On 17 June 2023, seminarians from across the globe (including Italy, Turkey, Romania, Sweden, Malawi, and South Sudan) arrived in Riga to begin the annual two-week intensive consisting of in-person instruction, worship, and fellowship. Much of our education occurs online, so students and faculty always enjoy any chance to be together in person. This type of gathering is crucial for educational and professional development and is made possible through the generous support of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the local assistance of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.
Our instructors were Rev. Dr. Quintin Cundiff (Congregational Catechesis) and Rev. Jerry Lawson (Lutheran Apologetics), with additional Apologetics lecturers including Rev. Dr. John J. Bombaro, Rev. Dr. Quintin Cundiff, and a guest lecturer on Literary Apologetics focusing on Tolkien, Rev. Dr. Simon David Berry.
The Intensive Study Weeks (ISW) began with a walking tour of Old Riga and worship with the English-speaking congregation at the historic St. John Lutheran Church, which houses a bit of the city wall built in the early 13th century during the founding of Riga.
Later that day, the attendees left for Mazirbe Recollection Center, a retreat about 170 km (100 miles) northwest of Riga near the beautiful Baltic Sea. Each day there began with Divine Service with Holy Communion (in English) and ended with Compline (in Latvian). Approximately six hours of instruction filled the rest of the days with plenty of free time for fellowship, exploration, and study. Students and other ISW participants also had the opportunity to enjoy the widely celebrated festivities of the Vigil of St. John the Baptist and attend the Divine Service of the local congregation, as well as spending time in fellowship with them after the service.
The second week of ISW saw the participants relocate to St. Gregory School in Saldus, another 130 km (80 miles) south of Mazirbe, with a quick stop in Kuldiga to wade through the widest waterfall in Europe. Each day began with Matins in the chapel, followed by another six hours of classwork. The days in Saldus ended with free time, and many of the students chose to play a complex board game about the Reformation in the evenings!
The preaching at chapel services followed Martin Luther's Sermons on the Catechism, and Compline readings in Mazirbe were a collection of short devotional and formational texts by Martin Luther or other classical Lutheran authors, thus enriching the students' understanding of their unique Lutheran heritage.
After completing these classes, the attendees all returned to Riga for a final meal together before returning to their respective homes. Luther Academy will resume online studies on 21 August, and administrators are planning the Intensive Study Weeks for the 2023-2024 Academic Year.
Praise be to God for this time together and for safe travels to and from Latvia.