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Introducing Our New Congregational Facilitator: Brenna Zeimet

Brenna's headshotWe are so excited to introduce our new CCV staff member with you all, Brenna Zeimet! 

Brenna joined the Riverside Innovation Hub in June of 2023 as a RIH Congregational Facilitator. She will journey with congregations as they discern their vocational path to loving their neighbors as a vital partner in the community where God has called them. She will facilitate cohorts of church leaders, helping them build a network of support amongst each other to empower the work they are doing for the flourishing of humanity and the common good. Continue reading “Introducing Our New Congregational Facilitator: Brenna Zeimet”

The Art of Building Relationships: Reflections on Establishing New Congregations

Written by Lead Facilitator, Geoffrey Gill

Embarking on new relationships can be a thrilling yet unnerving venture. A whirlwind of questions swirl around in the caverns of my mind: Will they appreciate my eccentricities, or will they view them as a red flag? What if they find me lacking in some way? These daunting thoughts threaten to consume me, yet in a moment of clarity, I understand what truly lies at the heart of this journey – the stories.

a typewriter with the words "the beginning.." zoomed in onAt the inception of each relationship, there lies a narrative waiting to be unfolded. Each person carries with them a unique anthology of experiences, thoughts, and perspectives. These individual stories form the intricate web of human connections, fostering empathy and understanding as we delve deeper into the pages of each other’s lives.

The sacred spaces we create for these stories to flourish is where relationships truly take root. Spaces where judgment is silenced, where authenticity thrives, and where our inhibitions can be set free. In these spaces, we can dare to expose our vulnerabilities, and in the process, foster connections that hold the potential to transform not just us as individuals, but our neighborhoods as well.

As I stand at the precipice of forging new bonds, I embrace the nervous anticipation that accompanies the start of this narrative journey. I may not know what lies ahead, but I have faith in the power of our shared stories. In this space, I can shed my anxieties, leave the apprehension behind, and simply dive into the fascinating world of interconnected lives, one story at a time.

As we venture forth into this process of establishing new congregations, it’s not just about the end result. It’s about the journey, the shared experiences, and most importantly, it’s about every story that weaves us closer together.

The beginning of new relationships is indeed a bit scary, but it’s also incredibly exciting. Because in this journey, we don’t just empower congregations; we build narratives, communities, and ultimately, we build each other.”

Kristina’s Corner: Spring Thaw

Series Description:

Kristina’s Corner is a collection of stories that come out of my own lived experiences as a neighbor in the Longfellow Community of South Minneapolis. They are stories of connection, stories of learning and stories of place. They come out of an effort – sometimes intentional but often accidental – to pay attention to the beauty, the pain and the complexity of our human experience, right here in this little corner of the universe I inhabit. Writing about these stories helps me deepen my roots in this place while also expanding my curiosity about what God is up to here and what that means for how I am called to show up and be a neighbor. In sharing these stories, I hope they invite the reader into a similar curiosity about God’s call to you, rooted in your place.


Spring Thaw

Written by Kristina Frugé 

A flyer on a light post that is of a painted white flower in a blue vase. Small moments can matter in big ways. I find this to be good news. Our days are filled with small moments, many of them pass by insignificantly. Sometimes though, we catch on to them. Sometimes, they give us a glimpse into something beyond ourselves – a truth, an idea, a comfort, a wake up call, an invitation…

I want to share a story about two small moments that collided into an important invitation for me. 

Moment One

Just a handful of months ago, spring was fighting its way through a long snowy winter here in South Minneapolis. As a lifelong Minnesotan, I know how to enjoy the winter season. But winter tends to outstay its hype in my opinion. People talk about the detrimental impacts of the lack of sunshine and vitamin D in the wintertime and its effect on people’s mental health. But the longevity of the cold encourages a lack of connection with other humans as well. This deficiency is also unhealthy I believe.  We lose some of our social ability in the winter, finding it easier to stay cloistered and quiet. And when we do go out in public, we have permission to stay hidden under layers of warm winter gear. It takes way more energy to make eye contact let alone engage in conversation with a passerby. At least, this is how it goes for me. 

