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Global Vision - Spring 2014

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Amelia Decker: New Zealand

It's a bit disappointing, really. The weather today, on Feb. 2, is cloudy and cool at 68 degrees, with rain expected this afternoon. Still, the bright orange, pink and yellow flower blossoms popping up through bold green leaves outside the window to my side are a fair enough consolation for the fact that today may not be a shorts-and-tank-top, lay-in-the-sun kind of day. I left Minnesota for New Zealand nearly 6 weeks ago, and it truly feels like I have landed a world away. Associating the month of February with snow almost feels like a dream, as does the seminary community I left.

Weather hasn't been the only abrupt change I've experienced in the transition from the Twin Cities and Luther Seminary to Auckland, New Zealand. It is no longer common to run into a familiar face and strike up conversation about, say, a recent exegesis of Scripture. In fact, it's no longer common to run into another Lutheran...at all. There is truly a notable difference in being able to live out a faith and identity which includes this label of "Lutheran." For comparison, there are 155 ELCA congregations in the Minneapolis Area Synod alone and an additional 114 in the St. Paul Area Synod. In the whole of New Zealand, there are 16 Lutheran congregations.

Let me repeat that: There are 16 Lutheran congregations in a country with more than 100,000 square miles of land (similar to the state of Minnesota) and a population of 4 million people. I left a land that I endearingly refer to as "Luther Central" and landed in "What is Lutheran?" In this, I am consistently reminded of the bond we share as Christian people. Jumping between Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran worshipping communities, I think I am becoming something of a denominational chameleon. Most striking in this, perhaps, is that the way I have been received with welcome no matter which congregation I'm at.

It's a bit refreshing, really—to be wholeheartedly welcomed in these communities, no affiliation required. This bond we share as Christian people is indeed identity-shifting. I may not share a denomination with everyone I meet, but we do share another label—that is, child of God. Being one in the Spirit, we can partake in the shared calling we have to live the love of God in the world, wherever that may be. This one-ness is what allows us to find belonging a world away from home, and keeps us connected with our sisters and brothers in faith, whether they are near or far. I'm giving thanks today for this belonging, and the varied Christian bodies I have the opportunity to worship with and learn from.

This article was originally featured in the Concord, Luther Seminary's student-run publication. Learn more about the Concord on its Facebook page