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Accompaniment One Foot at a Time

Written by Jeremy Myers

Over lunch one day, Katie Clark was describing the process of becoming a certified foot care specialist. It was quite the feat! I was curious why she put so much work into that certification. Her response was, “Because most people who come into our Health Commons are coming in for foot care. They’re on their feet all day every day and their feet are in bad shape.” This epitomizes the compassion and commitment of Katie for her work and the people she serves. Katie’s commitment to approaching health care through accompaniment shapes her work as an ever changing response to what the neighbors need.

Headshot of Katie ClarkDr. Katie Clark is a member of the nursing faculty and the Executive Director of Augsburg University’s Health Commons. The Health Commons are nursing-led drop-in centers that focus on radical hospitality and building trusting relationships with people in marginalized communities.  These Health Commons are located in downtown Minneapolis, the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, and Rochester, MN. 

Dr. Clark had extensive experience doing medical missions work overseas in Peru, Haiti, and Namibia. But those experiences never sat well with her. She would return home feeling as though she hadn’t learned enough about the culture or the larger situation and context in these countries. She wondered if she and her companions were simply promoting a monoculture of healthcare and wellness rather than learning how wellness, health, illness, and care were understood in the context of these cultures. 

This uneasy feeling drew Katie to the study of transcultural nursing, the work of Dr. Paul Farmer, and the importance of social justice in the practice of nursing. You can’t just treat the symptoms of a problem; you must work to end the problem. You can just waltz into someone’s life with your solutions, you have to do the work of accompaniment in order to understand who they are, how they suffer, how they heal, and what they might need from you. Katie had found the way she wanted to do her work.

Under the leadership of Dr. Clark, the Augsburg Health Commons sites accompany those who are experiencing homelessness, are marginally housed, or are new immigrants who have fled wars. Their work with these neighbors is constantly evolving because the Health Commons are committed to this practice of accompaniment and mutuality, working diligently to fully humanize these neighbors while offering care. Students in Augsburg University’s nursing program gain firsthand experience providing care for people through more humanizing and relational practices than what most experience in our country’s healthcare system. Continue reading “Accompaniment One Foot at a Time”

You are invited to Groundswell: A Learning Summit

You are invited to Groundswell: A learning summit exploring the call to be neighbor

Saturday, June 3rd, 2023 9:00am – 3:00pm at Augsburg University 

Co-hosted by Riverside Innovation Hub and MAS Faith Practices & Neighboring Practices

Over the past two years Minneapolis Area Synod’s Faith Practices & Neighboring Practices and Augsburg University’s Riverside Innovation Hub have shared a commitment to accompanying congregations as they discern their call to BE neighbor, rooted in their faith and open to the neighborhood. As the first learning cycle comes to an end and a new one begins, we are coming together to celebrate and learn from this groundswell of people engaged in what it means to be neighbor in the world. We’ll be joined by both congregations and individuals who are doing the work in neighborhoods all over Minnesota. 

On June 3rd, we will gather for a day to hear stories from near and far in a variety of mediums, participate in skill-centered interactive workshops for all types of leaders, and practice deep community building. We will be gathering folks that have a growing heart for their neighbor, are curious about who God is and what God is doing in the world and find themselves around people who are shedding some of their fears about taking risks and not afraid to fail. 

We invite you to join us as we continue to support and learn from each other on how we are called to be the public church in our neighborhoods! 

Registration will open on March 24th and will close on May 5th.

Childcare and Interpretation will be available upon request if indicated on registration form. 

Continue reading “You are invited to Groundswell: A Learning Summit”

Letter of Intent for Third Learning Community is Open!

The Riverside Innovation Hub (RIH) will be launching its third congregational learning community in September of 2023. This opportunity is part of the Thriving Congregations project, through the Lilly Endowment. This work is also made possible through the support of individual donors and congregational sponsors.

Congregations interested in pursuing the application process with the RIH project are asked to have their senior pastor submit a letter of intent to apply, via this google form. Letters of intent will be accepted on a rolling basis starting January 24th, 2023.

Submission of your letter of intent will:

1) Allow congregations to indicate why the are considering to join the project.

2) Help RIH staff streamline communications as the application process moves forward by adding you to direct mailings about the process and being available to you for further conversation.

3) Help your congregational leaders move through the application process in a timely and thoughtful way.

The application and more detailed information will be made available FEBRUARY 15, 2023 and the application deadline is APRIL 20th, 2023.

Facilitator Geoffrey Gill having a conversation standing with 4 others.
Participants gathered  at our RIH Learning Event in Summer 2022.

Project Overview

RIH 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.

APPLICATION PROCESS

  • Letter of Intent Opens: January 24th, 2023.
  • Application Opens: February 15th, 2023.
  • Application Closes: April 20th, 2023.
  • Invitations sent out to accepted congregations: Week of May 16th, 2023
  • Congregations accept invitations: June 8th, 2023.
  • Community starts: September 2023

Congregations who are a part of this learning community will develop and deepen the knowledge, skills, habits, and values to engage in this work of place-based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good through a method we call the Public Church Framework. Continue reading “Letter of Intent for Third Learning Community is Open!”

