Dr. Ruth Johnson ’74, and Philip A. Quanbeck II, religion professor emeritus, will lead a pilgrimage tour to Israel and Palestine on May 20 – 31 with an optional extension to Jordan on May 31-June 3, 2023.
Dr. Ruth and Dr. Phil led four tours to Greece and Turkey with Augsburg University students in 2003, 2005, and 2007, and with adults in 2008. They also led an Augsburg alumni tour to Israel in 2012, and most recently, in 2017, they led their own tour to Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, which included a number of Auggies.
“We had a good group ready to go in May 2020 but COVID hit and we had to cancel,” they said. Adding, that conditions are now very favorable again for travel to the Holy Land.
Currently, they are working with a travel agency in Bethlehem called Shepherds Tours, which is closely associated with Dar Al-Kalima University and the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb. Mitri Raheb and Dar Al Kalima have ties to Augsburg. Several Augsburg faculty including Jacqui DeVries have been to Dar Al Kalima in recent years, and Mitri Raheb has visited Augsburg on several occasions.
Johnson and Quanbeck’s tours visit well-known biblical sites associated with both Old Testament and New Testament stories and figures. They will visit the Galilee region and Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada, and Jerusalem. And Bethlehem on the West Bank. They also engage current realities in Israel and the West Bank (Palestine). The extension to Jordan will include Petra, the area of building carved in red rock.
“We also meet with the Parents’ Circle Family Forum which is an Israeli and Palestinian group of parents who share their losses of children in the struggle,” they said. “We visit an Israeli settlement on the West Bank and a refugee camp operated by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, camps which are a remnant of the 1948 war.”
Johnson and Quanbeck encourage Augsburg alumni and friends to join them on the next pilgrimage and experience the tour firsthand.
Since graduating from Augsburg University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, a few alumni have gathered monthly for a writing group. They affectionately call themselves the Dead Birds Writing Group, a name derived from the master’s program publishing house, Howling Bird Press. The group shares stories, studies writing techniques, and offers constructive criticism, all with an end goal of helping each other publish their writing.
“One of the best take-aways from the MFA program was that we were able to build a community of writers, with a variety of different talents in fiction, poetry, screenwriting, memoir, and publishing. The fact that we’re still meeting in person, over online chats, and emailing each other to workshop, is a testament to the teamwork habits we formed during our residencies and classes. It feels wonderful to still be collaborating on team projects together after nearly ten years,” says Jen Shutt ’13, MFA ’15
Last summer, the group worked on a unique writing prompt to write a flash fiction piece that contained the statement, “It could be anyone’s leg.”
“We ended up with a great collection of stories – ranging from humor to horror – and we decided to put them together in a book. We acted as editors for the stories, getting together to read through and discuss the collection. We were able to use many of the techniques our professors taught us in the MFA program,” says Amanda Symes ’09, MFA ’15.
“This has really been a fun romp through the writing, editing, and publishing process. It was sort of magical to see the writing prompt come to life in so many different stories. Going deeper into each one through editing them with Amanda and Jen [Shutt] drew on the workshopping skills we learned in the MFA program, and—confession—it may have been my favorite part. The group enjoyed the writing and publishing process so much that we are already discussing plans for our next writing prompt and publishing options,” says Jayne Carlson MFA ’16.
Knowing their professors would be excited to hear about the upcoming publication, the group also reached out to Professor Emerita Cass Dalglish – the MFA program’s founder – and asked her to review the collection. Professor Dalglish has this to say about their book:
“It Could Be Anyone’s Leg” is an anthology of eerie tales – flash reactions by a flight of writers after each has discovered bones lying so very near their writing desks. Did the bones belong to a human? A neighbor? A friend? A beastie of the insect species? Or some other creature who has become only a fraction of itself? These authors call themselves the Dead Birds Writing Group. Is it any wonder that we call a pack of crows a murder?”
This May, I and my husband, Luverne Seifert ‘84, will be leading the Augsburg Sesquicentennial Arts and Culture trip to Norway. All are welcome on this excursion, especially those with Augsburg ties. Among many destinations, we’ll visit such sites in and around Oslo as the Viking Ship Museum and a stave church, even stopping at a festival to celebrate Syttende Mai.
Luverne and I are theater people – he’s a professional actor in Minneapolis and I’m chair of the Augsburg Theater Department — so we’re particularly excited about seeing Oslo’s National Theater and amazing Opera House, as well as the museum devoted to playwright Henrik Ibsen, where we plan to share some of our insights on Ibsen’s work.
