Coming home: LSTC welcomes alumni and friends back to campus for 4th Homecoming

A video camera capturing 2022 Homecoming in the Augustana Chapel

Some 200 alumni and others participated either in person or online Tuesday through Thursday during the Oct. 10-13 Alumni Week. Members of the alumni board hosted a hybrid town hall with President James Nieman on Tuesday afternoon to learn more about LSTC’s sale of the building and relocation plans.

Wednesday was filled with class reunions (organized gatherings for classes of 1972, 1982, 1977 and 1997) and an all-alumni reception, as well as worship during which two Distinguished Alumni Award recipients preached (Jason Chesnut) and presided (Louise Britts).

Leaders of LSTC’s centers joined efforts on Thursday to present what has become a learning centerpiece for Homecoming. This year it was a full-day conference on the Neuroscience of Implicit Bias attended by about 80 people.

Leadership takes many forms            

The annual Distinguished Alumni Award ceremony and dinner was the culmination of the week, honoring Chesnut (2010, MDiv), who received the Witness to the World award; Britts (2002, MDiv), who received the Excellence in Parish Ministry award; Francisco Javier Goitia Padilla (2014, PhD), who received the Called to Lead award; and Herbert Anderson (1962, MDiv), who received the Lifetime Service Award.

In his opening remarks, President James Nieman noted that the seminary has been gathering every year since 1974 to recognize, honor and celebrate outstanding accomplishments of select alumni.

He noted the unusual nature of LSTC’s awards—that while some schools recognize one outstanding alumni, LSTC recognizes and honors a wide range of ministries because “leadership takes many forms and is a community enterprise.”

Nieman also recognized those who have supported the gifts of each leader. “In a world that is ever more frac“While the specific vocations of each are varied and diverse the constancy that has endured over nearly five decades is that each recipient has in profound ways proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ in the world,” Nieman said. tured, the importance of community has never been more apparent and valuable,” he said.

Witness to the World Distinguished Alumni Award

Jason Chesnut (2010, MDiv)

Chesnut is a pastor of Anam Cara, a new digital-first mission start of the North Carolina Synod of the ELCA. He founded both Ankos Films and the Slate Project, is a biblical storyteller, and has served as digital liturgist at high-profile worship events.

“I thank LSTC for forming me,” said Chesnut after receiving his award, “for making me so uncomfortable, for pushing me, for transforming me, and for teaching me how to walk in this world.”

Excellence in Parish Ministry Distinguished Alumni Award

Louise Britts (2002, MDiv)

Britts was recognized for her teaching, preaching, pastoral care, chaplaincy, community organizing and mentoring. Although she “retired” from Messiah Lutheran Church in Minneapolis to concentrate on hospice chaplaincy, she continues to preach and teach at Messiah under “emerita” status and is even the congregation’s bookkeeper.

“LSTC gave me wings because I had been in another seminary and it didn’t quite work out,” she said. “Since I was a little girl, I had told my mom, God’s calling me to be a pastor and to lead God’s people and to tell God’s people they are loved, deeply loved. So LSTC helped me realize that dream and become a pastor.”

Seeking bi-vocational ministry was financially necessary, she said, and it also introduced her to hospice chaplaincy. She thanked her hospice and congregational colleagues and supervisors, and then said, “I’m thankful to my parents for teaching me social justice and how to love.” Cancer at age 21 made her believe she wouldn’t be able to fulfill her dream of motherhood, but on a trip to Zimbabwe, the gift of a daughter (and eventually grandchildren) made that dream come true.

Called to Lead Distinguished Alumni Award

Francisco Javier Goitia Padilla (2014, PhD)

Padilla is director of formation for leadership at the ELCA, and served as a pastor to congregations in Puerto Rico and the U.S.

He was in his early 20s when he realized the important connection between LSTC and Puerto Rico, serving as a youth pastor with the father of LSTC emeritus faculty José David Rodríguez. He was introduced to the relationship LSTC had with Puerto Rico to develop leadership and send professors.

“When I came to the states, I discovered that in all the ELCA there was this place where Latino Lutherans come to do studies. Almost every ELCA Lutheran Latinx PhD came to this particular place in the Midwest of the United States, and I discovered LSTC for the second time,” he said, adding that he also was introduced to Rodríguez and Latinx ministries.

“That impacted Central America, the Caribbean and South America in such a way that we have a lot of leadership in all these places,” he said. “I want to thank the seminary for providing me with the capabilities to do leadership. Leadership in my community is a communal gift, not an individual gift. And I have learned that leadership is done in community for the community and I have learned from José David Rodríguez how to do these things.”

“LSTC is in the midst of a very strong second wind,” Padilla told the crowd. “There is a lot of future and a lot of possibilities for this seminary. I believe that the decisions that are being made are the correct decisions, and in the future we will still know LSTC at the edge of theological education in the ELCA.”

Lifetime Service Distinguished Alumni Award

Herbert Anderson (1962, MDiv)

Anderson served as a parish pastor, hospital chaplain, author, professor, and Lutheran pastoral theologian.

He expressed his gratitude for the Augustana tradition that impacted both him and the Lutheran Church. With a deep brogue, he quoted theologian Eric Wahlstrom, who told his students, “It could be this way and then again it could be that way and it really doesn’t make any difference. Both are true, both are true.”

“It’s those three words—both are true—that I’ve tried to live into all my life. They are window to theology. They are window to life. And they are, at this time, absolutely essential if we are going to live through the kind of impasse we currently have in ideological conflicts.”

Anderson noted the privilege of adventures he experienced since growing up in small, Swedish, Scandia, Minn., with its two-room schoolhouse with a wood stove and outdoor toilets. “When I think about where I have been in the years since Scandia … the adventures that I have been privileged to be a part of. To be professor emeritus at Catholic Theological Union down the street. To have been canon for congregational care in an Episcopal cathedral…”

With a nod to both Chesnut’s Wednesday sermon and the Augustana tradition as the “school of the prophets,” Anderson called for boldness to preach dangerously: “We need more dangerous preaching.”

He said he has been a teacher more than a pastor, and offered his gratitude “for 60 years of service in teaching.” Sharing his favorite Chronicles of Narnia quote, “Take the adventure that is sent us,” he said, “I hope I have done that.”

Homecoming articles appeared in the Fall 2022 Epistle magazine and were written by Julie B. Sevig, Epistle editor and communications manager.

Additional stories about all four recipients can be found in this story portal.

Back to top