Written by Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge
What a gift to host the 2023 Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: the Confluence! Our souls are refreshed, hearts are full, and bodies exhausted. On Sunday, June 25th, 20 high school students from Northfield, to North Minneapolis, to North Dakota and beyond, arrived on campus to spend a week focused on vocation, think theologically, and ask big questions about God’s purpose for their lives. This was the first in-person Institute we have been able to host in four years, and it was an incredible experience. Young people arrived eager to meet new people and share their stories, excited to learn more about themselves and the world around them, and dig deeper into God’s story.
WHAT DID WE DO?
Participants stayed on campus in Anderson Hall and spent the week eating in the dining hall. We woke up every morning and started the day with a devotion prepared by college mentors. Participants spent 1.5 hours each morning in a college classroom with a college professor, digging into theology and exploring the same biblical texts offered for daily devotions. We built relationships with others in our small groups, we played games, we told stories. We got out into the community and we ate delicious food. Every evening we worshiped, in unique and different ways each day. A favorite of all participants was Dinner Church where we shared communion, a meal, and a little karaoke! The song “Wade in the Water” was a constant throughout the week (Refrain: wade in the water, wade in the water children, wade in the water. Don’t you know that God’s gonna trouble the water.)
Continue reading “The CONFLUENCE: a place where your story, the world’s story, and God’s story flow together.”
Written by Geoffrey Gill
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.
Written by Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge, Institute Program Director
Since 2005, Augsburg University has been gathering high school students from all over the country for an annual weeklong on-campus experience focused on theological exploration and vocational discernment. This gathering is one of 90+ Youth Theology Network programs across the country. This program is a collaborative effort sponsored by Augsburg University’s Christensen Center for Vocation and supported by Lilly Endowment, Inc. What an incredible gift to be able to do this work with young people.
UNCERTAINTY AND HOPE
These last three years, young people have navigated online schooling, virtual meetings, programs ending and not returning, friends graduating and not returning, the staff that supported them being laid off or leaving positions. This has been difficult. We know that.
The impact of the pandemic has confirmed what we have known all along about young people, they want a place to belong and make sense of how to use the gifts God has given them for a more loving and just world. The places and spaces where they could co-create that beautiful world were shut down and in some cases never returned. Coming back from that feels like starting over. And that is hard. Yet, the youth theology institute at Augsburg has continued to be a place that offers hope and community for high school participants and college mentors. Read one story here from a former Augsburg student, institute mentor, and past participant.
We have always known that attending our program is an additional opportunity for young people. High school students are competing for for multiple activities demanding their time. We offer a place where they can authentically be themselves and the experience of belonging. No matter who they are, where they come from, how they identify, who they love – God has created them in God’s image and their story matters here. Continue reading “Introducing THE CONFLUENCE!”
Our Christensen Scholars initiative is part of the Public Leader Scholars programs which offer students a unique opportunity to explore how their worldview/faith(s) shapes them as leaders, as well as build their leadership skills.
There are two Public Leader Scholars opportunities being offered this coming academic year: Christensen Scholars and Interfaith Scholars that students can apply for!
Christensen Scholars BENEFITS:
- Unique opportunities to explore Christian theology & vocation more deeply as a cohort
- Earn upper division credit (4 credits) in religion
- Seminar setting that is small and supportive
- $2,000 scholarship, $1,500 stipend
- Opportunities to develop skills related to theological reflection & vocational discernment
Interfaith Scholars BENEFITS:
- Unique opportunities to explore interfaith study and learn about diverse religious/spiritual/worldview identities as a cohort
- Earn upper division credit (4 credits) in religion
- Seminar setting that is small and supportive
- $2,000 scholarship
- Opportunities to formally develop interfaith leadership skills
If you will be a sophomore, junior, or senior in 2023-2024 you are eligible to apply.
Application are due: FRIDAY FEBRUARY 17TH
If you have questions about the Christensen Scholars program, email Jeremy: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have questions about the Interfaith Scholars program, email Jane: email@example.com
Saturday, December 17th
Advent Vespers Reflection by Kristina Frugé
Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
Isaiah’s words are to King Ahaz in Jerusalem. Ahaz is a ruler who neglects God and makes idolatrous choices that gravely endanger his people. Isaiah utters these words to him from within the context of an unstable time – the powerful take as they desire, the poor become pawns of the wealthy, threats of violence persist from outside nations, there is a loss of faith in God and distrust of one another, injustice rules the day. Sound familiar?
Despite the dire circumstances…the seed of God’s promise is given. In our Christian story this seed is fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. Immanuel. God With Us. It is a bold promise to speak into corrupt and oppressive realities. Jesus’ time, like Isaiah’s, and like ours, was deeply troubled. Yet none of this deters the promise of God from entering the world. Not in Isaiah’s time, not in Jesus’ time, and not in ours either.
The promise is for Immanuel. God with us. All of us.
May this seed take root in our bodies, our neighborhoods and all of creation.
May we embrace and participate in the new life this promise offers.
Thursday, December 15
Advent Vespers Reflection by Sarah Runck ’24
Romans 15:3-6 [MSG]
Jesus didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!