While doing a little research, I ran across a Norwegian word: Kos. I don’t speak Norwegian, but from what I can gather it’s pronounced “coosh” and describes all things that make you feel warm inside. It can literally mean a hot drink or the feeling that you get from spending time with dear friends or engaging with something you love like theater and art.
I’m embracing kos as a way to describe how I feel about this wonderful opportunity to travel to Norway. It’s always kos, I would argue when you get to travel, learn and meet new friends along the way. Personally, kos could describe how Luverne and I feel about Augsburg. As alums, Augsburg brought us together 32 years ago and introduced us to lifelong friends whom we still see regularly today.
For example, this past summer, I joined a group of my fellow 1988 Augsburg theater graduates for a reunion at a house in the country, near Alma, Minnesota. We traveled from all over the country for a week of reconnecting. We’ve all stayed in touch in various ways through the years, following each other’s life changes, families, marriages, career choices and, well, everything. Together in Alma, we danced, cooked, walked, swam and sat in a large screened-in porch till the wee hours of the morning reliving the most beautiful, funny and poignant memories from our time together at Augsburg. This event and all those dear Augsburg friends embody the definition of kos for me.
Similarly, Luverne has many friends whom he met through Augsburg theater productions of the early ‘80s. For the last 20 years, a group of us have gathered three or four times a year for what we’ve deemed “Dinner Club,” where we choose a culinary theme and gather at one of our houses in the Twin Cities area to cook and enjoy a meal together. When we began, we’d bring along diaper bags, babies and toddlers. Now our children are grown and off living their lives. Still, our “Dinner Club” evenings renew us, ground us and give us the feeling of kos.
Our years at Augsburg were such a significant time for Luverne and me. As first-generation college students not really knowing what the college experience might be like, we graduated with expert preparation for our fields, enjoying deep relationships with friends and with each other. We’re happy to say that two of our dear “Dinner Club” friends — Jenny Nordstrom Kelley and her wonderful husband, Kevin Kelley — will be joining us on this trip, which should bring extra Kos to the journey. Please join us! Together, we’ll make new friends, have our own late nights, experience the beauty and inspiration of Norway together, and cultivate a whole lot of kos!
In August 2020, the Rev. Sonja Hagander, Augsburg University Vice President for Mission and Identity, will lead a hike to the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway—a pilgrimage made by travelers for more than 1,000 years. Along the way, you will learn about history and culture, and experience firsthand some of the most beautiful nature in the world. This trip is intended for experienced mountain hikers. Hagander has hiked parts of this trip twice and will be joined by a ground guide who will travel with the group. This trip will be limited to 22 participants and it is expected to sell out quickly.
This trip includes 19 meals, all entrance fees for the Peer Gynt Festival, all motorcoach transfers, gratuities, and lodging. It does not include airfare.
Over 10 days you will hike over 70 Kilometers from Dovre Church to the Trondheim Cathedral. The group will also attend the Peer Gynt Festival and will explore Lillehammer and Trondheim.
I am so excited and honored to be co-leading this tour to southern Germany, including the Oberammergau Passion Play, in July of 2020. Hans Wiersma, Katie Koch Code, and I have led a group together before and I cannot wait to travel with them again!
The trip itinerary is bursting with amazing sites and experiences, but I am most excited (and a little overwhelmed, if I am being honest) about the stop we will make at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp where Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, theologian, and Nazi resister, was executed on April 9th, 1945. I first read some of Bonhoeffer’s works as an undergraduate student and have spent my entire academic career studying his life, his work, and his legacy. I have visited all the Bonhoeffer sites in Berlin on numerous occasions, but I have never been to Flossenburg.
The last few months I have been re-immersed in Bonhoeffer’s texts as I finished my own chapter for the book I am co-editing with David Hall on the political theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is a collection of essays by Bonhoeffer scholars from around the world. Some of the chapters tend closely to historical-critical analysis of Bonhoeffer’s texts in light of questions and themes pertinent to the field known as political theology; some of the chapters use Bonhoeffer’s work constructively to address contemporary issues and concerns including climate change, mass incarceration, and interfaith cooperation; and, some of the chapters detail ways that Bonhoeffer’s thought has inspired and supported political action or church life. We hope the book will be in print by late spring or early summer of next year.
