The Chapel of the Resurrection will welcome four notable guest preachers for the 2018-19 Walter Wangerin Jr. Celebration of Excellence in Preaching Series. The series is Core Lab approved.

Scheduled for the Spring 2019 semester are:

April 7, 2019 — Rev. William (“Billy”) Brath (LCMS), Director of Ministry Support Advancement, Lutheran Church Extension Fund

April 28, 2019 — The Very Reverend John Witcombe, dean of Coventry Cathedral, England

Services begin at 10 a.m. and are followed by a lunch-time discussion with the guest preacher.


The Rev. Billy Brath works with churches, organizations, and leaders to develop and produce ministries that effectively reach the culture today. He has an undergraduate degree in secular religious studies, worked as an entertainer and dancer in Orlando, received his Master’s of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, served as pastor and urban Missionary at Trinity Downtown Orlando, planted the campus congregation at the University of Central Florida, LiveUCF, and has worked with district and national church organizations including Lutheran Hour Ministries and the National Youth Gathering. Currently Billy serves as the Director of Ministry Support Advancement with Lutheran Church Extension Fund helping ministries around the country move forward.

As a devoted Orlandonian, Billy continues to be pastor to his neighbors and sees it as his primary call. In 2016, Billy was on the front lines of the response to Pulse, an event that directly affected him and close friends.

He lives with a mean cat, enjoys meeting people wherever he goes, avoids answering questions about his dancing days, and still gets that magical feeling when he’s wandering Walt Disney World.


Father John Witcombe is the Dean of Coventry Cathedral, carrying responsibility for the overall leadership of the Cathedral’s ministry both locally and internationally. Coventry Cathedral is well known for its pioneering work in reconciliation, following its destruction in November 1940. The new Cathedral, consecrated in 1962, is an outstanding example of twentieth century art and architecture, combining the medieval ruins and new building in a narrative journey from destruction to the hope of new life. Father John has a background in Practical Theology, and a master’s of philosophy in the atonement theology of Tillich and Rahner, and is passionate about weaving the threads of reconciliation and the arts into a contemporary witness which is offered to all, regardless of faith or background.

After ordination in 1984, he served in Birtley, County Durham before moving to be the team Vicar of St Barnabas, Inham Nook, Nottingham. He was then vicar of St Luke’s, Lodge Moor, Sheffield the Team Rector in Uxbridge and later Dean of St John’s College, Nottingham. Before his appointment as Dean of Coventry, Witcombe was the Diocese of Gloucester’s Diocesan Directors of Ordinands and then Director of Discipleship and Ministry, and a Residentiary Canon at Gloucester Cathedral. He is a member of General Synod and is a national advisor for selecting potential clergy for the Church of England. He was editor of The Curate’s Guide: From calling to first parish (Church House Publishing 2005). He is author with John Leach of Hanging on to God: sustaining ministry in the renewal tradition (Grove Books, 2008). He is author with John Leach and Mark Tanner of Renewing the Traditional Church (Grove Books, 2005). Witcombe is married to Ricarda, who is also a priest. They married in 2000 after the death of his first wife Maureen Edwards (another fellow priest). Between them, Witcombe and Ricarda have a son and four daughters: Joseph, Abi, Anna, Tabitha and Emily.


Learn about the history of the Wangerin Preaching Series.

The first preacher of the 2018-19 school year was The Rev. Pamela R. Fickenscher, Senior Pastor, St John Lutheran Church, Northfield, Minn., on Oct. 21 with Deaconess Kristin Lewis, Interim Campus Minister, serving as worship leader. 

Rev. Fickenscher has served as an ordained parish pastor in the ELCA since 1997. She is a 1990 graduate of Valparaiso University, where she was a Christ College scholar and German major. She received her M.Div. from Vanderbilt Divinity School, where she was the Founder’s Medalist, in 1994. She has done additional theological study at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley and at the Center for Theological Inquiry at Princeton. In 1997 she was the founding pastor of Spirit Garage, one of the first “emergent” church start-ups designed to reach younger generations. She served Edina Community Lutheran Church from 2002-2013, and now serves as Senior Pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield, Minnesota. She has written numerous essays and worship resources through Augsburg Fortress Publishers and was the 2000 ELCA Youth Gathering preacher. She lives with her husband and two teenage children, and enjoys distance running and Nordic skiing marathons in her spare time.

The Rev. William Yonker, senior pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church (LCMS), East Dundee, IL, was the second preacher in the series for this fall on Nov. 11. Pastor James A. Wetzstein served as presiding minister.

Recently named one of Valpo’s 150 most influential alumni, Pastor Bill Yonker spends three to four weeks each summer speaking at different Christian camps and resorts. He also travels around the country between 18 to 20 weekends a year speaking at Christian conferences, retreats, high schools, middle schools and college campuses. This past year took him to Denmark to keynote speak at an international Christian young persons’ gathering. Before serving in suburban Illinois, Rev. Yonker served as pastor in several inner city ministries including Berea Lutheran Church in Detroit, Mich., and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Chicago.

Pastor Yonker is an avid coffee drinker, lover of stories and storytelling, voracious reader, ardent fan of the Green Bay Packers and is enthralled with Frank Sinatra music and ’60s bubblegum music. He is married to Joanne, and is father to Becca, Abby and Josh (a Valpo senior).

The Wangerin Preaching Series was launched seven years ago to bring notable clergy to preach at Valpo’s Chapel of the Resurrection.