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Harking Up the Wrong Tree

Abraham Bloemaert (Manner of) – Announcement to the shepherds c.1600

Angels sing “Hark!”, or at least the herald ones do. The church’s problem is that we’re singing Hark! in all the wrong places. We’re harking up the wrong tree. And Christmas is the best time for Dad Jokes.

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ (Luke 2:8-20)

These shepherds living in the fields were considered too unclean for worship in the temple. They were considered lowly peasants for sure, but their profession was also part of the problem. The religious structures of the time made it impossible for them enter God’s house.

So, it’s a pretty big deal when these lowly, dirty shepherds are the first to hear the announcement of Christ’s birth. These angels are harking up the RIGHT tree. When God makes Godself public and moves into the neighborhood, God wants the shepherds to be the first to know. The shepherds – the ones not allowed in the temple – are the first ones invited to God’s new home.

The distance between the temple and those living in the fields is only getting greater. The chasm between the church and those who are systemically cast out is only getting wider. The pandemics of COVID, systemic racism, and economic strife are felt intensely by so many right now. There are multitudes living in the fields this winter in our communities. God crosses the threshold into the lives of these who are living in the fields. The angels’ Hark! is for those living in the fields.

The good news for those of us hanging out at the temple harking up the wrong tree is that this good news of great joy is for all people (verse 10). It’s as if God knows the privileged ones will hoard the good news of great joy for themselves if they receive it first. And it will never find its way to the fields. But, this good news of great joy will truly be for ALL people if it is the lowly ones receive it first.

The Christmas story is a story of God becoming public, becoming incarnate, moving into the neighborhood. It is a story of this good news of great joy being made known publicly. We no longer need to hark up the wrong tree. The journey into to the fields with our neighbor is a journey to which we are called. When you arrive you will encounter your neighbor and the good news of great joy they share with you will leave you speechless. Your only word will be Hark!

May the incarnate Christ meet you where you are this Advent and Christmas – in the fields or in the temple – and draw you into that good news of great joy that offers the kind of hope that turns our world upside down.


Minneapolis Encampment. Photo by David Joles, Star Tribune

2019-20 Christensen Scholars Profiles

Group photo of 2019-20 Christensen Scholars with Professor Mark Tranvik

Learn more about this year’s Christensen Scholars

Joaquin I. Delgado-Ortiz ‘20

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Major: Psychology

Augsburg has shown me how to engage with my community in a way that is productive, engaging, and meaningful to its members. I choose to be a Christensen Scholar to explore my vocation through discussions revolving around academia, service, and the world.

Eh Soe Dwe ‘20

Hometown: Maplewood, Minnesota
Major: Psychology (Clinical)
Minors: Religion and Gender, Sexuality, Women’s Studies

Augsburg has challenged me to step out of my comfort zone by serving surrounding communities near Augsburg. Not only did I gain new leadership skills, but I’ve also built meaningful relationships that I can reflect on years from now. My connections with community members, students, faculty members, advisors, and staff members have taught me how to interact with people from all walks of life. Being a Christensen Scholar provides me with an opportunity to explore my faith and my vocation, two things that are constantly changing and growing.

Zoe Huebner ‘21

Hometown: Neenah, Wisconsin
Majors: Philosophy and Urban Studies
Minors: Religion and Sociology

The most important thing that I have learned at Augsburg is to put your heart into everything that you do. Not only will you get more enjoyment from the classes and activities you participate in, but so many more doors will also open to you. From doing this I have created so many connections outside of Augsburg and have surrounded myself with people with goals and aspirations that are like my own. I chose to be a Christensen Scholar because of the opportunity to discuss religious topics in a small group setting. In this setting, everyone is able to share their ideas and a true discussion can be had.

Kali Kadelbach ‘20

Hometown: Cloquet, Minnesota
Major: Theology and Public Leadership with a Concentration in Youth Studies

I’ve now been at Augsburg for three semesters and I’ve learned so much about myself, and about others.  At Augsburg, I have learned what it means to live in a community. I’ve also learned so much about different cultures and their beliefs. It also has got me thinking more about my own culture, too. I chose to become a Christensen Scholar to learn how I can help be a leader on campus and be a good role model in my community. Another reason why I chose to become a Christensen Scholar is meeting other people that are also passionate about their faith too.