I bundled up on a Saturday morning to pick up some groceries at the store. As I wandered up and down the aisles of produce, pasta and cereal, I was startled by a small child in a shopping cart, parked temporarily near the breakfast foods. His eyes peeked out from under his blue and green striped winter hat and he locked his gaze with mine. He kept focused eye contact with me, craning his head to the side as his dad moved their cart further down the aisle away from my location by the oatmeal. But just before they turned the corner and we fully parted ways, his face broke into a toothy dimpled grin. I gave a little wave as he carted out of view.  Continue reading “Kristina’s Corner: Spring Thaw”

The Art and Importance of Celebrating

Written by Ellen Weber

A photo of Adrienne smiling while sitting in a chair on the left side. On the right, cans of pop, chocolate bars and kettle BBQ chips in celebration of Adrienne's birthday.
Our birthday celebration day for Adrienne at our CCV Staff meeting in May.

The work of being the public church in the neighborhood, of being a vital neighbor in the world, is the work of our lives. There is no graduation. It is a journey that always is and always was. We are called to show up with curiosity, humility and our full selves as neighbors. This work can be exhausting and feel never-ending. So we have learned the power in celebrating along the way. Celebrating the small ways we have been able to be transformed by being in relationship with our neighbors. It reminds us of the hope and the joy in this work. 

At the Center of Vocation we pause throughout the year at milestones throughout the year to reflect and share the joy of being in relationship with others doing this work. We love celebrating and sharing things that are happening in the work and outside of the work in our lives. We especially love celebrating through yummy treats! 

In the spirit of this season of celebrating, we wanted to share with you what we have been celebrating on our team:

Continue reading “The Art and Importance of Celebrating”

That’s a wrap! Final Two Vocation Chapels This Academic Year

Mark Hanson speaking at the podium in chapelIt has been a wonderful year full of stories from our community about how our staff and faculty have uncovered their own vocations throughout their lives. It truly has been an honor and blessing to listen to these stories. We are grateful for each one of them and for the campus ministry team for their willingness to try something new with us. We are looking forward to hearing more when we return to campus in the fall.

 

Watch our last two vocation chapels below from Dr. Ryan Haaland, Dean of Arts and Sciences and Rev. Mark Hanson, Interfaith Institute Fellow.


In case you are new or are unsure what vocation means. Vocation is a term we use a lot around Augsburg. It can be vague. It can mean different things to different people. It can feel elusive and slippery.

An attempt to explain vocation by Jeremy Myers: “You have probably heard the word vocation used to talk about one’s job. It is sometimes used to describe post-secondary educational institutions designed to train individuals for certain trades such as electrician, welder, plumber, carpenter, mechanic, etc. We use the term differently at Augsburg. It can be associated with your job, but it is also much more than that. Vocation is the way you are equipped, empowered, called, and driven to make our world a better place for all living things.”


“Be Careful What You Wish For”

“Formative Disruptions”

 

Mentors Practice Vocational Discernment In Preparation for the Institute!

Written by Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge

LT to RT: Sarah Runck, Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge (director), Bella Wizik, Ella Sutherland, Hannah Sackett (chaplain), Carson Vincent, Jasmyn Kendall, John Schwehn (chaplain). Not pictured: Grace Harrison (coordinator).
LT to RT:
Sarah Runck, Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge (director), Bella Wizik, Ella Sutherland, Hannah Sackett (chaplain), Carson Vincent, Jasmyn Kendall, John Schwehn (chaplain). Not pictured: Grace Harrison (coordinator).

One of the ways the Christensen Center for Vocation is engaging in vocational discernment with students is through the hiring and training of college mentors as facilitators for the annual Augsburg Youth Theology Institute. Mentors spend the spring semester discerning their own God given gifts, practicing small group facilitation, digging into theological texts with curiosity for how they might give us some insight into the questions we have about how to show up as neighbors in our own neighborhoods, churches, schools, and communities. 

This year’s mentors are engaged, curious, and determined to create a community of belonging for our participants. And that means focusing on their own development. They are practicing leading prayer, asking questions, developing their strengths, understanding their spiritual gifts, and digging into texts. Stay tuned for our upcoming social media introductions and highlights from the end of the month training retreat – follow up on Facebook or Instagram to learn more! 

APPLY TODAY!

Do you know high school students who would benefit from an experience like this? 

The CONFLUENCE is an experience that empowers young people to be curious about how their personal story, the world’s story, and God’s story flow together to create a loving and just world. In June of each year, we invite high school students to spend a week living on campus with our college mentors, building relationships and getting to know one another, exploring theology and discerning vocation through experiential learning opportunities. Our hope is for them to gain deeper insight into who they are and the life they want to live as children of God. This learning happens through many forms: academic inquiry in the classroom, community engaged learning, a variety of worship styles and spiritual practices. 

