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Uncovering Vocation: A Series Highlighting the Vocation of Augsburg Staff and Faculty

Vocation is a term we use a lot around Augsburg. It can be vague. It can mean different things to different people. It can feel elusive and slippery. 

An attempt to explain vocation by Jeremy Myers: “You have probably heard the word vocation used to talk about one’s job. It is sometimes used to describe post-secondary educational institutions designed to train individuals for certain trades such as electrician, welder, plumber, carpenter, mechanic, etc. We use the term differently at Augsburg. It can be associated with your job, but it is also much more than that. Vocation is the way you are equipped, empowered, called, and driven to make our world a better place for all living things.”

On most 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month, some of our favorite members of Augsburg University’s staff and faculty share their stories of their own vocations during chapel worship. Vocation is all around us, lived out in the here and now and in all departments and spaces at Augsburg. Together we can start uncovering vocation in all our lives. Learn more about Vocation here

We have been grateful to the staff and faculty who are willing to share their stories with our community. We are especially grateful to those who have already shared their stories the past two months. Paula O’Loughlin, Mike Grewe, Najeeba Syeed and Kao Nou Moua.

We hope you will join us this coming Tuesday, December 6th for our final vocation chapel of the year, “We Die, We Break, We Love:  A Jewish Story of Call and Response” Dr. Audrey Lensmire.

Check out the recordings of the vocation chapels we have had so far! 

Continue reading “Uncovering Vocation: A Series Highlighting the Vocation of Augsburg Staff and Faculty”

The Christensen Symposium Was a Success!

September 22nd was the annual Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium. Jeremy Myers shared a talk called “From Nowhere to Now Here”. In it, he encourages us all to see vocation as something that roots us in the present moment for the sake of the neighbor. If you missed it or want to listen to it again check it out below.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from the talk:

  • “It’s not a journey from point A to point B, where you have to leave this place to go to that place. Instead I want to invite you into a journey that’s really more about becoming rooted deeply in the place where we already find ourselves.”
  • “Vocation is ultimately not about you it’s about the space that exists between you and your neighbor.”
  • It is “the quest of inquiry to figure out who our neighbor is and what it is our neighbor needs from us to thrive. It’s not a journey where you need to go on a quest to find some vocation that’s hidden out there in the future from you. It’s an invitation into the right here and the right now. That vocation is something that saves us from the nowhere plants us firmly right here with one another in this moment of time to do this good work that we’ve been given to do today. and we get to do that together and I think that’s pretty great.”

 

You are invited: “From Nowhere to Now Here” Christensen Symposium 2022

Jeremy Myers in front of a group of people in the chapel teaching. FROM NOWHERE TO NOW HERE

Jeremy Myers, PhD, Bernhard M. Christensen Professor of Religion and Vocation, Augsburg University

Join us for this year’s Christensen Symposium where we will dig deeper into the topics of vocation and public church.

Thursday, September 22
11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Foss Center, Hoversten Chapel

The pandemic, rampant racism, unfettered injustices, environmental degradation, inflation – these are a few sources of the overwhelming sense of despair in our lives. We are anxious about our future. We desperately seek meaning, purpose, justice, and the common good but they seem to be nowhere in sight. Nowhere. But there is hope and potential for change if we can focus on the here and now. All we are promised is the here and now, and it is where we are called to live our lives. Now. Here.

Jeremy Myers is the Bernhard M. Christensen Professor of Religion and Vocation and the Executive Director of the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University. Myers earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and his master’s and PhD from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He researches, writes, teaches, and organizes around the topics of vocation and public church. In addition to many articles and chapters, he is the author of Liberating Youth from Adolescence published by Fortress Press and is also a sought-after speaker. He has secured millions of dollars in grants to support the work of the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg.

Stewarding Work with Hope and Lament by Amanda Vetsch

 

It’s sometimes strange to be a young adult that cares deeply about the church. I have so much hope for the possibility of a church that embodies God’s promises, and I lament the way in which the church has created, sustained, and participates in harm. 

So many of my peers who might consider themselves “Christian” have discerned that the institutional church isn’t something that they are willing to invest their energy or resources into any longer. We have often experienced church as a community that doesn’t live out the things it claims to believe in. When we’ve sought out a community of belonging that nourishes us and compels us to live our lives for the sake of the neighbor, we oftentimes found instead a place that intentionally or unintentionally perpetuates harm and exclusion, a place that continues to sustain white supremacy as the status quo, a community that prioritizes the privileged, and tokenizes people perceived as “other.”

