Pastors in the Making
Rebecka V. Andrӕ Frontz
North American Lutheran Seminary
The North American Lutheran Seminary (NALS) employs a variety of methods, courses, practica, and ministry experiences in forming pastors and leaders for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). Currently, the NALS has three seminarians serving in three different parishes:
Luke Beaver, M.Div. ’23, (NALS Seminary Center) is completing his vicarage at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Memphis, TN, with Pastor Jim Shears.
Dale Stanley, M.Div. candidate, (NALS Seminary Center) has taken on a 120-hour field experience at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bedford, PA, with Pastor David Weinhold.
Ethan Zimmerman, M.Div. candidate, (NALS Seminary Center) is being hosted by St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh, PA, served by Pastor Maurice Frontz, for his year-long field experience.
Pastors cannot be formed in isolation. They are formed in Christian community—with fellow seminarians, their professors, their pastoral mentors on vicarage and during field experiences, and the larger church body. Parish life and other ministry contexts provide students and recent graduates with opportunities to observe, learn, engage, practice, and ask questions. Likewise, the pastors hosting Luke, Dale, and Ethan benefit from their presence.
Pastor Weinhold discussed the reciprocal blessing both parties experience during the weekly times of shared reflection. These times of deliberation give Pastor Weinhold and Dale Stanley an opportunity to evaluate practices, events, classes, etc. Another example of such benefits is an idea brought to Pastor Weinhold’s attention by his former vicar, Benjamin Ames-McCrimmon, M.Div. ’21, S.T.M. candidate, (NALS Seminary Center), namely, to use a newsletter program which has since been implemented at Trinity.
During his field experience this fall, Dale’s tasks include preaching, teaching an adult forum class, participating in youth and family activities, serving as the liturgical deacon, providing visitation, and participating in various meetings. Dale and Pastor Weinhold alternate the preaching and adult forum class (which consists of various topics ranging from studying a book of the Bible or tackling the writings of a Church Father; to a Lenten catechetical series). Pastor Weinhold mentors from the perspective of also having completed his vicarage year at Trinity, which grants him a unique perspective to ensure that his vicars, in turn, have the same great experience that he had under his former senior pastor, the Rev. Ray Short.
Dale reflected on his “long” path to ordination, believing that he was “broken down” for this particular time so that he would need to submit to the Lord and His will. In his sermon on Sept. 3, 2023, at Holy Trinity in Bedford, he reminded us that “we are still in the fallen world [and] until the day of Christ’s return, sin still works in our hearts and minds. But, it no longer defines us.” Dale’s formation for pastoral ministry began long before he came to the NALS Center in Ambridge, and it will continue long after.
St. Stephen is located in Scott Township on Pittsburgh’s west side. The pastor, the Rev. Maurice Frontz, hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and was called to St. Stephen in 2012. Pastor Frontz was delighted when Ethan Zimmerman approached him about completing his field experience (Ministry Apprenticeship Program) at St. Stephen. In addition to observing, shadowing, and engaging, Ethan’s tasks include serving as assisting minister during the liturgy; attending council meetings; accompanying the pastor on visits with shut-ins; and assisting at special services such as funerals. Ethan is a second-year Master of Divinity (M.Div.) student with an anticipated graduation year of 2025, and as part of the experience, he keeps a journal to meet his seminary requirements.
Ethan grew up in Ohio as a “Great-Pastor’s Kid.” Raised by his grandparents, Ethan’s grandfather is a pastor, and Ethan grew up in the church and in a faith-filled home. Originally, Ethan was headed for law school, but the Holy Spirit had other ideas and soon, the path to seminary became quite clear. Pastor Frontz, who holds an undergraduate degree in Music Education, also thought his career path was clear, and then he too discovered that the Holy Spirit called him to the pastoral office. Reflecting on these paths to ministry, the two agree that these times of questions and answers, and simply walking together, are mutually beneficial. Ethan gravitates towards the historic liturgy and is pleased to be completing his field experience at St. Stephen with Pastor Frontz, the NALS Liturgical Practica Instructor.
Serving in the Army Reserves, Luke Beaver graduated with his M.Div. degree earlier this year and looks forward to serving the Lord as an Army chaplain. Balancing the demands of the Army Reserves with the time needed to complete his studies, Luke has traveled a rigorous path for several years. Now, Luke finds himself in Memphis, TN, for his vicarage under the tutelage of Pastor Jim Shears at Lord of Life Lutheran Church. A vicarage differs from a field experience/ministry apprenticeship program in two key ways: it is full-time and bears more significant responsibilities. Luke’s assignments currently include preaching once per month, serving as assisting minister twice per month, and planning (and subsequently implementing) the Wednesday evening Advent liturgies. Pastor Shears, who was ordained in 1972, noted that it is evident in Luke’s preaching that he received excellent homiletics preparation in seminary. Luke currently facilitates a Bible Study series held Monday mornings and will lead another Bible Study Sunday mornings during Epiphany.
Luke has experienced a warm welcome from the congregation and has already sought ways to engage the local community. He is planning the congregation’s booth at the Germantown Fest, which involves scheduling volunteers, designing children’s games, and gathering information about the church to make available and display at the booth. Luke also volunteers with Jacob’s Ladder, a local non-profit that razes drug houses to make way for new homes. He also leads chapel for the congregation’s daytime preschool. With all this ministry experience, Luke is learning how to engage the older and the younger members of the congregation and community. The Army will benefit from a well-prepared chaplain among its ranks. In Luke, as well as all NALS seminarians, the Lord is raising up shepherds who demonstrate a servant-heart.
Luke, Dale, and Ethan will join the NALC ministerium in the near future due to God blessing the work of the NALS to form pastors and leaders for the NALC. The NALS could not complete this work of formation apart from the help of partner congregations and pastors for whom we give thanks.