Christa Kelly ‘22

Hometown: South St. Paul, MN
Major: Technical Theater Major and Directing, Dramaturgy, and Playwriting Major

I have learned a great deal about the world around us at Augsburg. Some of the most fascinating things that I have learned are about religion. Augsburg has given me insight into the religious practices and beliefs of different groups of people. Having an informed understanding of the world and the people in it helps build relationships and communities. I wanted to participate in this program to keep learning and growing both in my faith and as a person. Faith has always been a large part of my life, but as an LGBT person, it’s also been something that I’ve struggled with. It took me years to come to terms with my identity both as a Christian and a lesbian. Even now I’m bombarded with messages from the media and even family members saying that I have to choose between identifying as one or the other. This hasn’t driven me away from Christianity but has instead furthered my resolve to learn more about my religion. The Christensen Scholars Program was an opportunity for me to continue doing this.

Paul McCoyer ‘22

Hometown: Washington, DC
Major: Music Performance (B.M.)

Augsburg has taught me to be a more independent and critical thinker. I chose to be a Christensen Scholar because I wanted to discuss social and ethical issues while expanding my understanding of the world through the lens of faith and vocation.

Michael Olderr ‘20

Hometown: Honolulu Hawai’i
Majors: Computer Science and Film Production
Minor: Religion

At Augsburg, I have learned to be a well-rounded scholar as well as an individual. It has been essential in my ever-changing journey to become a better person. I became a Christensen Scholar to challenge myself to not only become a better scholar but a better Christian. So that I can better serve and guide my community.

Matt Svestka ‘20

Hometown: Northfield, Minnesota
Major: Theology and Public Leadership with a concentration in Youth Studies

I have learned the importance of creating and executing ideas for change and ministry with many diverse people at Augsburg. I am a Christensen Scholar because it allows for a place of dynamic conversation regarding theology in literature, history, the arts, and really enhances the way that I perceive God in the context that Augsburg is in.

Sadie Werlein ‘20

Hometown: Cambridge, MN
Major: Social Work

I’ve learned a lot about myself and my place in this world while being at Augsburg. I chose to be a Christensen Scholar because I wanted to make some more meaningful connections on campus and having a small group of people to have serious conversations with was something I wanted to seek out.

Amanda William ‘20

Home country: Malaysia
Major: Psychology
Minor: Gender, sexuality and women’s studies

I have learned a lot throughout the years at Augsburg. I have become more aware of my values and goals as an individual, and with the experiences and skills I have developed I would like to bring that back to my community and my people back home in Malaysia. I have initially chosen to be a part of the Christensen Scholars because it was suggested by one of my closest friends. But as I was going through the application and getting more information about it, I realized that it is a great way for me to engage in my faith and spirituality and also being critical of the current issues that are going on around Christianity in a more global context.

Public Leadership Scholar Opportunity for 2020-21

3 previous scholars with Christensen Symposium speaker

Apply to be in one of Augsburg’s three Public Leadership Scholar Programs:

Christensen Scholars – student leaders who are interested in engaging in an academic and theological exploration of vocation. New in 2020, the Christensen Scholars will engage with big questions of faith and vocation both in seminars and also through paid internships with faith-based organizations.

Interfaith Scholars –  student leaders who are interested in exploring the religious diversity of the Augsburg student body, the wider Twin Cities community, and the United States through interreligious dialogue and action. We invite religious believers from a variety of traditions as well as the non-religious to apply in order to converse respectfully with other about what you believe, why it matters, and how it propels us to action in the world.

Sabo Scholars – student leaders who have interest in engaging in civic life, studying the political process, working on public policy, and exploring careers in public service.

In these programs you will:

  • Participate in a yearlong academic seminar on Thursday nights with a cohort of your peers
  • Contribute to public leadership on campus and in the wider community in either the Christian tradition, interfaith engagement, or civic life.
  • Earn 4 upper division semester credits in the Religion or Political Science
  • Receive a $2,000 scholarship.

Who is Eligible?

  • Christensen Scholars & Interfaith Scholars – Current sophomores and juniors who plan to study on campus all of the 2020-21 academic year.
  • Sabo Scholars – Current students (any level) who plan to study on campus all of the 2020-21 academic year.

How to apply

  1. Submit the public leadership school application, indicating the program(s) for which you wish to be considered.    Public Leadership Scholars Application
  2. Request a letter of recommendation from a faculty or staff member who knows you well    Faculty or Staff Recommendation

What is the Deadline?

The application deadline has been extended to Thursday, March 12, 2020.


Contact either

Introducing Renee – AYTI Ambassador

Photo of Renee Christensen smiling.Hi! My name is Renee Christensen, and I am from Shafer, MN. I am a first year at Augsburg University, planning to double major in Clinical Psychology and Theology and Public Leadership. I was an AYTI participant in 2018 and fell in love with Augsburg! What I like most about Augsburg is the community that we have here on campus. The amazing and supportive staff and students have made this community feel like home. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be surrounded with each day! I am currently involved with Riverside Singers and Student Ministries. When I’m home, you’ll usually find me curled up with a good book, being outdoors, or snuggling with my cats. I am so grateful for this opportunity and excited to see where it takes me!

