Story Magazine - Winter, 2010

Karis Thompson, '06, Embraces the Unknown

by Andy Behrendt, M.Div. senior

For many young adults, finding faith comes through embracing the unknown. Likewise, for Karis Thompson, laying the groundwork for a new faith community of young adults in the Fargo-Moorhead area has meant
embracing unknowns about what that community will become.

"There's a lot of trust--there has to be," says Thompson, a 2006 Luther grad who in September stepped in as the community organizer for The Project F-M. "We have a trust of God being in control of this process and directing us towards what we don't know or understand and a belief in people who might not have the same background or experience in church or understanding of faith that we have."

The Project F-M is a joint effort of the ELCA's Eastern North Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota Synods, along with several congregations and community leaders in Fargo-Moorhead, where more than 40,000 adults ages 18--40 are without a church. As The Project's only staff member, Thompson has one year to connect with people in the area and develop leaders who will in turn develop a young-adult faith community based on their own needs and ideas. Instead of starting with a definite vision, The Project is beginning with the people and their interests and gifts.

"Rather than seeing ourselves as carrying a tradition into the world or proclaiming core beliefs to an audience, it's more of an openness that we're intentional about--bringing that openness to a community and expecting to see God in new ways," Thompson says.

It's a challenge, but it's the type of challenge Thompson became prepared for in her Master of Arts program in Congregational Mission and Leadership. Thanks to Luther faculty members who encouraged her imagination about the interweaving of faith and culture, Thompson was able to engage different populations and multicultural churches through several independent studies. Graduating with a call to help transform communities, she spent nearly three years at the Redeemer Center for Life, a nonprofit
founded by Redeemer Lutheran Church in north Minneapolis.

Back in Fargo-Moorhead, where Thompson attended Concordia College, she's again working to shape a community while centering on faith. And, although it's still uncertain what form the new young-adult community will take, Thompson can already see a faith community at work.

"It's a radically inclusive process where, as an organizer, I have interest in talking to absolutely everyone and thinking of everyone involved as a potential leader versus having an established idea of who can lead, who should be invited," she says. "The design of wanting to engage with all people and to learn from them speaks to an experience of grace."