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“Shiloh goes into the unknown and…” A Vlog by Geo

 

Our very own Geoffrey Gill is a very talented videographer, so instead of a written blog post, he created a vlog sharing the story of one of our current learning partners, Shiloh Temple Brooklyn Park. We learn about their experience of accompaniment in Central Park. We hope you enjoy learning about their story and can watch a paradigm shift during their debrief discussion. 

 

Public Church Practices: Summer Neighborhood Prayer Walk

Outside. Sunshine. Gatherings in the backyard. Kids playing up and down the block. Time by the water. Schedules, full yet less scheduled. These describe summers in Minnesota to me. A time where more folks are out and engaging with each other while walking around the neighborhood. What could happen if we intentional went for a walk in our neighborhood paying attention to where joy was hanging out or where fear or anxiety was creeping in?

The Christensen Center for Vocation’s Riverside Innovation Hub is a learning community made local congregations who who gather together to learn how to be and become public church in their neighborhood contexts. We convene the congregations and then invite them to practice the artforms of the Public Church Framework in their contexts.

Accompaniment is the first artform of the Public Church Framework. It is the movement out into the neighborhood to hear the neighbors’ stories. In this movement, we learn to engage and listen to the neighbor for the neighbor’s sake.

The practice of a neighborhood prayer walk is a spinoff of the  Ignatian Awareness Examen, a contemplative prayer exercise that guides you through an examination of your day as you prayerfully seek moments of desolation (sorrow, brokenness, fear, anxiety, etc.) and moments of consolation (hope, life, courage, healing, joy, etc.).

We invite you this summer to join us in prayer walks around your own neighborhood. You can use this same framework as you walk through the neighborhood in which your faith community is situated, asking God to show you the places of desolation and consolation in that neighborhood. The general outline of that activity is to practice this by walking through the neighborhood, paying particular attention to consolation and desolation. Then, together, with people in your faith community or neighborhood, reflect on what you saw, felt, sensed and heard and map the locations of those places of consolation and desolation on a shared map. Continue reading “Public Church Practices: Summer Neighborhood Prayer Walk”

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”

The Kin-dom of Heaven is like a Front Porch By Kristina Frugé 

Jesus can regularly be heard saying “the kin-dom of heaven is like…” and then offering an image, a story, a metaphor to root this vision to a place or experience. It is like a mustard seed, a lost coin, wheat among the weeds, a treasure in clay jars, the leaven that makes bread rise. Kin-dom or reign of God are of course, in themselves a kind of metaphor that reflect the ancient context of their teacher.  These metaphors speak to the audience – an agricultural community of peoples around the turn of the century – as Jesus seeks to stir the people’s imagination for the kind of world God desires them to experience and participate in. 

Sts. Luke and James red front door with peace flags hung up on a string across the front yard.

The Riverside Innovation Hub and the congregational partners we’ve been blessed to learn alongside these past several years, have been about this kin-dom of God work too. I cannot remember ever using this language explicitly with our congregational learning communities. But what we have been talking about and working towards is cultivating more places and relationships that reflect the ways God intends for us to be and be together. We’ve been chasing after that call, one relationship at a time, one walk through our neighborhoods at a time, one story or surprise at a time. 

Kin-dom metaphors may not quite fit our current context, but the idea of a front porch has caught our imagination as a helpful metaphor to encourage the relationship building work we are trying to be about. Relationships that shape stories that shape neighborhoods that look and feel a little bit more like God’s good intentions for a whole, flourishing and connected creation – one neighborhood block at a time. 

On one of these neighborhood blocks – at the corner of Colfax and W 46th St. in south Minneapolis – sits Sts Luke & James Episcopal Church. Also on this corner block exists a front porch of sorts. It wasn’t always there, but a few years ago the folks from this congregation began seeking out places to listen to their neighbors and some hints of an invitation began to stir among them. Continue reading “The Kin-dom of Heaven is like a Front Porch By Kristina Frugé “

“Today” by Kristina Frugé

I was asked to write a blog post this week for the Riverside Innovation Hub that would introduce a series we are calling “Front Porch Stories.” This series will highlight stories from neighborhoods near and far where congregations are creating, cultivating or entering into front porch places where neighbors meet neighbors. Places where curiosity can be nurtured, stories can be shared, and simple connections can spark new relationships. Places where new life and new hope might have some room to take root.  

