Story Magazine - Spring/Summer, 2012

Alum-in-Residence Kathy Valan finds the pulse, the rhythm and the dance

by Andrea Matthews Clark, Correspondent

As a member of the alumni/ae council, Kathy Valan, '96, already had her finger on the pulse of Luther Seminary. But as the 2012 alum-in-residence, she was able to immerse herself for a week in the seminary's vibrant campus life.

"I learned the rhythm of the place," said Valan. "I saw again the journey. There were clearly strong communications and relationships between faculty and staff and students, and that is heartening. I can't see that twice a year at a council meeting."

During her residency, Valan attended classes every day and often led opening devotions. She taught a portion of some classes, and at others reflected, as a student, upon the teachings.

Valan opened her week by preaching in chapel. "I focused on Psalm 121," she said. "On how God helps us by providing people to encourage us--both those we expect to receive from and the surprise of unexpected hands that reach out to us. Even a difficult-to-love person can support us most profoundly."

To prepare for her commitments on campus, Valan spent time with students and in the library, in reflection and prayer. She also drew from her 29 years in ministry. Ordained in 1996, for 15 years she has served at Christ the King in Moorhead, Minn., the city where she previously worked with youth in two congregations. She was also a high school religion teacher and chaplain in Fargo, N.D., for six years.

Valan wants students to understand the bigger picture. "Our ministry includes doors opening and closing, and God is directing and is present when doors open and close."

She also knows this is an anxious time for students who are interviewing for positions, and she offers hope. "In retrospect, God cared for my needs. There were jobs I wanted, but they weren't the right jobs for me." She asks students to remain encouraged. "They're eager to dance into the next chapter," she said. "They will be guided."

Valan says her passion, and that of the board, is found in 2 Corinthians 4:1--"Don't lose heart."

"Whatever each student has to do to make this commitment to theological education is worth it. You will be sent forth, and it is an amazing experience. And you will be equipped for wherever you will be sent forth, into the unknown."