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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

The Craft of Ministry

By Ingrid Arneson Rasmussen

I just got off the phone with my dad. He is on a vacationing in Grand Marais, MN. Each summer he gets in the car, drives the eight hours north, and plants himself on the shores of Lake Superior for several days. It’s his solo pilgrimage—one he takes with thousands of other Minnesotans. He didn’t describe the stops he made along the way; he didn’t need to. A donut at Tobies, gas in Duluth, smoked fish in Two Harbors, a soda in Silver Bay, and another donut in Grand Marais, which, for those in the know, is free with the presentation of one’s donut number from last summer.

This time around, he planned his trip so it would coincide with the North House Folk School Wooden Boat Show and Summer Solstice Festival. As we chatted, he described the boats that were on display. He was astonished by the wooden kayaks, canoes, and other water vessels. He said he’d spend the next two days simply wandering around, admiring the craftsmanship, and talking with the boat builders.

I had to smile as we spoke because my father isn’t a woodworker, and he isn’t an avid boater. His time spent on the water was restricted to the several summers he worked at Wilderness Canoe Base. Those memories are some of his happiest; he fell in love with the Boundary Waters and the people who came to explore them. Nostalgia, no doubt, has something to do with my father’s interest in the Folk School’s festival.

There’s something else that caused my dad to drive across the state to a show that has no direct bearing on his work or his hobbies or his children’s work or his children’s hobbies. My father has an incredible appreciation and admiration for the work of craftspeople. He’s intensely curious about the tools, methods, energy, time, sweat, and imagination that women and men put into creating. He’s willing to spend hours—and, in this case, even days—learning about them and from them. He says that “it causes [him] to think differently.”

A friend of mine, who will be an intern in St. Peter, MN next year, recently wrote a blog post about “what young people want in church.” She asserts that contrary to popular opinion, PowerPoints and contemporary worship don’t find their way to the top of young people’s church wish lists. Instead, she says that “young people want to feel valued in the church.” This is more than plugging them in as ushers, nursery workers, or Sunday school teachers. It is about getting to know their gifts—their crafts—and listening for ways their passions intersect with the life of the faith community.

Amy asks church folk to take on some of Kevin Arneson’s curiosity. This requires us to get in the car or on the bike and leave our buildings. It may mean that instead of talking about the church budget in the fellowship hall (again), we spend the day or the evening talking about boat building, or gardening, or music making, or skateboarding, or basketballing, or home brewing, or movie watching, or writing, or cooking. At first glance, these things may not appear to have direct bearing on the life we live together as Christian community. But my father has taught me that it will open us up to think differently. And that, he would say, is enough.

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