Grace Lutheran Church, LaGrange, Ill., has endowed the Bernard, Fischer, Westberg Distinguished Professorship at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. The first congregation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to endow a $1 million chair, the membership was determined to leave a legacy for the future by helping to strengthen theological education while honoring three who had given the gifts of their ministry to the church.
The chair memorializes the ministry of the Rev. Dr. George P. Bernard, Rev. Dr. Granger E. Westberg and honors Rev. Dr. Robert H. Fischer. The three covered a range of ministry: Bernard was a parish pastor, Westberg was in specialized ministry and pastoral care, and Fischer was a teacher. With their families, all held membership at Grace.
In commenting on the congregation's commitment to supporting agencies of the church, Senior Pastor Robert L. Shaner said, "The body of Christ exists to serve the world. That's what it means to be the church. We need to be sure that the institutions of the church are strong because that's part of our future. We can't just do ministry right on this corner." In addition to the seminary, Grace supports Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill., Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and Bethphage.
Rev. Bernard was pastor of Grace, LaGrange, from 1960-79. He remained a member of the congregation until his death in 1998. Westberg founded the worldwide parish nurse program and was the author of the best-selling book, "Good Grief." Fischer, a member of Grace since 1967, retired as professor of church history from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in 1986.
The investiture of the Bernard, Fischer, Westberg chair and installation of Dr. Kurt Hendel, professor of reformation history at the seminary, as the first holder of the chair, is Sunday, May 5, 11:30 a.m. at Grace Lutheran Church, 200 N. Catherine Ave., LaGrange, Ill. Attending the ceremony will be Bernard's daughters, Jane Richter (Fred), Joan Kojis (Ron) and Jean Wimberly (Ben), Westberg's widow, Helen, and her children, and the Fischer's. A reception will follow.