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Identifying Your Key Theological Claims

Written by Jeremy Myers

When teaching college students how to think theologically, I often hear them say, “I don’t know if I can think theologically because I’m not really even sure what my key beliefs are.” What follows is a process I have used many times when helping high school students, college students, and adults become more aware of the key theological claims that shape how they understand and interpret life. You can go through this process on your own, with a partner, or with a group. If doing with others, find moments when you can share what you are writing with one another and offer feedback to each other. 


Candle on a table in the sun with a group of people and a small table blurred out in the background. Brainstorming Your Core Beliefs

  1. Using index cards, post-its, or small slips of paper, write down all the biblical stories and lessons that are important to you. Write one per piece of paper. Leave room on each piece of paper to add more later.
  2. Continue to use index cards, post-its, or slips of paper and now write all the things you have been taught about God that are most important to you – attributes of God, things God does, things God doesn’t do, how God does things, why God does things, etc. Again, write only one on each piece of paper and leave room on each piece for more writing later.
  3. On each piece of paper write a brief description of why that particular biblical story, biblical lesson, or belief about God is important to you.

Continue reading “Identifying Your Key Theological Claims”

Faith in Action: Reflecting God’s Relational Essence

A round table of a team during our last learning community looking down at their prayer walk. "I have been trying to figure out this whole time what our project would be at the end of this, but I’m realizing…Relationships are The Project... Alice in our RIH Learning Community"In between our learning events, our facilitators Geoffrey and Brenna spend time with the congregations in cohorts. We asked Brenna and Geoffrey to reflect what they are hearing and experiencing with their learning cohorts.

Brenna’s Reflection

As we journey together through our season of accompaniment, our teams are learning a lot about their neighbors and what it means to be a public church. In our March cohort meeting we heard stories of engaging with schools, local police, members in our congregations, and local pastors from other churches. Our teams have begun to explore their neighborhoods on prayer walks and they’ve been meeting in local coffee shops and restaurants to listen and learn. They’ve engaged in public forums and local events and even attended Iftar dinners with their Muslim neighbors. Their curiosity and love for their neighbors is growing and it culminated in an exciting moment at our March cohort meeting where one of our team members interrupted the sharing time with an epiphany, “I have been trying to figure out this whole time what out project would be at the end of this, but I’m realizing…Relationships Are The Project”. They’re starting to catch it, knowing and loving your neighbor is the whole goal.

Geoffrey’s Reflection

Continue reading “Faith in Action: Reflecting God’s Relational Essence”

Look Around!

Uncovering Vocation Series

Uncovering Vocation is a partnership between Campus Ministry and the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University. Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, a member of the Augsburg community is invited to share a component of their vocation story. It has become a way of building community, becoming reacquainted with one another, and celebrating the diversity of people and vocations that make Augsburg University the beautiful place it is.


Our most recent Uncovering Vocation talk was given on Tuesday April 9, 2024 by Dr. Kristen Chamberlain from our department of Communication Studies, Film, and New Media. Kristen earned her PhD in Communication Studies from North Dakota State University in 2007. She has been teaching a variety of classes as part of the Department of Communication Studies, Film, and New Media since the fall of 2007. Kristen is particularly passionate about environmental communication and has identified as an environmentalist since 9th grade. She is also always ready to talk about the media, favorite books, and cats.


A reading from The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker

“‘Pay attention,’ Susan Sontag once advised a young audience; she was speaking of the creative process, but also of living. ‘It’s all about paying attention. It’s all about taking in as much of what’s out there as you can, and not letting the excuses and the dreariness of some of the obligations you’ll soon be incurring narrow your lives. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.’

To stay eager, to connect, to find interest in the everyday, to notice what everybody else overlooks—these are vital skills and noble goals. They speak to the difference between looking and seeing, between hearing and listening, between accepting what the world presents and noticing what matters to you.”

Is anyone else in here familiar with the movie masterpiece “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”?

In the movie, Ferris famously says:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Of course, he then skips school, picks up his bestie, and then forces said bestie to commit an act of fraud so that they can get Ferris’ girlfriend out of school. The fraud includes borrowing his bestie’s dad’s Ferrari, which they proceed to take into downtown Chicago for an adventure.

The story of my vocation journey doesn’t include any of those things… sorry to disappoint. But it does include the importance of stopping, looking around, and thinking about the ways that you choose to spend your time.

