We are providing this information to help LCMS readers become more acquainted with WELS and their facilities. For us who traveled to the WELS Conference on Worship, the experience has been rather educational.
On Thursday, the worship conference had a change of venue from Gustavus Adolphus College (ELCA Campus) to Martin Luther College, a Wisconsin Synod campus in New Ulm, Minnesota. WELS like the LCMS facing financial challenges regarding the upkeep and maintenance of their colleges, merged their teacher college and their seminary into one campus. The student population of the campus is around 1,000. The crown jewel of the campus is the new Chapel of Christ, recently completed. Martin Luther College (formerly known as Doctor Martin Luther College when it was a teachers college) did not have a chapel for 30 or 40 years... think of a parallel situation at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, being without a chapel since it located in Clayton until 1992 with the completion of the Chapel of Saints Timothy and Titus.
A goal of worship conferences is to "model" worship for congregations. On Thursday, the theme of the conference was Easter with the opening service modeling Easter Sunday. Here the LCMS folk attending ran into a slight cultural difference. When the WELS pastor said, "He is Risen." The congregation responded, "He is risen indeed!" However, the LCMS folk added (rather loudly) "Alleluia!" This apparently is not part of the WELS Easter custom and we stood out. Nonetheless, our faux pas was quietly ignored and we were treated graciously. Of course, as is in the case of all worship conferences, the "models" often shows what can be done, not necessarily what every congregation can do. Yet this is not bad. The experience is similar to what many people find attending the worship at the Symposium at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, or at the installation of a Synod President, or the opening of the academic year at one of the seminaries. An uplifting experience and a learning experience for the participants.
The inside of the chapel is spacious and holds about 1,000 people. For the musicians, the organ was built by the Schantz Organ Company (Orrville, Ohio, 1873) has 57 pipe ranks, more than 3,000 pipes, and two 16' pipes. I was told that with the three digital voices the organ can emulate a 32' pipe -- a very low note. This is a worship space done very well.
For me, the altar was the best part of the chapel. "The Altar of Revelation," is patterned after Revelation 5, and seeks to present the Evangelists' vision of the Holy Trinity. The Father is depicted as a hand holding a scroll, the Son, as the Lion of Judah, and the Spirit as seven eyes and seven hours. In the vision of Saint John in Revelation 5, the Lion of Judah becomes the Lamb that was Slain.