Archive for the ‘Hamma School of Theology’ Category
Hamma School of Theology at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio went through a drastic change in curriculum when four new professors arrived to replace those who retired. The euphoria of the Sixties had hold of us and professors lectured on their newest writings to the whole community and other classes were mostly held seminar fashion. Students chaired classes and professors were resource persons in the class. Each Wednesday from 10 am to 12 noon, the seminary divided into core groups with about two professors and eight students, where the goal aimed for pastoral maturity and spiritual growth, rather than leaving it to happenstance and concentrating only on academic theological preparation, the way traditional theological education did. I was in St. Claire’s (a psychology Prof) and Ben Johnson (a New Testament Prof’s) group and the intellectual did not scare me, but the psychology prof certainly did. He could nail you to the wall with words and talk about flipping ashtrays into the air that came down daisies. I really felt that a person had no business taking you apart if he couldn’t put you back together. I could handle it because I had rough inner-city experience in Cincinnati with Les Schulz, right while the racial riots were taking place in the streets. My friend Kenn Donovan couldn’t and ended up transferring to Capitol Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. His fears are well represented in his cartoon.
When I read the lines of my suggestions for the four comprehensive exams required for the new MDiv, I had a good laugh. With those exams we enter a new era – The Reign of Terror! And little did I know that I would have to take the Ministry Exam with all its seven parts over three times in order to pass it. Twice it ruled that I could not lead a group, while I was the chair of the whole community council. Having felt affirmed by the Holy Spirit, I could not get it into the psychology prof’s head that I was not a ruin coming down, but a new construction going up! Christ is a whole and mature and positive healing personal model. Psychology seemed to operate only with negative models: neurotics, psychotics, paranoia, etc. Kenn Donovan had some things right. I myself have undergone some suffering and I knew that on the other side of the cross was resurrection and the only way through it is through it!
One poem is about Louise, whom I visited regularly in a nursing home until she died. The other poem shocked me as I read it. It is in the form of a business letter and I see the skyscrapers in Boston (I worked in the John Hancock Building) as secular cathedrals erected to worship materialism. Because our family experienced the bombing of Hamburg and other cities, it now seems like an eerie premonition of 9/11.
This issue of the Seminarian is volume 5, No. 6, January 17, 1969. Emil Bartos was the editor and I was the assistant editor. I left many pages out.
I’m continually looking through boxes. I’ve got a binder with my manuscript somewhere for my book on Performative Declarations, which I now want to work on. Going through one box I came across a four page copy of a letter that I sent from Berlin to the graduating class of Hamma School of Theology at Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio. I did not at all remember that I had written it.
I’m ashamed to say, that I am now a person I condemned in my letter, someone unemployed who tries to make money with money on the stock market, but sadly losing most of the time. I guess I have mellowed out. Like Woody Allen says, you mellow, ripen, and rot. I have to apologize to my younger self and other younger folks who want to take this old world by the horns and bring it down so new calves can romp and spring into a new day. But I think the hard edges of youth can be counter productive and the a stout heart of the more mature can also make this a better world to live in. The stock market might even make possible the ownership of the corporations by the people and a democratizing of the economy could proceed from there. United Airlines was worker owned and that changed because of its bankruptcy.
I’ll put this letter in with all its flaws and blemishes, its cuss-word, misspellings, and whatnot. I was pretty fired up back then. My ministry in St. Paul’s in Coney Island was a very creative chapter in my life. But after coming to make my PhD, I never landed a position to be able to make a contribution I would have loved to have made. It was like I said in those days: What to do if you are a helicopter and no one gives you a landing pad! You will run out of gas sometime and crash. Still as I discovered when I was torn between Germany and returning to the United States, you have a place in God even if the world refuses you a place. And even if there is no position for me and I am still spending untold substance to pay for my doctorate: I’ll make my last student loan payment of $595.80 when I’m 90 years old! It will be funny hobbling up there with my cane to bring the money. I love having had the education, however. Still I wish I had not been quite so harsh in my young age! It shocked me to read it!
In those days, I was the chair of the Community Council and Hamma School of Theology was facing some critique, because we had just been through the sixties and 1970 was not that far removed.
I was working in First Lutheran Church in Cincinnati during the summers and there I experienced racial rioting. I got beaten up very badly walking through the streets one evening and afterward I would have trouble finding my way to places that had never been a problem before. It takes a while to recover from almost having been killed. I got lost very badly trying to find the Dayton Counseling Center, but in the first session with the Rev. Grover Criswell, I could feel myself getting better.
On the last page: Morry Knauss had had a horrendous motorcycle accident, I believe, and had recovered despite a very dire prognosis, only to become stricken with terminal cancer. He was the Knauss’ only son and the grief was heartrending.
The manuscript is quite hard to read, so here is a transcription:
A Homily Preached for Hamma School of Theology, the Alumnae, Pastors of the Ohio Synod, and the Community
Dec. 7th 1970
The text for my words is written in the first epistle of St. Peter in the 9th verse of the 2nd chapter:
“But you are a chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you from the darkness into his own marvelous light” (1 Peter 1:9).
This little text tries to build up a guy’s ego in a small way. To me it’s a “sola scriptura” kind of an experience, sometimes.
What does Hamma mean to me? What do I have to contribute to it?
I don’t think Hamma is an institution with a consumer mentality. It does not ransack the country or the state for shiny products, sprinkle some tinsel on them, and send them out to sprinkle tinsel on others, like Tinkerbelle. At Hamma I have found a deep commitment that takes the new students that arrive as they are. Hamma does not take only those students who will succeed. She also takes those, who are a great risk, and has the trust to invest in them her very existence. When she does this she realizes that she might fail – and all the painstaking labor with and for an individual in training might be lost.
But in this kind of a movement, because this whole country is in a crisis and at a cross roads, (wherein her institutions are being shaken) – I find the feeling of a steadfastness. The men who are the teachers of this school are willing to standby – where lesser men would fold up. I have watched them standby while someone comes out of terrible self-obsessions into a new light filled with the warmth and the glow of the concern of other people and enabling a concern for others. Hamma gives of her Lord and Savior somehow in, with, under, and thru her curriculum.
Deep, deep inside me there is a commitment that bids me proceed on this pilgrimage, this outward journey to a new life – and to help others along the way – those who have not stumbled over the same obstructions so many times before and have not yet found the way thru such a hang-up to a greater growth and maturity beyond. So arm in arm on our way we support one another in this struggle together as we follow after our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I can’t say that this struggle started for me at Hamma. That would not be true. But when there was no hope for a future and no direction for a man to turn, this school stood by with faithful trust and even respect. In each experience of acceptance, I found myself a little startled, a little surprised by the recognition of an acceptance which I could not often muster for myself.
So the verse I read you is a verse my father gave me for my confirmation. I would like to change that word a little to “affirmation.” Within this verse I find a few words that affirm myself and my existence. And they make me able to affirm and celebrate your existence before me; celebrating together the mighty acts of God.
What’s more, Hamma has done much to take this old and hardened Lutheran and remove the monster from his sky – and try to show him again and again something of the love of God by introducing me to his Son – Christ Jesus. Somehow God loves us and that’s important.
Because you know, there’s a start, a beginning…and a future opens up in an affirmation, a great big “YES” a resounding “AMEN.” So together we celebrate our existence here, giving each other a great big OK….knowing full well that in doing so we declare the wonderful acts of God who is at work for our salvation, calling us out of the darkness into his own marvelous light. This is our proclamation. Amen.
Peter Krey, Dec. 7, 1970