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COVID-19: 2020-21 academic year plans and student resources ›


Plans are underway to launch a new congregational learning opportunity through the Riverside Innovation Hub, an initiative of CCV. Congregations selected to participate in this new Public Church Learning Community will be a part of a community of 12 churches moving through a 2-year partnership together. The first learning community runs July 2021 – July 2023 and the second learning community runs September 2023 – September 2025. You can read more about this learning community experience on our previous blog post. 


This work is funded through the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations initiative. We are fortunate to have a local partner, the Minneapolis Area Synod, who is also a recipient of this grant and planning to offer a similar opportunity to congregations in their synod. Our projects are unique but aligned in many ways and we are grateful to be able to collaborate with them in this important work.  


This will include offering a shared application process which will go live in February 2021 so that churches considering either (or both) projects can have a streamlined process for applying and discerning the best fit for their congregation. Our CCV blog and Riverside Innovation Hub facebook page will continue to post regular updates about the application and upcoming informational sessions hosted by the Minneapolis Area Synod project and Augsburg’s CCV project. 


Congregations who are a part of Augsburg’s learning communities will develop and deepen the knowledge, skills, habits, and values to engage in the work of place-based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good through a method we call the Public Church Framework. This blog post offers a more in depth description of the framework and how we intend it to support the ongoing ministry of local congregations committed to the work of being/becoming a public church. 


The Public Church Framework


The Public Church Framework consists of four movements that guide us into more intentional relationships with our neighbor, scripture, our core beliefs, and God’s spirit as we seek to discern how our faith community is called to be and proclaim good news with and for our neighbors. It combines threads the church has historically kept separate – discipleship, outreach, relationships, justice, worship, biblical study, theological reflection, and prayer. The common denominator is the neighbor. We do these things for the sake of our neighbors.




Our learning process will help congregations develop a deeper understanding of their contexts – who and how people live and work there, and their community’s institutions, power structures, assets, challenges, etc. We will do this through the movement of accompaniment. Through accompaniment participants will explore and deepen their understanding of social and cultural trends that affect them and learn about their immediate neighborhoods, towns, cities, regions and/or broader areas of concern.


A note to predominantly white congregations: We have learned that congregations must address the complexities of racism and white supremacy explicitly if they wish to be able to engage their neighbors in mutually life-giving ways. Without challenging the blinders of whiteness and white supremacy, we will do more harm than good. Lament and confession must be a part of, if not pre-requisite to, accompaniment. The necessary work of confronting white supremacy will be woven into accompaniment early on.



Congregations will also learn to leverage their core theological commitments and the biblical narrative as an interpretive lens for understanding their neighbors’ lived realities. We will do this through the movement of interpretation. Through interpretation they will gain clarity about their values and mission in light of their changing contexts. They will also deepen their understanding of their ecclesial traditions and denominational relationships and how they shape and expand their ministry opportunities.



Congregations will develop Christian contemplative practices that will aid in their discernment of how they are being called by God to engage with their neighbors in specific ways that proclaim good news into their lives.



Lastly, our learning community will develop competency in organizing and empowering their congregations to become actively engaged in the particular proclamation of the good news they have discerned. Through this work of proclamation, they will learn to navigate change and partnerships with organizations and individuals in their locations, as part of their transformation into a public church.


Throughout this learning process, congregations will integrate historical Christian practices  – accompaniment, theological reflection, prayer, and discernment – as a way of bringing coherence to their congregation’s life of pastoral care, worship, Christian education, and outreach. Involving the entire congregation in this work – rather than leaving it to the paid staff – will build a sense of community among the members of these congregations. The knowledge, skills, and values needed to thrive in this way will be taught through a multi-layered approach including readings, case studies, small and large group processes, experimentation, visits from experts external to our learning community, communal worship and prayer, and cross-pollination within the learning community.

Augsburg’s Christensen Center for Vocation Launches New Congregational Partnership in 2021

A new year and new opportunity for churches


The new year brings a new partnership opportunity for congregations through Augsburg University’s Christensen Center for Vocation (CCV), supported by a new $1,000,000 grant Augsburg has been awarded through the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. 

The Riverside Innovation Hub, an initiative of CCV,  will continue helping congregations live into placed-based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good through two-year learning communities of twelve congregations. The first learning community runs July 2021 – July 2023 and the second learning community runs September 2023 – September 2025.

Our congregational application will become available early February 2021 along with dates for  informational sessions and more details for congregations interested in considering this opportunity. Our CCV blog and Riverside Innovation Hub facebook page will continue to post regular updates. 


Place-based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good


The Christensen Center for Vocation orients its work towards place-based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good. This new opportunity is an invitation to congregations interested in pursuing or deepening this same orientation in their particular place, in relationship with the neighbor and neighborhood, leaning into God’s promises and challenges and that meet us there. 


