ELCA seminary marks 150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg
GETTYSBURG, Pa. (ELCA) -- Exactly 150 years ago on July 1, 1863, Union cavalry commander Gen. John Buford observed Confederate soldiers advancing on Gettysburg from the west. He surveyed the advance from the cupola of a Lutheran seminary building. Within a few hours the fields surrounding the seminary became a battleground, turning the seminary building into perhaps the largest field hospital of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg.
The Seminary Ridge Museum opened July 1, 2013, inside that building, historically known as Schmucker Hall on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. The seminary is one of eight in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
In a special ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Civil War re- enactors, tourists, dignitaries and others, the museum opened with its 20,000 square feet of interactive exhibit galleries that tell the story of the first day of the battle on Seminary Ridge, the care of the wounded and human suffering within the walls of the building, and an examination of faith and freedom.
"When the seminary building and campus were overrun by warring armies 150 years ago, this place became a fierce battleground where the future of the nation was at stake," the Rev. Michael Cooper-White, seminary president, said in welcoming remarks on the steps of the museum. "In the battle's aftermath, it was a place of healing for hundreds, and a hospice where some 70 soldiers closed their eyes for the final time. We can, we must ponder the meaning of those who, in the words of one, 'have come here to stay.'"
Care for more than 600 wounded Union and Confederate soldiers continued in the building until September 1863.
The building itself is a historical artifact, according to Barbara Franco, executive director of the museum. The museum is designed to preserve Schmucker Hall in the historical interpretive period from 1832 to 1914.
About 80 percent of the brick Federal Style building is original, according to Cooper-White. From the dark wooden floors to the wainscoting, to the famous cupola, the museum's purpose is not "to preserve the past; rather, in opening this interpretive center we look to the future," he said, adding that its purpose remains "education, the patient and persistent search for truth, for answers to the great questions of conflict and reconciliation, freedom and human bondage, faith and doubt, which remain the same as they were 150 years ago."
Tens of thousands of people from the across the country have gathered here to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle -- from viewing skirmishes and re-enactments to photographing the more than 1,300 monuments and markers that line the Gettysburg landscape.
"People come for the re-enactment, but my prayer is that people leave with a recommitment to reconciliation for racial justice and peace," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson in remarks following the ribbon cutting. "The 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement combined with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (serves as occasions where we) can come together and ask, 'What is the unfinished work bequeathed to us? What is the unfinished work of freedom?'"
For information about the Seminary Ridge Museum, call 717-339-1300
or write to Dneil@seminaryridge.org
For ELCA information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org