My chapter is the one addressing possible ways Bonhoeffer supports interfaith work even though he was not an interfaith activist. I look very carefully at his idea of Stellvertretung (or vicarious representative action) and trace the ways he talks about this idea as a theological and Christological concept based on Christ’s vicarious death on behalf of humanity and then look at the ways he talks about this idea as an ethical idea that shapes how Christians (disciples who follow after Christ) are called to act on behalf of other people in need. These ideas were important in Bonhoeffer’s own life, and played a role in his decision to get involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler; a choice which led to his own execution.
We will also get to visit the Abbey of Ettal, a Benedictine Monastery, where Bonhoeffer lived from November of 1940 to February of 1941 and worked on his Ethics. His encounter there with St. Benedict’s Rule, and the mandate to “greet each stranger as Christ,” had an impact on my reading of Bonhoeffer as a graduate student and helped shape the questions I addressed in my dissertation on Bonhoeffer titled, “Love Your Enemies? Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Question of the Other.” It is another Bonhoeffer site I have never visited.
I am very much looking forward to sharing my knowledge and love of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with the group when we meet in advance of the trip and, of course, while traveling. Really, I can’t wait!
There are only 8 spots still available for this 11-day trip! Please contact Katie Code (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re interested in learning more.
Bavaria is known for many things, including soaring peaks, very large mugs of beer, and “Grüß Gott!” Mountains and beer you can get in many other destinations, but “Grüß Gott” you’ll only get in the German-speaking regions that surround the Bavarian Alps. (The odd-looking “ß” is actually a double-“s”.) If you want to try greeting someone with Grüß Gott you’ll want to say it like this: GrooS GoT—landing hard on both the “S” and the “T”.
Grüß Gott is shortened from “Grüß dich Gott,” an old way of saying “God bless you” in German. The phrase is more religious than “Guten Tag” so it’s a phrase befitting Germany’s most religious and most Roman Catholic region. The closer you get to Bavaria’s majestic mountains, the more you’ll be greeted with Grüß Gott instead of Guten Tag. It’s as if those dramatic elevations naturally give rise to spiritual yearnings.
Bavaria is Germany’s largest state, covering one-fifth of the country. It may not be obvious from looking at a map, but our tour’s wide-ranging itinerary falls entirely within Bavaria (not including our dip into Salzburg, Austria). From the Castle Coburg (where Martin Luther resided during the time of the “Augsburg Confession”) to Berchtesgaden/Obersalzburg (where the Third Reich constructed its infamous mountain fortress), we’ll span a land filled with great natural beauty and complicated human history.
Still, you may wonder: What does Augsburg University—a school with deep roots in the heritage of Norwegian Lutheran immigrants—have to do with the most Roman Catholic region of Germany? Only a lot!
Consider first our name, Augsburg University. We are called Augsburg because of a specific historical development that took place in Augsburg—today Bavaria’s third most populous city. (Our tour ends in Augsburg!)
Second, Bavaria has many cities and sites that are important to the ongoing Reformation of the Church, including Nuremberg (the largest “printing center” of the Reformation), Flossenbürg (where the great 20th century theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was martyred), and Salzburg (yes, the “City of Mozart” but also the city that once expelled its entire Lutheran population).
Third, Oberammergau’s Passion Play dramatizes the very events that unite all Christians, Catholic, and Protestant: the last week of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Fourth, Bavaria’s topography—ranging from rolling hills to high mountains—is reminiscent of the topography those Norwegian Lutheran immigrants longed for as they settled the flat spaces of the Upper Midwest. (Okay, I know this last one is a stretch.)
I’ve been fortunate to travel in Bavaria many times over the years. I’ve exchanged Grüß Gott! with Bavaria’s über-friendly people many, many times. So I’m excited to co-lead a group of travelers through Grüß Gott territory! Interested in learning more about this one-of-a-kind travel and learning opportunity? Don’t hesitate to send me an email at email@example.com.
About five years ago, I fell in love (again) with Henrik Ibsen. As an Augsburg graduate, theater artist and Professor, I’ve been reading his plays for over 30 years, but after re-reading An Enemy of the People, my passion for Ibsen’s plays gave me a big mid-life boost.
It happened shortly after hearing about the Flint Michigan’s water cover-up. My husband, Luverne Seifert who is also an Auggie and a professional actor in the Twin Cities said: “do you remember that play about contaminated water that Ibsen wrote”? Sure enough, after reading our little weathered paperback version, we were forever changed. Turned out that Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People had an uncanny similarity to the contaminated water problem that occurred in Flint Michigan.
