Saturday Oct 26th was the inauguration of Dr. Debbie Cottrell as President of Texas Lutheran University. It was a hopeful and powerful day of promise as we gathered to give thanks to God for those who have gone before, sustaining this ministry of our church, and saying yes to the future that God has prepared. I also was in prayer today as congregations of NT-NL gathered at @Briarwood to learn about the @LEAD journey and how they might be intentional about engaging and growing as disciples.
Bishop Sue Briner of the SWTexas Synod (my synod of candidacy) presided over the inauguration. Bishop Mike Rinehart of the Gulf Coast Synod was also present. My spouse the Rev. Kendra Mohn, PhD a member of the board of regents of TLU offered the invocation. She recalled the powerful words of UN General Secretary Dag Hammerskold, a Swedish Lutheran and martyr, when he wrote “For all that has been thanks. For all that will be, Yes!” We also enjoyed a moment with Dr. Alan Sager who was a beloved professor at Trinity Seminary in Ohio and along with my spouse and I has served Trinity, Fort Worth as pastor.
President Cottrell did not shy away from the realities an institution like TLU faces. From its founding financial and structural challenges have threatened its existence. Yet through persistence and miracles TLU has remained and is poised to lead. @NT-NL synod congregations are connected to TLU through the legacy of Clifton College in Bosque County. Clifton College ultimately joined, along with Trinity College (of the Augustana Synod) into TLU. The facilities of Clifton College became the Clifton Lutheran Sunset Home (the only Lutheran named senior care facility in Texas) and the Clifton cultural center.
TLU is currently most diverse ELCA college or university. Reflecting our Texas context TLU is a school in which the majority of students are of color. As a first generation college graduate President Cottrell spoke eloquently of the value of higher education and of TLU’s role providing opportunity to students like her. I was encouraged in talking to the current Student Body President. He is African-American and a native of Longview (a city on the territory of NT-NL). He has found opportunity at TLU and I urged him and his friends in attendance to connect with First Lutheran, Longview when he is home.
I have two siblings who are proud TLU alums. My father has served on the corporation board for many years in his time as pastor as Gethsemane, Austin. It was a joy to bring my children to Seguin today (named for the Tejano hero of the Texas revolution Juan Seguin) and have them spend time with their grandparents as we celebrated this new thing at TLU. There are great challenges ahead but I believe God has given us a leader to guide this institution of our church through these challenges and into a hopeful future.