Steve Peacock is Leading Augsburg into the Public Square for the Sake of our Neighbors

Written by Jeremy Myers

This blog post is the first of many that will showcase the various ways we see vocation lived out on a daily basis in the lives and work of our Augsburg colleagues and our neighbors in the Cedar-Riverside and Seward neighborhoods.

By vocation we mean the ways we are compelled, empowered, challenged, freed, and responsible to show up (individually and collectively) in ways that help our neighbors and neighborhoods thrive. We believe every individual and every institution experiences a vocational tug.

Augsburg University – as an institution – is committed to being an engaged neighbor with the Cedar-Riverside, Seward, and Phillips neighborhoods. Many would say this has always been central to Augsburg’s mission and identity, but our practices and frameworks for showing up as a compassionate and helpful neighbor have changed over time. This change is a necessity if one is truly committed to working towards the common good with their neighbors.

This is a story about how Augsburg does the work of becoming and being an engaged neighbor.


Headshot of Steve PeacockSteve Peacock joined Augsburg University in 2008 as the University’s Community Relations Director. Steve had spent the previous 17 years working for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) helping people and neighborhoods thrive by creating partnerships to “close systemic gaps in health, wealth, and opportunity.” Steve feels a strong call to do work that supports people at the neighborhood level. He has formal training in urban planning through the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the University of Minnesota. 

This call, though, was shaped early on as the son of a campus pastor in central Illinois. Steve saw his father consistently working at the intersections of the university, the church, and the neighborhood. He learned first-hand about the positive impact local institutions can have on the lives of the people who share their neighborhood. Steve’s own personal call to do this bridging work has helped Augsburg University live more fully into our own call to be an engaged neighbor.

 

Augsburg University president, Paul Pribbenow, claims Augsburg’s identity as an anchor institution in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and we now play a key role in convening the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership. Anchor institutions are enduring organizations that are rooted in their localities. It is difficult for them to leave their surroundings even in the midst of substantial capital flight.” (Marga, Inc). Augsburg is deeply committed to the location and neighborhood where we find ourselves and we believe we have a responsibility to function in a certain way as an institution so that our neighbors and our neighborhood might thrive. Steve’s work puts this commitment into practice.

 

Through this work, Steve convenes the Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood Leadership Forum which is a community of business owners and leaders from the neighborhood who meet regularly to learn about one another’s work, discuss shared hopes and concerns, and create opportunities for collaboration. Steve sees his primary work as convener. These are gifts and committed leaders who don’t need Steve or Augsburg to lead for them, but they do need someone who is willing and able to convene other potential stakeholders and partners.

  Continue reading “Steve Peacock is Leading Augsburg into the Public Square for the Sake of our Neighbors”

One Wild and Precious Life – Innerstanding Vocation by Geoffrey Gill

This is an exploration of an unfolding relationship with vocation. It all started back in 2008 during my freshman year at Augsburg. That’s when I was introduced to vocation. That’s when my life took a drastic turn and I tapped into something that woke me up and gave me a sense of purpose. 
While recording this video we explored the Christensen Symposium with Jeremy Myers and then we talked to current students and a faculty member about their thoughts around vocation and being a neighbor. I was able to weave all these different ideas together, over 14 years of exploring, to really innerstand* what vocation means to me. My hope is that this short video will spark something for you and that you will innerstand* your vocation is happening right now, right here in this very moment.
*(innerstand: knowing something as an experience; where one is able to make a personal connection, Not just a concept.

 

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.

Our MAS Partner Nick Tangen “Let’s Get Real”

Last year, Augsburg University’s Riverside Innovation Hub and The Minneapolis Area Synod (MAS) both launched opportunities for congregations to be a part of a two-year learning community. We both are in the middle of the work with our first cycle of a two-year learning community. Over the last year and half, it has truly been a joy spending time learning with each other and from each other’s work. A highlight has been reading each other’s reflections and writings on how we engage in this work of being neighbor in our places and world.

This week, we want to highlight the most recent reflection Nick Tangen wrote “Let’s Get Real” from his experience at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Columbus, Ohio. He extends to us the invitation to join in the messiness, the vulnerability and realness that comes with wrestling with “What will need to die and rise again in order for each of us as the ELCA to embrace the reconciliation Jesus has set us free to participate in?”. We are grateful for this partnership and for Nick and his team to be in the work alongside us.

Stone arch bridge during the day background with gray box and "Do we want to be good or real?"“Retamoza’s words have been with me all week. In some ways this challenge captures so clearly my own discomfort with the work of the Assembly; did we want to be good or real? This is, I think, a real tension for us as a church – at all three expressions. It’s a tension ongoing for myself. I know my own desire to appear good, to fall into the trap of perfectionism and performance, and I know how limiting that is when trying to root out injustice and inequity in our life together.

This invitation into the vulnerability, the messiness, and the real-ness of confession and reconciliation stood in such stark contrast to the Assembly. The carefully curated plenaries with the steady march towards resolution felt oddly incongruous with the challenge to deeply listen to the cries of prophetic grief. While I am grateful for the provisions and memorials that the Assembly approved, it was the lament and experience of prophetic grief in worship and from the leaders of Iglesia Luterana Santa Maria Perigrina that my heart continues to return to. I feel both profoundly determined and deeply anxious about the church that I love.”

Read the entire blog post here on the Minneapolis Area Synod blog!

“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”