College mentors play an important role as facilitator and guide for the high school participants throughout the week as everyone leans into opportunities for vocational discernment. 

Applications are open until May 15th – will you JOIN US THIS SUMMER! 

 

MEET THE 2023 MENTORS FOR THE CONFLUENCE! Continue reading “Mentors Practice Vocational Discernment In Preparation for the Institute!”

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”

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”

Embracing Discomfort: A Skiing Adventure with Friends

Written by Geoffrey Gill

Geoffrey, Sheila and Kaylie posing for a picture with their winter gear on while skiing on BuckhillRecently, my friend Sheila and I had an exhilarating experience at Buckhill, a skiing resort where our friend Kaylie works. Kaylie invited us to join her for a day on the slopes and even got us free passes! Despite having never gone downhill skiing before, I decided to give it a try.

I have to admit, I was very nervous as I strapped on my skis and looked down the hill. But Kaylie was there to give us some tips and encouragement. And before I knew it, she pushed us down the hill. Sheila and I fell a few times, but Kaylie was always there to pick us back up. It was a great experience of trust, friendship, and fun.

Geoffrey, Kaylie and Sheila on the Ski Lift posing for a picture.

 

 

 

But more than that, it was an opportunity to lean into the discomfort of trying something new. As Sheila put it, “I feel like a child!” And in that moment, I realized that’s exactly why it’s so important to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Because that’s where our inner child is waiting for us, eager to show us the beauty and joy of being alive.

It’s easy to get stuck in our routines and comfort zones, but when we take a chance and try something new, we give ourselves the opportunity to grow and experience life in new and exciting ways. So next time you’re feeling nervous about trying something new, remember that your inner child is waiting for you on the other side of that discomfort. Embrace the unknown, and you just might be surprised at what you find.

Being A Vital Neighbor

Written by Kristina Frugé 

A few years ago we were gathered with a handful of local pastors at a coffee shop discussing this idea of being a public church. My co-worker Amanda and I were describing the posture of this work as one that shifts our attention from an internal one out towards the neighborhood, the larger context our congregations are located in. The rich imagination of the vision Ezekiel describes in ch. 47: 1-12 inspires this orientation. Ezekiel’s guide in the text points out how the water flows from the sanctuary out into the wilderness, bringing life and flourishing where-ever it goes; as it flows it gets deeper and wider until it is a river that cannot be crossed. 

Kristina Fruge by the edge of water bending down to pick up rocks. Water in the bible often connotes a never ending resource of life – God’s mercy flowing in abundance beyond our wildest imaginations. The invitation to become a public church is rooted in this vision as it begs us to take notice of what happens where God’s mercy flows and to get caught up in what God is up to in those places. God’s abundance can be contrasted with what often feels like a scarcity mindset when we are closed off from the outside world, mainly absorbed with our own worries and anxieties. However, God’s call urges us into the larger environment and relationship there. I hear this as good news to those of us in congregations where the temptation of a scarcity mindset is a daunting reality. 

Sitting in that coffee shop years ago, as we dwelled in the vision Ezekiel stoked up in our imaginations for being public churches, one pastor offered a helpful distinction. She pointed out that being a public church is about becoming a vital neighbor within the larger ecosystem of the neighborhood we are a part of. (Shout out to Pr. Brenda at Bethel Lutheran in South Minneapolis for that little gem!) There is lots of talk about vitality and thriving in the church world, but what God’s promises often point to is an understanding of vitality and thriving that is mutual. That flows beyond the sanctuary. That is for all. 

This is the arena of our wonderings and work in the Riverside Innovation Hub. Helping churches be vital neighbors is what we are about. It is also the way those of us on staff at RIH have been imagining our role with our neighbors. If you are reading this blog post, you are probably one of our neighbors! Our work and the resources we are able to leverage help us come alongside congregations and ministry leaders chasing after this work of being vital neighbors in our places. And so, as new seasons and new opportunities unfold for our work at RIH, we want to continue to explore how we can be vital neighbors to you – the larger ecosystem of church and ministry leaders doing this work on the ground in your many and varied places. 

This February, we have had a couple key opportunities to listen to our neighbors, paying attention to your joys, your heartaches, your longings, and your curiosities.  Continue reading “Being A Vital Neighbor”