Bing tracking

Transforming From Within: Reflections from Cohorts

A drop of water in a lake or river rippling out. Ducks and an eagle are in the horizon along with the sun set. Trees are red and brown along the sides. Geoffrey’s Reflection

Peace friends,

So far, in our shared journey of faith and community, an essential truth emerged: real change begins within. As Lauryn Hill insightfully puts it, “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?” This feels like it resonates as a deep undercurrent with our congregations’. .

We’re on a mission, not just to extend our sacred influence into the neighborhood but to first cultivate it within our own teams. It’s a process of aligning our hearts and minds, ensuring our internal compass is set towards genuine humanity.

This isn’t just about strategy; it’s about soul-searching. We’re engaging deeply with each other, understanding that to truly touch our neighborhood, we must first be united and aligned in our purpose and vision.

As we undertake this internal journey, we’re igniting a transformation that extends beyond our walls. We’re becoming the change we want to see, equipped to be sacred spaces in our neighborhood’s story, whether it’s filled with joy or echoes with grief.

This path we’re embarking on is and will be progressively challenging, yet incredibly rewarding. As we align within, our capacity to impact our neighborhoods grows exponentially. We’re not just changing – we’re evolving, ready to make a real ripple in the world around us.


Brenna’s Reflection

October brought the first of many cohort meetings for this round of the Riverside Innovation Hub journey. We met at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington, sharing in the rich history and context of their space. We heard their team members tell stories of teen lock-ins and Sunday school classes held in the room where we met from multiple generations in the past to today. Over the next year, each of our congregations will get a chance to host a cohort meeting in their space so that we can all get a taste of their place and story as we build relationships together. Continue reading “Transforming From Within: Reflections from Cohorts”

Together in Harmony by Jad Habib

Uncovering Vocation Series

Uncovering Vocation is a partnership between Campus Ministry and the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University. Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, a member of the Augsburg community is invited to share a component of their vocation story. It has become a way of building community, becoming reacquainted with one another, and celebrating the diversity of people and vocations that make Augsburg University the beautiful place it is.

 

I’m going to start by reading a few quotes that I find fit well in the story I’m about to share. 

  • American Author Jacqueline Woodson shares that “Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together.”
  • Another American Author Audre Lorde explained once that “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
  • Howard Schultz, a business figure was quoted saying: “I’ve traveled around the world, and what’s so revealing is that, despite the differences in culture, politics, language, how people dress, there is a universal feeling that we all want the same thing. We deeply want to be respected and appreciated for our differences.”
  • American minister and activist Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

The last quote by MLK really resonates with me because as a teenager, I came to the United States on a foreign student visa albeit not on a ship but I am indeed in the same boat now.

On that note, let me introduce myself, my story and why I chose to speak about harmony through Unity.  I hope to show through some of my stories why I feel my calling is that of a unifying person.

I was born in the “République de Côte d’Ivoire” in West Africa known in English as the Ivory Coast, to Lebanese parents in a mostly French speaking household.  I grew up exposed to Ivorian, Lebanese and French cultures and foods. Continue reading “Together in Harmony by Jad Habib”

Meet the Newest Riverside Innovation Hub Congregational Learning Partners!

Written by Brenna Zeimet

Collage of photos of participants from launch event chatting with each other, at their tables, in conversation with each other.Our new Thriving Congregation Learning Community has launched for the 2023-2025 RIH Journey. We have 3 cohorts, two local groups made up of Twin Cities Metro churches and one distance cohort made up of churches from coast to coast. We have a great mix of large suburban churches, smaller outstate churches and everything in between, giving us a diversity of experience and perspectives that will make our learning communities deep wells for growth and change.

Geoffrey Gill has returned as a congregational facilitator. He is at the helm of our distance cohort and will also facilitate one of our local learning communities. His passion for connection and deep relationship allows him to bridge geographical and cultural differences to create a welcoming space where churches from Massachusetts, Oregon, and rural Minnesota can find commonality and bond over the love for their neighbors. This distance cohort combines passion for racial justice in Oregon, innovative ministry to unhoused folks in Massachusetts, and community building across the small towns and cornfields of Southern Minnesota.

Geoffrey’s local cohort includes churches from St Paul to Plymouth who are passionate about doing work in their neighborhoods – amongst immigrants and politicians, for affordable housing and environmental justice, with students and community partners. These churches are joined by a team of mentors from Diamond Lake Lutheran Church in Minneapolis who will share the wisdom they gained as participants in our last round of RIH learning communities.

Brenna Zeimet has joined as our new cohort facilitator and she will be leading the other local cohort as well as piloting a new program for our alumni churches that helps them continue this work and weave the love for the neighbor into the culture of their congregations.

