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Identifying Your Key Theological Claims

Written by Jeremy Myers

When teaching college students how to think theologically, I often hear them say, “I don’t know if I can think theologically because I’m not really even sure what my key beliefs are.” What follows is a process I have used many times when helping high school students, college students, and adults become more aware of the key theological claims that shape how they understand and interpret life. You can go through this process on your own, with a partner, or with a group. If doing with others, find moments when you can share what you are writing with one another and offer feedback to each other. 


Candle on a table in the sun with a group of people and a small table blurred out in the background. Brainstorming Your Core Beliefs

  1. Using index cards, post-its, or small slips of paper, write down all the biblical stories and lessons that are important to you. Write one per piece of paper. Leave room on each piece of paper to add more later.
  2. Continue to use index cards, post-its, or slips of paper and now write all the things you have been taught about God that are most important to you – attributes of God, things God does, things God doesn’t do, how God does things, why God does things, etc. Again, write only one on each piece of paper and leave room on each piece for more writing later.
  3. On each piece of paper write a brief description of why that particular biblical story, biblical lesson, or belief about God is important to you.

Continue reading “Identifying Your Key Theological Claims”

The Intersection of Passion and Purpose: A Vocation Story

Uncovering Vocation Series

Uncovering Vocation is a partnership between Campus Ministry and the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University. Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, a member of the Augsburg community is invited to share a component of their vocation story. It has become a way of building community, becoming reacquainted with one another, and celebrating the diversity of people and vocations that make Augsburg University the beautiful place it is.


This week’s Uncovering Vocation talk is given by Jennifer Butler, Augsburg University’s Director of Multicultural Life. Jennifer is a lifelong collector of stories, an advocate for inclusive excellence and equity, and an educator. For years, Jennifer has worked with students to help sharpen their ideas and advocacy skills. Jennifer recognizes that success as a student comes both inside and outside of the classroom and purposefully works to support underrepresented communities as they navigate higher education. Trained as a social scientist, Jennifer strongly believes in empowering through the framework of self-efficacy and hopes to instill in those around her a steadfast belief in their capability to succeed. She is committed to practicing humility, developing understanding, and promoting an inclusive campus. She received her Ph.D. in Asia Pacific Studies from National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan, where she focused on financial behaviors, financial literacy, and self-efficacy. Jennifer is passionate about the role of student services and the unique levels and layers of support students need.


Good morning, when I was emailed about potentially speaking in one of Jeremy’s vocation chapels, I thought there were so many unique and great stories to share here at Augsburg that the odds of me speaking anytime soon were quite slim.

Jokes on me, he asked in December and here we are in March!
I’ll be honest, when I started thinking about this chapel, I googled “what is vocation”

And while the results of my Google search didn’t really clarify things, I remembered from my time working at the College of Business and Analytics at Southern Illinois University this concept of “ikigai” that expresses

  1. Find what you’re good at.
  2. Find what you love to do.
  3. Find what you can get paid for.
  4. Find what the world needs.

So today, I’m going to hurry us through my journey of finding. Continue reading “The Intersection of Passion and Purpose: A Vocation Story”

One to Ones: Overcoming Barriers

Written by Geoffrey Gill

We wall ourselves to protect ourselves. Let’s take a look at a few things that have held me mentally and physically back from really connecting to others and being in community.

These Barriers or walls are things that keep me(us) from experiencing another person’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.

*The Heart (passions, hurts, motivations, dreams), 

*Soul ( personality, how they think, communicate, problem solve), 

*Mind (what they believe, worldview, values, sense of self, sense of humor, what they find sacred

*Strength (how they help, skills they bring to the table, the unique beauty they add to the world)


Chain link fence with cars on the highway in the backgroundKey Barriers to One to Ones:

When we do scary and uncomfortable things, our bodies and emotions may react in order to protect ourselves from what our bodies perceive as danger. 

We do this in many ways, here are some examples: 

  • Allowing nervousness or fear of rejection to prevent you from engaging with others can limit opportunities to form meaningful relationships. 
  • Taking the power of someone’s opinion out of the equation
  • Closed-Off Attitude: Not showing genuine interest or curiosity about others can create a barrier to forming deep connections.
  • Poor Nonverbal Engagement: Lack of eye contact and closed body language can signal disinterest, hindering the development of trust and rapport. (80%+ communication)
  • Negative Mindset: Approaching interactions with negativity or skepticism can make conversations strained and uninviting. **Being honest about something that was wrong- and acknowledging it. 
  • Anxiety and self protective responses that protect us from others (If I keep it cool then people won’t know what I really have going on and they cant use it against me)
  • Superficial Sympathy: Focusing only on surface-level sympathy instead of striving for deeper empathy and understanding can lead to shallow connections.
  • Ignoring Personal Boundaries: Pushing too hard for personal information or not respecting someone’s comfort zone can damage trust and discourage further interaction.
  • Overlooking Small Achievements: Not recognizing the importance of small steps in relationship building can lead to missed opportunities for growth and connection.
  • Unprepared Conversations: Entering into interactions without any thought or preparation can result in unproductive and awkward exchanges.
  • Self-Centered Approach: Focusing solely on what you can get out of a relationship, instead of also considering what you can contribute, can create imbalance and hinder genuine connection.
  • Lack of Presence: Being distracted or not fully engaged in conversations can make others feel undervalued and disrespected.