This translation of Romans comes from the Message bible. I love how it dives into a deeper explanation of this text. It prompted me to reflect on things in my life that correspond with this verse.
First – the therapeutic nature of music. I am a third year music therapy major which means that I am building my life around the virtue of placing myself near the troubles of others. My profession is built around caring for others more than myself, in a healthy manner. With that being said I will “take on the troubles of the troubled.”
Second – the calling and the waiting. We never know what God is going to do next, but all we can do is have hope. Hope has always had a very special meaning to me. Whenever I hear that word, it reminds me of something I once read: “H.O.P.E. Hold On, Pain Ends.” No matter how long we wait, everything will be okay in the end.
Regardless of what God calls us to do, we will sing in harmony with not only our voices but our lives as well. Our song can be one of hope because God promises to be with us in our professions, our joys and our troubles.
Wednesday, December 14
Advent Vespers Reflection by Adrienne Eldridge
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
In God there is hope.
Isaiah 35:5-7 My favorite season is spring. Why? Because so much has happened in the wintertime; under the ground life is hibernating, transitioning, and getting ready to spring forward. Even before signs of spring are all around, there is a sense of excitement, possibility, hope. Soon there will be little signs of life popping up through the dark and wet ground, reaching for the sky and new life.
The book of Isaiah is full of both caution and promise. In Isaiah 35:5-7 the prophet foretells the possibility of what happens when the promises of God are revealed. As humans, we forget and do not always believe it, we are caught up in the hurt and pain that keeps our eyes covered and our ears closed. Yet – there is a breakthrough from winter to spring, a possibility that brings hope to the dry deserts and sight to those who have lost their way. We are reminded of the miracles of God, and there are so many metaphors for our lives in the present day. In God there is hope.
Tuesday, December 13
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.
God will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense.
God will come and save you.’
A few years ago, when I was playing defense during my soccer game, I twisted and heard something in my knee. I knew something was wrong and I hobbled off the field. Luckily it wasn’t a tear and was a cyst, but I did need to take time off. With that time off of soccer, I learned more about how to strengthen my knee and the muscles around it, how to listen to my body about what I could do or what needed to wait. I found a new connection with my body that was deeply embodied.
God has given us this beautiful, holy body that so many of us are fearful of. We are taught to be fearful of our own body or certain kinds of bodies or ways to be in our bodies. Advent is a time to notice and listen to our own bodies as God chose to show up with us and among us in a human body through Jesus. By connecting with our bodies we can be reminded who we are and whose we are. With that reminder, we can show up for each other in ways that are rooted and with open hands and hearts for each other. Ellen Weber
Saturday, December 10
[Christ Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the f irstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Environmental degradation is evident all around us. We are on course to increase the planet’s temperature by almost 2°F by 2030 which will have devastating results. Our lives are fragile and dependent upon the wellbeing of the planet. During Advent, we not only wait for our own redemption, we also long for the redemption of the entire cosmos. In the fragile, dependent, weak, and defenseless infant Jesus, we come to see the invisible God in God’s entire fullness. This is miraculous! But, not only do we find God in the infant Jesus, we also find all things on heaven and on earth. In this infant Jesus, the invisible God is united with the visible and invisible creation. This newborn baby embodies both the divine and the cosmos. In Jesus, that which is considered “not God” is drawn into one body with God. This is a season for telling this story Jesus. But Jesus is not the reason for this season. The redemption of our entire cosmos is the reason for this season. Jeremy Myers
Jesus can regularly be heard saying “the kin-dom of heaven is like…” and then offering an image, a story, a metaphor to root this vision to a place or experience. It is like a mustard seed, a lost coin, wheat among the weeds, a treasure in clay jars, the leaven that makes bread rise. Kin-dom or reign of God are of course, in themselves a kind of metaphor that reflect the ancient context of their teacher. These metaphors speak to the audience – an agricultural community of peoples around the turn of the century – as Jesus seeks to stir the people’s imagination for the kind of world God desires them to experience and participate in.
The Riverside Innovation Hub and the congregational partners we’ve been blessed to learn alongside these past several years, have been about this kin-dom of God work too. I cannot remember ever using this language explicitly with our congregational learning communities. But what we have been talking about and working towards is cultivating more places and relationships that reflect the ways God intends for us to be and be together. We’ve been chasing after that call, one relationship at a time, one walk through our neighborhoods at a time, one story or surprise at a time.
Kin-dom metaphors may not quite fit our current context, but the idea of a front porch has caught our imagination as a helpful metaphor to encourage the relationship building work we are trying to be about. Relationships that shape stories that shape neighborhoods that look and feel a little bit more like God’s good intentions for a whole, flourishing and connected creation – one neighborhood block at a time.
On one of these neighborhood blocks – at the corner of Colfax and W 46th St. in south Minneapolis – sits Sts Luke & James Episcopal Church. Also on this corner block exists a front porch of sorts. It wasn’t always there, but a few years ago the folks from this congregation began seeking out places to listen to their neighbors and some hints of an invitation began to stir among them. Continue reading “The Kin-dom of Heaven is like a Front Porch By Kristina Frugé “