First Graduate of Luther House of Study to Receive Degree Saturday
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Augustana College and Sioux Falls Seminary today announced that Don Reiffenberger will become the first graduate of the Luther House of Study (LHOS), a collaborative program between the two institutions that addresses a shortage of leadership in Lutheran congregations. On Saturday, May 21, Reiffenberger will receive his Master of Divinity degree from Sioux Falls Seminary during the 153rd Commencement Exercises, to be held at 2 p.m. at Central Baptist Church.
In 2006, LHOS was established to make an impact in the Northern Plains region by serving congregations and future and existing ministry professionals. In addition to providing advocacy and resources, LHOS also provides opportunities for laypersons who wish to become pastors but are hindered by geographical or financial restraints to receive a seminary education. According to Reiffenberger, the collaborative program allowed him to pursue his education without uprooting his family.
Since 2006, the program has experienced significant growth. As Reiffenberger, one of the program’s first students, graduates and awaits his first call as an ordained pastor with the South Dakota Synod ELCA, two other LHOS students are completing their internships with tentative plans to graduate in May 2012.
Looking back, Reiffenberger says he sensed God calling him as early as high school. He went on to graduate from both Augustana College and South Dakota State University. He had been working as a third grade teacher for two decades when, he says, he felt God calling him again. For a time, he tried to ignore the signs.
“My answer at the time was, ‘I’m not qualified to be a pastor,’” Reiffenberger wrote in his “Call Story.”
A short time later, a Sunday morning sermon changed his life.
“[Our] pastor said something during his sermon that I will never forget. He said, ‘God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called,’” Reiffenberger wrote.
From there, Reiffenberger was invited by his pastor to preach before the congregation.
“It felt so right to me … it felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks. I will continue praying for God's guidance, wisdom, strength, and courage … I am willing to take this leap of faith. I was willing to stop teaching and attend seminary full time. I am willing to trust that God will help take care of my family. I am willing to allow others to help in any way they can. I can't ignore or push aside this call to ministry any longer. For others who are wrestling with the idea of going to seminary, I have one thing to say: God uses ordinary people,” he wrote.
Meeting the Need
Between the ELCA synods of South Dakota, Nebraska and southwest Minnesota, a number of pastoral positions are currently open for which ordained candidates are not available. Future projections indicate that 40 percent of today’s clergy roster will retire over the next decade.
“We are excited for this day because it witnesses how the Luther House of Study is meeting the needs of Lutheran congregations in this region, said Dr. Chris Croghan, director of the Luther House of Study and assistant professor at both Augustana and Sioux Falls Seminary. “LHOS' mission is to serve area congregations by strengthening Lutheran leadership. Don, as our first graduate, will proclaim the Gospel to those who are eager to hear it. His accomplishments, and the continued interest in the program, illustrate the important role that the Luther House of Study at Augustana College and Sioux Falls Seminary is playing as an advocate and resource center for congregations and ministers throughout the region.”