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“Cloud of Witnesses” Hymnals

A brief history

In the late 1970s, following the pivotal events of the 1974 Seminex walkout from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, a unique tradition began to unfold within our community. As the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) was introduced into chapel services, it became a vessel for preserving the legacy of those turbulent times. Faculty, students, and staff inscribed their names inside the covers of these hymnals, transforming them into a living memorial referred to as the “Cloud of Witnesses.” This act not only captured the names but also symbolized a collective commitment to faith and witness amid ecclesiastical challenges and changes. The following memories from Rev. Dr. Kurt Hendel and Pastor Rick Mueller offer personal reflections on the origins and enduring impact of this meaningful practice.

While you’re on campus, be sure to look at these hymnals on display in the Grand Hallway and see if you spot any familiar names.

“I suspect that we started the “Cloud of Witnesses” shortly after we began using the LBW in our chapel services. We did so shortly after the LBW was published. Adding names to the hymnals had additional meaning for us when ecumenical conversations regarding the future of Seminex began in 1981. We recognized at that point that the story of Seminex as a distinct ecclesiastical institution would soon come to a conclusion. Highlighting and recording the names of the Seminex community members and affirming our intention to continue to be faithful witnesses seemed particularly urgent and appropriate at that point.”

Rev. Dr. Kurt Hendel
Bernard, Fischer, Westberg Distinguished Ministry Professor Emeritus of Reformation History
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

“What I do recall is that the LBWs were donated to Seminex by my parents, the Rev. Ewald H. and Joan Scheele Mueller in memory of the Rev. Martin J. Neeb. Dr. Neeb was the father of Pastor Larry Neeb, the director of public relations at Seminex and my colleague at ELIM. Larry and I worked together for 11 years, producing “Missouri in PERSPECTIVE,” (in 1978 renamed “Lutheran PERSPECTIVE”).

Due to our production schedule, I was never in chapel as often as I would have liked, but I believe the “cloud of witnesses” idea originated as it became apparent that some members of the community would be moving on and others dispersing to three seminary locations. The inscriptions would be a reminder that we would all be a part of that “great cloud of witnesses” who had lived out their faith in the face of opposition or adversity.

I wish I could be more specific. By the way, the outline on the memorial “plate” is of the chapel at Concordia Senior College, where Dr. Neeb served for many years as President. As you may be aware, the Senior College in Fort Wayne was closed, as part of the “conservative” housecleaning in the Synod.”

Pastor Rick Mueller

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