Brenna’s local cohort spans the Twin Cities Metro area, from Roseville to Eagan and St Paul to Bloomington. The churches in this group come from different denominations and neighborhoods, some are historic churches with a long legacy in their communities while others are young congregations who are growing and innovating in their new spaces. They all share an excitement for this work and a desire to live into being vital neighbors who make a difference in the people around them.

This learning community has proved to be passionate and excited to jump into this work. They already have great ideas and partnerships and seem to enter the space with a heart that beats for the neighbor. The feeling as we launch into this two year journey is one of hopefulness and anticipation. These churches are going to be forces for good in their respective communities and they can’t wait to get that ball rolling. For the full list of congregations, check out our RIH website. 

2023 Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium

The Purpose Gap

Dr. Patrick Reyes, Dean of Auburn Seminary

The Christensen Symposium

The Christensen Symposium and the Christensen Center for Vocation were both established to honor the legacy of Dr. Christensen, the 8th president of Augsburg University who served from 1938-1962. His legacy was one of critical inquiry and genuine hospitality. We have drawn these lessons from that legacy which still shape our work.

  • Christian faith liberates minds and lives
  • Diversity strengthens vital communities
  • Inter-faith friendships enrich learning
  • The love of Christ draws us to God
  • We are called to service in the world

It is my hope that you will hear echoes of Dr. Christensen’s lessons in Dr. Reyes’ presentation.

Dr. Patrick Reyes

Image of Dr. Patrick Reyes.Dr. Patrick Reyes currently serves as the Dean of Auburn Seminary in New York City.

He is a Chicano writer, theologian, and executive leader and the award-winning author of The Purpose Gap and Nobody Cries When We Die. Prior to his current position he was the Senior Director of Learning Design for the Lilly Endowment’s Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) where he provided strategy and direction for their diverse programs, grants, and teams supporting the next generation of leaders. In addition, he led the historic fellowships supporting scholars of color, the Institutional Doctoral Network, and partnerships in theological and higher education.

He is a peer among public theologians and deeply respected among faith and justice leaders and funders. He is the current Board President of the Religious Education Association and serves as the Co-Dean of the Freedom Seminary for the Children’s Defense Fund, offering an immersive experience for diverse seminary students from across the country to engage and cultivate prophetic voices with communities on the margins.

Patrick provides leadership on several boards in theological and higher education, publications, and the nonprofit sector, supporting the next generation of Black, Indigenous, and Chicano spiritual and cultural leaders. In the last decade, he has been recognized for his service and scholarship by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Boston University, Claremont School of Theology, Drew University, Children’s Defense Fund, Hispanic Theological Initiative, Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy, and others.

Patrick was also recently inducted into the Morehouse College MLK Jr. Collegium of Scholars. He lives in New Mexico, where he and his family embrace the cultural and religious traditions and communities they have inherited. Continue reading “2023 Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium”

I shouldn’t be here, and yet, here I am tracking a calling By Dr. Sergio Madrid, Education

Uncovering Vocation Series

Uncovering Vocation is a partnership between Campus Ministry and the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University. Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, a member of the Augsburg community is invited to share a component of their vocation story. It has become a way of building community, becoming reacquainted with one another, and celebrating the diversity of people and vocations that make Augsburg University the beautiful place it is.

Abstract

In this heartfelt conversation, we will explore the path of discovering and pursuing a calling inspired by a desire to serve and a belief in the goodness of humanity. We will discuss the ups and downs of this journey with empathy and honesty. Moreover, we will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each step and guide individuals toward resources within the community that can facilitate profound realizations.

Mi familia

The first human I ever loved and respected was a teacher. The first human who ever broke my heart was also a teacher. Consequently, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and I never wanted to be a teacher. Although I understand this idea is contradictory, for me, it was as natural as breathing.

While growing up in rural and forgotten Mexico, I always looked up to my father. He was a respected man and a cherished leader in his community. The farmers, artisans, and elder leaders of this rural landscape always asked for his opinions. They trusted him with their children’s education. Yet, at the same time, this caring social leader, excellent teacher, and public intellectual would open a bottle and become distant and careless to his family. Continue reading “I shouldn’t be here, and yet, here I am tracking a calling By Dr. Sergio Madrid, Education”

Introducing the 2023 – 2024 Christensen Scholars

Each year we select up to ten outstanding students to spend one year together in a high-level seminar style course exploring a theological understanding of vocation. These scholars build relationships with one another, develop theological acumen, and spend time volunteering with influential organizations in the community. The purpose of this program is to help these students reflect on how their sense of vocation has been formed and how it is forming their future aspirations. Here are some brief introductions to these amazing scholars.


