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“Shiloh goes into the unknown and…” A Vlog by Geo

 

Our very own Geoffrey Gill is a very talented videographer, so instead of a written blog post, he created a vlog sharing the story of one of our current learning partners, Shiloh Temple Brooklyn Park. We learn about their experience of accompaniment in Central Park. We hope you enjoy learning about their story and can watch a paradigm shift during their debrief discussion. 

 

Stewarding Work with Hope and Lament by Amanda Vetsch

 

It’s sometimes strange to be a young adult that cares deeply about the church. I have so much hope for the possibility of a church that embodies God’s promises, and I lament the way in which the church has created, sustained, and participates in harm. 

So many of my peers who might consider themselves “Christian” have discerned that the institutional church isn’t something that they are willing to invest their energy or resources into any longer. We have often experienced church as a community that doesn’t live out the things it claims to believe in. When we’ve sought out a community of belonging that nourishes us and compels us to live our lives for the sake of the neighbor, we oftentimes found instead a place that intentionally or unintentionally perpetuates harm and exclusion, a place that continues to sustain white supremacy as the status quo, a community that prioritizes the privileged, and tokenizes people perceived as “other.”

Background of water flowing over rocks from a river with text over it "There’s often a really loud narrative about decline, death, and dying... And in the conversation about young adults and church, it often feels like the anxiety around scarcity gets aimed at young adults, seeing them as people who could become new members, and help lessen their anxiety about impending death, they could help lower the average age, and increase the monthly giving. And that is objectifying. It turns wonderful, gifted, wise humans into a “butt and bucks” . I, and my young adult peers, are so much more than that, and we’re seeking so much more than that out of a faith community. ~Amanda Vetsch"There are definitely churches and communities that are practicing their beliefs, and are committed to dismantling the systems of oppression, and living into God’s promises. And yet there are so many more that so badly want people to join them, and haven’t quite figured out how to let go of a way of life that’s no longer serving them, and not in alignment with God’s vision. 

There’s often a really loud narrative about decline, death, and dying. This narrative is one that comes out of a scarcity mindset, rather than abundance. And in the conversation about young adults and church, it often feels like the anxiety around scarcity gets aimed at young adults, seeing them as people who could become new members, and help lessen their anxiety about impending death, they could help lower the average age, and increase the monthly giving. And that is objectifying. It turns wonderful, gifted, wise humans into a “butt and bucks” . I, and my young adult peers, are so much more than that, and we’re seeking so much more than that out of a faith community. 

Realistically, we’re not going to save the church, quite frankly many of us don’t want to. There are parts of the church that I think should die, especially the parts that are interwoven with white supremacy, and perpetuating an oppressive, harmful status quo. 

For the last couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity work alongside faith communities that are chasing after what it could look like to be part of God’s redemptive work in our world, here and now, and wondering about and practicing a way of life together that brings flourishing and life to everyone. Continue reading “Stewarding Work with Hope and Lament by Amanda Vetsch”

A Month for Reconnection: It’s Amanda and Geoffrey!

While summers can be hectic, they also can be a time to feel more grounded and to reconnect to our bodies and the earth. If we are quiet and listen, we can hear our bodies calling us to connect with the earth, which in turn is calling us back to each other. It can be a time to push back on the myth that we need to be always producing. Always checking the tasks of the list and making “progress”. 

With more people out and about rather than nestled inside, we are given the opportunity to meet those around us with our presence in new ways. This month we will be inviting you to reconnect in a variety of ways, with yourself, with your neighbor, with our initiatives, and even our CCV Staff! We have some recent changes with two of our staff members now in new roles and we would love for you to celebrate them with us! 

In case you haven’t met these two lovely individuals, it is a pleasure to introduce you to two amazing humans who are on our CCV staff. Amanda Vetsch and Geoffrey Gill. 

If you have the chance, please send them a congratulations via email or the next chance you see them!

Continue reading “A Month for Reconnection: It’s Amanda and Geoffrey!”

“Today” by Kristina Frugé

I was asked to write a blog post this week for the Riverside Innovation Hub that would introduce a series we are calling “Front Porch Stories.” This series will highlight stories from neighborhoods near and far where congregations are creating, cultivating or entering into front porch places where neighbors meet neighbors. Places where curiosity can be nurtured, stories can be shared, and simple connections can spark new relationships. Places where new life and new hope might have some room to take root.  

