The Old Latin School is rearing to get off to a new start even if we´re facing a new Covid-lockdown over Easter. We have been very fortunate, that our chapel has been open all along. Divine services are held every Sunday – either in German or in English following the liturgical orders of the Lutheran Service Book or that of our confessional German sister church – the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). If the theological bachelor´s course offered by LCMS OIM takes off, we´ll probably have English not only on Sundays but even weekdays. That would be a great confessional offer for the Luther city – especially for international tourists. We have weekly bible studies on Tuesdays for our members and during this Lenten season public Lenten services every Friday too. The bible study is a theological overview and detailed commentary of the lessons for the coming Sunday, whereas the Lenten service follows the Lüneburger church order as it was used in the confessional Lutheran church of Lower-Saxony from Ludwig Harms times. This compliments the generic services offered locally with some hard-core materials. We are part of the SELK program “Seven weeks with God´s Word, in prayer and holy communion” (7-Wochen-Mit).
The main business of the Old Latin School is providing accommodation and creative space for individuals, small and bigger groups overnight and at best long stretches. During the lockdowns this is impossible. So, we have had a very difficult year. As the overheads continue and the house needs ongoing maintenance, we have no meaningful income from this our main business. We are grateful for the ongoing support from Lutheran friends in the Missouri Synod, who have maintained contact and financial offerings to keep the Old Latin School functional and ready to open as soon as this is permitted. The German state has also provided some financial relief to this public enterprise. However, we are looking forward to regular visitors coming in again, so that we can continue with our real business. The first bookings are in and we´re hopeful, that they will not be cancelled again like last year. Some such bookings of the house are from international groups like Corpus Christ (Young European Lutherans) , NELA (Luther Academy for North Europeans: Scandanavians & Baltics) and OIM (Eurasian Missions of the LCMS), but also local ones like SELK Pastoralkolleg (Pastor´s ongoing training) and PTS (Students, theological candidates and vicars).
A permanent theological bachelor´s course as mentioned above and envisioned by Rev. James Krikava starting September could prove a real game changer. They want to occupy an entire floor of our four-story building for a good part of the year and would not only be a pool for budding Lutheran theologians but would also fill the house with vital Lutheran vibes – sending out a strong message into the old Luther city, that the Lutheran faith is most vibrant and still very attractive – not only in America, Africa and Asia, but right in the heart of Europe.
Perhaps one day, the other floor could be filled with prospective deaconess students from Europe and Asia too. I am sure, that somebody like deaconess Grace Rao could do something phenomenal in that line. Off course we could then envision some more expansion and getting the next Lutheran household here in Wittenberg up and running – enlarging the confessional footprint here step by step. We really need a permanent address for Lutheran scholars doing a sabbatical, doctoral studies or just some deep Lutheran immersion for those bishops losing touch with their true foundation and mooring.
Smaller enterprises in the Old Latin School are firstly the ongoing Lutheran bookshop started by CPH, but now also providing Lutheran materials in German from various local publishers. Then we also have German language courses for immigrants offered in the house. Some of the participants are members of our small congregation. Others are Muslim and newcomers to our faith. On demand I give tours of Wittenberg – and especially the Luther sites, which many tourists try to rush through in a day. That´s a tough ask, because visiting four UNESCO world heritage sites in one day – even if they are all in one street (That´s unique!) – is too much for most. There is so much to see and experience here, that You really need a week or more to get the feel of this Luther experience, which historically centers around Wittenberg. Ideally such a Luther experience should take You to Torgau, Mansfeld, Magdeburg, Leipzig, Eisleben, Eisenach, Wartburg, Marburg, Worms etc., but even Coswig around the corner has some beautiful sites, art works and church altars. Some of this is online and accessible virtually but standing in front of the Reformation altar in St. Mary´s or at the castle church door, where Luther posted those 95 theses or under the oak tree, where he burnt the papal bull is way better without question.
Part of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg´s task is to demonstrate that confessional Lutherans of the International Lutheran Council are part of the Lutheran reality – not just globally, but also locally. Here at the birthplace of the Lutheran reformation, we Lutherans bound to the confessions of the evangelical church as the true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture, have a birthright too. Even if unionistic mechanizations of the Prussian kings sidelined confessional witness in these lands far too long, so that it was nearly wiped out, God in His wonderful providence has opened a window of opportunity for faithful Lutheran witness once again.
Thankfully that opportunity was taken by our faithful leaders – President Harrison & Bishop Voigt – and it is now possible to use that foot in the door to further elaborate and promote this life-saving message of the true Gospel in these European heartlands. And You can be part of that ongoing story too. So, please join us if You can!