VILLAGE OF NASHOTAH - If you take a drive through a rural, wooded area of the village, you may come across a picturesque place with historic significance tucked away in the woods near Upper Nashotah Lake.
Nashotah House Theological Seminary, 2777 Mission Road, a seminary for the Episcopal church, is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year and is among the oldest degree-granting institutions in Wisconsin.
It houses 99 students, and employs 30 staff and nine full-time residential faculty members. Founded in 1842, it was added to the State Register of Historic PlacesSeptember 2016. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Jan. 12, and broke ground for a new change ringing bell tower in November 2016.
"It has been a busy year and the 175th is just ahead," wrote the Very Rev. Steven A. Peay, 20th dean-president of Nashotah House, in the 2015-16 President's Report. "We celebrate the past, but are committed to the future. ...The work continues, and we continue to rely on those who share the vision, hold the Gospel dear, and know that it is the Lord who guides the future. Together, we will carry on the work, and Nashotah, and its mission, will flourish."
A mission to the 'western reaches'
A group of three newly ordained deacons from the General Theological Seminary in New York City — James Lloyd Breck, William Adams and John Henry Hobart Jr. — volunteered for a mission to the "western reaches" in 1841. With the guidance of the Rt. Rev.Jackson Kemper, the first missionary bishop of the Episcopal Church, Adams, Breck and Hobart headed west to what was then the Wisconsin territory. The three settled in a log house in Prairieville, where the city of Waukesha is today.
Then, on Aug. 30, 1842, Breck and Adams moved to "460 acres of rolling kettle moraine woodlands overlooking Upper Nashotah Lake," according to a walking tour guide from the seminary. The land was purchased for $1,180, and started operating that fall with three students, with the purpose of serving the Wisconsin frontier and the newly formed diocese of Wisconsin. What's known as the Blue House was built for $350; it was the first building constructed on the property.
The Territorial Legislature of Wisconsin chartered the seminary in 1847 as a "college of learning and piety."
Today, the campus consists of 22 buildings, many of them reminding students, faculty and staff of the institution's long and storied history.
"It's an honor to work here," said Nashotah House Library director and professor of ascetical theology David Sherwood. "You're reminded of it every day when you come into work. Our campus doesn't let us forget our history because it's right there in front of us. It's an honor to come in and do the work every day."
What the seminary teaches
The seminary's mission continues today, training up leaders in the Episcopal Church in North America, the Episcopal Missionary Church and North American Lutheran Church, among others.
Nashotah House offers residential programs with master's degrees of divinity, theological studies, sacred theology in Anglican studies,. as well as an Anglican studies certificate.
There are also hybrid distance education programs in the Anglican studies certificate and Master of Theological Studies programs, and in Master of Ministry and Pastoral Ministry.
Advanced degree programs exist in Doctor of Ministry and Master of Sacred Theology.
In November 2016, the seminary received a $3.5 million commitment from the Order of St. Benedict Servants of Christ. The endowed fund will support the St. Benedict Servants of Christ Professorship in Ascetical Theology and Monastic Studies, as well as an annual international conference on religious life and Anglicanism.
The seminary emphasizes prayer three times a day with the ringing of the Angelus, as well as a community atmosphere where students and most faculty and staff live on campus and share common lives, enjoying breakfast and lunch together every week day and with frequent community dinners.
The seminary will celebrate its 175th anniversary with a joint Evensong celebration at All Saints Cathedral, 818 E. Juneau Ave., Milwaukee on March 5. An organ recital is planned for 3:30 p.m., followed by Evensong at 4.
"Evensong is one of the best gifts the church has to give the world today," said the Rev. Alex Pryor, director of chapel music at Nashotah House. "There's no sermon, just the chanted text that hasw remained essentially unchanged since the 1500s, and the rich choral tradition of anthems, just like you would hear at Westminster Abbey or Kings College, Oxford. That space, that gift, to just come and sit and listen to what God might be saying, is precisely what we need today.
The celebration is open to the public.
From June 6-9, Nashotah House will host a conference on Anglicanism and the church, and from June 12-16, the seminary will host a weeklong residential church musicians workshop.
"It's a hard time for small, independent seminaries, but we're better positioned, I think, than most to make it because we have a unique history and a unique sort of clientele," Sherwood said. "I think things are looking positive for us."
Learn more about Nashotah House at www.nashotah.edu.