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An Evening of Discernment by Kristina Frugé

On the evening of June 28 – at Augsburg University and on the interwebs of zoom technology – the Riverside Innovation Hub Learning Community gathered folks from over a dozen congregations for a hybrid learning event. These congregational members are currently involved in RIH’s two year partnership of exploring the call to be neighbor in our places. The learning arc of this partnership includes moving through and practicing the artforms of what we call the Public Church Framework

View from above of the Chapel of the Learning Event #4 of round tables with people sitting and standing around them.The flow of this process begins with accompaniment – which is listening in relationships and in our neighborhoods without an agenda but simply to hear our neighbor’ hopes and heartaches. Teams spent a good portion of the fall and winter focused on this artform, seeking out listening posts in their neighborhoods, doing prayer walks, inviting neighbors to one-to-ones and simply bringing curiosity to the geographical places near their churches. 

Next they began wondering about those stories alongside of their core theological convictions – we call this artform interpretation. Through the winter and spring teams asked the questions: What do the things we believe to be true about God have to say about our neighbors’ stories? What do our neighbors’ stories have to say about the things we believe to be true about God? Many of them began sharing these insights with other leaders in their congregations. 

This most recent gathering on a warm evening in June marked our fourth large group gathering and the midway point of our intentional learning relationships together around this neighborhood-oriented work. We spent time reflecting with one another about what we have been learning so far in accompaniment and interpretation. We shared encouragement with one another around the challenges and impact of this work. We also introduced a third artform – discernment. This is a communal process of listening for the nudge of the Spirit towards the right next faithful step, given what we have been learning so far from our neighbors’ and God’s story.   Continue reading “An Evening of Discernment by Kristina Frugé”

Faith Practices & Neighboring Practices

The Riverside Innovation Hub at Augsburg University is just one of 115 organizations who received a grant through the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Iniativitive in 2019 and 2020. The aim of the initiative is to help congregations strengthen their ministries and thrive so they can better help people deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other and contribute to the flourishing of their communities and the world. 

People sitting around a tableOne such organization is Augsburg’s neighbor – the Minneapolis Area Synod! While our efforts are distinct, both initiatives seek to create learning communities of congregations exploring their call to be neighbor, rooted in the particularities of their faith traditions. These tandem projects also allow additional opportunities to learn from each other about this work. 

Please enjoy this contribution from our partners at the Minneapolis Area Synod – Nick Tangen and Maya Bryant – who are leading the synod’s Thriving Congregations work called, “Faith Practices & Neighboring Practices.” 

Continue reading “Faith Practices & Neighboring Practices”

Public Church Practices: One to One Relational Meeting

The Riverside Innovation Hub is a learning community made local congregations who gather together to learn how to be and become public church in their neighborhood contexts. We convene the congregations and then invite them to practice the artforms of the Public Church Framework in their contexts.

Accompaniment is the first artform of the Public Church Framework. It is the movement out into the neighborhood to hear the neighbors’ stories. In this movement, we learn to engage and listen to the neighbor for the neighbor’s sake. We’ve simplified and categorized accompaniment into four layers, or four different practices to hear the neighbors’ stories. This blog post dives into the fourth layer of accompaniment, a relational one to one.

two people talking on an outdoor bench

A One to One Relational Meeting

What is a One to One?

A one to one is an intentional, curiosity-driven conversation with someone you want to know, or get to know more deeply.  The primary purpose of a one to one conversation is to build or deepen relationships. Some of the secondary purposes of a one to one include, uncovering their interests and values, gathering information, and more clarity about themselves. Continue reading “Public Church Practices: One to One Relational Meeting”

Meet our RIH Congregational Facilitators

The Riverside Innovation Hub is excited to introduce our Congregational Facilitators who will be working directly with our 12 new partner congregations over the next two years. You can read more about each of them below.

Geoffrey Gill

Image of a smiling black man, black hair, white shirt in foreground. Green shrubs and red building in backgroundGeoffrey Gill began his ministry to youth as a youth leader for Faith Tabernacle Church, in Minneapolis. From there, he has worked with youth within the community in a variety of capacities, including working with the Youth Advisory Council for National Youth Leadership, and starting “Helping Young Men” a  nonprofit mentorship group at Central High School in St. Paul.