2020 Vocation Internship Opportunity

Explore Vocation while Working with a Community-oriented faith-Based nonprofit or congregation

5 images of different students

Current Augsburg Students:

  • Looking for a meaningful work experience for spring semester 2020?
  • Are you curious about how you are called to serve your neighbors?
  • Wondering about how your talents, skills, preferences, and passions can inform your career decision making?
  • Do you have initiative and want to spend time learning and intentionally reflecting on experiences with others?

If yes to all of these, we invite you to apply to be a Christensen Vocation Intern.



  • Paid Internship at a faith-based nonprofit or community-oriented congregation
  • Gain relevant work experience and mentoring
  • Reflect on experiences and assessments with a cohort of your peers
  • Duration: 8-10 hours/week, PAID internship for up to 100 hours during Spring 2020 semester
  • Current students from all majors and faith backgrounds are welcome to apply. Each site’s job description can be somewhat customized to the intern’s education and goals.

Potential Engagement/Focus Areas:

  • Community organizing
  • Youth and young adults
  • Assisting people experiencing homelessness
  • Interfaith dialogue and learning
  • Environmental justice
  • Anti-racism training/work
  • Multi-media Storytelling 
  • Public art
  • Community meal

Apply through Handshake, Augsburg’s student employment platform.

Questions about the application platform? Ask the Strommen Center for Meaningful Work,
Questions about the application process or positions? Ask the Christensen Center for Vocation, or 612-330-1403

NOTE: Priority application deadline is November 13. Then applications will be accepted on rolling basis as the positions are still available.

The Christensen Vocation Interns will be selected based on initiative and strong interest in exploring vocational discernment with a faith-based organization partner site, as well as the potential match with the available partner sites’ engagement opportunities and needs.

Meet Lonna

Lonna Field head shot Lonna Field serves as Program Associate for the Christensen Center for Vocation (CCV) at Augsburg University. Part of her role includes co-directing the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute, leading the Christensen Vocation Intern program, and supporting other programmatic and assessment development. In the 2019-20 academic year, as the CCV transitions to a new vision and structure, Lonna is specifically helping manage and steward the transition of various programming. This includes continuing to support interfaith initiatives during the launching of the Interfaith at Augsburg: An Institute to Promote Interreligious Leadership.

Lonna has worked at Augsburg University since 2009 with roles through the Lilly Grant, Campus Ministry, the Center for Faith and Learning, and now the CCV. Throughout these 10+ years, she has been deeply impacted through the opportunity to learn, share, and live out Augsburg’s mission with so many unique students, colleagues, and partners.

Lonna’s professional experience has revolved around education and youth development, previously serving as Youth Director and Education Coordinator at Redeemer Center for Life and as a Mentor Coordinator with the Boys and Girls Club at Little Earth of United Tribes. Lonna earned a Master of Arts in Leadership from Augsburg University and a BA from Wartburg College in Elementary Education and Mathematics. A native Iowan, Lonna found a love for the city—especially North Minneapolis!—through her experience in Lutheran Volunteer Corps. 

Beyond Augsburg, you can often find Lonna running, baking, organizing or volunteering at community-oriented events, making music with the Capri Big Band, or playing in various volleyball, kickball, or softball leagues. Lonna enjoys spending quality time with family, friends, and church community, and she is a proud auntie and godmother to family members in Kentucky and Florida. 

Spring Vocation Lunch with Paul Pribbenow

Augsburg Faculty and Staff, the Division of Mission invites you to attend the spring vocation lunch:

called to be a post-modern missionary

with Paul C. Pribbenow, Augsburg University President

Tuesday, April 7
12:15 p.m, – 1:25 p.m.
East Commons, Christensen Center

NOTE: This event has been postponed until Fall 2020.

Paul Pribbenow photo

Paul Pribbenow, the 10th president of Augsburg University. Since joining Augsburg in 2006, Pribbenow has enhanced the university’s role as an active community partner in its urban setting. By identifying and embracing initiatives that mutually benefit Augsburg and its neighbors, the university has achieved national recognition for its excellence in service learning and experiential education. President Pribbenow also has become a leader among the 26 colleges and universities of the ELCA, helping to articulate the gifts shaping and supporting Lutheran higher education in the 21st century.

