The Rev. Thomas C. Knutson, pastor of First Ev. Lutheran Church, Harvey, a founder of Let’s Talk, died on September 18, 2013 of pancreatic cancer. Pr. Knutson served as Chairman of the Editorial Council for a decade and a half from the first issue at Epiphany 1996, through the years when the journal was a print publication, and during the transition to online publication. It was work deeply rooted in his conviction that theological reflection enlivened by dialogue is essential in the life of the Church. The mission statement under “About” on the home page ably expresses his vision that the journal be a medium for such reflection, while the archive indexed under “Issues” attests his leadership toward realizing that vision.
In the first issue the Editorial Council welcomes readers with the story of how this new venture got its start. Delegates to Synod assemblies, they say, had observed the informal discussions “in the corridors, during coffee breaks, and around the Augsburg Fortress bookstore display,” talk of matters that impact the life and mission of the Church but which seldom reach the floor of the assembly. The Council had seen in this an eagerness for a forum that would enable serious discourse, “in the light of the Bible, theology, or personal experience,” and had launched Let’s Talk in response.
The welcome statement does not identify persons but it correctly describes what Tom Knutson was thinking at the end of a warm afternoon at the 1995 assembly. In the parking lot he met four friends, pastors whom he expected would be of like mind, and told them his idea of starting a Synod theological journal. They agreed to join him in the effort. Over the next few months this nascent editorial council put together a plan, enlisted Bishop Olsen’s support, assembled an engaging collection of articles, and proceeded to print and mail Volume 1, Issue 1 to the roster of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod.
I joined an expanded Editorial Council, which included several laypersons, in the journal’s third year and served a dozen years during Tom’s chairmanship. Meetings were occasions for lively discussion of content, production, and support, a busy agenda that Tom moderated with an even hand, keeping us on course, offering his insight, showing his contagious enthusiasm for what we were doing. I greatly valued the friendship that developed from our work together, not least what I learned from him in our wide-ranging conversations.
Tom received his M.Div. degree from LSTC in 1974. In that same year he was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament and called as pastor of First Lutheran, the congregation he served for nearly 40 years until his death. For six of those years he was a Teaching Parish Pastor; a number of other pastors can trace their ministry back to First Lutheran and Tom’s influence. He was a member of the Lutheran/Roman Catholic Covenant Commission, Chicago. He was an active and creative community leader, serving as President of the South Suburban Action Conference and on the Board of Directors for New Cities Community Development Corp. For his service, 149th Street & Myrtle Ave. was renamed Pastor Thomas C. Knutson Street in 2003. His name is entered on the City of Harvey’s Achiever’s Wall of Fame.
Family and friends and the shepherd’s flock at First Lutheran Church cherish their memories of Tom, the people of his community have honored him for his service to them, and along the trail where his vocation led him are those in dialogue stirred by Let’s Talk. It was a blessing to know and work with this Brother.