PLACE-BASED: A claim that vocational discernment is always located in a particular place and the discernment process must take place in, with, and for that location. The particular matters.

VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT: A way of moving through the world that allows us to be listening to God’s promises, the demands our neighbors’ stories place on us, and wondering how we are being called to respond.

PUBLIC SQUARE: Vocational discernment in the public square is done out in the open and outside our comfort zones in conversations with our neighbors, seeking to bring all perspectives to the table.

COMMON GOOD: This approach claims an orientation towards becoming neighbor and giving ourselves away to the common good of one’s community, not to maintaining our congregations or institutions.


The learning community structure


Congregations who partner with us in this endeavor will be joining a learning community. This is not a training, nor is it a train-the-trainer. The Riverside Innovation Hub sees itself as a convener, not a consultant. We gather as equals – curious and faithful communities desiring to learn and share new ways to be good news in our neighborhoods.

  1. Twelve congregations will be selected for each learning community. 
  2. Congregations will recruit a leadership team of five members to steward this work for two years.
  3. Each congregational leadership team will be in a cohort with three other congregational teams.
  4. Each cohort of four congregations will have a part-time facilitator who will be a paid staff member of the Christensen Center for Vocation.
  5. Each cohort will also have a mentor congregation who was part of the first five-year project with the Riverside Innovation Hub.
  6. The faculty, staff, and students at Augsburg University also become assets available to help partner congregations with their place-based vocational discernment.
  7. Every other month, these teams will either gather in cohorts or the entire learning community.
    1. Seven learning events for the entire learning community over the course of the two years. In-person if possible (otherwise they will happen virtually). At these events, congregational leadership teams will deepen and develop the knowledge base, skill set, and attitudes necessary to lead congregations towards becoming public churches.
    2. Congregational leadership teams will also gather every other month with their cohorts on-line or in person with their facilitator and mentor congregation for support and reflection on their learning and implementation.
  8. During the alternate months, congregational leadership teams will be expected to gather for regular leadership team meetings on their own to plan and work on integrating the Public Church Framework in their congregation.


Stay tuned for more information via our CCV website and Riverside Innovation Hub facebook page!

Harking Up the Wrong Tree

Abraham Bloemaert (Manner of) – Announcement to the shepherds c.1600

Angels sing “Hark!”, or at least the herald ones do. The church’s problem is that we’re singing Hark! in all the wrong places. We’re harking up the wrong tree. And Christmas is the best time for Dad Jokes.

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ (Luke 2:8-20)

These shepherds living in the fields were considered too unclean for worship in the temple. They were considered lowly peasants for sure, but their profession was also part of the problem. The religious structures of the time made it impossible for them enter God’s house.

So, it’s a pretty big deal when these lowly, dirty shepherds are the first to hear the announcement of Christ’s birth. These angels are harking up the RIGHT tree. When God makes Godself public and moves into the neighborhood, God wants the shepherds to be the first to know. The shepherds – the ones not allowed in the temple – are the first ones invited to God’s new home.

The distance between the temple and those living in the fields is only getting greater. The chasm between the church and those who are systemically cast out is only getting wider. The pandemics of COVID, systemic racism, and economic strife are felt intensely by so many right now. There are multitudes living in the fields this winter in our communities. God crosses the threshold into the lives of these who are living in the fields. The angels’ Hark! is for those living in the fields.

The good news for those of us hanging out at the temple harking up the wrong tree is that this good news of great joy is for all people (verse 10). It’s as if God knows the privileged ones will hoard the good news of great joy for themselves if they receive it first. And it will never find its way to the fields. But, this good news of great joy will truly be for ALL people if it is the lowly ones receive it first.

The Christmas story is a story of God becoming public, becoming incarnate, moving into the neighborhood. It is a story of this good news of great joy being made known publicly. We no longer need to hark up the wrong tree. The journey into to the fields with our neighbor is a journey to which we are called. When you arrive you will encounter your neighbor and the good news of great joy they share with you will leave you speechless. Your only word will be Hark!

May the incarnate Christ meet you where you are this Advent and Christmas – in the fields or in the temple – and draw you into that good news of great joy that offers the kind of hope that turns our world upside down.


Minneapolis Encampment. Photo by David Joles, Star Tribune

Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin – Augsburg’s Christensen Symposium 2020

head shot of Dr. Robert FranklinRev. Dr. Robert Michael Franklin of the Candler School of Theology was our speaker at the Christensen Symposium on October 1, 2020. He spoke on his recent book, Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, Imagination. This book addresses much of how the Christensen Center for Vocation attempts to implement our various initiatives with congregations, students and our Augsburg colleagues. A video of his talk is shared below.

