Full Text for Springfield Revisited (Text)

THE SPRINGFIELDER December 1971 Volume 35, Number 3 Springfield Revisited 0. P. KHETZRIASS ('li~rlic.tlllot-, 1-alpnraiso Cnirersity I'r-ofc~~o t-, Concordia Theological Seminary (1927- 193 3) I T \\.&I5 -1 HOT D.\Y in Springfield allllost fifty years ago. I was \\-~lndt.ring up Enos A\-cnue, past the shoe factory and the little 11oust.s hudclled a10113 the n-av up to the big building which dom- inated thc cnd of the street. It\ras just 2:00 p.m. and I was overdue at 111v first 111c~stil1g of thc filc~lt~ of Concordia Seminary, Spring- field.. IlIii~oi~. L-1' t11c old creak\. stairs to the seconci floor of the ancient "haffcc ii1 I found the faculty assembled. Let their names be i~~~rnortalizcd hcrc sincc none of the111 is any longer in the land of thc lirinp. Tllcl-c ri.as "Daddy" Klein, the president, known to gener- ;itions ot stuc-len ts ns 3 kindly and generous 111an -"Pat" \Vessel, professor of' Escgcsis, whitchaired and a great raconteur-"Doc" Engeldcr, profcssor of Dogn~itics, as keen a mind as eyer studied rl Scripture tcxt-"Pop" Behrens, professor of Isagogics, il cultured gentleman -"Doc" IVenger, professor of German and Exegesis, the incarnation of 1 lclanch thon --"Fredw >layer, professor of Sen- Tcstament, \\-ho latcr became famous-"Tubby" Hoffmann, pro- fessor of English ;ind Science, known for his iron discipline- "Prof" XeitzcI, professor of Homiletics, known 3s the best preacher in the Slissouri S~11od--"3lart" Coyner, professor of Mathematics nlld Sricncc. :L fir'st-rate tencllcr. here they were-the men des- tined br a curious combination of circun~stances to take hold of a small g;oup of young men and to shift them from one area of life to another. They linen., that afternoon marking the beginning of a ncn' school ?car, that this task \vould not be easy; there would be rough spots and sonle bad going. But the goal \\-as clear and beckon- ing; to makc out of this haphazard collection of men from the 111iddlecl:lss of ilmc.ricn a group of soldiers of the King who set their faces toward new horizons and their hands to new tasks. Thcir task \\-as great, and the material not too promising. I did not know them thcn, but graduallv the students came into focus. There was a farm boy from Xorth ~akota ~vho had found an answer to his problclns in the books and halls of the Seminary. There was a boy from Detroit who had learned something greater than the noisc of the assembly line. They were a strange lot, held together by a comnxon goal and a common desire to give their lives to a God iYho had drawn then1 from the wayside to the center of service to Him. I remember H, a brilliant student-X, ~vho would have made Dr. (1. P. Eretrrnnnn is the oldest living former professor of the seminary. He IVOIJU go oft to become the president of Valparoiso Llniversity. He represents a vital link with the past. Tlte wminary is honored to have had suck a disting~tished churchman in its m~dst. a first-rate sergeant in the Alarine Corps-(;, \\.ho ~\.ouIil 11;11 c Ixcn a success anywhere. All different, all indi\.idualsl :ill dedicated ! However, let no one misunderstand ! These recruits f ronl the world around us had not left 311 e\.idcnc.c of their I~ickgi-ound behind them. In protest against some ill-co~lsidcrecl actiou of the faculty they regularly rose in protest. The!, \\.anted us to rcnlcnlhcr that we were ser~ing in the Protestant Tradition. Tllcsc pcrindic protests were normally clircctcd against a l>h!sicaI conditiun; as for exampIe, the presence or absence of telcphoncs in thc dormitories. To restore the telephones was great crusatlc, aided anti :ibcttcci by all who had an axe to grind. But beyond the telephones there \\-as little to disturb thc \yay - of our daiIy existence. Classes for 111c begnil :it : : 00 i1.n). \\.ith il special group who had decided to stud\ Grccli. T\\-cnty-four she\\-ed up for this excursion into something so rcmo~.cd froni their prc\.iuus experience. May I say here and no~i- that it \\-as a \cr! gootl c.I;lss- ideal, in fact. The boys really wanted to stucl\. ancl it \\.;is a jo\ to help along. Sot all classes were like this, but 'the majorit\ \\.ere. It was like IVittenberg at the time of Alclanchtlion's teaching power. In fact, this \\-as my warmest ancl greatest nlemor\. of Spring- field in those days, hlany of the boys felt that somebod, had gotten ahead of them and they were anxious to catch up. .I $m(l cc""xnp1e was Neitzel's class in Homiletics. I have alrcacly rcfcrrccl to the fact that Neitzel was beyond doubt the best teacher of scrinonizing in the hlissouri Synod-sharp, eloquent, always to thc pint. S tudcrl ts studied for him as they did for no one elsc. The frrj~dnt)~ejrtztrtr diz7iderrdi had to be sound and logical. So romantic mish-nlash. The result was good sermons, logically divided ancl easily folloi\-ccl. rlbove all, Gesetz and Evan~elium \Yere al\v;iys thcrc. Studc~i ts so~iicti~ncs complained that while his results were goocl. the!- \\ere often reached the wrong wav. Sever mind, said Seitzcl in \vorcl ancl clccd, this is the result I want, and through hard \\.clrk. ant1 more llnrd work, I propose to get it. And he did. One of the most remarkable things about the student-body \\.as its vivid memorv of key Bible passages whicli applied to n given situation. ~hei; elementary :md secondary training ill Synocl's schools had been accurate and good. They knell- what Scripture meant and what they were trying to say. It was this hulnilit! I~cforc God's lI?ord which made the Seminary unique. It \\.as thc time of iVellhausen and Harnack, but few were the students \dl0 follo\\.cd their theories. Seitzel, or \ITessel, or Behrens thundering n\\-ai. \\.crc sufficient provokers against them. Granted, this was n sinll)le \ray of handling these messengers of darkness. \17e knew csiictly \\here they stood and lvhv we opposed them. Granted, too, that occasionally our warfare was &-ersimplified and irrelevant. A simple "Thus saith the Lord" may have been too simple, but it had power and might. It enabled us to w~~lk serenely between the voices of the clay clamor- ing lor o~ir ,ittuniion and threatening to destroy the nlagnificent siniplicit\. of "T11us snith the Lord." This was good. So thc long llistory of our Seminary these were quiet years. I rcmcn~bi~r- \ cri- Jittlc of the meeting that September afternoon. Only that 11 fc\\- illen -- :111cl iul assistant-were concerned about the future. ilbout thc mcn \\.ho \\.auld carry on n.1le.n the going got rough. Little did \vc kno\\- that Scptcn~bcr day that wc would see evil days, both in thc ~~orld ;~nd in tl~c Church. A month later the world would collapscb and \vc n-oulcl sce days of hunger on the streets of Spring- field and Chicago and star\-ation would walk on our highways and in our strccts. It was quiet in the rooin in the old "Kaffee Rliih1e"-- quiet \\-it11 thc strangct quietness of children waiting for a storm. But it \\-lis ;~lsr, thc quietness of children who knew that they were doing n g~c~I thins for Him ll'ho bcgan it on a raging sea. 'This \%.as thc strength of the old Springfield. It always had a scnst: of. continnit? about it, XII awareness of the great fact that the lasting, eternal things were here and not out in the worId. To these things \\.c Ivcre c1cdicatc.d ,and committed and from them nothing and nobod!- coulcl scparatc us.