by Sue Ann Rybak
The Rev. Dr. Martin Lohrmann will give his last homily at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, June 29, at Christ Ascension Lutheran Church, 8300 Germantown Ave.
Lohrmann is accepting a call to serve as assistant professor of Lutheran Confessions and Heritage at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.
Katherine Reier, president of the Church Council, describes Lohrmann as a devoted family man and spiritual leader who is a mentor, teacher and friend. She said that while the congregation is sad to see him go, they understand his decision. She added that there were only a handful of these positions in the country, and that “when one opens up you have to take it.”
“We are very proud of him for this appointment,” Reier said. “He is a wonderful pastor, and now he will be providing spiritual direction and guidance to pastors and other church leaders – so instead of just guiding and teaching one congregation – he will be sharing his gifts with hundreds of students who will then provide spiritual healing and guidance to other congregations.”
Lohrmann, an alumnus of Wartburg Seminary, said he is excited to be part of the seminary’s mission as a new faculty member.
“Through my teaching, I hope to show students how the Lutheran Confessions are grounded in a deep and lively engagement with Scripture and how much freedom, insight and encouragement they offer us as we serve Christ in our various contexts today,” Lohrmann said. “Nearly 500 years after the Reformation started, Lutherans still have great treasures of faith and service to share with the world.”
Lohrmann, 36, who was born in Walla Walla, Wash., said even as a child he felt called to serve God.
“I always liked church and wanted to learn more about it,” Lohrmann said. “Even as a kid, I could tell that something important was happening, and I wanted to learn what that was. In my life, I have found that the more I’ve searched, the more I’ve found.”
He recalled the first time he thought about becoming a pastor.
“I was about 13 years old and I remember listening to a bad sermon and thinking I could do better than this,” Lohrmann said. “Then I thought, ‘wow that is an interesting idea.’”
Lohrmann said after a lot of reflection and people saying he had a gift for spiritual counseling and instruction, he decided to study to become a pastor at Wartburg Theological Seminary, where his studies included matriculation at Augustana Theological Seminary in Neuendettelsau, Germany.
In 2010 he earned his doctoral degree in religious history and later as a pastor published a book entitled “Christ Ascension Lutheran Church: 150 Years of Faith and Service “ to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the church.
He is also the author of several other publications, including “Bugenhagen’s Jonah: Biblical Interpretation as Public Theology” (Lutheran University Press, 2012), and is co-author of “Reformation Commentary on Scripture: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles (InterVarsity Press, expected in 2015.) Recently, he completed a translation of “The Early Luther: Stages in a Reformation Reorientation” by the German historian Berndt Hamm.”
Lohrmann said Lutheranism has always embraced all people. Christ Ascension is a Reconciling in Christ congregation, which means it welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members.
“It has always been a welcoming congregation,” he said. “When I first started, one of my goals as pastor was to continue to build on that,” Lohrmann said. “People here care about worship and care about each other. Those two things were very important to me – that people would continue to grow spiritually. I am really happy that people continue to join the church and find it to be a good church home.”
He said the church has a long history of bringing people together to serve the whole community.
“The congregation actively supports the the Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network and the Lutheran Settlement House, which is a domestic violence shelter for women and kids located in Fishtown.” Lohrmann said.
He also noted that he was proud of the church’s music ministry.
“We have a wonderful musician Jim Boschker, and recently the congregation installed a gently used tracker pipe organ that was originally built in 1976 in Chestnut Hill by Joseph Chapline.”
Another ministry Lohrmann enjoyed being part of was the church’s child care center.
“It’s the church’s center,” he said. “The church considers it a ministry to the neighborhood. I am really proud of the work we’ve done here. The great thing about congregational life is that it is real life,” People’s ups and downs – and Christianity has something to say to real life.”
As assistant professor of Lutheran Confessions and Heritage at Wartburg Seminary, Lohrmann hopes to teach “how the Lutheran Reformation continues to speak to people’s lives today and how to make that connection.”
Lohrmann’s message to the Christ Ascension congregation is that it continues to be “a church united in faith, hope and love.”