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An update on the seminary fire

November 20, 2014 4 Comments
President James R. Gimbel.

President James Gimbel

NOTE (November 26, 2014): The seminary community has since returned to their building.

On November 12, Concordia Lutheran Seminary (CLS) in Edmonton suffered a fire in the library basement. The fire was later deemed to have been not accidental in origin, and classes resumed offsite. CLS President James Gimbel provides an update on the seminary’s situation in the letter that follows:

by James Gimbel

Grace and peace to you all through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

James begins his epistle referring to himself as “a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ,” writing to “the Twelve Tribes in the diaspora.”

Both the servanthood theme and the concept of the diaspora are on the forefront of our minds this week at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton.

We are firmly convinced that the fire in our library will not derail our mission to “form servants for Jesus’ sake,” even though we serve in our own diaspora in these times.

We are firmly convinced that the fire in our library will not derail our mission to “form servants for Jesus’ sake,” even though we serve in our own diaspora in these times.

Being away from the familiarity of our classrooms, study carrels, lunch room, offices, and foosball table bring a sense of displacement … and it is unsettling.

However, we are doing well in shared space with the ABC District office and Concordia University College of Alberta. (Thank you both!) The aftermath of the fire is inconvenience, but we are not in a crisis by historic or global perspectives; in fact, God often works a crisis to be a blessing as it reminds us of His promise to be with us on our journey, the same promise given to scores of believers who have moved from things comfortable and familiar to the unknown and somewhat jarring realities of life outside of our comfort zone.

The cleanup crew from Service Master has been hard at work with two large reclamation and cleaning crews. We expect to be using all areas of the Seminary by Monday, November 24, except the library.

The library will be encased in plastic wrap for a 4-6 week cleanup process that includes HEPA removal of soot, oxygen scrubbers of the air, and heavy ozone treatments for the books. After a few sampled trials on cleanup, we are optimistic that a majority (but we know not all) of the most important titles in our nearly 20,000 volume book collection will be restored for our use. We will find out more about our hard-copy periodical collection as they attempt to clean each set.

Library carpet, lighting, ceiling tile, and some shelving and furnishings will be replaced. New paint will need to be applied on the walls.

Our insurance company has been phenomenal and is fulfilling its pledge to take wonderful care of us. We thank God for them, but also ask you to consider additional support of our unmet costs that arise from this challenge and our opportunity to make some important changes while everything is in disarray.

We will use this opportunity to re-assess our library design as well as our manner of providing the best Lutheran and other Christian theological resources for our students, those at CUCA, and others in Western Canada.

The Church has already begun to respond with great support, encouragement, and prayers (and a bit of humor). We have had offers for books. (Thanks to LCC President Emeritus Ed Lehmann for his book donation of “Ministering to Young People’s Societies” copyright 1942—offered, of course, with a wink and a smile.)

The students, entering the most intense time of stress and study in the semester, feel displaced, discouraged, but are strong and resilient and hopeful. All have responded to the new challenges with professional valor.

Faculty and staff have added stress and responsibilities to oversee components of reclamation in addition to the other pressing duties and classes. Others in ministry are stepping up to provide teaching or counseling support and assistance.

We are truly thankful! We will be back in our offices and once again hold classes and chapel in our building beginning next Monday. We will continue to use reserve books that we have pulled and electronic resources that we have access to from anywhere. We have temporarily lost one small classroom/meeting room in the library that we frequently use, but will set up alternative space. We plan to allow the lesser-used SW basement classroom for use as study space for the guys when classes are not in session (common space like the old dorm study halls of the prep-school days).

Through all the disarray, God has been our strength and stay. There is much to be thankful for: no injuries, no irreversible damage, and no wrongful media exposure. We pray for whoever started the fire, and thank God for all of the valiant ones who have served us in this time (fire, police, and many in the service sector).

There is much to be thankful for: no injuries, no irreversible damage, and no wrongful media exposure. We pray for whoever started the fire, and thank God for all of the valiant ones who have served us in this time (fire, police, and many in the service sector).

We have renewed energy and commitment, and God is indeed our strength as we follow the cross and Christ our strength and hope, as have Christians throughout the centuries. Beyond the cross and its jarring realities is the open tomb and its promise and power… its LIFE.

In the brief postlude of the Reformation, we still rally around Luther’s words, “though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us; We tremble not, we fear no ill; They shall not overpow’r us. This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him.” (LSB 656:3).

May God bind us all together in our common faith and firm convictions of the true Christus Victor for us all.

———————

Rev. Dr. James Gimbel is President of Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton.

4 Comments »

  • Canadian Lutheran Online » Blog Archive » Seminary fire not accidental, classes resume offsite said:

    […] (November 20, 2014): President James Gimbel has provided a new update on the seminary fire and recovery […]

  • Rev. E.Allsopp said:

    “Not accidental”, so what was the cause?

  • robert clifford said:

    Were there any ABC District CEF documents or records lost in the “not accidental” fire?

  • canluth (author) said:

    The fire affected only library holdings and no administrative documents
    of any kind. What’s more, the seminary does not store records for the
    ABC District or its CEF.

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