However, I’m struggling to have imagination for new life and hope today. Instead, death and hopelessness are crowding my heart and my mind, just as they are saturating our communities near and far – our schools, our corner grocery stores, our city blocks… 

A tree with a small number of leaves on the edge of a cliff by the water. The tree has branches like an L with one toward the sky and one branch out toward the water. In the background is a dark forest and fog.Today, as I write, marks the 2 year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in the neighborhood of Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, MN. His sacred life – like countless black and brown bodies before and after him – senselessly taken by uninhibited police violence.

Today, as I write, dozens of parents in the neighborhood of Uvalde, Texas have woken up to the first morning of the rest of their lives without their children. Young, beautiful, holy lives whose bodies and futures were destroyed with bullets and brutality.

Today, as I write, families and loved ones in Buffalo, New York prepare to bury their beloved elders, family members and friends. Ten cherished human beings who were targeted, terrorized and massacred by a young man embodying the violent evil lies of white supremacy ideology. 

 

Today, my heart fears that the front porches are too few and that their power to overcome the constant waves of violence and grief are insufficient. 

 

We talk about sowing seeds of love, connection, justice, mercy, and hope. Yet the seeds of violence, evil, hatred and fear have been nurtured far too well for far too long in our places. The two young 18 year old men and their evil ambitious destruction, reflect an ugly truth about the state of our humanity today. The systems tasked with stewarding our public safety reveal the deep roots of a harmful belief that some lives don’t matter. The seeds we have sown are breeding unimaginable violence and yet it’s completely imaginable because of how regularly it visits us. 

Continue reading ““Today” by Kristina Frugé”

Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: A Place for Curiosity in the Public Square

In the Christensen Center for Vocation, our staff team equips and accompanies students, staff, faculty, and ministry leaders as they engage in place-based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good. One of the initiatives that lives this mission is the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI). 

THE BEGINNING…

The first version of what is known now as AYTI, began in 2009 when Augsburg University received its first Youth Theology Network grant from the Lilly Endowment. With over 100 schools across the country leading theological education and vocational discernment experiences for high school students, we are grateful to hold this history of commitment to vocational discernment with young people. 

TODAY…

And today, the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI) is an annual summer program for high school students (9th-12th grades). This experience aims to offer young leaders an opportunity for place-based vocational discernment around a theological and leadership focused theme. Students who attend AYTI take their questions and curiosity to the public square to learn, listen, pray, and play on the Augsburg campus, in the neighborhood, and in the city. Participants engage in daily reflection with a theologian, community based learning, small group relationship building, and worship. This commitment to wonder about how God is calling us to the common good for the sake of the world, is the reason why high school students leave AYTI inspired to be God’s hands and feet in the world. 

THE INSTITUTE…

On the ground, AYTI is a place where staff and college mentors work diligently to create an inclusive and welcoming space for high school students to get really curious about all their big questions about God. And these days, and especially in these last few pandemic filled years, our young people have had a lot of big questions about God, the church and our call to be neighbor, racial injustice and how they should respond, mental health needs and the struggle to connect, a sense that they don’t belong, death and dying, health and living.  Continue reading “Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: A Place for Curiosity in the Public Square”

Little Things are Big Things by Ellen Weber

This winter was long. April felt like an extended March. There is a whole lot of beauty in the winter and the cold can be hard on our bodies. In the midst of the cold, snow and rain, the last week of April if one paid attention, the green began to emerge. The tulips that I planted last fall began to sprout and I could see bursts of green in the mixture ofTulip leaves sprouting up from the brown ground. brown surrounding my house. I woke up to birds chirping out my window and watched squirrels dig up their nuts for nourishment that they had planted last fall. 

I am an amateur gardener who definitely has lots to learn, but continues to show up in March to plant my own seeds knowing that not all of them will survive. During this Easter season of new life and resurrection, I am trying to pay extra attention to what around me needs nourishing. Which seedlings need water, sunlight, more space or coffee grounds added to the soil? When my tomato seedlings grow too leggy, I adapt by replanting them so the stems are fully supported and the plant can focus on rooting down to allow it to rise up. When my broccoli seedlings are too leggy, after googling why that might be, I realize that they are too warm.  In response, I make a shift so that they are no longer under the humidity dome. Each seedling needs something different in order to grow and eventually bear fruit.   Continue reading “Little Things are Big Things by Ellen Weber”

The Promise of Dragonflies by Kristina Fruge

While we wait for the Minnesota landscape to more fully thaw out this chilly spring, let me share a memory with you from a much warmer spring day several years ago…

My precocious three-year-old daughter and I were en route between errands, stopping for a quick cup of coffee and goodies, when Marie spotted a giant dragonfly on the sidewalk. We squatted down to investigate. I cautioned her to move slowly so we didn’t scare it away, but her sticky little fingers were already reaching out to touch the creature. It didn’t move. 