For those of you who need a little reminder, Ibsen’sAn Enemy of the People examines how a community responds when a local doctor threatens to expose that the water it relies upon for tourism is being poisoned. The play questions how far a community will go to protect their town’s secret in order to avoid financial ruin.
The re-read inspired us so much that we created our own adaptation and produced it. Supported by the MN
State Arts Board, our Sod House Theater Company (Luverne and my theater company we formed in 2011) has performed our unique bluegrass music-infused adaptation to over 15 communities in greater MN.
Our renewed love of Ibsen also spurred our interest in traveling to Norway in order to experience not just Ibsen’s artistry but all the arts that Norway has to offer! We are so delighted to be asked to lead the 150 Sesquicentennial Norway Arts & Culture trip in May 2020! Both Luverne and I, as Augsburg Theater graduates (’85 and 88’), find it so meaningful to have the chance to explore our institution’s origins. Both Luverne and I had life-changing experiences at Augsburg—we, like you, had professors that significantly influenced who we are today. We’re humbled to be leading this trip, for Augsburg, together. Full circle.
We’d love for you to join us in experiencing all of the amazing activities we have planned in Norway! We’ll visit The National Theater, the Ibsen museum, the incredible Opera House that seems to emerge from the ocean, The Viking Ship Museum, a Stave Church and celebrate Syttende Mai Festival! Come join us in the land the inspired one of the greatest playwrights of all time.
Careful travelers search the internet for maps, cruise over to AAA for their fancy brochures with highlighted directions, giving details on gas stations, food, rating campgrounds, and hotels. If you’re a careful traveler, you probably clean out your refrigerator, dump the garbage, pay your bills, upload all travel apps—and complete this in good time before you depart.
And then there are the spontaneous types—the adventurous ones who prefer to hop in the car and take off out of town, buying licorice and chips and string cheese on the way, making no arrangements about where to lodge– and forgetting toothpaste.
We are pilgrims, those who will hike with me on the 2020 Norway Pilgrimage. Daniel Taylor writes, “What does it mean to say one is always on a pilgrimage? It means, among many things, that one must always be alert. The pilgrim is on the lookout for significance, for signs and rumors of transcendence . . . It means I must look for the holy within the mundane,” (In Search of Sacred Places).
Join me and other pilgrims in this rare opportunity to hike with companions in some of the most gorgeous landscape in the world; we will traverse rivers, be awed by mountain ranges and woodsy paths, and finally set foot in Nidaros, the northernmost cathedral in Europe and our destination in Trondheim, Norway. Our route is the Gudbransdalen Path, which during the Middle Ages was the main road from Oslo to Nidaros (Trondheim).
No matter what kind of traveler you are, you will become a “pilgrim” and experience the holy ground of this route. Your footsteps, at times challenging, will have the grounding of our travel company who provides expert planning and support, the friendship of other Auggie pilgrims, and the hospitality of our Norwegian hosts throughout the trip.
Two years ago, I led this pilgrimage and here is one participant’s reflection:
Today’s hike was absolutely breath-taking. No pun intended… And the beauty was objective. It was the type of beauty everyone can agree on, not to be portrayed by words or even pictures. I found myself wishing that my mom, dad or close friends could’ve been there too. How am I supposed to have this magic all to myself? When I return home (yuck), I’ll try to share my experience in words, but again, it won’t bring this experience justice – not even close.
We started the hike from Skaun Commune. This space has been popular among fellow hikers, or “pilgrims,” that travel along Pilgrimslea. We followed the blue, “Pilgrimslea” sign up a large, paved road visible from the commune. Slowly, we made our way into the mountains. The trail started off as a leisure walk. The ground was solid and we were able to observe our surroundings as we moved along. This was easy! “Follow the orange, wooden stake, follow the orange, wooden stake.” (That was my attempt at mimicking the “yellow brick road” bit from The Wizard of Oz, however, my version feels much more forced.)
The wooden stakes were marked with red-orange tips and a small marking we called a “squiggle.” Yes, we’re intellects. One of these sat on the outskirts of a heavily wooded area, and we had no choice but to accept it’s invitation.
We made our way down the mountain, each turn instilling us with hope that our destination was near. Well, the trees were probably laughing at us. Towering above, they could see we wouldn’t reach our bed and breakfast for another several hours. And to the trees, we said, “who’s laughing now!” The group was relieved to find our new friend, John. For his presence signified the end of our 10-mile hike. John was the husband of Karen. John and Karen owned a bed and breakfast across the river from where we stood, and it looked promising. We followed John down to the river where we expected to board a ferry. But alas, the ferry we chalked up to be large and Victorian was a small, wooden, five-person boat just wider than a canoe. But at this point, our bodies were sore, knees weak and feet swollen to the point where chuckling was a natural reaction. All aboard!
