LEAven Blog


Beacon on a Hill

My daily commute to my office in the mid-1990s didn’t usually take more than 15 minutes unless delayed by unusual traffic or snow! It was pretty much just expressway scenery until I came to the exit that allowed a view I enjoyed every morning: the chapel tower of Concordia University Ann Arbor set along the banks of the Huron River. Its distinctive triangular shape, symbolic of the Holy Trinity, topped by a cross reaching into the sky, was a reminder that this campus was special in this major university town and its extended communities. It was truly a physical reminder that this is a place to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 ESV)

Having been gone from my position as Director of Teacher Education at Concordia for the past 27 years, I still have the image of that “beacon on the hill” in my mind and heart. It was brought forward in a much more public way during the past couple of months as the campus community and many who are intertwined with its ministry were challenged by some confusing and ill-timed messages about changes that were being considered for its future. Difficult discussions about finances led to suggestions about solutions that could potentially impact programs, property, and — more importantly — students, faculty, and staff. Feelings of fear, despair, uncertainty, and confusion were expressed in public forums, online, and in a variety of private settings.

In the midst of these difficult weeks, I was encouraged by the many voices that were raised about the need to keep the ministry of Concordia University Ann Arbor vibrant and active. In a year of record enrollment, new program starts, and a positive campus climate, it was clear that those who are currently on campus, alumni, donors, Michigan District members, and community members were stepping up as “beacons of hope” for this institution that is celebrating more than 60 years of mission and ministry. Despite current and future challenges facing them, this “beacon of light” in Ann Arbor deserves all the support that can be generated to maintain and grow its reach to diverse populations of people who need to hear about Jesus’ love for them and His Easter victory.

I am reminded of the “beacons on a hill” that are positioned in thousands of locations across the United States and in many other parts of the world. Lutheran early childhood centers, elementary schools, high schools, universities, and other models of Lutheran education are blessed by God to serve both those who are members of Lutheran church communities but also increasingly to touch new groups of people seeking stability in their lives, alternatives to poor education options, and an environment that practices Christian love and nurture. This means that these beacons need to be positioned in places that are often challenging and require special attention. We need to find ways to avoid losing a foothold in locations that can be strategic to ministry outreach, such as Selma, Portland, and Bronxville. God has called us to reach into all the world. We need to build up new ways of bringing Lutheran education into new areas and finding new means of support.

I am confident that God has plans for the mission of Concordia University Ann Arbor, as He has for all Lutheran schools at every level. We need to work together to support and uplift those who serve in each place of ministry and pray that each “beacon on a hill” can shine brightly in every community around the world.

Jon is the Executive Director of LEA. He has served in that position since 1997. He previously served as Director of Education at Concordia University, Ann Arbor and 15 years as teacher and administrator at schools in Texas and Michigan. Jon is actively involved as a speaker, consultant, board member, and collaborator with schools and organizations on six continents.