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by By Emily McQuillan, M.Div. Middler
There are certain paired concepts that popular culture takes for granted as opposite. Maybe some of these come to mind for you like local versus global or science versus faith. Yet, that cultural narrative of contrasts ignores the many connections that actually exist between these dynamic forces. There are significant ways that faith and science intersect or that local and global realities come together. These places of intersection are exactly where Luther Seminary M.A. student Peter Jensen finds and develops meaningful community.
Jensen, a junior high science teacher with a Catholic background, is working on a M.A. in theology and community development. After visiting “all the big seminaries in the Twin Cities,” Jensen says he chose Luther because, “I didn’t want just a general theology degree, I wanted to see how to use theology.”
Jensen lives this out in his work teaching locally and in doing humanitarian work in Latin America. A teacher at the Benedictine school Hill-Murray, Jensen has been able to use what he has learned and his life experience to develop original science curriculum that incorporates stewardship and community. His goal has been to merge faith and social justice concepts into the teaching of science.
Jensen explains, “I really want my faith to be integrated practically.” His students are 12-14 years old, and Jensen’s hope is that “they can learn to integrate tough concepts like love for the neighbor and care for the earth into the study of science.” Jensen has students live this out by going on service trips such as volunteering at the White Earth Indian Reservation and by participating in the school’s social justice club.
Jensen’s push for local service opportunities for his students mirrors the passion and dedication he brings to traveling on school breaks to serve in Latin America. His work in countries like Peru gave him organizational experience, but Jensen says, “What I didn’t know on a theological level, a spiritual level, was how do these big problems we are serving intersect with what we are doing and how we live our individual lives.” This
is what he has set out to understand more deeply through his studies at Luther with professors like Alan Padgett and Andy Root.
In the summer of 2017 Jensen got a chance to study international leadership in Brazil through a graduate fellowship from the Murray Institute. The experience allowed him to reflect and learn more about what it means to be a Christian public leader, as concepts from his classes at Luther met with what he was learning from leaders in Brazil. Jensen says, “I believe that pastors, theologians and leaders graduating from Luther are international leaders whether they want to be or not.”
What Jensen learned in Brazil is that to be an international leader is to be a whole-hearted leader, which he explains means to understand ourselves and others and to engage in seemingly impossible situations. Jensen says, “We have to not only act with justice toward others, but also be able to connect and be wholly human ourselves.” He adds, “Living out my faith, I can’t just look out the window, I have to look in the mirror. I see Christ in others and others see Christ in me. We are all connected as human beings.” This connection between ourselves and others is where Jensen sees God working to help leaders dive into impossible situations. Jensen says, “If God is in the connection we have with ourselves and with other people then that form of connection is the way we can live out the calling of overcoming the impossible.”
Through his studies at Luther, his international travels, and in his work as an educator, Jensen has discovered the ways that seeming contrasts like faith, science, the individual, and the local and global community connect in a way that show how God is working. Jensen says, “Everything I do at Luther comes back to that idea of connection to myself and connection with others because that is partly where I find the mystery of God.” He concludes, “God calls us into the messiness to deal with humanity in order to connect with one another because that is how we connect with him, see him and grow.”
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