I would like to wish you all a blessed academic year, that you would be carried by the Lord’s grace. May it be a year when we can again get deeply embedded into the holy mysteries of the Lord, grow in faith and love, and become prepared for the work that glorifies His name and extends the borders of His eternal Kingdom among us.
We have many reasons to give thanks and praise to God when looking at this year’s admission numbers. We have 32 new students – 18 professional higher education and 14 master’s degree students. It is noteworthy that 13 out of 18 chose to major in pastoral counseling. Among the new master’s degree students 7 major in theology and 2 in pastoral counseling. This is a sign of hope for the future of theology. We have now over 130 students altogether.
Although economically the perspective of becoming a priest or theologian is far from great and the students have to pay study fees, the students still continue to come. This makes us even more thankful before God. We all have worked hard but our gratitude belongs to God for „…all that we have accomplished you have done for us.“ (Isaiah 26:12)
As we give thanks when looking back, we also look forward in steadfast faith and hope. We need again to think about the mission of our school. I believe that our current mission, which is to „provide training for priests in the EELC and the continuity of theological education in Lutheran tradition“, is still valid and poignant. Nevertheless, I believe that the coming years demand us to turn more attention to the second part of our mission – to the comprehensive development of church orientated academic theology.
I also see the Theological Institute in an important and somewhat new role in keeping and, as possible, strengthening and deepening the Lutheran identity of the EELC. I am convinced that there is no reason to undermine the Lutheran thought paradigm and the church practice rooted in it. Lutheran theology is continuously renewing itself and yet true to the early church tradition, it involves high intellectualism and childlike trust, grace and consolation, and a message to the contemporary society.
Concerning the latter, I see yet another task for the Theological Institute, as well as for our church. A year ago I wrote: „… a church that defines itself ecclesiastically dares to take a stand on burning issues in the society… I think that the Estonian society today expects the chruch to display more presence and guidance. It does not expect from us infallible declarations, but first of all that we show what the Word of God has to say not only about the big issues in the society, but also about ordinary people trying to manage their daily lives, or about the courage to live. The timeless message of the church has to penetrate the current moment, giving it a meaning, and yet pointing at the transcendent and eternal.“ (EELK: sisse- ja väljavaated, p. 57.) The Theological Institute has the possibility to prepare church workers whose proclamation of Christ will shape the society in a positive way – so that there would be more and more foretaste and signs of the fullness of the coming Kingdom of God.
Dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us be thankful – God has blessed us. He has increased what we have sown in the area of students and teachers. Let us take on board those old and new tasks in order to serve our church as servants worthy to bear the name of Christ. Blessings to those who have just started, to others strength to proceed. Joy and might for us all.