Across the river, we entered our farmhouse sleeping quarters. Karen opened the green and white striped barn door. Inside, was a room constructed entirely of wooden beams. The dining room was extravagant, with chandeliers hanging about and candles lit up and down the tables. The building was taller than it was wide and with each set of stairs leading to a new level of charm. Trinkets played on every surface, and memories of the past draped the walls. If hobbits were to occupy this town, this would be the hobbit Castle. I don’t think I’ve ever slept in a place so perfect.
Right now, I feel so lucky. I’m in Norway, which is across the world. The bed I’m laying in has been appreciated by so many before me, all with their own reason for sleeping here. That realization alone could set my mind wandering for hours! Each with their own interpretation of the pilgrimage and this gorgeous space that welcomed our desperate bodies. Although, I bet we could all agree on one thing. Today was beautiful.
Contact Katie (Koch) Code ’01, Director of Alumni and Constituent Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-330-1178 if you are interested in learning more about Augsburg’s travel opportunities or to be placed on a list to receive the most up to date information about the trips.
This might seem odd that a person living in Minneapolis, Minnesota would develop such an interest with a town of a little over 5,000 people located in the Bavarian Alps, but believe me, this place is truly fascinating.
2 years ago, I had the opportunity to travel with Augsburg to Germany/Lutherland and as a pastor’s kid and grandchild of German immigrants, I left Germany with amazing experiences, new friends, and a deeper understanding of myself.
I’m downright giddy as I look toward traveling again in July 2020 with some of the same friends, to places I’ve never been before and to take advantage of the opportunity to experience the world-famous Oberammergau Passion Play.
I graduated from Augsburg with a Theater degree and all of my work previous to my time at Augsburg has been in theater. I met my husband when we were both on staff at the Guthrie Theater.
To me, the Oberammergau Passion Play is an ultimate theatrical event. It’s impressive, unique, and moving…its like seeing Ibsen in Norway. Oh wait. That’s another blog post.
Since subscribing to the newsletter, I’ve learned the following about this town-wide production:
On Ash Wednesday, the “-9 year” before the passion play, the BEARD DECREE goes into effect. Many of the men who have been cast in the play get their last haircut and shave.
Each performance has an audience of 4,700 people composed of theatergoers and pilgrims from all over the world.
Not only will we see the Passion Play, but we will be staying in Oberammergau. I heard that the hotel is close enough to the theater that at the intermission we can use the bathrooms in our own hotel. Also, rumor has it that one of the actors portraying Pontius Pilate is the proprietor of the hotel!
2,000 people are involved in the Passion Play each year. I remember feeling overwhelmed when I worked with a cast and crew of 75 members!
Augsburg is fortunate enough to have 40 tickets to a performance on July 23, 2020, and 20 of them are already spoken for. Once they are gone, we cannot get any more.
This trip to Germany as well as three trips to Norway, are truly uniquely Augsburg experiences. I would love to tell you more about this and all of our Sesquicentennial Heritage trips. Please look for subsequent blogs about the trips, check out the itineraries which can be found on the Alumni Travel Web Page, or feel free to reach out to me directly, I would love to chat with you about any of the trips email@example.com or 612-330-1178.
Katie (Koch) Code ’01
Director of Alumni and Constituent Relations
Auggies are hitting the road again. During the sesquicentennial year, the Alumni office will be hosting four trips to Germany and Norway. We are happy to share some information about the Germany trip that will take place on July 15-26, 2020.
This uniquely-Augsburg trip features professors Dr. Lori Brandt Hale and Dr. Hans Wiersma. Hale and Wiersma lead the Lutherland trip in 2017 and are now bringing their expertise to a trip that will include historic towns, castles, famous WWII sites, breathtaking scenery, and the world famous Oberammergau Passion Play which will have its 42nd showing. Details on the trip can be found on our alumni travel page.
Join us for an information session on April 17, 2019, from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Oren Gateway Center Room 100. Dr. Hale and Dr. Wiersma will present on the highlights of the trip, and you will have the chance to ask questions and learn more about this once in a lifetime opportunity. For more information about this trip or to RSVP for the info session please contact Katie Code ’01 firstname.lastname@example.org
We will also be hosting an additional info session for the Norway trips as well as the Germany Trip on May 14, 2019 at Augsburg.