Headshot of Chiara JirilloChiara Jirillo | Class of 2025 | Milan, Italy

Major: New Media Studies, Minor: Graphic Design

 

I first moved to Minnesota in February of 2021 to be an au pair. I took care of an infant, while living with my host family, and we created such a strong bond that I decided to come back to Minnesota as a student. I am a very devoted person when it comes to my loved ones. My deepest hopes are that compassion and understanding become the foundation of human interactions, allowing empathy and fostering unity across different cultures. My goal is to go to Switzerland for my Master’s degree and start working for the United Nation to help maintain international peace and achieve international cooperation. I love to spend time with my close friends and host family.

 

A blue mushroom in a forest. Theo Coval | Class of 2026| Robbinsdale, MN 

Major: Biospsychology, Minors: Religion & Creative Writing

 

I chose Augsburg because of its disability accommodations and small campus. It’s also very close to where I live so as a commuter that is ideal. I have an excessive amount of exotic pets, including pond fish, birds, tarantulas/inverts, snakes, and an iguana roughly four feet long. I suppose I’d like to see a world where people have higher empathy, particularly along cultural lines. I think entertainment plays a big role in how people see different identities with how they are represented and portrayed in media, for example the now-defunct Hays Code made it so that certain television programs could only depict queer characters in a negative or villainous light. As an author I try to include authentic representation of a variety of identities in my work in an attempt to normalize the inclusion of all peoples in our social narrative. One thing I love to do is write. I am constantly working on fiction projects.

 

Headshot of Marcia FranciosMarcia Francois | Class of 2026 | Brooklyn Park, MN

Major: Psychology, Minor: Sociology 

 

I came to Augsburg University because it was close to home and also because of the diverse community on campus. One thing that is unique about me is my voice. I have heard it is very unique for a female. My deepest hope for this world is that people learn to understand and accept each other’s differences. As a student leader on campus, I have taken classes such as the Emerging Leaders Program and Leadership Studies to understand better the world we live in and the people who inhabit it. One thing I love to do is pamper myself.

 

 

Headshot of Danny HoDanny Ho | Class of 2025 | St. Paul, MN

Major: Finance

 

I decided to attend Augsburg because I wanted to attend an smaller school with a tight community. I love how diverse Augsburg is and the fact that Augsburg is in the cities. One of my passions is Entrepreneurship. My deepest hope is for everyone to find their true calling in life. I believe one of the most important days of your life is when you find your purpose. I want to become a leader that inspires people to become the best versions of themselves. I love to sing.

 

Continue reading “Introducing the 2023 – 2024 Christensen Scholars”

The Journey Begins…

Written by Brenna Zeimet

Overhead view of the chapel space with 3 people on the stage for a panel and the audience at round tables. On September 16th church leaders from across the country gathered in person and via zoom to embark on a two year journey towards becoming vital neighbors in their communities. Riverside Innovation Hub launched three cohorts of churches, two of them composed of local congregations from the Minneapolis/St Paul metro area, and one distance cohort that will meet online with congregations from Oregon, Massachusetts, and rural Minnesota. We’re inspiring the flourishing of our neighbors from coast to coast!

Cohort participants got the opportunity to learn from our own Jeremy Myers about the Art of Becoming Public Church; diving deep into the cultural impacts of postmodernism, church outreach models, and what our neighbors want and need from us in our post-pandemic world. Jeremy helped our congregations think through what the public church framework is and why it is important to engage our neighbors in a different way than the Church has before.

Next our congregations explored their “why” with the help of our program director, Kristina Fruge. She walked through what it means to engage in “place based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good”, and then invited congregations to talk about their own places and the common good they long to work for in their particular public squares. Congregations also heard from each of our staff members about our own personal “why” that drives us to do this work of investing in our neighbors and building relationships for the flourishing of others. Over lunch, cohorts talked with each other about their personal “why” and began to build relationships with the co-laborers that will walk beside them on this journey. Continue reading “The Journey Begins…”

Uncovering Vocation – Vocation Favors the Prepared Mind (or “How I Got to Augsburg”) Dr. Jennifer Bankers-Fulbright

Uncovering Vocation is a partnership between Campus Ministry and the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University. Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, a member of the Augsburg community is invited to share a component of their vocation story. It has become a way of building community, becoming reacquainted with one another, and celebrating the diversity of people and vocations that make Augsburg University the beautiful place it is.


On September 12, 2023 Dr. Jennifer Bankers-Fulbright from Augsburg’s biology department shared her story, “Vocation Favors the Prepared Mind (or ‘How I Got to Augsburg’)”. Enjoy a video of her talk and the transcript below.

