Wittenberg: Online seminar on Lutheran theology

Video lectures used for the current seminar organized by the LWF Center Wittenberg usually begin at one of the familiar places in Luther’s town. Here is the market place with the statue of Martin Luther. Photo: LWF
Video lectures used for the current seminar organized by the LWF Center Wittenberg usually begin at one of the familiar places in Luther’s town. Here is the market place with the statue of Martin Luther. Photo: LWF

LWF Center Wittenberg offers alumni a new course format

(LWI) – The LWF Center Wittenberg, Germany, is currently testing new ground and expanding its seminar work with an online course for pastors from member churches of The Lutheran World Federation. In the group are pastors from 17 countries across the world who have previously attended a course.

Since 2009, Prof. Dr. Sarah Hinlicky-Wilson and Prof. Dr. Theodor Dieter have teamed up in November to teach a seminar for pastors in Wittenberg. This year, sessions on Luther’s writings still are at the seminar’s focus, but it has moved online for the first time.

“Circumstances changed dramatically due to the Coronavirus pandemic,” says Inken Wöhlbrand, Director of the LWF Center Wittenberg. “Normally, we would have about twenty pastors and theologians from all regions of the LWF joining the seminar in Luther’s town, meeting to learn from one another’s contexts, visiting historic sites of the Reformation and revisiting Luther’s theology for the 21st century.” Travel constraints and other effects of the pandemic have made this impossible in 2020.

Instead of canceling the project, the Wittenberg team developed a new one, which is taking place from 9-21 November. “Participants from previous years have repeatedly asked for a follow-up to the two-week courses we usually do,” Wöhlbrand recalls. “So, this year, we offer an online course for alumni with our two experienced teachers.”

Participating in this new format for alumni “has been a blessing for me,” says Miguel Ángel Núñez, pastor of the Lutheran Church in Chile.

Petra Röhrs, a pastor of the Northeastern Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa (NELCSA), adds: “The readings and video lectures are insightful and provide a good basis for the live sessions. The opportunity to send in questions and reactions via email also encourages us to get deeper into the topics.”

Live sessions of about 1,5 hours take place daily, focusing on the video lecture and text designated to the day. The group is split into two smaller groups of 10 participants, accommodating different time zones between them. Based in Strasbourg, France, Dieter leads one group and Hinlicky-Wilson, based in Tokyo, Japan, the other.

“An advantage is that all participants have been in Wittenberg for a seminar in the past years,” says Röhrs. “The video lecture usually starts with a clip from a place such as the Wittenberg Town Church or a person familiar to everyone; that creates a sense of belonging and connectedness – even across countries.”

“The small group of 10 participants provides an opportunity for personal sharing,” Röhrs continues. “The breakout groups are excellent, and we get to know each other quite well.”

It takes a considerable amount of re-organizing personal daily routines and pastoral work to prepare for the live sessions and participate. “A lot of discipline” is required, Núñez says, mainly because the pastoral work currently needs much attention.

The sessions also provide immediate inspiration. “We can immediately apply what we have learned in our contexts,” Núñez notes. “It is good to hear other pastors from their contexts speak and exchange ideas about what they have learned to build the church of Christ.”

“Of course, we miss the free time together where we could have a chat and deeper discussions over a meal or a cup of coffee or during a walk through the town,” says Röhrs. “I particularly missed the personal interaction and the singing. But it still is a wonderful experience - this seminar is truly enriching and encouraging!”


The LWF Wittenberg Center was founded in 2008. It hosts international seminars on Lutheran theology with a global perspective and supports conferences and international visitor groups in Wittenberg. It maintains the Luther garden – a living monument to the Lutheran Reformation.