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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.” 

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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?

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The Artform of Interpretation


cycle of public church framework In the second artform of the Public Church Framework, Interpretation, we move into listening to God’s story and we spend time articulating our faith community’s core biblical and theological commitments. 
We reflect on how our theological commitments shape the way we hear our neighbor’s story, and how our neighbor’s story shapes our theological commitments. 

How do we do it?

We’ve categorized interpretation into four different layers:

  1. Identify the most important things we heard in accompaniment.
  2. Identify our most important theological themes.
  3. Connect what we heard in accompaniment with theological themes that are similar.
  4. Ask ourselves how these theological themes help us understand what we heard in accompaniment and vice versa.

This blog post will focus on steps one and two, identifying the key themes from accompaniment and identifying the theological themes of our faith community.

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Accompaniment is Who We Are (you got this!)

We are entering the season of Epiphany. This is the time in the church year when we celebrate the revelation, or epiphany, of Jesus to the nations. It is a celebration of the gift of Jesus becoming public and known to all. How might your congregation live into this spirit of Epiphany, seeking to celebrate the presence of Jesus in the public squares of our lives?

A local congregation’s ability to celebrate the presence of Jesus in the public square hinges on its ability to practice accompaniment with their neighbors. Although it might seem like a simple thing, it has actually proven to be incredibly intimidating. 

We have seen many leaders and congregations struggle to initiate and sustain this practice of accompaniment beyond their church walls. There are many reasons why this happens. 

  • It’s scary to move into spaces and relationships that are new and unknown to us. 
  • It’s counterintuitive to encounter someone with the sole purpose of getting to know them rather than actively gaining something from them (i.e., a commitment to visit or join the church, information about what they want from the church, etc.). 
  • It feels unnatural because we don’t want to come across as pushy or too aggressive. 
  • It’s time consuming and none of us have extra time to do this intensive and slow work.
  • It seems overwhelming and we don’t know where to start.

Accompaniment can be intimidating, but it has never been more necessary.

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Fruit For Food and Leaves for Healing: A Faith for the Sake of the World [Video Collection]

THE FALL 2021 CENTERED LIFE SERIES

The following videos are recordings from a four-week Centered Life series which was hosted by Jack Fortin, Senior Fellow of the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University.

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

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. In the following video series, Jeremy Myers and Kristina Frugé 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.

 

VIDEOS

The Church’s Call into the Public Square

An introduction to the theological and theoretical reasons why we – as a church and as individuals – must show up in the public square for the sake of the common good, recorded on Wednesday, November 3rd.

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Humility & Confession in the Public Square

Kristina Fruge, Managing Director of CCV, writes about the importance of confession and humility when doing the work of being a public church. 

A neighbor-oriented call

The work of the Riverside Innovation Hub has been guided by an orientation towards the neighbor. This is both an invitation to pay attention in the neighborhood and a plea to be open to disruption we might encounter outside the comforts of our familiar surroundings. 

This neighbor-oriented way of living, when embodied by a Christian congregation, becomes a public church. As churches and as individuals, this call to be public, to encounter our neighbor, leads us into the public square. This is not a neutral place to be. It is filled with other humans, each with their own story, their own struggle, their own world view. It is shaped by systems and structures, which more often than not, have shaped conditions in the world that stray far from God’s intentions for creation. There is beauty and destruction. There are signs of life and threats to life. The public square holds potential and heartache. 

Image of George Floyd square with a memorial of flowers and people gatheredOur neighborhoods have been shaped by violent and dishonest histories – ones that have regularly privileged some groups of people at the expense of others. Entering the public square challenges us to make a choice.

Will we show up and participate in the dominant and dominating histories still at play in our neighborhoods? Or will we show up to participate in an alternative way, a way that seeds peace, truth and healing? A way that requires confession and humility? 

These questions take on a greater responsibility if you are someone who lives with any kind of privileged identity around race, gender, able-bodiedness, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. These hierarchies, shaping our communities since long ago, continue to cause harm today. If we enter the public square ignorant of these harmful realities, we risk showing up in ways that perpetuate the lies and violence of our country’s past and present. 

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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.

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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.

Continue reading “Public Church Learning Opportunity”

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.

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Thriving Congregations: Collaboration and Project Descriptions

Collaboration

The Minneapolis Area Synod (MAS) and Augsburg University’s Riverside Innovation Hub are both launching opportunities for congregations to be a part of a two-year learning community. These opportunities are both funded by the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations grant. 

Lilly Endowment Inc logo with organization name belowThe two initiatives will work in parallel for the five years of the grant. The hope is to learn with, beside, and from each other during the two, two-year cycles with distinct cohorts of congregational leaders. Both opportunities are for congregations interested in pursuing or deepening an orientation in their particular place, in relationship with the neighbor and neighborhood, leaning into God’s promises and challenges and that meet us there. The promotion and application processes are collaborative, through co-hosting information sessions and a shared application for congregations. More details on information sessions and the application will be released soon. 

Each learning community will have two, two-year cycles of learning cohorts, composed of multiple congregations. The cohorts will be coached or facilitated by a staff member at each respective organization. Both learning communities will learn from and with each other, with shared learning Summits in the second year of each cycle of learning cohorts.  

PROJECT DESCRIPTIONS

RIVERSIDE INNOVATION HUB (RIH)

graphic design of three wavy lines followed by the word riverside. below are the words innovation hub in black.The Riverside Innovation Hub, stewarded by the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University, will learn and experiment with the Public Church Framework as a method for place based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good. This new opportunity is an invitation to congregations interested in pursuing or deepening this same orientation in their particular place, in relationship with the neighbor and neighborhood, leaning into God’s promises and challenges that meet us there.  The first learning community runs July 2021 – July 2023 and the second learning community runs September 2023 – September 2025.

This project is open to all Christian denominations within an hour of the Twin Cities Metro Area. Congregations outside this geographic area may apply but should know their experience in the project may differ slightly.  Participation in the learning community will include bringing teams to Augsburg’s campus 3-4 times a year (as COVID-19 allows.)

MINNEAPOLIS AREA SYNOD (MAS)

logo - five colored circle above the words Minneapolis area synod of the ELCANeighboring Practices and Faith Practices, stewarded by the Minneapolis Area Synod, will focus on faith practices and neighboring practices, because congregations connect best with their neighborhood when they practice their faith and they see with new eyes that God is already at work in their neighborhood. The first learning community runs September 2021 – 2023 and the second learning community runs September 2023 – September 2025.

The MAS project is open to all Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) within the geographic boundaries of the Minneapolis Area Synod and African Methodist Episcopal (AME) congregations within Minnesota.

 

Thriving Congregations: PDF Handout 

Application Timeline

  1. There is a joint application process for both projects that will be released on Feb. 3, 2021.
  2. A letter of intent from the senior pastor is requested beginning March 1, 2021.
  3. The deadline for submitting the completed joint application is April 15, 2021.
  4. Selected congregations will be notified on May 15, 2021 and have until May 28, 2021 to accept the invitation.
  5. The first RIH learning community runs from July 2021 – July 2023. The  first MAS learning community runs from September 2021 – September 2023.

Stay tuned for more details on the information session and application process. If you have any additional questions, you can reach out to Amanda Vetsch with RIH (vetsch@augsburg.edu), Kristina Fruge with RIH (frugek@augsburg.edu), or John Hulden with MAS (j.hulden@mpls-synod.org)