Background of water flowing over rocks from a river with text over it "There’s often a really loud narrative about decline, death, and dying... And in the conversation about young adults and church, it often feels like the anxiety around scarcity gets aimed at young adults, seeing them as people who could become new members, and help lessen their anxiety about impending death, they could help lower the average age, and increase the monthly giving. And that is objectifying. It turns wonderful, gifted, wise humans into a “butt and bucks” . I, and my young adult peers, are so much more than that, and we’re seeking so much more than that out of a faith community. ~Amanda Vetsch"There are definitely churches and communities that are practicing their beliefs, and are committed to dismantling the systems of oppression, and living into God’s promises. And yet there are so many more that so badly want people to join them, and haven’t quite figured out how to let go of a way of life that’s no longer serving them, and not in alignment with God’s vision. 

There’s often a really loud narrative about decline, death, and dying. This narrative is one that comes out of a scarcity mindset, rather than abundance. And in the conversation about young adults and church, it often feels like the anxiety around scarcity gets aimed at young adults, seeing them as people who could become new members, and help lessen their anxiety about impending death, they could help lower the average age, and increase the monthly giving. And that is objectifying. It turns wonderful, gifted, wise humans into a “butt and bucks” . I, and my young adult peers, are so much more than that, and we’re seeking so much more than that out of a faith community. 

Realistically, we’re not going to save the church, quite frankly many of us don’t want to. There are parts of the church that I think should die, especially the parts that are interwoven with white supremacy, and perpetuating an oppressive, harmful status quo. 

For the last couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity work alongside faith communities that are chasing after what it could look like to be part of God’s redemptive work in our world, here and now, and wondering about and practicing a way of life together that brings flourishing and life to everyone. Continue reading “Stewarding Work with Hope and Lament by Amanda Vetsch”

How to Be a Good Listener: Advice from RIH Mentors

screenshot of 15 person zoom conversation

One thing that is unique to our current Riverside Innovation Hub learning community is the opportunity to learn from people who have experienced this learning process before.  In March, we hosted a panel conversation where six leaders, who were previously involved in the Riverside Innovation Hub, shared their wisdom, stories, and experiences of practicing Accompaniment in their neighborhoods with our current learning community. The panelists included Sheila Foster, Claire Kaiser, Lacy Tooker-Kirkevold, John Pedersen, Kaylie Johnson and Pr. Jen Rome. This first blog, of a three-part series, recaps some of the wisdom and practical next steps they shared. 

If you’re a current member of our learning community, you can also find a recording of the entire conversation on our Google Site.  


Question and Answer:

The first question posed  to the panel was about listening; Do you have any great ideas on how to be a better listener? How do you stay in “listening mode” without jumping to “solution mode”?

Pastor Jen Rome kicked off the conversation by sharing that her team had a hard time getting started. Like many people, they felt unsure about striking up a conversation with a stranger in the neighborhood. They found they had an easier time having the conversations when they were scheduled in advance. They made a list of people or organizations they wanted to connect with in and around the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, and picked who would talk to each person or organization. Then each person reached out to schedule a one to one conversation. A few examples of people they talked with included people on the neighborhood council, the staff at the park next door, and owners of the local businesses. They held each other accountable by reflecting on what they heard from their one to ones at their next team meeting. She also said they kept practicing listening as a skill in other contexts. As they continued to listen in the neighborhood, they were also listening to each other more intentionally at their own meetings and in the other spaces they found themselves in. 

streeview of the exterior of pilgrim lutheran churchKaylie said that her congregation didn’t necessarily struggle with getting started, but they did find themselves wanting to jump toward solutions. After their team had done some listening in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, they met as a team to share what they heard. As they were sharing with each other, they found themselves wanting to jump towards coming up with solutions. They realized they needed to check each other on that, and say, “no we’re listening right now, no solution, no answers. It’s okay to sit in the discomfort of not knowing what’s going to happen.” It’s often difficult to hear someone’s bad news and receive it without suggesting solutions or coming up with ways to fix what we perceive as problems. Their team learned how to listen to the bad news without immediately jumping into action plans, or offering solutions that may have come from assumptions about the neighbor, rather than a deep knowing of the neighbor. Kaylie remarked that learning how to do that is “part of the process, and part of being a good listener.” 

Continue reading “How to Be a Good Listener: Advice from RIH Mentors”

Riverside Innovation Hub Congregations Gather & Learn Together

Our 12 partner congregations gathered for a third learning event this February. This group began together in July 2021 with a launch event to build community and introduce key ideas about the call to be public church. In the fall, an Interdisciplinary Developmental Inventory (IDI) training was offered to congregational teams to develop a posture of cultural humility. This was followed by a hybrid event in October where teams focused on ways to practice accompaniment in their neighborhoods.  Accompaniment is simply the big and small ways we set out to hear our neighbors’ stories – to hear how they are experiencing bad news and good news in their lives. Congregational teams have spent the last handful of months learning about their neighborhoods and listening to their neighbors in a variety of ways.