Geoffrey is a graduate of Augsburg University in Minneapolis, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in youth and Family Ministry. He is a certified Master Life Coach from the Best Life Coaching Society, in Fargo, ND.

Along with private coaching clients, a consulting partnership, healing and restorative justice circles, Geoffrey also works with teenage boys, who are in recovery for substance abuse.

Geoffrey is a man of God, a mentor, coach, educator and father of a wonderful son, whom he considers his number one investment, and the fire of his legacy.

Jennifer Starr Dodd

headshot of Jennifer with a building in the backgroundFor over twenty years, Jennifer Starr Dodd has been committed to building community vitality by connecting with and empowering others to be the change that they would like to see around them. Through relationship, Jennifer has been successful in this goal by turning ideas into attainable goals for the populations she is serving.

Having worked with at-risk children, youth, and young adults for 15 years, Jennifer masterfully intersects education, experience, and environment   to promote awareness, understanding, and opportunity.

Jennifer shared her expertise in curriculum development and implementation when she served as a Teacher’s Assistant at Saint Paul Public Schools, and when she facilitated a wide range of academic and enrichment classes for school districts located in Apple Valley, Rosemount, Eagan, Farmington, Lakeville, Hastings, and Washington County for REACH With Me, an educational company that merged education with enrichment to help students develop a passion for learning.

Continue reading “Meet our RIH Congregational Facilitators”

When the Work Doesn’t Come with a Manual

In training, our team of RIH facilitators reflected on the emergent and relational nature of the work ahead of us.

Because all we are about and all we hope to do is rooted in relationship, this work is inevitably unpredictable. Relationships = unpredictable!

Because this work is rooted in the uniqueness of each congregation’s context, it will inevitably take on diverse expressions in particular places. Place-based ≠ “one size fits all” approach!

child's hands building legos

Kristina compared it to her experience building Legos with her 5 year old daughter. What we would like is topick out the box of Legos on the shelf and say – “That’s what we want to build!” – and then set out to calmly and predictably move through each step of instructions. What this process is more like is the experience of a parent and child sitting down with the Legos working to create something new. It requires care, attentiveness and resourcefulness. It thrives with patience and creativity.

The work of being a public church in a life-giving relationship with the particularities of one’s neighborhood is discerned on the go, in real life, and often…one relationship at a time. There is no step by step manual (which would be nice!) But there is the promise of the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance when we create the space for relationships to be fostered that teach us how to show up faithfully as neighbor in our places.

Meet the 2021 Youth Theology Institute Mentors

Each year the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI) hires a handful of college students to be leaders for the upcoming summer institute. With the goal of developing a campus wide student leadership culture, AYTI collaborated with other organizations on campus to develop an application, interview, and training process for students interested in working leadership positions on campus. This was such a powerful witness to the ways in which Augsburg’s mission is lived out in our community.

AYTI Mentors joined Orientation Leaders, Strommen Center Peer Advisors, AugSem Leaders, and more in a semester long class for credit that served as their leadership training for their job as AYTI Mentors. In this course all students worked to develop knowledge and skills utilizing the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. This model helps students understand their individual values (consciousness of self, congruence, and commitment), the values of the group (collaboration, common purpose, and controversy with civility), and societal and community values. The class training also focused on topics such as identity, intersectionality, anti-racism and dismantling white supremacy, brave space, disability as difference, and becoming interfaith allies. All students were able to complete the Intercultural Development Inventory and reflect on the ways in which they show up as leaders in all spaces and places.

Continue reading “Meet the 2021 Youth Theology Institute Mentors”

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

Enoughness: Remember and Repent

Today’s blog post comes from the sermon that Amanda Vetsch preached on John 21:1-14 in chapel at Augsburg University on March 11th. To listen to the sermon, click the Sound Cloud audio link. The Scripture text can be found below the link and the transcript of the sermon can be found below the Scripture reading. 

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin,Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. John 21:1-14

 

I originally picked this reading because it’s one of my absolute favorite stories in the bible. It’s one I often go to to remember my “why.” 

Why I continue to show up everyday, why I do the work that I do and study the things that I study, and why I continue to hold on to a Christian Tradition and belief system that has a found itself so interwoven with white supremacy and cis-hetero-patriarchy that it sometimes hard to see, hear, and feel the gospel through all those layers. 

