One of my top priorities as I get started as Director of Contextual Learning is listening to and learning from the congregations and pastors we partner with in this enterprise. Just last week, I had the opportunity to visit three very different congregations.
On Monday I was hosted by Pr. Kristine Carlson at Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis where Will Starkweather serves as Vicar (a common term for intern pastors in former Missouri Synod churches). A gracious host, Pr. Carlson told me about a vital ministry of hospitality, worship, and the arts. She walked around their historic Saarinen-designed building, and spoke with enthusiasm about the many ways they open their church: not only to architecture students but also diverse musical groups, neighborhood folk, and the homeless.
On Tuesday I was hosted by Pr. Jen Nagel at Salem English Lutheran in Minneapolis where Jason Clifton and Asher O'Callaghan serve in their Teaching Congregations placement. Salem has recently gone through an amazing transfiguration, joining with two other churches to share their renovated building. The building itself is beautifully redesigned with three distinct worship spaces and shared office space for the three pastors. In addition, Salem sold a chunk of its land on Lyndale Avenue for The Greenleaf, an affordable housing complex with mixed-use retail on the street level. We enjoyed lunch together at the World Street Kitchen, one of the tenants in the building.
On Thursday I was hosted by Pr. Wally Obinger at Luther Memorial in South St. Paul where Marilyn Crossfield serves as intern pastor. Luther Memorial was the site for the Twin Cities East Intern Cluster. My colleague, Steve McKinley, organized the day and helped interns and supervisors reflect on joys and sorrows, particularly as they prepare to say goodbye. In the other side of the church, what seemed like half of South St. Paul was lined up to explore the annual rummage sale put on by the congregation. A church buzzing with the voices of community members is a wonderful thing!
In each congregation, with each pastor, something clear shown through. It was Pr. Carlson who actually said it directly, “I just love ministry.” The vibrancy of ministry represented in these diverse congregations and their leaders finds common cause in a shared love of Christ’s mission and ministry through us for the sake of the world. Sharing this life in the distinctive ways each congregation lives out God’s mission, our Luther students are formed for lives of faithful ministry. On behalf of our staff in Contextual Learning, and all your partners at Luther Seminary, thank you for what you do!
I plan to continue visiting congregations, but don’t wait for me to call—please invite me to come visit you. I look forward to it!