The Return of the Bell Ringer

By Ross Engel

This past January, as has been my tradition for the past six years, I made my way to the annual symposia at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Despite the often sub-zero temperatures experienced during this week of theological education, this has become a favorite event of mine to attend. I get to catch up with dear friends like Paul and Joel and meet all sorts of new people, too. The theological discussion is quite excellent, and the social gatherings are a real joy. Between all the learning, there are meals and cocktails to enjoy at the homes of professors and then banquets to celebrate great Lutheran things ranging from the Higher Things youth gatherings to the deaconess program. There is so much to do, and we always end up with a pretty full dance card.

This year, in addition to the usual fun, The Jagged Word hosted the first of our Mafia Meetups. In the retro and quite posh lobby bar of Don Hall’s Guesthouse, we hosted quite a few seminary students, professors, and even a high-ranking synodical official, minus his trademark mustache. Manhattans and cocktails of all kinds abounded. It was a joyous night of conversation, fellowship, and laughter. The night also afforded us the chance to meet the latest and newest Bell Ringer.

Meet Gabe Martin and his lovely wife, Tina.

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It was an absolute blast to meet Gabe and Tina. Gabe is a second-career, fourth-year seminarian. He’s got a great sense of humor, and he knows his stuff when it comes to ministry. He will make a fine pastor after he graduates this year. Prior to seminary, he was a carpenter (“Just like J.C.,” he says), something he started in high school and continued doing well into his thirties. I asked our newest Bell Ringer to share a little information about himself, and this is what he had to say.

“[Here’s the] funny story of how I met my wife. We met at a high school keg party when we were 17 years old. The reason why this is funny is that we have had several elderly ladies at church ask how we met and they always mishear us. Instead of hearing ‘keg party,’ they hear ‘cake party.’ They all thought it was so sweet that we met at a nice event like that. This has become our inside joke in our years at the seminary (field-work church and vicarage church). We just tell people we met at a cake party, and it makes the sweet older ladies happy. I like to spend my free time with my wife and our three kids. Together, we enjoy lots of outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, camping, and hikes in the woods.

I am at the seminary now because I had ignored God’s call for quite some time. I always figured God was barking up the wrong tree, seeing how I am still to this day rough around the edges and a work in progress. I am glad to be here (I am saying this because I only have one more quarter to go until I am out of here). I believe that I am a good fit as ‘Bell Ringer,’ seeing how my grandfather and his father were bootleggers. This sort of thing is in my blood. Thanks for the drinks.”

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Gabe is a good guy and well deserving of our most coveted “Bell Ringer” award. It seems word is getting around, as there were several other hopeful seminarians around, all vying for this honor.

For those of you who need a refresher on the “Bell Ringer” adopt-a-seminarian program, you can read this post from a few years ago or just note the particulars below.

Upon accepting this, we entrust you to follow these guidelines

1) Do not write us a thank-you card! You have better things to do. However, if you can send a picture of you buying a neighbor a drink, we would appreciate it.

2) This money cannot be spent on bills or loans

3) This money must be used for the following two things

  1.   a) Drinks with your friends
  2.   b) A book (or books) that will be beneficial to your pastoral formation

4) Spread the word about The Jagged Word and find us next year.

5) Know that you are not alone. Be faithful unto death!

The donation button is hot. You, our Jagged Mafia, raised $500 for our last “Bell Ringer,” Adam Rodriguez, this past Fall. Adam, his wife, and their newborn baby were thrilled to receive such a large check for beverages with friends and books for pastoral formation. He says thanks a million!

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You, our avid readers, are truly a generous bunch. So let’s ring the bell loud and clear for Gabe. I know he will appreciate your generosity and your willingness to help him enjoy a few drinks with his friends as he prepares for the pastoral office. Now is your chance to support a seminarian, buy him and his classmates a cold drink, and let them know that they are not alone as they prepare for ministry in the church and when they enter the parish. I check in with our previous Bell Ringers from time to time and find great joy in seeing them in action, serving the Lord and faithfully discharging the tasks which our Lord has given them to do. Sometimes I even get a chance to buy them another round, talk about ministry, and offer them the support of a brother pastor.

Let’s ring the bell for Gabe! Thanks for your support!

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