher W. Mitchell, the Rev. Prof. Erling T. Teigen, and the Rev. Larry M. Vogel. Mrs. Mollie Z. Hemingway was also awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters, (LHD) degree, honoris causa

The Miles Christi (Soldier of Christ) award was created by the faculty of CTSFW in order to recognize and honor each year Lutheran laymen or laywomen who have glorified God through a real contribution in some field of human endeavor and who have displayed the characteristics of good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3). This year’s Miles Christi award recipients are Mr. Dennis Becker, (awarded posthumously), Mr. Jerome W. and Mrs. Linda Bolick, and Dr. Michael and Mrs. Margo Liebner.

The CTSFW Alumnus of the Year was established to honor those who demonstrate excellence in preaching, teaching the faithful, and reaching the lost while also strengthening and supporting the Seminary’s mission. This year’s Alumnus of the Year award was given to The Reverend Larry E. Ziegler (‘73) of Castle Rock, Colorado.

President Rast reflected on the importance of the service of such revered honorees, along with a body of supportive and faithful believers, whose investments have helped to raise up the future leaders of our Church. “It is a great honor and privilege to be a part of such a remarkable group of individuals, not only the folks that we’ve recognized with their honorary degrees, not only the folks we’ve recognized with respect to the Miles Christi awards and the Alumnus of the Year, all of whom are very well recognized for their great contributions to the Church, but also, with our graduates, I think it is appropriate for us to recognize the families who helped bring all of these people to the point where they are today. So, to the families we say, thank you.”

Dr. Gieschen reflected that “after a challenging year of navigating in-person instruction during a global pandemic, it is such a joy to have gathered with these graduates and their families to celebrate the completion of their pastoral, deaconess, or graduate programs. We truly rejoice in the formation and learning that has happened in their lives during their years at CTSFW. We now pray for God’s great blessings upon their service to His kingdom as they ‘Make Known His Deeds!’ throughout the world.”

President Rast then brought the 175th academic year to an official close with a few words of special commendation for the faculty of CTSFW. “These men have served faithfully and steadfastly since last June, when the Seminary reopened for in-person education. In the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have served faithfully and well as we have celebrated our 175th anniversary year, to ‘Make Known His Deeds!’ And so for that, I—and I know all of our graduates—are profoundly grateful.”

The Lord has blessed and sustained CTSFW for 175 years, and the events of Graduation Day 2021 were exemplary of that fact. The Seminary asks that all join in thanking God and praying for these gifted servants as they embark on their new service to God and our Church, across the nation and around the world. May God bless, strengthen, and fortify these
graduates and all of us as we work to support each other and God’s kingdom and “Make Known His Deeds!”

To learn more about the day’s events, read the bulletin, and watch the service and ceremony, visit To find out how you can support the Seminary’s mission and the future of the Church, visit

Know someone who might make a good pastor or deaconess? Considering your own calling? Visit