I always knew that I was interested in communication and media. I have always loved visual media – especially television and movies. I’ve also always enjoyed speaking in front of others. I gave my first public speech when I was in 7th grade. I joined the speech team in 8th grade and even won a state championship when I was in 11th grade. When I started college I thought I was going to be the next Katie Couric. Shortly after starting my first class on media writing I realized that having to interview people for a living was a special kind of nightmare for me. The desire to be a journalist was born from passion, but it was the passion of an analyst, an observer, not the passion of a professional. I already had passion for my profession, but I had not yet noticed it.

In fact, I have only recently realized that my vocation has been a common thread throughout my life. When my kids were old enough to start Sunday School, I volunteered to teach my daughter’s Sunday School class. I did that for several years. Then, right before the pandemic, the person who had been the director of the Sunday School stepped down. No one else volunteered to step into the role, so I said I would do it. For awhile, I told myself that I did it because no one else would. But when I stopped to think about it, I realized that I very happily avoid volunteering for all sorts of things.

Continue reading “Look Around!”

The Intersection of Passion and Purpose: A Vocation Story

Uncovering Vocation Series

Uncovering Vocation is a partnership between Campus Ministry and the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University. Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, a member of the Augsburg community is invited to share a component of their vocation story. It has become a way of building community, becoming reacquainted with one another, and celebrating the diversity of people and vocations that make Augsburg University the beautiful place it is.


This week’s Uncovering Vocation talk is given by Jennifer Butler, Augsburg University’s Director of Multicultural Life. Jennifer is a lifelong collector of stories, an advocate for inclusive excellence and equity, and an educator. For years, Jennifer has worked with students to help sharpen their ideas and advocacy skills. Jennifer recognizes that success as a student comes both inside and outside of the classroom and purposefully works to support underrepresented communities as they navigate higher education. Trained as a social scientist, Jennifer strongly believes in empowering through the framework of self-efficacy and hopes to instill in those around her a steadfast belief in their capability to succeed. She is committed to practicing humility, developing understanding, and promoting an inclusive campus. She received her Ph.D. in Asia Pacific Studies from National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan, where she focused on financial behaviors, financial literacy, and self-efficacy. Jennifer is passionate about the role of student services and the unique levels and layers of support students need.


Good morning, when I was emailed about potentially speaking in one of Jeremy’s vocation chapels, I thought there were so many unique and great stories to share here at Augsburg that the odds of me speaking anytime soon were quite slim.

Jokes on me, he asked in December and here we are in March!
I’ll be honest, when I started thinking about this chapel, I googled “what is vocation”

And while the results of my Google search didn’t really clarify things, I remembered from my time working at the College of Business and Analytics at Southern Illinois University this concept of “ikigai” that expresses

  1. Find what you’re good at.
  2. Find what you love to do.
  3. Find what you can get paid for.
  4. Find what the world needs.

So today, I’m going to hurry us through my journey of finding. Continue reading “The Intersection of Passion and Purpose: A Vocation Story”

Accompaniment – Listening Posts

The Riverside Innovation Hub is a learning community made of local congregations who gather together to learn how to be and become public church in their neighborhood contexts. We convene congregations over two years together, shaped by learning and practicing the artforms of the Public Church Framework in each congregation’s unique context.

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 different practices that help us hear our neighbors’ stories. This blog post dives into the third layer accompaniment, engaging listening posts. 

You can also read more about the other three layers – Understanding Demographic Data and Prayer Walks in the Neighborhood


Listening Posts

Written by Kristina Fruge

Listening posts might just be my favorite element of accompaniment. As someone who is an introvert at heart, but who also prefers to spend the energy I do have on relationships, listening posts offer a soft landing for accompaniment to begin. Listening posts provide an invitation to be fully present and curious about new surroundings while also creating the potential of connections with neighbors in big and small ways. 

A listening post is the term we use to describe the locations that people naturally convene or gather in a neighborhood. This might include the local coffee shop, the ball fields during the summer, a local YMCA, neighborhood association meetings, the local community garden, the town grocery store, the dog park, or even a neighborhood gas station. Your particular context likely has other types of listening posts not on this list, but the common thread is that they function as a sort of hub for people who live, work, worship, pass through or play in that neighborhood to gather and connect. AND, they are great places for listening. Listening posts blend together opportunities for noticing desolation and consolation, as we do in the prayer walks, but also can open doors for one-to-one conversations with neighbors. 