This most recent gathering on February 5, brought us back together to continue our vocational discovery work together by introducing the second artform of the public church framework – interpretation. Our current public safety realities prevented us from gathering together at Augsburg, but we still found meaningful connections during our online Saturday morning session. We learned some new technologies to enhance our online conversations and stayed cozy with hot chocolate, tea and the companion of our pets from home. We reflected on key themes congregations are hearing from their neighbors in their accompaniment work and we began to explore and name our key beliefs and theological convictions to aid our interpretive work. You can read more about what these interpretation questions sound like in  this blog post by Congregational Facilitator, Amanda Vetsch.

 

zoom meeting and coffee

Our questions and conversations together set the table to begin wondering…

 

What does God’s story have to say about the stories we are hearing from our neighbors and vice versa?

 

How does what we are hearing from our neighbors connect to God’s hopes and dreams for our world, our neighborhood, and our neighbors?

Continue reading “Riverside Innovation Hub Congregations Gather & Learn Together”

RIH Fall Learning Event: Accompaniment

On Saturday, October 16, 2021, the new Riverside Innovation Hub learning community gathered on campus  and virtually for a morning of exploration on the artform of accompaniment. Accompaniment is the movement into the neighborhood in order to hear the neighbor’s story. In this artform, we learn to engage and listen to the neighbor’s story for the neighbor’s sake. It is the first movement within the Public Church Framework. It sets our focus outward, towards our neighbors and God’s presence in the neighborhood. 

people checking in for an event       People sitting outside at tables eating

At this event we had two main purposes together.

Continue reading “RIH Fall Learning Event: Accompaniment”

Public Church Learning Opportunity

During the month of November, you are invited to participate in a four part series exploring the work of becoming a public church. Jeremy Myers, Executive Director of the Christsensen Center for Vocation, and Kristina Fruge, Managing Director of the Christensen Center for Vocation, will be presenting on this topic for the fall session of the Centered Life Series. Workshops are hosted over zoom on Wednesdays, Nov. 3, 10, 17, and 24 from 12:00-1:15pm CST.

Read more about this series and register to join us below.

Fruit For Food and Leaves for Healing: A Faith for the Sake of the World

Close up images of three different tree buds

In the 47th chapter of the book of Ezekiel, we encounter a divine tour guide showing Ezekiel around the temple. There is water flowing from the temple towards the wilderness. It grows deeper and wider the further it flows from the temple. Eventually, this water – God’s abundant mercy – brings life to trees of all kinds who produce fruit for food and leaves for healing. Jeremy Myers and Kristina Frugé will guide you through the Christensen Center for Vocation’s Public Church Framework as a method for discerning personal and communal vocation in your particular locations as we all seek to produce the food and the healing our neighbors need.

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Join us for the Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium

Augsburg University’s Christensen Symposium will feature the esteemed Dr. Brian Bantum next week, Oct. 5 from 11:00am-12:00pm. Please join us either in the Hoversten Chapel at Augsburg or via livestream (register to attend online through this link.) His talk is titled, “All Things Are New: The Language of Our Life in the Face of Empire.”
Brian Bantum, PhD, writes, speaks, and teaches on identity, racial imagination, creating spaces of justice, and the intersection of theology and embodiment for audiences around the United States. He is a  contributing editor of The Christian Century and is the author of “Redeeming Mulatto: A Theology of Race and Christian Hybridity,” “The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial  World,”  and  “Choosing Us: Marriage and Mutual Flourishing in a World of Difference,” which he co-authored with his spouse, Gail Song Bantum.

Reflections on the Word “Yes”

Today’s blog post has been commissioned by the Riverside Innovation Hub to bring in the stories and views from our partner congregations forward. We continue with a piece by Ryana Holt, a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

Artist, Angela Two Stars is speaking in a microphone, spaced between 4 volunteers.

I have been reflecting on the word “yes.” This word or similar affirmative phrase mark the cusp to new beginnings. Like Samuel’s “here I am”. How do young people become leaders? Some create opportunities for themselves. Others find themselves saying “yes”, “here I am,” and the journey thereafter unveils and develops their leadership.

“Yes” was the beginning to my involvement at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (HTLC) when I only knew only about five people’s names and it was likely that less than five people knew mine. After a service, one of my pastors must have recognized I wasn’t just a 20-something passing through and asked if I would join other young adults in the Riverside Innovation Hub grant team. 

Yes, of course. I was there to root in community. Take my email, I am ready to participate. 

Continue reading “Reflections on the Word “Yes””