by Andrew Behrendt, M.Div. Jr.
The Thrivent Reformation Research Program has already established itself as North America's largest collector of Reformation-era books on microfiche. Now, thanks to a new $300,000 endowment, the program will grow from that collection into a larger conversation.
Based at Luther Seminary, the program received a $150,000 show of support from donors in a recently completed campaign. Doubling the impact is a $150,000 match from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, which in the past has helped to fund the program's acquisitions.
"The really exciting thing about this matching grant is that it signals that we're going beyond just having microfiche--that we're really concerned with bringing the Reformation heritage into conversation with the church today, making it come alive for today," said Mary Jane Haemig, Director of the Reformation Research Program since 2003 and Associate Professor of Church History at Luther Seminary.
Whereas more and more Reformation scholars nationwide are accessing the program's 40,000-plus titles through interlibrary loan - a database is at staupitz.luthersem.edu - the program will now also provide regular forums in which such scholars can interact.
Haemig anticipates more events along the lines of the program's North America Luther Forum, which in spring 2006 brought together experts from across the continent and across the ecumenical spectrum to discuss their scholarship of Martin Luther. Among the new programs made possible by the $300,000 will be the Colloquy on Lutheran History and a forum meeting at Luther Seminary twice this fall and three times next spring that will encourage teachers at area colleges, universities and seminaries in their study of topics in Lutheran history.
Donors see their contributions to the program as a way to preserve their faith's heritage. "Being a converted Lutheran, as opposed to being born Lutheran, I have, for a lay person, read considerably, and I understand the value of that. My wife does, too," said Ray Conger of Detroit Lakes, Minn., who with his wife, Dorothy,determined this spring to share their blessings with the program. Said another donor: "We feel strongly that Lutheran values need to be passed on and reinforced, and (donating) was a good way to see to it that that was done."
"The church always needs to be reformed--Lutherans have known that for centuries," added Haemig, noting her thankfulness to donors. "And so to look once again at our Reformation heritage, to talk together about what it means for today, that's something we always need to do. Luther's insights are not dead--they enliven, enlighten our church life today."
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