Whether working in a congregation or here at the seminary, I find that May and June become a reflective time to naturally step back and think about the past. In this reflective time, one will find lessons learned, wisdom gleaned, as well as impulses for future possibilities. Indeed, it is a generative and freeing time to truly vision and wonder about with is next. I find myself thinking about some of the innovators who came along and took a leap of faith with some visions and wondering of their own.
The late Anthony (Tony) Fair was one such student.
A product of “New York, New York,” as he loved to say triumphantly, Tony brought a contagious spirit and smile to match. His heart was physically weak (we would learn through his difficult battle with cancer), but his spirit was full to overflowing. It was a spirit of unity, of sisterhood and brotherhood, and fitting of the unity letters written to churches scattered across the Mediterranean by the Apostle Paul.
Two things about Tony’s impactful time in contextual learning really stand out as serve as a teaching moment valuable for our future.
1) Tony’s contextual placement was truly unique. As one familiar with the multiple economic and racial incongruities that can exist in the church. Tony was energized by the idea of a context that was framed as a “missional partnership” between two innovative communities, Redeemer Lutheran in North Minneapolis and Westwood Lutheran in St. Louis Park.
Tony and his classmate Keith Long, would serve as youth minister’s at each church, doing joint work on occasion, as well as being the lead person for one year at each setting. This cooperative effort brought about multiple fruits – primary among them being the celebration of assets and resources that can be found in unique contexts. Tony reveled in the opportunities and the challenges of building bridges.
2) After completing his rigorous contextual engagement at Redeemer and Westwood, Tony was ready for internship at Messiah Lutheran in Minneapolis. Yet another exciting ministry context, Tony wondered what he might bring to the team as a part of his internship project.
In his discernment and conversations with multiple faith community leaders, Tony launched the vision for All Metro Praise (AMP). With an impressive groundswell of support, institutions such as Luther Seminary, Augsburg College, and a dozen Twin Cities churches poured together their time and resources to bring monthly gatherings of churches from all over the Twin Cities.
Tony envisioned youth leading worship, sharing gifts of dance, poetry, spoken word, and preaching. This and so much more happened in those many months, and the impact was remarkable.
And so, as I find myself in this unique timeframe of visioning and wondering, I find myself struck by a couple of thoughts. First, I am constantly amazed at the strengths and capabilities of students at Luther Seminary. People like Tony come along once in a lifetime, and he made an indelible mark on this campus and the surrounding Twin Cities area. For this I am thankful.
Second, I am struck by the opportunities that lie ahead, for our current and incoming students. Meaningful ministry moments and initiatives await. Faith communities (non-profits and congregations) need our students’ leadership. How God is moving and calling our students to serve is part of my wondering right now. And, I look forward with all of you, to the work of the Spirit among us.
Soli Deo Gloria!