Dr. Franklin wrote this book because he believes “(1) democracy requires virtue, (2) we are now in a state of steady moral decline, (3) moral decline can be contagious, and (4) the contagion can be deadly.” Dr. Franklin claims, “When there is a lack of moral leadership in an organization, it can emerge from unlikely places and people, often from the young.”

He is calling us to look to the margins for leadership right now – to those “whom society has sought to relegate to the sidelines, but who nevertheless struggle to rise above discouraging circumstances and lift others as they climb.”

Moral leaders are those who
  1. CENTER DOWN on our most deeply held values
  2. STEP FORWARD to act in an impactful way, and
  3. DREAM UP where and how we can transcend the status quo.

The challenges our congregations face today – anti-racism work, environmental rejuvenation, interfaith cooperation and the ongoing work of reformation will require moral leadership. Look to the margins for those who are poised to lead us faithfully into this work.

How are you making space for those new leaders to emerge who will lift you up as they climb?

Meet You Mentor-Morgan

Morgan Baumbach, He, Him, His

Junior, 2021

BA: Theology and Public Leadership

BA: Theatrical Design and Technology

Minor: Youth StudiesMorgan smiling in front of blue ocean background


Anything about your hometown or where you’re from that you want to share: Farmington, MN. Yes there are farms and the high school football team plays for the Tractor Trophy every year. 


What you are most excited about for AYTI: I am super excited to find new ways to dive into theology virtually and also make meaningful intentional connections virtually. It will be hard work but I am so excited for it. 


Favorite place you’ve been: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico


Favorite Bible verse: Genesis 1:31

Meet Your Mentor-Ian

Hi! My name is Ian Heseltine, I use he, him, his pronouns. I’m a third year at Augsburg graduating in the spring of 2021. I’m a double major in Religion and Ian smiling in front of a green background with waterfall in the distanceMusic Business. My hometown is Alexandria, MN, two hours west of the metro area. This will be my third summer as a mentor for AYTI and I can’t wait to connect with all the students this summer, especially in this strange time we’re living through. AYTI is always a highlight of my summer because I get to connect with highschoolers and also show them how great Augsburg is. Over winter break I went on an Augsburg Study Abroad trip to London, England & Edinburgh, Scotland. That trip has been my all time favorite, and was the first time I had ever been overseas. We spent a large amount of time talking about Harry Potter which is one of my favorites so the trip made a lasting impact on me!


Meet Your Mentor-Grace


Grace smiling in front of a white fence with tall sunflowers behind herHi, my name is Grace Koch Muchahary, I am originally from Northeast, India. I am pursuing my Bachelor’s degree at Augsburg University. Currently, I am a Sophomore going to be Junior next year, and I will be graduating in 2022. I am majoring in Sociology and planning on minoring in Gender-Sexuality and Women’s studies. The reason I got this beautiful opportunity to study in the United States is because I received a scholarship from ELCA, IWL(International Women Leadership) program. Before coming to Augsburg, I could never have dreamed of getting to engage with so many different communities here around me. One of my favorite experiences and community is this program AYTI (Augsburg Youth Theology Institute). I couldn’t stop myself from being a part of AYTI again this summer. I love this program, and this year I am hoping to see new activities, new learning and especially to meet new amazing people. My favorite place I have been so far would be Chicago, and Iowa (because it is peaceful).

Favorite Bible Verse: John 14:14: Jesus says, If you ask anything in my name I will do it.


Meet Your Mentor-Tre

Name: Tre TellorTre smiling and tending a camp stove.

Pronouns: he/him

Majors: sociology and religion

Hometown: Bloomington, MN

What I’m excited about: Helping students ask the tough questions about faith

Favorite place: the Superior Hiking trail

Favorite Bible verse: Isaiah 1:17


Meet Your Mentor- Lizzy

Photo of Lizzy standing outside holding cotton candy and smiling

My Name is Elizabeth Hoversten but I go by Lizzy and use the pronouns she, her, hers. I am from a little rural town called Viroqua located around the lowest pinky knuckle of Wisconsin. At Augsburg, I am Majoring in Communication Studies and Minoring in Business Administration with the end goal of goodness knows what. I am very excited to be returning to AYTI for the 3rd time, second as a mentor. It is incredible getting to watch these youth gather from across the states to explore how their faith can influence their leadership. My favorite place I’ve been has been a mountain road outside of Yellowstone, my family and I drove it at dusk about four years ago and it was awe striking.  Unfortunately, I do not have a favorite Bible verse but I do have a least favorite book of the Bible so I will lead with that. My least favorite book of the Bible is the book of Job, let’s talk about it some time.