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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

Getting Out of the Tower

On getting out of the tower and experiencing three spiritual gatherings at three very different places: St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ, First Lutheran Church in Brookings, South Dakota, and Como Park Lutheran.

I work in a tower, tucked away in one of the highest, quietest parts of a beautiful campus. It’s not quite the Astronomy Tower of Harry Potter’s fabled Hogwarts—although the view out the window is lovely. Nor is it Tutor Cornelius’ secret tower at the top of Prince Caspian’s castle in Narnia—although we share our space with wise teachers!

No, I work in the Contextual Learning suite on the third floor of Northwestern Hall at Luther Seminary, a suite just far enough from the comings and goings of our campus that students often stumble out of the elevator blinking with surprise, amazed to find offices up on the third floor.

From this vantage point, it is a special treat for me when I am able to work face-to-face with our students and congregational partners. Since our October newsletter, I have had the remarkable pleasure of being able to get out of my tower not once, not twice, but three times!

On World Communion Sunday, I visited St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ’s Adult Forum, where I spoke about being Christian in a multireligious world. Not long afterward, I traveled to Brookings, South Dakota to attend the installation of a new associate pastor at First Lutheran Church, one of last year’s internship sites. (Okay, full disclosure – the pastor was a dear relative of mine, my uncle Steve!) Last but not least, deployed associate Steve McKinley warmly invited me to attend the Twin Cities East Metro’s spring cluster meeting, graciously hosted by Pastor Marty Erickson at Como Park Lutheran.

At St. Anthony Park, we talked at length about the power of mutually inspiring relationships, about building connections by doing good, about being cognizant of the historical and cultural meaning of one’s words. We talked about youth outreach, racism, social justice, and the rich gifts of the prophetic traditions of Christianity and its sister communities of faith.

At First Lutheran in Brookings, I was impressed by the church’s commitment to making Lutheran life fun, engaging, and socially meaningful. The youth area for kids was a large, well-lit space on the main floor, nearby the hip new coffeehouse ministry and recreational gym. The Bible Society’s Poverty and Justice Bible was in evidence, and Pastor Steve’s installation included a rich message of caring for the poor not as a method of ensuring our own travel up the ladder to heaven, but as a method of respecting the equality and individuality of those who would be our friends and neighbors.

Finally, at Como Park Lutheran, I heard many stories of joy and conflict from our interns and supervisors. Many of the joys were unexpected and transformative; many of the conflicts were tough spiritual and emotional quandaries. But through it all, I received the distinct impression that interns and supervisors were in it together, rejoicing as a pair and muddling forward as a partnership, all while learning how to work and serve their ministries together. Keeping an eye on the clouds while navigating choppy seas is a delicate job, and I was impressed by the commitment and dedication of our interns and supervisors this year.

As we move into a new season of building Cross-Cultural Education programs, placing students on Teaching Congregations and Internship sites, and sending students out to work through CPE for the first time, I am struck by the assets and gifts that surround our office. Every place I visited this month, I met people willing to learn and strive together. At St. Anthony Park, the members of the Adult Forum were anxious to talk about racism, privilege, and building multicultural connections in a healthy, safe, thoughtful way. At Brookings, congregants were excited to welcome new pastoral leaders committed to loving the humanity of the mentally ill, the addicted, or the poor. At the cluster meeting, every intern and supervisor expressed a love for their calling and a willingness to do whatever it takes to honor the pastoral profession.

While our work to build new immersion opportunities, develop new programs, and guide students in their professional growth is difficult, I find myself buoyed up by the relationships I was able to join this month. Thank you to all who hosted me!

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