Continue reading “One to Ones: Overcoming Barriers”

Accompaniment – Listening Posts

The Riverside Innovation Hub is a learning community made of local congregations who gather together to learn how to be and become public church in their neighborhood contexts. We convene congregations over two years together, shaped by learning and practicing the artforms of the Public Church Framework in each congregation’s unique context.

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. We’ve simplified and categorized accompaniment into four different practices that help us hear our neighbors’ stories. This blog post dives into the third layer accompaniment, engaging listening posts. 

You can also read more about the other three layers – Understanding Demographic Data and Prayer Walks in the Neighborhood


Listening Posts

Written by Kristina Fruge

Listening posts might just be my favorite element of accompaniment. As someone who is an introvert at heart, but who also prefers to spend the energy I do have on relationships, listening posts offer a soft landing for accompaniment to begin. Listening posts provide an invitation to be fully present and curious about new surroundings while also creating the potential of connections with neighbors in big and small ways. 

A listening post is the term we use to describe the locations that people naturally convene or gather in a neighborhood. This might include the local coffee shop, the ball fields during the summer, a local YMCA, neighborhood association meetings, the local community garden, the town grocery store, the dog park, or even a neighborhood gas station. Your particular context likely has other types of listening posts not on this list, but the common thread is that they function as a sort of hub for people who live, work, worship, pass through or play in that neighborhood to gather and connect. AND, they are great places for listening. Listening posts blend together opportunities for noticing desolation and consolation, as we do in the prayer walks, but also can open doors for one-to-one conversations with neighbors. 

Here is some advice to help you explore the listening posts in your neighborhood. Here is a pdf version of the listening post information that you can print out to share! 

Continue reading “Accompaniment – Listening Posts”

We Meet Again! A Recap of the Second Writers’ Retreat

Amanda Vetsch, book project coordinator, shares an update on the young adult book project.

The group of writers outside in the sunshine posing for a group photo. The Young Adult Book Project has surpassed another mile marker in our project! Our author team gathered for a second Writers’ Retreat at Mt. Olivet Conference and Retreat Center last month. This gathering marks the completion of mile marker #5! We’re just over a year out from The Threshold Envisioning event, where about fifty young adults gathered to share our joys, heartaches, hopes and dreams for the church and the book chapter themes were distilled from those stories and experiences. Since then, we selected a young adult author and a thought leader author to co-write each chapter. We gathered those authors in March at the first Writers’ Retreat to create a shared vision for the book and start the co-writing process. Two authors have had to discern out of this project due to needing to prioritize their time and energy on health and recovery. As people come and go from this project – we give our deep gratitude for the contributions along the way. Their departures created space to invite two new authors in.  Each set of authors has navigated the highs and lows of the writing process, defined and redefined their expectations of each other, and wrestled with their busy schedules to write and revise first and second drafts of their chapters.

The purpose of this second Writers’ retreat was to move into the “Craft Phase” of the book.  Rick Rubin describes the creative process as four phases: Seed, Experimentation, Craft, and Editing & Completion. The “Craft Phase” moves from generating possibilities and ideas into refining material with a clearer sense of direction and structure. For this project that means both the individual chapters and the larger book are beginning to take clearer shape and more cohesive structure. We accomplished this at the retreat by developing a shared larger vision of the overall book, large group discussion and decision making for cohesiveness across chapters, and co-author work time.  Continue reading “We Meet Again! A Recap of the Second Writers’ Retreat”

2023 Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium

The Purpose Gap

Dr. Patrick Reyes, Dean of Auburn Seminary

The Christensen Symposium

The Christensen Symposium and the Christensen Center for Vocation were both established to honor the legacy of Dr. Christensen, the 8th president of Augsburg University who served from 1938-1962. His legacy was one of critical inquiry and genuine hospitality. We have drawn these lessons from that legacy which still shape our work.

  • Christian faith liberates minds and lives
  • Diversity strengthens vital communities
  • Inter-faith friendships enrich learning
  • The love of Christ draws us to God
  • We are called to service in the world

It is my hope that you will hear echoes of Dr. Christensen’s lessons in Dr. Reyes’ presentation.

Dr. Patrick Reyes

Image of Dr. Patrick Reyes.Dr. Patrick Reyes currently serves as the Dean of Auburn Seminary in New York City.

