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Two Martins’ Days at Augsburg College

It has been a whirlwind here and, strangely enough, harder to keep up with the blog than when we were walking all day… I suppose because our daily tasks have more variety than the pilgrimage rhythm of walk, eat, write, sleep, and walk again.

We had a wonderful time at Augsburg College in Minneapolis during our visit for their Founders Day lectures, a series started a few years ago focusing on Reformation theology as a way of emphasizing Augsburg’s identity as a Lutheran college. The lectures were scheduled for the 10th and 11th of November, and not by coincidence: the 10th was Martin Luther’s birthday (527 years ago) and 11th is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, the soldier who shared his cloak with a beggar and also gave his name to the infant Luther baptized the day after his birth.

We were interested to learn, incidentally, that Augsburg is the biggest of the ELCA colleges and set in the most urban location of any of them. While it may not have the loveliest campus (though it does have extension campuses in Windhoek, Namibia and Cuernavaca, Mexico—how cool is that?!), it definitely impressed us as a vital place with lots of cool stuff happening all the time, and it’s turned its urban location into an asset as well as a mission.

So, last Wednesday night Andrew gave his talk entitled “Pomegranates, Passes, and Popes: A Kinetic View of Luther’s Pilgrimage to Rome,” fantastically illustrated by projections of his photos along the way. The Augsburg crew is going to work on producing a video that integrates Andrew’s talking with the slides going on behind him, so as soon as that’s done and on the Augsburg site we’ll get a link up for you to watch.

If you’re dying of curiosity, in the meanwhile, what pomegranates have to do with anything, they’re actually the sole evidence that Luther’s trip took place in the fall of 1510 rather than the spring or summer of 1511. (The problem in the Augustinian order didn’t arise until late September 1510, and Luther was permanently transferred to Wittenberg in fall 1511, so those are the brackets on the possible dates.) While traveling through the Po valley in Italy, Luther reported that he and his companion got a terrible fever—probably malaria—from leaving the windows open at night, and they were cured by that miraculous fruit of ancient legend, the pomegranate. Back in the days before freezers and banana republics, pomegranates were only in season and available for consumption in the fall: hence the dating of Luther’s trip. We did notice lots of pomegranate trees with fruit a-ripening during our October passage through Italy, though we never had to test them as a malaria cure.

Thursday morning I gave my presentation, “What Has Erfurt to Do with Rome? Ecumenism as a Pilgrimage.” It did not, I regret to say, include any slides, but it should also be on video soon, and we’ll also paste in the link if you’d like to watch it. Afterwards they had a very nice luncheon for us, and then we visited our friend Hans Wiersma’s class on marriage and family. I suppose the students were curious how a couple could walk a thousand miles and still be married to each other! (Actually, a number of people gently inquired how our marriage was managing—we are happy to say it was never in the slightest peril.)

We had a little down time then with family—both of Andrew’s brothers and their families, plus Roger and Ginny back to normal, non-claustrophic existence in their house post-camper—and this morning very bright and early we hopped our next plane down to North Carolina to visit my alma mater, Lenoir-Rhyne in Hickory, as the “Theologians in Residence” for the week. (We are honored and not a little awed to be following in the footsteps of Eric Gritsch and Robert Jenson who were the Theologians in Residence the last two years.) More news on that soon!

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One Response to Two Martins’ Days at Augsburg College

    Dee Fisher says:

    I would love to see/hear both your presentations online. I avidly followed your walk from about September on. Our pastor let the congregation know about what you were doing, and, personally, I found it fascinating to read how it is to walk like you did in modern Europe.

    As for marriages lasting 24/7 contact, my husband and I spent a month last summer journeying all over the American West, and I am happy to say that not only did our marriage survive, we are eager to do a similar trip again. It pays to marry your best friend, and we both did that.

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