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Vocation in an interfaith context

LORI BRANDT HALE is associate professor of religion and director of general education. The following is adapted from devotional thoughts she presented at Augsburg‘s Leadership Council.

I think about Augsburg’s mission statement and general education student learning outcomes—a lot. It makes sense. They shape and direct my work in and out of the classroom. At the same time, that very work, my colleagues, and my students inform my understanding of these statements and sustain my commitment to the realities and possibilities they create.

Picture of Lori Brandt Hale At the center of my thought most recently is Augsburg’s call to intentional diversity coupled with our college-wide commitment to the theological exploration of vocation. All things considered, it was no surprise to me when I walked into my fall sections of REL 200 Christian Vocation and the Search for Meaning II and encountered a wide array of religious traditions and commitments among my students: Buddhist, Muslim, Christian (Catholic, ELCA-Lutheran, LCMS-Lutheran, United Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and six or so other denominations), and students who identified as agnostic and atheistic. Some of them grew up in a tradition, others did not. And, at least six of my 55 students named the Shamanistic tradition as their own.

In this rich and exciting pluralistic context, what am I called to do? How do I both express the depth and history and promise of the Christian, particularly Lutheran, understanding of vocation while affirming the presence and possibilities proffered by each student’s tradition? In the end, I invite students to conversation the only way I can—openly and honestly. I speak from my own particular context and perspective, and I invite them to do the same. I insert the voice of Dietrich Bonhoeffer—who describes vocation as responsible action in response to God—into the conversation, and they insert the voices of Dorothy Day and the Dalai Lama, for example. In the title of my course I add parentheses around the word “Christian” and, together, my students and I add the words “and justice”: REL 200 (Christian) Vocation and the Search for Meaning and Justice. In this rich and exciting pluralistic context, this is what I am called to do.