Here is some advice to help you explore the listening posts in your neighborhood. Here is a pdf version of the listening post information that you can print out to share! 

Continue reading “Accompaniment – Listening Posts”

Apply Now! Invite Your Youth to Join Us at The Confluence, June 23rd-28th, 2024

Mentors and Confluence staff at the end of the week celebration

Apply Now! Invite your youth to join us at The Confluence, June 23rd-28th, 2024

Written by Gretchen Roeck

Do you know a high school student who is trying to figure out who they are and what kind of life they want to live? Invite them to attend The Confluence

The Confluence at Augsburg University is a week where high schoolers are invited to explore their vocation — that space where their personal story, God’s story and the world’s story converge. 

Invite the youth you know to our weeklong, on-campus, summer program for high school students who have completed 9th-12th grades. 

Students will learn through:

– vocational discernment

– meaningful peer relationships  

– experiential learning with local leaders and organizations in the TwinCities

– personal reflection and discernment

– small group conversation led by current Augsburg student mentors

– spiritual practices and daily worship

– theological inquiry and study with Augsburg professor, Dr. Jeremy Myers. 

The group at the overlook over the Mississippi River.We hope to reach curious youth who want to live purposefully in relationship with their neighbors, orientated to God’s vision of a just and sustainable world for all. Questions and doubts are welcome. 

Cost: $400/participant. Participants are responsible for transportation to and from Augsburg University. 

Apply now at: https://www.augsburg.edu/confluence/join-us-this-summer/

Application Deadline: May 15th

Augsburg Scholarship Opportunity:  Students who attend The Confluence and decide to attend Augsburg University as a full-time student will receive a minimum of $20,000 applied to their financial aid package for up to four years.

 

Questions? 

Please contact Gretchen Roeck, Program Director

roeck@augsburg.edu

612-330-1412

augsburg.edu/confluence

Accompaniment Event Reflection

Written by facilitators Brenna and Geoffrey

In late January we hosted our learning event focused on the Artform of Accompaniment. Brenna and Geoffrey reflect below on lessons and learnings from that event. 

Trust the Process: A Journey of Connection and Transformation

This past January, a gathering took place at Augsburg University, marking the beginning of an extraordinary journey for our congregations. We embarked on a path to explore and embody the art of accompaniment, a journey aimed at not just knowing about the neighbor, actually knowing the neighbor, and unraveling a new way of being church in the world.

The Essence of Accompaniment

Accompaniment, the first of four art forms we dive into, challenges us to not just know about our neighbors but to actually really know them—to see their essence. This deep understanding is fundamental, setting the stage for the upcoming art forms of interpretation, discernment, and proclamation. Our learning event was more than an educational endeavor; it was an invitation to transform how we interact and perceive the people around us. Continue reading “Accompaniment Event Reflection”

Making a lot of this up as I go Along

Uncovering Vocation Series

Uncovering Vocation is a partnership between Campus Ministry and the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University. Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, a member of the Augsburg community is invited to share a component of their vocation story. It has become a way of building community, becoming reacquainted with one another, and celebrating the diversity of people and vocations that make Augsburg University the beautiful place it is.


This week’s Uncovering Vocation talk is given by Jenean Gilmer. Jenean holds a B.A. in Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature and a Master of Heritage Studies & Public History from the University of Minnesota. She is invested in building collaborative projects and partnerships that deepen our understanding of one another, the communities we live in, and the land that we live on. She has previously worked with the Minnesota Historical Society, the Sioux Chef, A Public History of 35W, Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis, and the Urban Farm & Garden Alliance in Saint Paul’s Rondo and Frogtown neighborhoods. Jenean builds relationships on and off campus that create learning opportunities for students and provide support to community partners in Cedar-Riverside and beyond.


If you happened to catch my last Chapel Talk, you already know that I am deeply suspicious of the word, “vocation.” The great source of knowledge for our time, Wikipedia, tells us, 

“Use of the word “vocation” before the sixteenth century referred firstly to the “call” by God to an individual…more specifically to the “vocation” of the priesthood, or to religious life, which is still the usual sense in Roman Catholicism which recognizes marriage, religious, and ordained life as the three vocations. Martin Luther, followed by John Calvin, placed a particular emphasis on vocations, or divine callings, as potentially including most secular occupations.”

My suspicions arise largely from the coevolution of Protestantism and capitalism, wherein work and the accumulation of wealth take on a spiritual significance, the roots of which deeply inform the way we think of wealth, worth, and work today. When I read Max Weber’s, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, while a student at the U, it was REVEALATORY. It helped me make sense of myself in a way that I might not have otherwise. 