He is a Chicano writer, theologian, and executive leader and the award-winning author of The Purpose Gap and Nobody Cries When We Die. Prior to his current position he was the Senior Director of Learning Design for the Lilly Endowment’s Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) where he provided strategy and direction for their diverse programs, grants, and teams supporting the next generation of leaders. In addition, he led the historic fellowships supporting scholars of color, the Institutional Doctoral Network, and partnerships in theological and higher education.

He is a peer among public theologians and deeply respected among faith and justice leaders and funders. He is the current Board President of the Religious Education Association and serves as the Co-Dean of the Freedom Seminary for the Children’s Defense Fund, offering an immersive experience for diverse seminary students from across the country to engage and cultivate prophetic voices with communities on the margins.

Patrick provides leadership on several boards in theological and higher education, publications, and the nonprofit sector, supporting the next generation of Black, Indigenous, and Chicano spiritual and cultural leaders. In the last decade, he has been recognized for his service and scholarship by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Boston University, Claremont School of Theology, Drew University, Children’s Defense Fund, Hispanic Theological Initiative, Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy, and others.

Patrick was also recently inducted into the Morehouse College MLK Jr. Collegium of Scholars. He lives in New Mexico, where he and his family embrace the cultural and religious traditions and communities they have inherited. Continue reading “2023 Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium”

Saying Yes Because of This Truth: Project Reflection by Amar Peterman

Amar HeadshotIf you have not heard yet, we are writing a book! The purpose of this book project is to amplify the voices of young adults as they articulate their hopes, dreams, concerns, and frustrations to the church. This is not a book about young adults. Nor is this a book about how to attract young adults back to church. Rather, it is a book that offers the wisdom of young adults to the church as it discerns its next most faithful steps in these emerging times. Check out our author team here.

We recently asked the young adult writers for the project to reflect on this experience. Below is the reflection from Amar D. Peterman.

Amar D. Peterman (M.Div., Princeton Seminary) is an award-winning author and constructive theologian working at the intersection of faith and public life. His writing and research have been featured in Christianity Today, Faithfully Magazine, Fathom, The Berkeley Forum,, The Anxious Bench, Sojourners and The Christian Century. Amar is the founder of Scholarship for Religion and Society LLC, a research and consulting firm working with some of the leading philanthropic and civic institutions, religious organizations, and faith leaders in America today. Amar also serves as Program Manager at Interfaith America where he oversees programs related to emerging leaders, American evangelicalism, and Asian America. He writes regularly through his newsletter, “This Common Life.” You can learn more about him at amarpeterman.com. Amar’s co-author is Nicholas Tangen.


Why did you say yes to this experience and what are your hopes for the project? 

Written by Amar Peterman

Writing is always shaped by the people around us and the places we are located in. The best writing embraces this, capturing every moment as an opportunity to tell a story or find meaning in the ordinary moments of our life. Writing that reflects these daily experiences and infuses such with sacred meaning holds the opportunity to change us—even convict us—and as we are called into a community beyond ourselves. 

I said yes to this experience because of this truth. Through this project, I am not only brought into conversation with other writers across the country, but into active participation towards a shared goal. As we gather to envision a hopeful future for the Christian church, we are diligently writing and marking out tangible steps to create equitable spaces of inclusion and belonging for young people in local congregations across the United States. Together, we represent a diversity of experiences, locations, denominations, and beliefs within Christianity. These differences, though, are not a hindrance to our cooperation; they are gifts that allow this project to speak to more people than any individual could do on their own.  Continue reading “Saying Yes Because of This Truth: Project Reflection by Amar Peterman”

Meet the Writers for the Book Project

We are excited to introduce the young adult writers for the young adult book project that is currently in progress! The co-author teams have been busy writing their chapter outlines and soon will be writing the first draft of their chapters. You can find out more about the project here.

Below you will meet our young adult writers that are leading this project. You can find the whole list of writers, their bios and headshots here.

Young Adult Writers


Amar HeadshotAmar D. Peterman (M.Div., Princeton Seminary) is an award-winning author and constructive theologian working at the intersection of faith and public life. His writing and research have been featured in Christianity Today, Faithfully Magazine, Fathom, The Berkeley Forum,, The Anxious Bench, Sojourners and The Christian Century. Amar is the founder of Scholarship for Religion and Society LLC, a research and consulting firm working with some of the leading philanthropic and civic institutions, religious organizations, and faith leaders in America today. Amar also serves as Program Manager at Interfaith America where he oversees programs related to emerging leaders, American evangelicalism, and Asian America. He writes regularly through his newsletter, “This Common Life.” You can learn more about him at amarpeterman.com. Amar’s co-author is Nicholas Tangen.

