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Introducing our new Program Director for The Confluence: Gretchen Roeck!

Headshot of Gretchen in front of a colorful backgroundGretchen Roeck is passionate about inviting youth to engage, critically examine and discern their gifts and call in the world. She loves empowering youth and young adults to be leaders in their own lives and communities. She dreams of building communities of people who are fully alive, connected and invested in one another’s flourishing. 

Gretchen joined the Christensen Center for Vocation team in January 2024 as the Program Director for The Confluence. The Confluence is CCV’s summer institute for high school students, offering youth an opportunity to engage in vocational discernment by exploring the ways their own story merges with God’s story and the world’s story. Gretchen is excited to be a part of the CCV team and their work to inspire and equip people of faith to creatively orient their lives and work around Jesus’ call to be neighbor. 

In addition to her work with The Confluence, Gretchen is a Priest in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. She leads Children’s Ministry at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, and is the chaplain at Circle of the Beloved, an intentional living community for young adults in North Minneapolis. Gretchen spent the last five years serving as the Priest and Internship Director at the University Episcopal Community, a campus ministry for young adults across the Twin Cities. Her ministry has been focused on children, youth and young adults –inviting them into a relationship with God, fostering their personal growth, walking alongside them and guiding young people in their spiritual and vocational journeys. She is committed to building and sustaining safe, inclusive and welcoming communities that lead towards health and wholeness for individuals and their broader communities. 

Creating safe, supportive and loving spaces extends into Gretchen’s personal life. She is the mother of two fun and creative boys, Elliott and Abraham, ages 10 and 6. Together they share a home in Minneapolis with Brigid the dog, and George and Molly, the cats.

A Much Needed Reminder

Shared by Ellen Weber

At a recent vocation chapel, our speaker shared this blessing as an opening reading. It was lovely and a much needed reminder. 

May we continue to show up true to who we are. 

May we remember that the small ordinary moments are worth blessing. 

That the small things that you do every day matter. 

That we each are worthy of love and no resolution will make us more worthy. 

May it inspire us to continue to work together towards justice, not to earn worthiness, but because we understand that we are in this life together. That we are called by our faith to show up as neighbor with an open heart and open arms reminding those that they matter and demanding that the world see it too. 

A New Year’s Blessing for realists by Nadia Bolz-Weber. 

As you enter this new year, as you pack away the Christmas decorations and get out your stretchy pants, Continue reading “A Much Needed Reminder”

Neighbor, Beloved Child of God, You Matter

Written by Kristina Frugé 

Wrapping up a season of orientation 

As we wrap up the calendar year of 2023, our RIH learning community is concluding its first season of work – the season of orientation. These first few months of gathering, learning and connecting have been saturated with lots of new ideas, invitations and challenges. I may have heard one or two folks describe this season feeling as though we’ve been drinking from a fire hydrant – a fair way to describe it. However, our intention has been to zoom out in this season and look at the journey ahead from the 30,000 foot perspective. We have been aiming to offer an overview of a new map of sorts.  We believe this map will help our learning community of folks explore God’s call to them in this present moment of our changing world. 

Kristina staring out to the trees and land below from a mountain.For many of us in congregations, we’ve been working off of older tried and true maps to help us get our bearings and shape our ministries. Those maps may have been more reliable in previous times. However, the landscape of the world we live in and its challenges has shifted significantly in recent decades. These shifts have only intensified in recent years…the global health crisis of Covid 19, a racial uprising in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, increased economic insecurities, a growing mental health crisis, increasing impacts of our global climate crisis, war and violence, just to name a few.  The list of hurts, heartaches and fears in the world and in our own lives is overwhelming. The church has been deeply impacted by this increasingly unpredictable landscape. But also,  we are a people rooted in a story that is rooted in love and whose fruits are intended to bring healing, nourishment and wholeness to God’s creation. This means that while the church attends to its own struggles, it is simultaneously holding a particular call to help respond to the bad news being generated daily in our communities and around the globe. 

We need new maps. And we need to cultivate different orienteering skills that help us show up in the world looking for and aligned with God’s vision for flourishing and mending in our places. Our season of orientation has attempted to offer some insights on these new maps to inform the journey we intend to pursue together, each in our unique corners of this map…on the ground, from within our congregations’ local neighborhoods.  Continue reading “Neighbor, Beloved Child of God, You Matter”

Advent Vespers Devotional by Jeremy Myers

Monday, December 4th “All Who Love and Serve Your City,” v. 1-3

All who love and serve your city, all who bear its daily stress, all who cry for peace and justice, all who curse and all who bless,

In your day of loss and sorrow, in your day of helpless strife, honor, peace, and love retreating, seek the Lord, who is your life.

Risen One, shall yet the city be the city of despair? Come today, our judge, our glory. Be its name “The Lord is there!”– Text: Erik Routley

Those who love and serve their city know their city. How well do you know your city, or the area in which you live your life? This might not be an actual city. Maybe it’s a neighborhood, or a town, or an apartment complex. Do you love it? Do you bear its daily stress? Do you cry for peace and justices in its streets and hallways? Do you find yourself both cursing and blessing this community where you and so many others live their lives? I imagine the answer to all of these questions is a resounding, “yes!” Our neighborhoods are the places where we make our first friends, where we have our first kiss, where we learn, and play, and fight. Our neighborhoods are where we fall in love, raise our families, share meals, and watch each other’s backs. There are gardens in our neighborhoods. There are bones in our neighborhoods. There is turmoil in our neighborhoods. There are peacemakers in our neighborhoods. Do you love and serve your city? Do you know your city? Walk your city today, or take a ride through it, with the words of this hymn in your ears. Keep your eyes wide open because you learn that the Lord is there! Right there in the city you call home.

Transforming From Within: Reflections from Cohorts

A drop of water in a lake or river rippling out. Ducks and an eagle are in the horizon along with the sun set. Trees are red and brown along the sides. Geoffrey’s Reflection

Peace friends,

So far, in our shared journey of faith and community, an essential truth emerged: real change begins within. As Lauryn Hill insightfully puts it, “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?” This feels like it resonates as a deep undercurrent with our congregations’. .

We’re on a mission, not just to extend our sacred influence into the neighborhood but to first cultivate it within our own teams. It’s a process of aligning our hearts and minds, ensuring our internal compass is set towards genuine humanity.

This isn’t just about strategy; it’s about soul-searching. We’re engaging deeply with each other, understanding that to truly touch our neighborhood, we must first be united and aligned in our purpose and vision.

As we undertake this internal journey, we’re igniting a transformation that extends beyond our walls. We’re becoming the change we want to see, equipped to be sacred spaces in our neighborhood’s story, whether it’s filled with joy or echoes with grief.

This path we’re embarking on is and will be progressively challenging, yet incredibly rewarding. As we align within, our capacity to impact our neighborhoods grows exponentially. We’re not just changing – we’re evolving, ready to make a real ripple in the world around us.


Brenna’s Reflection

October brought the first of many cohort meetings for this round of the Riverside Innovation Hub journey. We met at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington, sharing in the rich history and context of their space. We heard their team members tell stories of teen lock-ins and Sunday school classes held in the room where we met from multiple generations in the past to today. Over the next year, each of our congregations will get a chance to host a cohort meeting in their space so that we can all get a taste of their place and story as we build relationships together. Continue reading “Transforming From Within: Reflections from Cohorts”

The Journey Begins…

Written by Brenna Zeimet

Overhead view of the chapel space with 3 people on the stage for a panel and the audience at round tables. On September 16th church leaders from across the country gathered in person and via zoom to embark on a two year journey towards becoming vital neighbors in their communities. Riverside Innovation Hub launched three cohorts of churches, two of them composed of local congregations from the Minneapolis/St Paul metro area, and one distance cohort that will meet online with congregations from Oregon, Massachusetts, and rural Minnesota. We’re inspiring the flourishing of our neighbors from coast to coast!

Cohort participants got the opportunity to learn from our own Jeremy Myers about the Art of Becoming Public Church; diving deep into the cultural impacts of postmodernism, church outreach models, and what our neighbors want and need from us in our post-pandemic world. Jeremy helped our congregations think through what the public church framework is and why it is important to engage our neighbors in a different way than the Church has before.

Next our congregations explored their “why” with the help of our program director, Kristina Fruge. She walked through what it means to engage in “place based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good”, and then invited congregations to talk about their own places and the common good they long to work for in their particular public squares. Congregations also heard from each of our staff members about our own personal “why” that drives us to do this work of investing in our neighbors and building relationships for the flourishing of others. Over lunch, cohorts talked with each other about their personal “why” and began to build relationships with the co-laborers that will walk beside them on this journey. Continue reading “The Journey Begins…”

The Journey of Forming Learning Communities with New Congregations

Written by Geoffrey Gill

a seedling emerging from the soil with the sunshine shining in the background.This year has been a remarkable journey as I’ve engaged with new congregations, forming fresh learning communities. What makes it even more special is the contrast to the previous year when many of these structures were already in place. Now, I find myself in the unique position of shaping the very fabric of our community.

Meeting and getting to know these congregations has been a profound joy. Many resonate with the importance of being active neighbors and are receptive to reimagining their role within the broader church and community. This eagerness for transformation shines through, and it fills me with hope.

A recent podcast touched on grounding ourselves in the present to experience the fullness of God’s presence. In that sacred space, we tap into wisdom and the fruits of the spirit. This message resonated deeply with me, mirroring the longing I perceive in our congregations to evolve, build bridges, and courageously traverse them.

However, the journey isn’t without its challenges. The weighty topics of racial healing, restoration, and confronting prejudice can be difficult. These conversations can sometimes be met with resistance or unease. Yet, the silver lining is the willingness of many to delve into these issues, recognizing their gravity.

A central belief that guides me is that we are combating deep-seated evils that exist beyond mere human conflicts. This battle requires divine guidance and an inward transformation. The biblical message, “the truth shall make you free,” resonates here. True liberation comes from an internal shift, a spiritual renewal.