By the time I was about six years old, we stopped going to church. In Sunday school I asked too many questions and was sent outside while the class continued without me, meant to think about how disruptive I was, about my badness. Mom was pretty pissed about this. Regardless, I continued to say my prayers at night and I was raised with Christian values and an encompassing sense of the importance of a good work ethic. To learn how deeply intertwined these concepts are, particularly in U.S. American culture, is to understand that worth, work and wealth are, in many ways, one and the same. 

I learned this consciously from reading Weber, but knew it intimately from my lived experience. I come from a long line of poor people. I was born to an unwed, teenage mother in a small town in rural Minnesota, in the hot summer of 1977. I was adopted by my grandparents when I was two years old. Shortly after, we moved out of that town to the country outside of Zimmerman.  Continue reading “Making a lot of this up as I go Along”

Give Your Gifts Freely by Dr. Jennifer Diaz (Education)

Uncovering Vocation Series

Uncovering Vocation is a partnership between Campus Ministry and the Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg University. Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, a member of the Augsburg community is invited to share a component of their vocation story. It has become a way of building community, becoming reacquainted with one another, and celebrating the diversity of people and vocations that make Augsburg University the beautiful place it is.

One morning about a month ago, as I was running around the house, getting everyone ready for school, when my 3.5 year old son drew an almost perfect circle on a leather stool with a bright red, permanent marker. When I came in the room he pointed to it with the marker and said, “I did not do this.” I frantically told him: We only draw on paper. And asked him repeatedly, “why did you do that?” He responded with tears, apologies, and a smirky 3 year old smile that told me he was both sorry and not sorry. I don’t think I will ever know “why” he did it but I imagine he got the idea and he couldn’t NOT draw the bright red circle while no one was looking. It was a little bit brave and I think he knew it. He definitely took a risk with his selection of media. But he went for it. 

After scrubbing the chair with nail polish remover, I crouched down next to him and said, “That was a very beautiful circle. Next time, please draw it on paper”. 

I tell this story because I believe in the idea that everyone and everything is a teacher. The story of the red circle is funny and playful (in hindsight of course) and it is also a statement about how I try to understand what each moment is teaching me. And what I am teaching others through my life and work.  Continue reading “Give Your Gifts Freely by Dr. Jennifer Diaz (Education)”

2023 Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium

The Purpose Gap

Dr. Patrick Reyes, Dean of Auburn Seminary

The Christensen Symposium

The Christensen Symposium and the Christensen Center for Vocation were both established to honor the legacy of Dr. Christensen, the 8th president of Augsburg University who served from 1938-1962. His legacy was one of critical inquiry and genuine hospitality. We have drawn these lessons from that legacy which still shape our work.

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

It is my hope that you will hear echoes of Dr. Christensen’s lessons in Dr. Reyes’ presentation.

Dr. Patrick Reyes

Image of Dr. Patrick Reyes.Dr. Patrick Reyes currently serves as the Dean of Auburn Seminary in New York City.

He is a Chicano writer, theologian, and executive leader and the award-winning author of The Purpose Gap and Nobody Cries When We Die. Prior to his current position he was the Senior Director of Learning Design for the Lilly Endowment’s Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) where he provided strategy and direction for their diverse programs, grants, and teams supporting the next generation of leaders. In addition, he led the historic fellowships supporting scholars of color, the Institutional Doctoral Network, and partnerships in theological and higher education.

He is a peer among public theologians and deeply respected among faith and justice leaders and funders. He is the current Board President of the Religious Education Association and serves as the Co-Dean of the Freedom Seminary for the Children’s Defense Fund, offering an immersive experience for diverse seminary students from across the country to engage and cultivate prophetic voices with communities on the margins.

Patrick provides leadership on several boards in theological and higher education, publications, and the nonprofit sector, supporting the next generation of Black, Indigenous, and Chicano spiritual and cultural leaders. In the last decade, he has been recognized for his service and scholarship by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Boston University, Claremont School of Theology, Drew University, Children’s Defense Fund, Hispanic Theological Initiative, Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy, and others.

Patrick was also recently inducted into the Morehouse College MLK Jr. Collegium of Scholars. He lives in New Mexico, where he and his family embrace the cultural and religious traditions and communities they have inherited. Continue reading “2023 Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium”