A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Spring 2012

View more articles in the Spring 2012 issue.

Alum Profile

Amy Swenson's global mission experiences shape her call to ministry

by Kari Aanestad, M.Div. Senior

Halfway through her studies as a Master of Arts student at Luther Seminary, Amy Swenson, '10, took a leave of absence to spend a year in South Africa as a participant in the ELCA's Young Adults in Global Mission program. Now, as she furthers her theological studies as a Master of Divinity student, this decision continues to inform her call to ministry.

"The culture in which you are raised is such a huge factor in how you live out your faith and read the Bible," Swenson said. "It was so powerful to see the living word ... lived out in other cultures. Being in the church in a different part of the world really turned my biblical imagination on its head."

While abroad, Swenson worked alongside and within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa under the dean of the Pretoria Circuit, comprised of 10 parishes. Swenson did everything from assisting with lay training events to sharing her skills and experience in Christian education—and learned a lot along the way.

"(By) learning from and walking with the people of the Pretoria Circuit, I began to realize that the words solidarity, interdependence and mutuality (the ELCA's descriptors of "accompaniment") are important—not only in my experience with our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Africa, but (also) in my everyday relationships and interactions with all people," she said.

Her passion for the accompaniment ministry model that she discovered in South Africa continues in her current ministry. As a part of her contextual education, Swenson currently serves Trinity Lutheran Congregation, located in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, one of the most ethnically diverse areas in Minnesota.

Swenson's role at Trinity is to pay attention to how the congregation models a ministry of accompaniment with its Muslim neighbors.  Her work is one component of a grant initiative that Luther Seminary, in partnership with Trinity Congregation, recently received from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) to support the exploration of Christian hospitality and pastoral practices in a multi-faith society. (Read more about this grant in an accompanying article in this issue.) 

For example, this past December Swenson helped organize and participate in a visit to a Cedar-Riverside mosque where nearly 40 members of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, Trinity's mission partner, gathered with Muslim neighbors to learn about Islam.

"To walk with someone is not an easy thing," Swenson said. "To do so we must lay down our love for power, control and our tendency to cling to our views as if there are not others worthy of our time ... but if we can truly live into this model, this way of life, it makes for a beautiful reflection of God's hope for our relationships with one another."