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A Month for Reconnection: It’s Amanda and Geoffrey!

While summers can be hectic, they also can be a time to feel more grounded and to reconnect to our bodies and the earth. If we are quiet and listen, we can hear our bodies calling us to connect with the earth, which in turn is calling us back to each other. It can be a time to push back on the myth that we need to be always producing. Always checking the tasks of the list and making “progress”. 

With more people out and about rather than nestled inside, we are given the opportunity to meet those around us with our presence in new ways. This month we will be inviting you to reconnect in a variety of ways, with yourself, with your neighbor, with our initiatives, and even our CCV Staff! We have some recent changes with two of our staff members now in new roles and we would love for you to celebrate them with us! 

In case you haven’t met these two lovely individuals, it is a pleasure to introduce you to two amazing humans who are on our CCV staff. Amanda Vetsch and Geoffrey Gill. 

If you have the chance, please send them a congratulations via email or the next chance you see them!

Continue reading “A Month for Reconnection: It’s Amanda and Geoffrey!”

“Today” by Kristina Frugé

I was asked to write a blog post this week for the Riverside Innovation Hub that would introduce a series we are calling “Front Porch Stories.” This series will highlight stories from neighborhoods near and far where congregations are creating, cultivating or entering into front porch places where neighbors meet neighbors. Places where curiosity can be nurtured, stories can be shared, and simple connections can spark new relationships. Places where new life and new hope might have some room to take root.  

However, I’m struggling to have imagination for new life and hope today. Instead, death and hopelessness are crowding my heart and my mind, just as they are saturating our communities near and far – our schools, our corner grocery stores, our city blocks… 

A tree with a small number of leaves on the edge of a cliff by the water. The tree has branches like an L with one toward the sky and one branch out toward the water. In the background is a dark forest and fog.Today, as I write, marks the 2 year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in the neighborhood of Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, MN. His sacred life – like countless black and brown bodies before and after him – senselessly taken by uninhibited police violence.

Today, as I write, dozens of parents in the neighborhood of Uvalde, Texas have woken up to the first morning of the rest of their lives without their children. Young, beautiful, holy lives whose bodies and futures were destroyed with bullets and brutality.

Today, as I write, families and loved ones in Buffalo, New York prepare to bury their beloved elders, family members and friends. Ten cherished human beings who were targeted, terrorized and massacred by a young man embodying the violent evil lies of white supremacy ideology. 

 

Today, my heart fears that the front porches are too few and that their power to overcome the constant waves of violence and grief are insufficient. 

 

We talk about sowing seeds of love, connection, justice, mercy, and hope. Yet the seeds of violence, evil, hatred and fear have been nurtured far too well for far too long in our places. The two young 18 year old men and their evil ambitious destruction, reflect an ugly truth about the state of our humanity today. The systems tasked with stewarding our public safety reveal the deep roots of a harmful belief that some lives don’t matter. The seeds we have sown are breeding unimaginable violence and yet it’s completely imaginable because of how regularly it visits us. 

Continue reading ““Today” by Kristina Frugé”

Little Things are Big Things by Ellen Weber

This winter was long. April felt like an extended March. There is a whole lot of beauty in the winter and the cold can be hard on our bodies. In the midst of the cold, snow and rain, the last week of April if one paid attention, the green began to emerge. The tulips that I planted last fall began to sprout and I could see bursts of green in the mixture ofTulip leaves sprouting up from the brown ground. brown surrounding my house. I woke up to birds chirping out my window and watched squirrels dig up their nuts for nourishment that they had planted last fall. 

I am an amateur gardener who definitely has lots to learn, but continues to show up in March to plant my own seeds knowing that not all of them will survive. During this Easter season of new life and resurrection, I am trying to pay extra attention to what around me needs nourishing. Which seedlings need water, sunlight, more space or coffee grounds added to the soil? When my tomato seedlings grow too leggy, I adapt by replanting them so the stems are fully supported and the plant can focus on rooting down to allow it to rise up. When my broccoli seedlings are too leggy, after googling why that might be, I realize that they are too warm.  In response, I make a shift so that they are no longer under the humidity dome. Each seedling needs something different in order to grow and eventually bear fruit.   Continue reading “Little Things are Big Things by Ellen Weber”

CHRISTENSEN CENTER FOR VOCATION STUDENT ASSISTANTS

Angelique Young ‘25 (she/her)

Major: Social work, Minor: PsychologyStudent Worker Angel Young

Hometown: Brooklyn Park, MN. 

 

I am one of the Student Assistants at the Christensen Center and Augsburg Youth Theology Institute. Having a positive impact on others is very important to me, from my work to my schooling to my personal life. I have worked for organizations like City Hall and Second Harvest that value helping others. It is also why I accepted my current position with the CCV and AYTI. I value gaining experience and opportunities that will benefit me in the future. 

 


AYTI Student Worker Renee Christensen

Renee Christensen ‘23 (she/her)

Major: Theology and public leadership, Minor: Psychology

Hometown: Shafer, MN.