Vocation Favors the Prepared Mind (or “How I Got to Augsburg”)

by Dr. Jennifer Bankers-Fulbright, Biology

If you ask any scientist how they became a scientist or any university professor how they became a university professor, the vast majority will say they don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. That is not my origin story.   When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was little, I gave them a whole list: singer, dancer, actress, mother, (and when my mom told me I could check boy careers too) fireman, doctor, police man – I checked all the boxes Except scientist. Or teacher. 

And this continued, though not with much thought, throughout my childhood until …at the end of 9th grade, I knew exactly what my ultimate goal was – my vocation.  It was time to register for HS classes, and my future was spelled out in all the electives that were now available to me, a high schooler!! Finally!! The next 3 years were going to be amazing, because I was going to register for every elective that would prepare me for my chosen career: THEATER!

I giddily gave my 10th grade registration form to my parents to sign, and family lore recreates this moment like this: 

Me: “Here’s what I’m taking in high school next year! Isn’t it great?!”

Parents:  “Hahaha! No.” Continue reading “Uncovering Vocation – Vocation Favors the Prepared Mind (or “How I Got to Augsburg”) Dr. Jennifer Bankers-Fulbright”

Saying Yes Because of This Truth: Project Reflection by Amar Peterman

Amar HeadshotIf you have not heard yet, we are writing a book! The purpose of this book project is to amplify the voices of young adults as they articulate their hopes, dreams, concerns, and frustrations to the church. This is not a book about young adults. Nor is this a book about how to attract young adults back to church. Rather, it is a book that offers the wisdom of young adults to the church as it discerns its next most faithful steps in these emerging times. Check out our author team here.

We recently asked the young adult writers for the project to reflect on this experience. Below is the reflection from Amar D. Peterman.

Amar D. Peterman (M.Div., Princeton Seminary) is an award-winning author and constructive theologian working at the intersection of faith and public life. His writing and research have been featured in Christianity Today, Faithfully Magazine, Fathom, The Berkeley Forum,, The Anxious Bench, Sojourners and The Christian Century. Amar is the founder of Scholarship for Religion and Society LLC, a research and consulting firm working with some of the leading philanthropic and civic institutions, religious organizations, and faith leaders in America today. Amar also serves as Program Manager at Interfaith America where he oversees programs related to emerging leaders, American evangelicalism, and Asian America. He writes regularly through his newsletter, “This Common Life.” You can learn more about him at amarpeterman.com. Amar’s co-author is Nicholas Tangen.


Why did you say yes to this experience and what are your hopes for the project? 

Written by Amar Peterman

Writing is always shaped by the people around us and the places we are located in. The best writing embraces this, capturing every moment as an opportunity to tell a story or find meaning in the ordinary moments of our life. Writing that reflects these daily experiences and infuses such with sacred meaning holds the opportunity to change us—even convict us—and as we are called into a community beyond ourselves. 

I said yes to this experience because of this truth. Through this project, I am not only brought into conversation with other writers across the country, but into active participation towards a shared goal. As we gather to envision a hopeful future for the Christian church, we are diligently writing and marking out tangible steps to create equitable spaces of inclusion and belonging for young people in local congregations across the United States. Together, we represent a diversity of experiences, locations, denominations, and beliefs within Christianity. These differences, though, are not a hindrance to our cooperation; they are gifts that allow this project to speak to more people than any individual could do on their own.  Continue reading “Saying Yes Because of This Truth: Project Reflection by Amar Peterman”

The Confluence 2023 Mentor Experience

Written by Mentor Sarah Runck

Mentors taking a selfie over the overlook in Saint PaulMaking new connections and building on those relationships can be really exciting but also really scary. I got the opportunity to make new connections with high school youth at the 2023 Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: The Confluence! This program was filled with connections between our story, God’s story and The World’s story. We learned about our own spiritual gifts, practiced vocational discernment and heard stories from the neighbors in our community. Many memories, laughs, smiles, and even cries were shared. All of these things influenced why I chose to be a mentor this year. Having these connections with people who come from all over is a really important part of who we are. We get to hear each other’s stories, learn from them and grow because of them.

Sarah and Jasmyn at the overlook in Saint PaulThis weeklong program had a lot to offer to young people. However, as this week progressed there were some challenges that arose for us mentors. “Having the energy, the patience, and the positive attitude around the participants was the most challenging part” (A 2023 Mentor). But not only were there challenges, there were exciting moments. A fellow mentor said, “It was exciting to see the participants interact with guest pastors, speakers and teachers. Their curiosity was so inspiring and fun to watch.” As mentors, we realized that it was truly amazing to get to know each other and all the participants. We were able to create a relationship with everyone at this program. By having our own small groups, we got to know and understand participants at a deeper level spiritually and we were able to help each other grow in our faith”.              Continue reading “The Confluence 2023 Mentor Experience”