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One town, five seminarians

It’s one thing for three people to be childhood friends. It’s quite another for three people to attend the same kindergarten, grade school, high school, college and seminary together. Aaron Hauser, Casey Kegley and Craig Reiter grew up a few blocks from each other in the small town of Grafton, Wis., population 11,400.

The town is about 30 miles north of Milwaukee. The three have shared soccer matches, basketball games, play practice, vacation Bible school and college dorms. Now they are sharing the path to pastoral ministry at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

From left: Beth and Casey Kegley, Aly and Aaron Hauser, and Craig and Christa Reiter after the vicarage assignment service in April 2015.
From left: Beth and Casey Kegley, Aly and Aaron Hauser, and Craig and Christa Reiter
after the vicarage assignment service in April 2015.

“A lot of times, people go their separate ways,” Reiter said. “But we didn’t.”

Currently, the three men are third-year Master of Divinity students on vicarage. This is the first time they haven’t been together on a daily basis in 20 years.

“This is our first year alone and we’ve been able to step out into our own a bit,” Reiter said. “It is our time to go forward and do what God has been preparing us to do all along.”

They were led to pursue pastoral ministry together. Kegley’s brother, Noah, who is a second-year student at the Seminary, also is part of the group.

One of the people they all credit with influencing them to follow the Seminary path is Rev. Lannon Martin, also a Grafton native. He was their youth minister at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Grafton and now serves as admission counselor and Christ Academy director at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Martin said he and the guys still keep in touch, noting that they recently stayed at his house to attend a friend’s wedding.
Seeing the three serving in different vicarage settings is interesting, Martin said. Kegley is serving at a church plant at The Point in Knoxville, Tenn.; Reiter is serving at a dual parish at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Arnold, Mo., and Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ste. Genevieve, Mo.; and Hauser is serving at a larger church, Our Savior Lutheran Church in Lansing, Mich.

“I see in them tremendous growth,” Martin said. “It’s encouraging to see how the Lord is guiding them as He continues to provide pastors for His Church.”

Hauser was the first of the trio to decide to become a pastor in the middle of high school. His grandfather was a pastor and three uncles are pastors.

“My dad bribed us to read the Bible so we could play video games. As I read it, I actually enjoyed it. My relationship with God started to grow,” Hauser said. “I was a pretty awful public speaker. It was not a gift of mine … so that’s why it was so cool that God still worked through my weaknesses.

“I loved God and I loved people,” he said. “Somehow He gave me the confidence and encouragement to do this.”
Reiter felt the call on his life later in high school. For Kegley, he decided when the three of them were freshmen at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis.

“I was on the fence for a long time,” Kegley said. “I was studying Lutheran secondary education and I realized I wasn’t there to teach. I wanted to share the Gospel with people of all ages and I joined the rest of the crew. It was one of those, ‘I told you so’ moments,” he said. “They knew it was going to happen.”

John Genszler has an especially interesting connection to the Grafton seminarians. He was their teacher at Living Word High School and is now a fellow seminarian. He is a Residential Alternate Route (RAR) student at the Seminary.

“The growth of all three of them doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Genszler, who taught them math, religion and drama. “They epitomize true servant leadership.”

As for their future, the students will wrap up their vicarages this summer and start their final year at the Seminary in the fall. There is a baby boy on the way for Casey and Beth Kegley. Casey’s brother, Noah, will be getting married in June to Monica Garrett, so there will be reunions in store for the group in addition to Commencement in spring 2017.

“I would feel honored and blessed to have any of these guys as my pastor,” Casey Kegley said. “God is going to do some amazing work through them. Their service is going to make an impact.”

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 Concordia Seminary Magazine.
Jackie Parker is a communications specialist at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.