Under his leadership, Augsburg has changed its name from Augsburg College to Augsburg University, recognizing its expansive academic mission serving undergraduate and graduate students on campus and at locations around the world. Augsburg’s Board of Regents was awarded the 2017 John W. Nason Award for Board Leadership for efforts including initiating an inclusive, five-year strategic planning effort and leading the institution’s largest-ever capital campaign. President Pribbenow played a key role in Augsburg’s most successful capital campaign, which raised more than $55 million to construct the Norman and Evangeline Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, which opened January 2018. To read more, please visit


President Pribbenow holds a bachelor’s degree (1978) from Luther College (Iowa) and a master’s degree (1979) and doctorate (1993) in social ethics from the University of Chicago. He received the Distinguished Service Award at Luther College in 2008.


The Mission and Identity Vocation Lunch is an event that strengthens the concept of vocation at Augsburg for faculty and staff by providing role models from within the community to share a presentation on their sense of call and life journey.

Fall Vocation Lunch with Katie Clark

Augsburg Faculty and Staff, the Division of Mission invites you to attend the fall vocation lunch:

Who Gives You Light? 

with Katie Clark, Assistant Professor and Director of Augsburg Central Health Commons

Friday, November 22, 2019
11:15 a.m, – 12:25 p.m.
East Commons, Christensen Center

Katie Clark with her husband and 3 children

Kathleen ‘Katie’ Clark has been teaching in the Department of Nursing since 2009 and serves as the Director of the Augsburg Central Health Commons (ACHC). Her teaching focuses on issues of social justice, health inequities, and civic engagement.  During her time in the department, Katie has designed various courses in an immersion format that allows students to gain insight first-hand from people living in the margins while learning skills of transcultural nursing as well as teaching in more traditional formats.  In 2011, in partnership with two other local non-profits, Katie launched the Health Commons in Cedar-Riverside. Before coming to Augsburg, Katie worked for eight years as a nurse at University of Minnesota Medical Center – East Bank in both oncology hematology and the medical intensive care unit.  She has traveled to 20 different countries and participated in many local volunteer programs, such as the Bridge for Youth and Higher Ground. Currently, Katie lives with her husband and three children in the town of Stillwater.


  • D.N.P. in Transcultural Leadership: Augsburg University (2014)
  • M.A.N. with a Transcultural Nursing Emphasis: Augsburg University (2010)
  • B.S.N: University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire (2002)

Please note: Guests are also invited (but not required) to bring a donation of socks or other items to the Health Commons as part of this event. Learn more about items needed (or consider making an online donation) at

The Mission and Identity Vocation Lunch is an event that strengthens the concept of vocation at Augsburg for faculty and staff by providing role models from within the community to share a presentation on their sense of call and life journey.

Introducing our 2019-20 AYTI Ambassador, Grace P

Photo of Grace P sitting at a table laughing

Hi! My name is Grace Porter (pronouns She/Her/Hers), and I am a second year studying Theology and Public Leadership with a concentration in Youth Studies and a Minor in Music here at Augsburg University. It sounds like a lot but it really just means that I love working with kids, my faith, and music! Speaking of my faith, I am currently a student deacon working with Student Ministries on campus and using my love of music in choir and in the campus a cappella group, Convocadence! You might recognize me as mentor Gracie from AYTI 2019; fun fact, I was also a participant in AYTI 2017! If you can’t tell, I love this program, and Augsburg University. I also love musical theater and exploring new places, and I am the annoyingly positive person who can get up with the sun 🙂

Photo of Grace P standing on a bench outside Photo of Grace P standing outside with skyscrapers in the background

2019 Christensen Symposium

Headshot photos of Dr. Hamdy and Bishop Younan next to presentation title "Suffering and Hope in the Midst of Conflict"Thursday, October 3
11 AM – 12 PM
Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center


  • Hamdy El-Sawaf, founder and psychotherapist at the Family Counseling Center and imam of Masjid Al-Iman in Minneapolis
  • Munib Younan, retired bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and former president of the Lutheran World Federation

Hamdy El-Sawaf and Munib Younan will share personal experiences and their religious faith perspectives on hope, reconciliation, and resiliency in the midst of suffering and struggles that often are intensified by religious convictions and differences.

About the Christensen Symposium:

Each year, the Christensen Symposium provides the opportunity to explore and apply the lessons rooted in former Augsburg President Bernhard M. Christensen’s legacy:

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

The 2019 Christensen Symposium is co-sponsored by the Christensen Center for Vocation and the newly created Interfaith at Augsburg: An Institute to Promote Interreligious Leadership.

Note: This session may be audio recorded. If you would like to be alerted as soon as the audio is available, please email

For requests related to accommodations at the Symposium, email or call 612-330-1104.