Story Magazine

Third Quarter, 2007

Proclaiming the Message

Tania Haber ('85) and recent graduate Kevin Bergeson ('07) serve Westwood Church in St. Louis Park, Minn.

God Calls Us to Something New

Tania Haber's preaching is shaped by the solid theological foundation she received at Luther Seminary. Preaching has always been important at Luther, but these days, she says, the seminary is emphasizing it even more.

"We're talking about preaching in more creative ways," says Haber ('85), senior pastor at Westwood Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park, Minn. "This our time, energy and imagination--now more than ever."

Haber recently participated in the H.B. Hanson Preaching Seminar, part of Luther Seminary's ongoing emphasis on building strong biblical preaching. The program is funded by John Hanson in memory of his father, a campus pastor at St. Olaf College who was known for mentoring other preachers.

Participants included six Twin Cities pastors and two mentors. Haber was chosen to mentor three pastors from Minneapolis, but she quickly discovered that they had a lot to teach her, too.

"Most of the pastors were second-career people with rich and interesting backgrounds. We were all close to the same age, so we became mentors for each other," she says. "...I now think about preaching in a new way, and I approach some subjects differently."

Since coming to Westwood four years ago, Haber has inspired the congregation to focus more on the needs of the community, says parishioner Doug Waterman.

"Pastor Haber is a sincere, straightforward preacher with a strong message," he says.

Westwood is spreading the Gospel by combining resources with three other Lutheran churches to form Spark Collaborative Ministries of St. Louis Park. Through Spark, the congregations are reaching out in new ways to unchurched members of the community. "It's a shared commitment to a new way of being church," says Pastor Kevin Bergeson ('07), who was called by Spark this past summer.

Bergeson was attracted to Spark because the project's stated values were "resonant with the biblical narrative and what we're trying to accomplish as preachers, which is to proclaim the message of a gracious God so that it will be heard by people in their own context."

Haber agrees, "Spark's values of evangelical ministry, diversity, relationship, contextuality,risk-taking and courage in faith are the basis of good preaching. And the message of both is that God is calling us to something new and transforming."

Doug Waterman is a member of Westwood Lutheran who has felt the impact of Haber's strong biblical preaching.