“Mommy, what’s wrong?”

“Oh honey, it looks like it’s dead. See the owie?” I said, pointing at its mis-shaped and slightly oozy side of head.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know sweetie. But look how beautiful it is. Look at its lacy wings, look at the bright colors on its body.”

“I like its wings.”  She paused….“What will it do now?”  a black and white dragonfly sitting on two fingers.

“Well, maybe a momma bird will pick it up and feed it to its baby birds so they can grow big and learn to fly.” I picked up the dragonfly and placed it in the grassy median nearby. I continued, “Or it will go back to nature in the grass here and make the dirt healthy so plants can grow.”

“Oh, so it will come back alive?”

I paused…. “Yes. It will. Just in a different way.”

 

Thanks to Marie’s discovery and observations of the dead dragonfly several years ago, I now find my senses awakened anytime I see a dragonfly. Spotting the black and white iridescent wings of the 12 spotted skimmer or the vibrant green stick body of the ebony jewel wing stirs a hint of exhilaration within me. These sightings have become small but holy moments. They point me back to the complexity and simplicity of Marie’s interpretation of the promise of life present in the dead, lifeless body of that dragonfly. 

While our chilly Minnesota winter hasn’t made room for any visits yet from these fascinating flighted creatures, they have been on mind this Easter. 

To be candid, Easter has always been uncomfortable for me. Back in my youth ministry days, that mostly had to do with the fact that I’d start my Easter Sunday at 6:00am in the church kitchen preparing food with sleepy students for our church’s Easter breakfast youth fundraiser. But over the last few years, I’ve simply struggled to connect with the joyful celebration of Easter worship. The Hallelujah chorus and triumphant shouts that “Christ has risen indeed!” have landed flat for me. Disingenuous seems too harsh of a label, but something has remained amiss for me with the Easter proclamation when life around me – or rather the devaluing of it – seems to reflect something far from the truth of this promise. 

Continue reading “The Promise of Dragonflies by Kristina Fruge”

Our Indianapolis Adventure: Beginning A New Chapter

Earlier this week members from our CCV team, Amanda Vetsch, Kristina Fruge, Jeremy Myers and Ellen Weber, gathered in Indianapolis for three days with colleagues from across the country as we are entering a new chapter of a grant we recently received from the Lilly Endowment.

Three different images of Amanda Vetsch, Kristina Fruge, Jeremy Meyers and Ellen Weber together in Indy. The first on the top left is at the airport by the Indy sign. The top right is at dinner together and bottom image is outside at the conference soaking up the sunshine.
Top left image is at the Indy airport. Top right is at dinner on Sunday night. Bottom image is our CCV Team outside of the conference soaking up some sunshine.

You can read more about this particular grant hereThese colleagues include folks from 11 other seminaries and universities who received a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment in 2017 that was part of Lilly’s inaugural Young Adult Initiative. After experimenting and learning for the past five years together in contexts across the country, we gathered to launch another five-year commitment to steward the evolving work emerging from partnerships with congregations, young adults and neighborhoods.  We explored together where we have been, where we are going, how we have been changed and how we can continue to build connections with each other in this work around vocation and what it means to be called by God to this work. 

The Riverside Innovation Hub at Augsburg will be focusing on how we support the spiritual lives of young adults through a multi-layered initiative centering young adult voices. There are many parts that will be life giving that will emerge in the months and years to come, but a couple in particular are gaining our attention and excitement.  Continue reading “Our Indianapolis Adventure: Beginning A New Chapter”

Launching a New Riverside Innovation Hub Learning Community!

Event Recap

On Friday, July 30th and Saturday, July 31st, the Riverside Innovation Hub gathered online with 75 participants from 12 local congregations to mark the launch of new learning community. We spent our time together learning more about who is in the learning community, how our learning will take shape, and what’s next.
Enjoy a few highlights from our event.

Introductions to Congregationsmap of Minneapolis with pins of congregations

One person from each congregation was invited to introduce their congregation and why they’re participating now. Some shared that they hope this learning community can provide  guidance as they reimagine what church might look like after the pandemic has disrupted the ways in which the church had often remained inside the four walls of a building, or for others in time of deep transition. Some congregations hope that this learning community helps hold them accountable to the neighbor-oriented work they have wanted to do, but have not always been able to make a priority. Others hope for a process to learn how to be good neighbors in their neighborhoods. See this blog post for a list of partner congregations.

Continue reading “Launching a New Riverside Innovation Hub Learning Community!”