Pandemic, Priorities and Philanthropy

By the Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, STS

Today, I’m writing about three factors — Pandemic, Priorities, Philanthropy — that connect us as friends of the North American Lutheran Seminary. 

Pandemic. For most of us, COVID-19 is our first real experience of a global health threat. Pandemic-driven changes mean our lives look much different than they did just 9 to 10 months ago. We don’t know how long these changes will last, let alone what a new normal will look like.

Priorities. Crises of all kinds lead us to reconsider what’s urgent or important (or both) and align our priorities accordingly. Example: Just one year into office, NALC Bishop Dan Selbo is casting a ten-point, 2020-Vision for the years and decade to come. Part of this vision is that the NALC will have “the strongest and most highly respected Lutheran seminary training system in North America.” The NALC will need at least 300 additional pastors in the coming decade to shepherd a growing, disciple-making denomination and to pick up when old folks like me can serve no longer. With the leadership of our new President Eric Riesen and the Board of Regents, the North American Lutheran Seminary is building upon our strong foundations and taking the lead in forming this next generation of pastoral leadership.

Philanthropy. Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, particularly by generous donations of money to good causes. During the earliest months of the pandemic and related economic uncertainties, the NALS decided to forego the annual May Seminary Appeal, lest it would detract from the support of congregations and the NALC as a whole. We’re working closely with Bishop Selbo to determine how and when an appeal can best resume. In the meantime, we continue to welcome, receive and give thanks for designated gifts to the NALS.

Make no mistake: Year 2020 isn’t one we want to repeat. COVID-19 has struck too close to home in terms of disease, economic uncertainty and societal upheaval. That said, 2020 has offered some amazing freedom and opportunity. We’ve been forced beyond the limits of how we’ve always done things. We’re being freed, by necessity, to assess and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

This Pandemic Summer has been a time to reassess my priorities and reconsider how my gifts of time, talent and treasure can give thanks for all of God’s blessings. 

I’m celebrating my 72nd birthday, moving into the survivorship phase of cancer treatment, and increasingly thankful for God’s grace and mercy over the years. I’m commemorating the deaths of my husband and our only child four summers ago, remembering the joys of nearly fifty years of marriage and the goodness of God to us as a family. And, I’m confident for all the right reasons — think of that old hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” penned by Horatio Spafford in the wake of grievous personal and economic loss. Jesus comes to us and bids us follow him, regardless of what life throws at us. Even when everything else is crazy, it is well with my soul.

Maybe you’re a bit like me — retired, grateful beyond words for the pastors who have been there for me and my family. Perhaps you are wondering where the next generation of biblical, confessional, Lutheran pastors will come from. Perhaps you are putting your fine NALS pastoral formation to work, shepherding congregations and making disciples who will share Jesus beyond the walls of your churches’ buildings. Whoever you are, your first-time gifts and continuing offerings are vital for making your North American Lutheran Seminary the premiere system for forming pastors, now and in the future.

When updating my will this Pandemic Summer, I increased the percentage of my estate that will go to the North American Lutheran Seminary. Meanwhile, a good part of the required minimum distribution from my pension plan will go to the NALS. I say this not to brag, but to humbly invite you to do likewise. Please give generously to seminary education in a way that works for you: A monthly contribution. An annual gift. Include the NALS as a beneficiary in your estate planning, whether in your will, on insurance policies, or investment funds. Our staff can help guide you in these matters. Give us a call at 724-385-8000 or email us at [email protected].

It is with great sadness we acknowledge the passing of our colleague the Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, STS. Cathi has served faithfully on the Board of Regents of the North American Lutheran Seminary as both secretary and chair of the Development Committee. Though retired after 32 years of full-time ministry, she continued in active ministry, pastoring a new NALC congregation and serving as director of mission development with Lutheran Military Veterans and Families Ministries.