This story has 2 of my favorite things about the Gospel message:  

  • It’s got enoughness and it’s got food. 
    • it gets at “enoughness”  in that’s its a post-resurrection occurrence and in the huge haul of fish, more than they could even draw in
    • And food –  it shows us how simple and sacred it is to share a meal together. Also, I really love breakfast and the image of sitting on a beach eating breakfast with Jesus. How wonderful is that? 

I’m being honest, I picked this reading in the hopes that, if I picked something  that I was already pretty familiar with, it would be super easy to just slap a sermon together. As it turns out, that wasn’t the case. And I probably shouldn’t just slap something together up here. 

So as I sat with the text I just kept coming up with more questions. The questions ranged from silly to complex, like: 

  • Did a resurrected Jesus’s body really need to eat breakfast, or was he preparing it for the disciples? 
  • Why did Peter put his clothes on to jump into the water? And why was he naked? 
  • Where did the fish that Jesus was cooking before the disciples came to shore come from? 
  • Did fisher people usually sit together and eat breakfast after being out at sea? 
  • Did people on the shore usually call out to the fisherpeople and tell them where to fish or was this a weird Jesus trust thing? 
  • And my biggest question, what does it mean to practice enoughness or  a theology of abundance in the season of lent? 

While all of those questions would be fascinating to wonder about, I’m going to spend this time on the last one. So first, let me explain the pieces of that question that might be confusing and then I’ll wonder about it with you all. 

What do I mean by enoughness? 

I mean the belief that there is more than enough, that through God’s promises, we have more than enough, we are more than enough, and we can hope for a better tomorrow. I see this enoughness as a core theme throughout the whole biblical narrative, God shows unending generosity to humankind. I see it in the stories of God providing manna while the Israelites were wandering in the desert, I see it in the parables that Jesus told, especially in the story of the workers who all worked a different amount of time and got paid the same at the end of the day, and in the story of the resurrection. Death is real, and it isn’t final.

And if none of the biblical references made it any clearer, What might a theology of abundance look like in our context today:  It’s trusting that we only need the resources we will use, we don’t need to hoard hand sanitizer or soap.

So now that we have a better idea of what I mean by abundance, what do I mean by Lent?

 In many mainline Christian Traditions, we are currently in the season of Lent. That means, throughout the year, we follow the story of Jesus and right now we are at the part of the story before Jesus’ death and before Easter. This season is a time to prepare for Easter, to repent, and to remember. Many people do this by fasting. Sometimes that means fasting from food, sometimes it means fasting from something, or maybe it means adding a new spiritual habit thing in. One example is from the ELCA Young Adults is to fast from single use plastics.  This season is a season that is often somber, quiet, and simple. The invitation at the beginning of the season, on Ash Wednesday, is to remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. 

How do we hold both of these things at the same time: 

  • A belief in abundance and enoughness 
  • In a season of remembering and repentance  

Here are two ways I think we can do that. 

First, remember. Remember that there is enough. I can fast from hoarding. I can fast from fear. I can fast from hopelessness. I can fast from all of those things because I believe in a God that has, does, and will generously provide for humankind. 

Second, Repent. For me, I’m going to be better repenting  if I am rooted in God’s promises of enoughness. What does that mean? While clinging to the promise that I am beloved, I can be more open to repenting from the ways in which I have caused harm. In the ways I haven’t always been kind, the times I caused harm to the earth when there were less harmful options, the times I talked over someone else, the times I didn’t listen,  the times I consciously or unconsciously assumed my white body was more important than a black, brown, or indigenous body, the times that I remained complicit. For me, if I’m not rooted in a promise of enoughness, the invitation to repentance might actually end up as a trip and tumble into a deep pit of guilt and shame and that’s not the point of repentance. Repentance is to turn away, it is NOT to turn into myself, but to turn away from the ways that I have caused harm and remember that as a beloved Child of God I am called and freed to live in repariative ways that bring good news to my neighbor. 

And these two examples are on the individual level, what might it look like if our communities, cultures, and countries remembered and repented? So I will leave you with that, for you, What might it look like to embody a belief of enoughness in a season of remembering and repenting?

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.

Questions?

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!