Recently, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Dr. Christina Erickson, Social Work on January 24th, 2023
Reading: By Anne LaMott
My coming to this vocation did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved. I can see how flimsy and indirect a path they made. Yet each step brought me closer to the verdant pad on which I stay afloat today.
Good morning – I have been a social worker for 30 years and I felt like that gave me an easy out on this vocation stuff –easy, it was my work – which I described as making the world a better place. Becoming a social work professor was a natural evolution of that original vocational path. I was set. No more discoveries to be made. What I never expected, was a mid-life vocation that would grip me for more than 10 years. Like Ann Lamott describes, I can look back and see how I leapt from lily pad to lily pad through the course of my life, never knowing that those experiences would become so important to a mid-life vocation I couldn’t have imagined.
Lily pad 1…..My mother’s spanking – so futile, so “not into it”, her swings and misses. My own wriggling away. My father’s spanking – so scary, so shaming, having to stop himself because he was big and strong. My 3 older brothers spankings, – so harsh, so much anger in both directions.
My family of origin, the family I grew up in, was happy, I felt loved, we were loud, we laughed, 5 children and 2 parents who were high school sweethearts, pregnant before they were married despite strict Catholic upbringings, we were fine and good and my parents spanked us. My parents hit us. They never hit each other, they never hit the dog, but spanking a child on the butt….that was acceptable, anytime, parental decision alone, no child input needed. In spanking, the perpetrator is always right and the victim is always wrong.
Lily pad 2….my high school boyfriend. We met in the tennis module of gym class. We were separated by gender (this was 1984) through the whole unit until the end when the ranked boys played the ranked girls. He was ranked first in his gender and I in mine. We had to battle it out, and while I lost handily, it was love, love. We started dating. 2 years into our high school romance I punched him in the stomach in my parent’s basement family room. I have no memory of why, but I remember the event vividly. My anger, my punching, the look on his face.
Lily pad 3 – I go to graduate school in social work and begin my field experience at The Initial Intervention Unit in child and family services. We were the first social workers to visit a home or school with a child abuse investigation. I see the effects of hitting on little bodies. I see the pain and shame of parents who have to talk to us. I feel their struggle, I see their love for their children.
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.
Steve Peacock joined Augsburg University in 2008 as the University’s Community Relations Director. Steve had spent the previous 17 years working for theLocal 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.” (Marga, Inc). 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.
It has been a year full of laughter, sorrow, change, hope, pain and so much more. We are grateful we are in this work together alongside such a wonderful staff and partners inside and outside of the Augsburg community. We asked our CCV staff to reflect on this last year asking what key insights are you carrying with you into 2023 and what are you leaving behind.
Oh so many insights. One particularly is that boundaries help ground me and show people where I stand. They are actually a gift rather than a limitation.
Unrealistic expectations of people, relationships, communities.
This year I tried some new things, from sports to needle crafts. I learned that it’s important to keep practicing being a novice and it’s perfectly fine to be bad at things.
I am leaving behind the pressure of “should” and instead continuing to cultivate practices of patience and grace for myself.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. This year has been a year of returning back to my roots and what grounds me. What has allowed me to show up more fully and embodied has been setting and keeping boundaries.
I am leaving behind the pressure to say yes to more. If it isn’t a hell yes, then it’s a no for me right now.
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
In Hebrew, Jesse means “God’s gift” or “God exists.” This passage revealed to me that God is inside me and God is growing. That his spirit has roots that are growing deep and branches that are stretching out of me. That as God grows within me so does God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding naturally flow more potently through me. I feel a presence of deep adoration, a humbleness, and awe. As my relationship with God grows- how I see and hear the world emerges through this relationship. God exists and is emerging in everyone around me; I just need to have the eyes to see. This is sometimes challenging, especially when we live in a chaotic and despondent world.
I pray that we remember “God works best in chaos’’ (Walter Brueggemann) and that we daily surrender to that which already lives inside of us. God exists! – That within our relationship with God we grow roots so deep we will be unshakable, branches so wide that we can touch others and they will be empowered, and that we provide shade for those in need of faith and rest.
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.”
On most 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month, some of our favorite members of Augsburg University’s staff and faculty share their stories of their own vocations during chapel worship. Vocation is all around us, lived out in the here and now and in all departments and spaces at Augsburg. Together we can start uncovering vocation in all our lives. Learn more about Vocation here.
We have been grateful to the staff and faculty who are willing to share their stories with our community. We are especially grateful to those who have already shared their stories the past two months. Paula O’Loughlin, Mike Grewe, NajeebaSyeed and Kao Nou Moua.
We hope you will join us this coming Tuesday, December 6th for our final vocation chapel of the year, “We Die, We Break, We Love A Jewish Story of Call and Response” Dr. Audrey Lensmire.
Check out the recording of Kao Nou Moua’s vocation below and the past vocation chapels in our recent blog posts.
Kao Nou Moua:
“For some of us, our gifts and skills are still budding. For others, our gifts are in full bloom. And for others, our gifts are giving and giving. No matter what stage of budding we are, keep turning yourself out, and into the world. It’s amazing to realize that what the world needs is just the very thing you’re really good at.”
This is an exploration of an unfolding relationship with vocation. It all started back in 2008 during my freshman year at Augsburg. That’s when I was introduced to vocation. That’s when my life took a drastic turn and I tapped into something that woke me up and gave me a sense of purpose.
While recording this video we explored the Christensen Symposium with Jeremy Myers and then we talked to current students and a faculty member about their thoughts around vocation and being a neighbor. I was able to weave all these different ideas together, over 14 years of exploring, to really innerstand* what vocation means to me. My hope is that this short video will spark something for you and that you will innerstand* your vocation is happening right now, right here in this very moment.
*(innerstand: knowing something as an experience; where one is able to make a personal connection, Not just a concept.
If you haven’t heard of the Christensen Center for Vocation before, we are a center that equips and accompanies students, staff, faculty, and ministry leaders as they engage in vocational discernment around how we are called to show up as neighbor in the world.
We are a team that is passionate about our work and strive to create an environment where everyone can show up as their full beloved selves. We love visitors that come by to say hi! We are located in Memorial Hall 233 and are always prepared with coffee/tea and snacks! Get to know our awesome staff below!
Executive Director, Christensen Center for Vocation
Bernhard M. Christensen Professor of Religion and Vocation
Describe your remote from home set up: When I need to be presentable, I set my laptop on our piano which looks out a large window with good light and have lovely bookshelves behind me. But then I constantly have to resist the urge to tickle the ivories during Zoom meetings. Other times I’m on my front or back porch. Either way the dog is sleeping somewhere nearby.
You’re called to do something brave, but your fear is real and stuck in your throat. What’s the first thing you do? I place my right hand on my chest over my heart, close my eyes, and take a long deep breath.
Give us a snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that brings you great joy? Each morning I will have a cup of coffee either outside or near a window. This is my time to practice awareness and presence. I force myself to not check email or social media. I allow myself to just notice the cup of coffee.
What is something you have learned from a pet? We have a flat-coated retriever named Shadow. He is beautiful and goofy. They are known as the Peter Pan of the dog world, eternal puppies. Everytime he sees us come into the house – even if we were gone for 10 minutes – he will act like he hasn’t seen us in years. I would like to greet all my friends and family with that much joy.
What are your favorite things about fall? My favorite things about fall – noticing the leaves change as I cross the Mississippi River each day, fires in the backyard, cooler weather, and everything seems to slow down.