Much of our work is about showing up, being present, and immersing ourselves in the transformative power of the spirit. Through art forms, we have a medium to interpret the spirit’s movements, allowing for inward transformation. This is an ineffable process, one that’s difficult to articulate. But once clarity emerges, we are called to act, share, and continue the cycle of reflection and action.

In connecting with these congregations, I’ve been moved by their willingness to venture into the unknown, confront their perceptions, and reimagine their worldviews. Despite initial discomfort, there’s an evident zeal and anticipation for the journey ahead.

The Art of Building Relationships: Reflections on Establishing New Congregations

Written by Lead Facilitator, Geoffrey Gill

Embarking on new relationships can be a thrilling yet unnerving venture. A whirlwind of questions swirl around in the caverns of my mind: Will they appreciate my eccentricities, or will they view them as a red flag? What if they find me lacking in some way? These daunting thoughts threaten to consume me, yet in a moment of clarity, I understand what truly lies at the heart of this journey – the stories.

a typewriter with the words "the beginning.." zoomed in onAt the inception of each relationship, there lies a narrative waiting to be unfolded. Each person carries with them a unique anthology of experiences, thoughts, and perspectives. These individual stories form the intricate web of human connections, fostering empathy and understanding as we delve deeper into the pages of each other’s lives.

The sacred spaces we create for these stories to flourish is where relationships truly take root. Spaces where judgment is silenced, where authenticity thrives, and where our inhibitions can be set free. In these spaces, we can dare to expose our vulnerabilities, and in the process, foster connections that hold the potential to transform not just us as individuals, but our neighborhoods as well.

As I stand at the precipice of forging new bonds, I embrace the nervous anticipation that accompanies the start of this narrative journey. I may not know what lies ahead, but I have faith in the power of our shared stories. In this space, I can shed my anxieties, leave the apprehension behind, and simply dive into the fascinating world of interconnected lives, one story at a time.

As we venture forth into this process of establishing new congregations, it’s not just about the end result. It’s about the journey, the shared experiences, and most importantly, it’s about every story that weaves us closer together.

The beginning of new relationships is indeed a bit scary, but it’s also incredibly exciting. Because in this journey, we don’t just empower congregations; we build narratives, communities, and ultimately, we build each other.”

Kristina’s Corner: Spring Thaw

Series Description:

Kristina’s Corner is a collection of stories that come out of my own lived experiences as a neighbor in the Longfellow Community of South Minneapolis. They are stories of connection, stories of learning and stories of place. They come out of an effort – sometimes intentional but often accidental – to pay attention to the beauty, the pain and the complexity of our human experience, right here in this little corner of the universe I inhabit. Writing about these stories helps me deepen my roots in this place while also expanding my curiosity about what God is up to here and what that means for how I am called to show up and be a neighbor. In sharing these stories, I hope they invite the reader into a similar curiosity about God’s call to you, rooted in your place.


Spring Thaw

Written by Kristina Frugé 

A flyer on a light post that is of a painted white flower in a blue vase. Small moments can matter in big ways. I find this to be good news. Our days are filled with small moments, many of them pass by insignificantly. Sometimes though, we catch on to them. Sometimes, they give us a glimpse into something beyond ourselves – a truth, an idea, a comfort, a wake up call, an invitation…

I want to share a story about two small moments that collided into an important invitation for me. 

Moment One

Just a handful of months ago, spring was fighting its way through a long snowy winter here in South Minneapolis. As a lifelong Minnesotan, I know how to enjoy the winter season. But winter tends to outstay its hype in my opinion. People talk about the detrimental impacts of the lack of sunshine and vitamin D in the wintertime and its effect on people’s mental health. But the longevity of the cold encourages a lack of connection with other humans as well. This deficiency is also unhealthy I believe.  We lose some of our social ability in the winter, finding it easier to stay cloistered and quiet. And when we do go out in public, we have permission to stay hidden under layers of warm winter gear. It takes way more energy to make eye contact let alone engage in conversation with a passerby. At least, this is how it goes for me. 

I bundled up on a Saturday morning to pick up some groceries at the store. As I wandered up and down the aisles of produce, pasta and cereal, I was startled by a small child in a shopping cart, parked temporarily near the breakfast foods. His eyes peeked out from under his blue and green striped winter hat and he locked his gaze with mine. He kept focused eye contact with me, craning his head to the side as his dad moved their cart further down the aisle away from my location by the oatmeal. But just before they turned the corner and we fully parted ways, his face broke into a toothy dimpled grin. I gave a little wave as he carted out of view.  Continue reading “Kristina’s Corner: Spring Thaw”

Embracing Discomfort: A Skiing Adventure with Friends

Written by Geoffrey Gill

Geoffrey, Sheila and Kaylie posing for a picture with their winter gear on while skiing on BuckhillRecently, 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.

Geoffrey, Kaylie and Sheila on the Ski Lift posing for a picture.

 

 

 

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.