 

I am one of the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute Student Assistants, and have worked with AYTI for 3 years! I was lucky enough to attend AYTI as a participant and fell in love with Augsburg and this program! I am so excited to share all of the great ways AYTI has impacted the lives of youth!

 


 

CCV Worker Jam PashyayevaJam Pashyayeva ‘25 (she/her)

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Capital of Azerbaijan, Baku.

 

I am an international student at Augsburg. I am good at a range of different skills such as cooking, writing, and all sorts of sports (cycling, tennis, basketball, swimming and etc.). I know English, Russian, Ukrainian, and Azerbaijani languages on an exceptional level and currently learning French and Italian. I worked as a personal translator for KoçSistem Company Director. Art was always my passion since a very young age that’s why I decided that working in the sphere that will require my skills and this position at CCV as part-time work is the best opportunity to start learning and getting on the right track for my future career.

 


Student Worker Aaron Puent

Aaron Puent ‘23 (he/him)

Major: Religion w/ Concentration in Global Religions and Interfaith Studies

Hometown: La Crosse, WI.

 

Working in CCV is important to me because it combines my passion for studying theology with my interest in helping others find the spiritual and intellectual tools that they need. I began working with CCV last year when I was an AYTI mentor. The following fall, I was able to join as a recruiter for the Public Church Scholars program. Because of this work, I can help others find what they need for future success, and I am still learning about Augsburg, its affiliations, and the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in the background.  

 


 

Student Worker Sarah RunckSarah Runck ‘24 (she/her) 

 

Major: Music Therapy 

Hometown: New Ulm MN

 

I love to play instruments which include flute, piano, guitar, and ukulele. I also grew up on a farm where I always liked to be outside and go on walks. Along with this, I was involved with my church growing up. Some church things included helping with VBS, teaching Religious education to 2nd graders, helping with music, and helping with festivals. Faith has always been a strong passion of mine and working at CCV has given me the opportunity to grow in my faith and learn about other religions. I am excited to keep learning and to hear more stories!

Welcome Ellen Weber to the CCV Team!

Ellen joined the Christensen Center for Vocation team at the beginning of March 2022 as the Operations Program Associate. Ellen will be supporting our initiatives by helping us communicate the stories of our work. Additionally, she will be helping develop and implement our new online collaborative learning community project with our new grant. 

Headshot of Ellen Weber

Prior to working at Augsburg, she worked in a variety of settings from youth and young adult ministry, CADI waiver case management, speech coaching, working in higher ed, and working as a parent educator. Ellen was a member of the Riverside Innovation Hub’s first congregational partners working with young adults in a South Minneapolis congregation where she traveled with a group to Guatemala. They brought back their learnings that bloomed into a community space with fruit trees, a community garden and honey from the bees on top of the church.

When Ellen isn’t working she enjoys being with family, throwing dinner parties with friends, playing softball, and being in her kayak on the water with her partner Caleb. She currently is on the board of Mental Health Connect, a collaborative that supports congregations with mental health resources, and is a member of the New Brighton Equity Commission. Lastly, Ellen is part of the Journey of Hope 2022 cohort with other faith leaders, “a program for people of faith to transform themselves and their communities through peacemaking”. 

She fell in love with the initiatives of CCV, through RIH and AYTI and is grateful to be part of the team. Ellen cares deeply about belonging. She states “I want to belong to a place where people can heal and come back to our bodies. I want to be part of a place that creates better things for people to belong to.” She was inspired by the space held for the young adults in her context and the way that the Public Church framework allowed them to feel valued, listened to and become changemakers in their context. The work she did with RIH was about belonging. She is excited to be part of the important work that all of CCV is doing. She is excited to learn new skills with the new online learning community while strengthening her communications and storytelling skills. 

 

Awareness

The congregational facilitator staff in our Riverside Innovation Hub work at the intersection of relationships and learning. Put another way, they are stewards of change, accompanying our congregational partners towards discerning the call to be neighbor in their places. As one might imagine, this work presents great challenges at times. Geoffrey Gill, one of our RIH facilitators, shares in the blog below about is commitment to awareness – a critical component of what helps him show up in this work and in the world. 


The most important practice I have put into motion in my 30s is meditation and slow moving exercises like tai chi and Qi gong. People take medication to help regulate their mind and body and I do the same thing with meditation. It’s a daily practice (well, almost everyday).

Man stares at reflection in mirror

I used to watch my dad do yoga when I was younger and so as I got older I just started naturally incorporating it into my life. Although, it wasn’t until recently that I started practicing consistently. That’s when I started to see changes. Changes physically, mentally, and emotionally. I especially noticed that when stress or anxiety came up, my body was adeptly aware. It was almost like it knew what to do to get it back in its normal state. For example, I was in a meeting recently on zoom. I was being trolled by some lady who, my bias, has some heavy personal mental issues and trauma with black men. She tried to put it all on me because I wasn’t giving her attention. She said some crazy things to me. Things I won’t repeat here.

