From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Walt Wangerin To Leave Lutheran Vespers As Speaker In 2005
Tue, 15 Jun 2004 12:59:24 -0500
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
June 15, 2004
Walt Wangerin To Leave Lutheran Vespers As Speaker In 2005
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Walt Wangerin Jr., speaker for Lutheran
Vespers (LV), the radio ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA), will leave the program in early 2005, said the Rev. Eric
C. Shafer, director of the ELCA Department for Communication.
Wangerin's final program as Lutheran Vespers speaker will air Jan. 2,
2005, Shafer said. After that, the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of the
ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod, will serve briefly as interim speaker
through Feb. 6, 2005, he said. The new host of Lutheran Vespers will be
announced next week and will begin the first Sunday of Lent, Feb. 13,
2005, Shafer said.
"It has been a privilege and a joy to work with Walt over the past 10
years," said Susan V. Greeley, director/producer for Lutheran Vespers,
ELCA Department for Communication. "I learned something new with every
program he recorded."
"The reaction to Walt's arrival was almost immediate," she continued.
"'Within the first year of his tenure we nearly doubled the number of
stations carrying the program. His impact has continued for over a decade
as evidenced by increases in annual giving and [significant] gifts to the
LV endowment in 2003. He leaves this ministry on a much firmer foundation
than he found it."
"They paid me to listen to Walt Wangerin! Who could ask for a
better job than that?" Greeley added.
"With the imagination of a storyteller, the wisdom of a sage, the
faith of a saint and the passion of a prophet, Walt Wangerin has
proclaimed the Good News of God's grace in Christ Jesus," said the Rev.
Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop. "Through his Lutheran Vespers
Ministry, Walt has borne witness to the presence of the Risen Christ and
the power of the Holy Spirit. We thank God for this most gifted
Wangerin is an ELCA pastor, and well-known author and lecturer. His
primary work is as a faculty member at Valparaiso (Ind.) University.
Wangerin is Emil and Elfriede Jochum University Professor and
Several factors resulted in Wangerin's decision to leave the radio
ministry. In October, he will have served 10 years as speaker, and he
said Lutheran Vespers is at a level that is strong enough for it to
continue with a new speaker. Wangerin, who turned 60 years old this year,
also said he wants to reduce his professional commitments.
"I will continue writing, teaching and preaching at Valparaiso,"
Wangerin said. "There's a lot of writing I want to do, and there are
large works that I've been thinking about that I need to pay attention to.
Those are tough to do with other commitments."
Wangerin was the fifth Lutheran Vespers speaker since the program was
founded in 1947. He was preceded by the Rev. Harry Gregerson, who was
founder of the program and speaker from 1947 to 1972; the Rev. Conrad
Thompson, 1972 to 1982; the Rev. Richard Jensen, 1982 to 1993; and the
Rev. Larry Gedde, 1993 to 1994. Wangerin's first broadcast was in October
During Wangerin's tenure as speaker, the radio ministry added at
least 69 affiliates for a total of 186 stations, said Brenda J. Engelby,
associate in ministry and associate director for promotion and placement,
Lutheran Vespers. Before Wangerin,
Lutheran Vespers aired outside the ELCA in Africa. Today, it has
affiliates in Africa, Australia, Denmark, Guam and New Zealand.
Lutheran Vespers gained other new broadcast outlets with Wangerin,
including ABC Sirius Satellite network for truckers and the Radio Reader's
Network in New Zealand, Engelby said. Some 80 ELCA missionaries and 50
ELCA chaplains get the programs regularly, and listeners can now hear each
program at http://www.elca.org/lv on the ELCA Web site, she added.
In 1997, the radio ministry celebrated its 50th anniversary. A
highlight of that year was a celebration at Central Lutheran Church,
In June 1998, Wangerin accompanied a total of about 250 people on two
one-week Alaskan cruises, intended to raise funds for the radio ministry.
In 2002, Wangerin and Lutheran Vespers staff went on a bicycle
journey through seven states in the Upper Midwest. Called "OutSpoken for
Lutheran Vespers," the trip took place Aug. 17-Oct. 20. The tour was
intended to give Wangerin a chance to meet listeners, raise visibility for
the radio ministry and secure funds for an endowment. During the trip,
Wangerin fell off his bike in Minnesota and broke his left hip, an injury
that required surgery. One week later, he continued the tour and
appearances, riding to each stop in a truck. The tour raised more than
$1.4 million to help fund the ministry.
During Wangerin's tenure as speaker, one program on the subject of
suicide drew considerable attention. Called, "Comfort for Those Who
Grieve a Suicide," the program aired Nov. 25, 2001. Listeners continue to
request copies, he said
"That particular sermon [generated] all kinds of requests," Wangerin
said. "Listeners [write] back to us with their own personal stories."
Wangerin said that establishing an "intimate" relationship with
listeners through radio was a significant accomplishment for him while he
"I think we discovered a way to reach people who are unchurched and
who listen to the word of God 'in the dark,'" Wangerin said. Such
listeners do not attend a church and have problems they could not face on
their own, he said. The radio ministry helped them deal with their
concerns and problems, Wangerin said.
Wangerin believes radio ministry has a quality that is unmatched by
other communication vehicles such as television.
"With radio, one person speaks into a microphone and those listening
know they are the direct object of communication," he said. "Radio has an
intimacy that television doesn't. Radio piques the imagination of folks
Wangerin offered his thanks for the Lutheran Vespers staff, listeners
and supporters of the ministry, and his father, Walter Wangerin Sr., "who
told stories when I was young," Wangerin said.
Though Wangerin decided it was best for him to leave as Lutheran
Vespers speaker early next year, he said he will miss his work with the
radio ministry, which included trips to the ELCA churchwide offices here
"I liked sitting in that little booth, speaking softly and imagining
those who were hearing it," he said.
Wangerin was honored at a June 14 reception here at the ELCA
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com
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