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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!”

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.” 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”

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”

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.”

 

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)”

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.

EZEKIEL AND THE PUBLIC CHURCH: EVERYTHING WILL LIVE WHERE THE RIVER GOES

by Ellen Weber and Jeremy Myers

Throughout this summer as we have gathered folks together around our work, the text from Ezekiel 47 continues to be a way to ground us before we begin. As our work shifts, taking time to remember these words re-grounds us in why public church matters through Ezekiel’s vision of God’s abundance.

Ezekiel’s Vision (Ezekiel 47:1–12, NRSV)

Individual stepping in water that is flowing by the side of a half-wall by the riverside. 1 Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple towards the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate that faces towards the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.

3 Going on eastwards with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. 5 Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. 6 He said to me, ‘Mortal, have you seen this?’

Then he led me back along the bank of the river. 7 As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on one side and on the other. 8 He said to me, ‘This water flows towards the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. 9 Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. 10 People will stand fishing beside the sea from En-gedi to En-eglaim; it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of a great many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.’

Ezekiel’s vision becomes an invitation to follow God’s jubilee as it flows into the world and and makes everything live where it flows. The Public Church Framework (below) provides faith communities with a way to do this, to become blessings for the entire land on which they are rooted rather than existing to serve their own purpose. We are Ezekiel, following the enigmatic divine tour guide along the river as we learn to see the breadth and depth of God’s love flowing away from the temple and into the world. Continue reading “EZEKIEL AND THE PUBLIC CHURCH: EVERYTHING WILL LIVE WHERE THE RIVER GOES”

“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”