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.
This week’s Uncovering Vocation talk is given by Jenean Gilmer. Jenean holds a B.A. in Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature and a Master of Heritage Studies & Public History from the University of Minnesota. She is invested in building collaborative projects and partnerships that deepen our understanding of one another, the communities we live in, and the land that we live on. She has previously worked with the Minnesota Historical Society, the Sioux Chef, A Public History of 35W, Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis, and the Urban Farm & Garden Alliance in Saint Paul’s Rondo and Frogtown neighborhoods. Jenean builds relationships on and off campus that create learning opportunities for students and provide support to community partners in Cedar-Riverside and beyond.
If you happened to catch my last Chapel Talk, you already know that I am deeply suspicious of the word, “vocation.” The great source of knowledge for our time, Wikipedia, tells us,
“Use of the word “vocation” before the sixteenth century referred firstly to the “call” by God to an individual…more specifically to the “vocation” of the priesthood, or to religious life, which is still the usual sense in Roman Catholicism which recognizes marriage, religious, and ordained life as the three vocations. Martin Luther, followed by John Calvin, placed a particular emphasis on vocations, or divine callings, as potentially including most secular occupations.”
My suspicions arise largely from the coevolution of Protestantism and capitalism, wherein work and the accumulation of wealth take on a spiritual significance, the roots of which deeply inform the way we think of wealth, worth, and work today. When I read Max Weber’s, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, while a student at the U, it was REVEALATORY. It helped me make sense of myself in a way that I might not have otherwise.
By the time I was about six years old, we stopped going to church. In Sunday school I asked too many questions and was sent outside while the class continued without me, meant to think about how disruptive I was, about my badness. Mom was pretty pissed about this. Regardless, I continued to say my prayers at night and I was raised with Christian values and an encompassing sense of the importance of a good work ethic. To learn how deeply intertwined these concepts are, particularly in U.S. American culture, is to understand that worth, work and wealth are, in many ways, one and the same.
I learned this consciously from reading Weber, but knew it intimately from my lived experience. I come from a long line of poor people. I was born to an unwed, teenage mother in a small town in rural Minnesota, in the hot summer of 1977. I was adopted by my grandparents when I was two years old. Shortly after, we moved out of that town to the country outside of Zimmerman. Continue reading “Making a lot of this up as I go Along”