The following remarks were delivered by CHHSM President Bryan Sickbert at the Nollau Institute Consecration on July 24 in St. Louis.
Last September, when we gathered for the first Nollau retreat, I traced the roots of our gathering to 1817, when King Frederick Wilhelm III of Prussia merged the Reformed and Lutheran branches of German Protestantism into the Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union. It was that church that some 35 years later commissioned Louis Edward Nollau as a missionary to the United States, and it was Nollau who, possibly more than any other figure, began the Diakonal movement that continues its life to this day in the health and human service ministries of the United Church of Christ.
All of us in this room are heirs and stewards of this movement. Indeed, this very chapel is the spiritual center of the institution Nollau founded to care for orphans of three cholera epidemics and two fires that killed 20 percent of the St. Louis population between 1830 and 1850.
The tag line on CHHSM’s website describes our Diakonic community of practice as a “passion-driven movement.” There is no question in my mind that the passion for service, the deep motivation that is the call to live a life of meaning through making a difference for the better in the lives of others, is what drove Nollau and what drives all of us to persevere in this work.
But passion that is not strategically leveraged through savvy entrepreneurial leadership does make much difference. Louis Nollau knew this. He was a skilled practitioner of leadership that integrated faith-based purpose (passion) with professional excellence.
The formation of this kind of leadership prowess is what we have been involved in over the last year. At the outset of this journey, I shared two principals that guided the creation of the Nollau Institute:
1. That leadership formation is a lifelong process of skill development in the context of continuous vocational discernment.
2. That the most effective leadership is leadership from community and a community of practice is essential to assure the constant evolution of the leaders insight, vision and strategic effectiveness.
I hope for all of you whom we consecrated as Diakonal Ministers, that this day represents not a culmination, but a new beginning as you are able to lead with new insight, vision and effectiveness enabled by the acquisition of new community of colleagues in our passion-driven movement.