After the meeting I realized that my body was in some sort of shock. I was stuck in my seat. I didn’t want to move, but I had to go to the bathroom. When I sat down in the bathroom, I realized I hadn’t been breathing. I was breathing of course, but not really breathing. So, I started breathing deeply; like in the belly deep and then I closed my eyes. As I was breathing, it popped in my head that I was still holding the stuff that lady said. It was like I was holding my breath and simultaneously holding all the words this lady said, inside of me. As I breathed I consciously said, I give it to you God. After about 10 or so minutes later I felt a release. Like a dynamic force being lifted off of me.

Continue reading “Awareness”

Welcome Jon Bates to the CCV Team!

Jon joined the Christensen Center for Vocation team at the beginning of 2022 as the V-Portfolio Coordinator. In this role he will be coordinating the creation of the V-Portfolio which is a tool that will allow students to capture, reflect, and gain insight from their learning experiences and vocation throughout their time at Augsburg.


Headshot of Jon BatesWith excitement, Jon makes a return to Augsburg University as he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Youth and Family Ministry Degree in 2015. Since graduation Jon worked in children, youth, and family ministry in faith communities within the Twin Cities and also Billings, Montana. He also spent time working in the digital department at Star Tribune from 2017-2019. Through his eclectic career, Jon has admired his time building relationships amongst his teams, creating projects for people of all ages, and the time spent organizing information, art supplies, and bundt pans.

Currently, Jon is also a nursing student at Minneapolis Community & Technical College. He finds joy in coffee, reading, time with his loved ones, and time napping. Jon is eager to strengthen his skills in project management, work with the CCV Team and other departments on campus, and create the V-Portfolio for the students of Augsburg.

The Final Step: Reflections by Lara Moll

Lara Moll sitting on a rock in Duluth
Lara Moll, CCV Staff 2021

Where has the year 2021 gone? It should not be looked back as simply done in the blink of the eye, especially since so much has been built. In this space of walking along congregations, our work has been able to see emotion, evolution and growth. I would say the same to my time as the Communications Coordinator for the Riverside Innovation Hub. For the past 12 months, I have strived to share the stories that have been written and told in the first track of this work of building a public church with Minneapolis congregations.

When I started with this work, I was given resources to help me understand this work. It was and is a privilege to learn and envelop the mission of an organization. I knew from the time I applied for this position that the work done here is not work I have heard nor seen before. Had you? The work here of bridging congregations with a facilitator to the bridge church and community should not be a new concept. A public church is indeed what churches ought to strive for. Without community building and relationships, where can the church grow and take hold? That is what I ask of you to consider after this year of transition. 

For those who might have finished their time walking with the Hub to those who are just beginning to learn the steps in which we encourage to build connections in your neighborhoods. I encourage you to take the resources given to your or those that you seek out and actually take a step. One step is all it takes to walk a mile, to meet someone halfway or making that change you have longed for. Everyone strives for resolutions at this time of the year, when one chapter seems to be ending and the next is just beginning. I have this hope as well, that I might be able to leave behind parts of 2021 that I don’t want to take with me, but truly without my experiences how would I know what I may need coming forth?  Continue reading “The Final Step: Reflections by Lara Moll”

Advent Vespers: Amanda Vetsch

Reflection on Psalm 148: 1-2,13

Photo by City Church CA on Unsplash

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens;

praise him in the heights!

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;

his glory is above earth and heaven.”

Psalm 128:1-2,13

As we read this Psalm, I’m imagining our voices joining with generations before us, all creation, and the cloud of witnesses, who have and continue to sing songs of praise. I can hear a large chorus with different parts coming in and out of focus. Maybe it sounds like a round, maybe there’s beautiful harmony, maybe some of the parts are really loud and full of energy, maybe others are singing quietly, reverently.

I imagine it sounds like something between a cacophony of noises and a harmonious symphony. When I imagine the songs of praises this way, I’m encouraged. I think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to keep the song of praise going just by myself, especially when I don’t always feel like praising God. Sometimes, I’d rather sing a song than a lament. Or not sing at all, and hold space for silence. I’m continuing to learn that praising God is not mutually exclusive, meaning it doesn’t have to be the only song I’m singing. We can: Praise and grieve. Praise and lament. Praise and ponder. And in this season of advent, may we continue to praise and wait.

Amanda Vetsch

Advent Vespers: Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge,’02

Hark! the herald angels sing – stanza 1

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King:

peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

join the triumph of the skies;

with th’angelic hosts proclaim,

“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

 

I experience many emotions throughout the Advent season: anticipation, inspiration, content, curiosity, joy, and awe. Growing up one of my fondest memories of this season was the variety of music. The proclamation that rings out when “Hark! The herald angels sing” is sung in a chorus of harmonious voices, with the piano, strings, and trumpets all playing along, bringing me back to a joyful memory that I can only feel in my body. I can feel it out to my fingertips and up through my center, the feeling of inspiration that something wonderful has happened. The music fills me down to my toes as I reach deep down into my diaphragm for a full breath to proclaim through song, “peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”

Continue reading “Advent Vespers: Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge,’02”