Admissions News - January 2011
From Sweden to St. Paul: A formal exchange begins
Beginning with the 2009-10 academic year, Luther Seminary entered into a formal partnership with Johannelund Theological Seminary in Uppsala, Sweden to offer an exchange program between the two schools. Antonio Spargo was the first student from Luther to take part in the exchange.
It didn't take much convincing to get Spargo involved in the program. His grandfather was born in Sweden and he still has many close relatives there. He also spent time in Sweden as a child of missionaries, so Spargo saw Sweden as a second home. When Mark Throntveit, professor of Old Testament and Spargo's adviser, found out Spargo spoke Swedish, Throntveit immediately encouraged him to study abroad.
"[Throntveit's] eyes lit up because he had been involved in setting up the exchange program with Johannelund," said Spargo, a Master of Divinity intern. "The problem was they had never been able to use the exchange since no students at Luther knew Swedish in order to take classes in Uppsala."
The time in Sweden gave Spargo a chance not only to brush up on his Swedish, but also experience the country in a new way.
"I gained the opportunity to see a Lutheran church in another cultural context," Spargo said. "Even though it is a European culture and church, the context and history which the church is called to serve is different and it is helpful to see a different culture's perspective on how to go about ministry. In the ELCA, it helps me to think outside the box of what we have always done."
Throntveit noted that it also provided Spargo "an opportunity to reacquaint himself with his roots."
Whenever possible, we chose classes that included aspects of contextualization that furthered his appreciation of how the church is expressed in contemporary Sweden," Throntveit said.
Now back in the states, Spargo said his experience in Sweden is already shaping the way he views the global church.
"One aspect of my experience in Sweden which has followed me here is the issue of Muslim-Christian and Arab-Western relations," he said. "This has been a topic of contention in Sweden and as recent events show, is also here in the U.S. [My time in Sweden gave] me firsthand observations both of what is helpful and what is not, and I can employ that in conversation with people."
Spargo gained greater certainty in his call to ministry in the ever-changing Lutheran church. He experienced these changes in the Church of Sweden firsthand at Johannelund. It was in the variety of thoughts and beliefs among fellow students that he learned the most and gained a greater understanding of how to reach those with differing beliefs.
"There is a need for the church to really understand who we are called to serve and how we need to reach them," he said. "The church sometimes needs to evaluate what gives us traction with people, believers and non-believers, and if we are not meeting people where they are, then we need to look (critically) at ourselves, not others."