Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Culture of Missouri's Zion?

Thanks to Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con blog, I came across this description of Fort Wayne, by Amy Welborn, who really prefers her new home of Birmingham, Alabama, thank you very much. Here's a bit of it:

A story: The job Michael had up there was previously held by a fellow who, when he first had the job, commuted, in a way, on a weekly basis, from a town about two hours away. At one point he decided that this was silly and that he would just move to Fort Wayne. He and his family lasted a year and then went back to the university town where they had originally lived. He spoke of the parochialism of the area. I wondered if he was just being a snob. (Sorry, Jim!)

After about a year myself, I got it.

Although in a way, I still don’t get it.

I’ve visited most, if not all of the major cities in the Midwest. Trust me, Fort Wayne is…different. I don’t know how you characterize a town. I don’t know on what basis you can generalize or describe a gestalt, an identity for a collection of 250,000 people.

I’ll try. There is just this very settled, inward-looking sensibility. From year to year (and we lived there 8), nothing much changed. A few more chain restaurants came into town, a couple left. Noises were made about downtown redevelopment, but nothing much happened (until this past year when a development centered on a new baseball stadium for the town’s AA team was constructed downtown - Harrison Square - I wish it well.) During the summer there are festivals in Headwaters Park, close to downtown, almost every week, but even they bear a certain stasis. I’ve been to GermanFest every year for seven years, and every single year, the 6 or 7 vendors of Teutonic Trinkets were arrayed in the exact same L-shaped arrangement on the west end of the grounds. Unchanging. Nothing new.

She goes on to describe it as a close-knit community where close-knit has come to be clannishness.

Now, Amy Welborn doesn't mention that Ft. Wayne is the Zion of "confessional Lutheranism" (I'm putting quotes around that, because I've known far too many great vicars from St. Louis who are 100% in accord with the Book of Concord to take "confessionalism" as something only in Ft. Wayne). Perhaps she doesn't know. Perhaps she's being polite. (Although a commenter on the blog did know and was not polite.) Mostly likely it was one of those unimportant facts about a different part of town and a different sub-community that no one she knew was curious about.

So here's my question, for any readers who might have spent time in Ft. Wayne (like, maybe, Josh?): does this description ring true? And if it does ring true, does it influence the environment at the Ft. Wayne Seminary? Is this part of the Ft. Wayne seminary culture? It would seem to me that any institution of higher education (whether traditional or modern in the approach to learning) would tend to mitigate these tendencies to parochialism. Does it? Or is what she calls parochialism a good thing? (One commenter on her blog argues exactly that.)

I'm genuinely asking, and I don't know the answers. I am curious. But I can't say that it would shock me if Amy Welborn's description was accurate.

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