For the last several weeks, Messiah Lutheran Church has had a special seminary student visiting and helping to lead services. Charlie Underwood, a member of Messiah, returned for a visit during his Christmas break. He is a second year student at Wartburg Theological Seminary. Charlie isn’t your typical seminary student straight out of college. Though he has been thinking about attending the seminary since the age of 26, he did not answer his calling until much later in life. Charlie is a self described “Second career” seminary student. In fact he could actually be called a “third career” seminary student since he retired from the US Air Force and then worked in private industry for a number of years before finally deciding to attend Wartburg.
Charlie states that the program has so far been very challenging academically. He states his biggest challenge has been the study of languages including Greek and Hebrew. Despite the academic challenges, he has found the program very rewarding. Last summer he had the opportunity to conduct Clinical Pastoral Education at Lutheran Homes of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Lutheran Homes is a family of health care and residential service organizations committed to providing quality care and life-enriching opportunities to the aging and those in need in a caring, Christian environment. While at Lutheran Homes, Charlie spent 11 weeks working with the patients there under the supervision of the Lutheran Homes Chaplain. One of the things that he had to learn to deal with was death, which he states he had little experience with previously. He explained that the experience was both intimidating and humbling and has forever changed him.
So what’s next for Charlie you ask? He will soon return to Wartburg for one more semester of studies, and then he will be sent off on an internship. During the internship, Charlie will spend a full year under the supervision of an experienced pastor. The purpose of internship is to provide pastoral candidates a learning environment in which they can both engage in the practice of ministry, and reflect on the quality of their involvements under the direction of a supervising pastor and lay internship committee. Internship provides congregations a way to enhance and extend their ministries through the gifts of an intern. At the same time, internship brings the additional responsibility of providing honest and compassionate evaluation of an intern’s abilities.
We thank Charlie for helping out during the last two weeks at Messiah and wish him the best of luck during the remainders of his studies.