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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!”

PROCLAMATION AS PERFORMING JUBILEE by Jeremy Myers

As a way of teaching congregations how to engage their neighbors and neighborhoods, we introduce them to a method we call the Public Church Framework. This framework consists of four movements including accompaniment, interpretation, discernment, and proclamation. These movements bleed into one another and collectively are cyclical, or a spiral, in that they are never completed but rather lead to further and deeper practice of these movements. We like to think of this framework as descriptive of what we do when we are attentive to God and to our neighbor rather than prescriptive of some “one true way” to be in ministry. 

In the beginning of October, we gathered together as a learning community to explore the artform of proclamation. The RIH Learning Partners gathered in the chapel. But what is proclamation and why does it matter? 

There is a concept within the philosophy of language called performative utterances. This idea was developed by philosopher John L. Austin in the 1940’s and 1950’s . He was arguing against the notion that all words and statements are only descriptive or evaluative. He uncovered certain phrases and uses of words that are not intended to be descriptive at all, but are rather intended to be performative. A classic example he would use is the utterance, “’I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth’ – as uttered when smashing the bottle against the stem.” Other examples would include, “I now pronounce you equal partners in marriage”, or “I forgive you.” These words and phrases are not describing or evaluating anything, rather they are doing things.

This idea of performative utterances helps us understand what we mean when we talk about the word of God. God’s words are performative utterances. They do things. In the first chapter of Genesis, God is not describing or evaluating what the cosmos has or will look like. Instead, God is calling the cosmos into being. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis 1:3, NRSV). But the performative utterances of God do not only show up as spoken words throughout scripture. In the second creation narrative, God is not speaking a word – only acting. “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground . . . A river flows out of Eden to water the garden . . .” (Genesis 2:4b-6, 10, NRSV). There are times in scripture where God’s creative force is shared with the world through performative utterances, and there are times in scripture where God’s creative force is water.

Continue reading “PROCLAMATION AS PERFORMING JUBILEE by Jeremy Myers”

What If? By Shae. Cunningham (Team Messiah)

I have known Shae for some years now and she has always had such a big and kind heart. She exemplifies what it means to love without conditions. Her relationship with God is her foundation and something that I have always admired. Shae has the ability to tap into the deepness within, drawing out inspiration for all those around her. This Poem reveals how much pain and hurt she has felt in and for her community, and she poses this mind expanding question; which is more of a possibility…what if things were different? ~RIH Facilitator Geoffrey Gill 


What If? "What if?" in the middle of a blue sky with trees around it. Perspective taken from the ground looking up.

What happens in the neighborhoods where children are overshadowed by the decay and they no longer laugh or play the way they used to, 

A place where young boys choose to follow figures who had no father figures who become casualties for a war for their drug king before their adolescence. 

Becoming murals to be forgotten and only to be remembered by their laugh lines, pictures, and eventually chalk lines and yellow tape, 

A young tragedy like Romeo and Juliet except the streets is the Juliet where young Romeos become the prey and become entangled in this dangerous love affair and drink the poison that results them to become misguided lights and lead them to extinction.  Continue reading “What If? By Shae. Cunningham (Team Messiah)”

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. 

 

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 “

Faith Practices & Neighboring Practices

The Riverside Innovation Hub at Augsburg University is just one of 115 organizations who received a grant through the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Iniativitive in 2019 and 2020. The aim of the initiative is to help congregations strengthen their ministries and thrive so they can better help people deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other and contribute to the flourishing of their communities and the world. 

People sitting around a tableOne such organization is Augsburg’s neighbor – the Minneapolis Area Synod! While our efforts are distinct, both initiatives seek to create learning communities of congregations exploring their call to be neighbor, rooted in the particularities of their faith traditions. These tandem projects also allow additional opportunities to learn from each other about this work. 

Please enjoy this contribution from our partners at the Minneapolis Area Synod – Nick Tangen and Maya Bryant – who are leading the synod’s Thriving Congregations work called, “Faith Practices & Neighboring Practices.” 

Continue reading “Faith Practices & Neighboring Practices”

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”

Youth are Rising in Faith and Leadership Today

AYTI participants, Zoe (left) and Dinkenesh (right)
AYTI participants, Zoe (left) and Dinkenesh (right)

For years, I had wanted to nominate youth to attend the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute, but had not yet been able to have one attend. Then, finally, my own daughter was midway through high school and we were in the midst of Covid. She applied for several opportunities in the summer of 2020 when she was looking toward her junior year of high school, and AYTI was the only program that found a way to offer their summer program online. She was not certain that she was prepared for a week of theological engagement or a week that resulted in writing a paper, but she was willing to give it a try. We promised to support her.

Continue reading “Youth are Rising in Faith and Leadership Today”

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””