Kayla headshot

 

Kayla Zopfi is an Hunger Advocacy Fellow with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Zopfi graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, where they studied Religion, Political Science, and Interfaith Studies. Zopfi is interested in understanding how people’s core values affect the way they see and interact with their communities and the world around them, and is passionate about institutional reform and storytelling. Kayla’s co-author is Jeremy Myers.

 

Drew's HeadshotRev. Drew Stever currently serves as a pastor in Southern California and lives with his partner, three kids, goldendoodle, and betta fish. He is a co-organizer for Koinonia Mutual Aid – a network of care for LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC faith leaders. In his free time, he is an amateur spoon carver, bird watcher, and moseying enthusiast. When thinking about power, Rev. Drew looks to those who inspire him the most – drag queens, women and femmes, queer folks, and artists. When used correctly, power is the ability to imagine and create new, liberating worlds and inspire people to come along for the ride. Drew’s co-author is Pastor Angela Shannon.

Abby's Headshot

Abby Grifno is an English teacher and writer based out of Washington, DC. She loves to write about local culture and has work featured in Bethesda Magazine, The Washington City Paper, and more. Beyond teaching and writing, Abby loves discussing theology within the church community. Abby’s co-author is Jimmy Hoke. 

 

Rev. Madeline Burbank (she/her) is a pastor serving congregational and campus ministry in southern Wisconsin. Bringing particular perspectives as a queer leader and young adult, she highlights how God embraces the diversity of human relationships and inherent worth of pleasure, which reinforce our path toward mutual liberation. In addition to writing and pastoral care, she enjoys connecting with people through tabletop and video games, or birdwatching for Sandhill Cranes. Madeline’s co-author is Kara Haug. 

Continue reading “Meet the Writers for the Book Project”

The Writer’s Have Met! A Recap of the Writer’s Retreat in Montreat

Written by Amanda Vetsch

I, Amanda, said yes to stewarding the young adult book project because I believe that this book, a book that centers and amplifies the voices of young adults who care deeply about the church, will be inspiring, disorienting, and transformational for the readers, congregations, neighborhoods, and communities who experience it. My hope is that this book will inspire us into hope, disorient us away from the status quo, help us remember who God is calling us to be, and continue transforming us so that we can show up more wholeheartedly in the places and spaces we are all called to be. 

We launched the writing phase of the young adult book project in Mid-March by gathering all twenty-two writers at Montreat Conference Center for a Writers’ retreat. The purpose of the time together was to become familiar with each other and this project, preview how we plan to write a cohesive multi-voice book with twenty-two authors, and have each set of co-authors spend time together, in-person, to connect and plan. 

Two values listed on purple papers. Curiosity and No hold barredness (authenticity). Headshot of Amar speaking into the mic. Lower right image is a group at a table chatting. On Friday evening, we gathered for dinner and our first session together. We introduced ourselves to each other, shared what values were carrying into the room and into the project, and looked back at the project’s story so far (Project Overview).  

On Saturday, we had a mix of large group time and co-author time. In the large group, we looked at the logistics of how this project will come to fruition, and heard from each young adult author on why the theme they’ve been chosen to write on is important to the church.

In co-author pairs, each thought leader and young adult spent time connecting, brainstorming a chapter theme summary statement, and creating a game plan for how they’ll communicate, collaborate, and schedule their work. Each pair did this work uniquely, some started with a hike, some began with solitude, some took a stroll across the retreat center, some began by sharing about how their lived experiences will inform the theme they’ll write on, some began with writing, and all of them did really, really great work. Nicholas Tangen, the thought leader for the Community theme, said, “[He was] glad to meet so many new folks, to conspire and dream with my co-author Amar Peterman (who may be among the smartest people I’ve ever met), and to laugh way more than I had any business to. When people say the church is dying, I’m going to point back to rooms like the ones this weekend and let them know the church is more alive than ever!”  Continue reading “The Writer’s Have Met! A Recap of the Writer’s Retreat in Montreat”

“The Unleashed Voice” A Thought-Provoking Vlog by Geoffrey Gill

Our congregational facilitator, Geoffrey Gill, has been exploring his own vocation of vlogging. It is an honor to share on our CCV blog another inspirational video of his. It has been an opportunity to see through Geoffrey’s perspective of the world and how he inspires us to continue to show up as our authentic selves and to use our voice and actions to care for our neighbors around us in brave and powerful ways. Please enjoy!

A journey of self-discovery and empowerment! In my latest vlog, I delve into the impact of body language and the importance of being true to yourself. This thought-provoking vlog was inspired by MLK Day and will leave you feeling inspired to embrace your power, find your voice, and follow your heart. — Geoffrey Gill

Featuring: Pan African manager- Kezia Burrows, Drummer Spirit Boy, “Change Gonna Come” Traiveon Burrows

(In order of performance)

Poet: Curtis Love

Poet: LeeRayvone Gibson

Keynote speaker – Terrance Kwame-Ross

Thank you Augsburg University