However, I’m struggling to have imagination for new life and hope today. Instead, death and hopelessness are crowding my heart and my mind, just as they are saturating our communities near and far – our schools, our corner grocery stores, our city blocks… 

A tree with a small number of leaves on the edge of a cliff by the water. The tree has branches like an L with one toward the sky and one branch out toward the water. In the background is a dark forest and fog.Today, as I write, marks the 2 year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in the neighborhood of Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, MN. His sacred life – like countless black and brown bodies before and after him – senselessly taken by uninhibited police violence.

Today, as I write, dozens of parents in the neighborhood of Uvalde, Texas have woken up to the first morning of the rest of their lives without their children. Young, beautiful, holy lives whose bodies and futures were destroyed with bullets and brutality.

Today, as I write, families and loved ones in Buffalo, New York prepare to bury their beloved elders, family members and friends. Ten cherished human beings who were targeted, terrorized and massacred by a young man embodying the violent evil lies of white supremacy ideology. 

 

Today, my heart fears that the front porches are too few and that their power to overcome the constant waves of violence and grief are insufficient. 

 

We talk about sowing seeds of love, connection, justice, mercy, and hope. Yet the seeds of violence, evil, hatred and fear have been nurtured far too well for far too long in our places. The two young 18 year old men and their evil ambitious destruction, reflect an ugly truth about the state of our humanity today. The systems tasked with stewarding our public safety reveal the deep roots of a harmful belief that some lives don’t matter. The seeds we have sown are breeding unimaginable violence and yet it’s completely imaginable because of how regularly it visits us. 

Continue reading ““Today” by Kristina Frugé”

Little Things are Big Things by Ellen Weber

This winter was long. April felt like an extended March. There is a whole lot of beauty in the winter and the cold can be hard on our bodies. In the midst of the cold, snow and rain, the last week of April if one paid attention, the green began to emerge. The tulips that I planted last fall began to sprout and I could see bursts of green in the mixture ofTulip leaves sprouting up from the brown ground. brown surrounding my house. I woke up to birds chirping out my window and watched squirrels dig up their nuts for nourishment that they had planted last fall. 

I am an amateur gardener who definitely has lots to learn, but continues to show up in March to plant my own seeds knowing that not all of them will survive. During this Easter season of new life and resurrection, I am trying to pay extra attention to what around me needs nourishing. Which seedlings need water, sunlight, more space or coffee grounds added to the soil? When my tomato seedlings grow too leggy, I adapt by replanting them so the stems are fully supported and the plant can focus on rooting down to allow it to rise up. When my broccoli seedlings are too leggy, after googling why that might be, I realize that they are too warm.  In response, I make a shift so that they are no longer under the humidity dome. Each seedling needs something different in order to grow and eventually bear fruit.   Continue reading “Little Things are Big Things by Ellen Weber”

The Promise of Dragonflies by Kristina Fruge

While we wait for the Minnesota landscape to more fully thaw out this chilly spring, let me share a memory with you from a much warmer spring day several years ago…

My precocious three-year-old daughter and I were en route between errands, stopping for a quick cup of coffee and goodies, when Marie spotted a giant dragonfly on the sidewalk. We squatted down to investigate. I cautioned her to move slowly so we didn’t scare it away, but her sticky little fingers were already reaching out to touch the creature. It didn’t move. 

“Mommy, what’s wrong?”

“Oh honey, it looks like it’s dead. See the owie?” I said, pointing at its mis-shaped and slightly oozy side of head.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know sweetie. But look how beautiful it is. Look at its lacy wings, look at the bright colors on its body.”

“I like its wings.”  She paused….“What will it do now?”  a black and white dragonfly sitting on two fingers.

“Well, maybe a momma bird will pick it up and feed it to its baby birds so they can grow big and learn to fly.” I picked up the dragonfly and placed it in the grassy median nearby. I continued, “Or it will go back to nature in the grass here and make the dirt healthy so plants can grow.”

“Oh, so it will come back alive?”

I paused…. “Yes. It will. Just in a different way.”

 

Thanks to Marie’s discovery and observations of the dead dragonfly several years ago, I now find my senses awakened anytime I see a dragonfly. Spotting the black and white iridescent wings of the 12 spotted skimmer or the vibrant green stick body of the ebony jewel wing stirs a hint of exhilaration within me. These sightings have become small but holy moments. They point me back to the complexity and simplicity of Marie’s interpretation of the promise of life present in the dead, lifeless body of that dragonfly. 

While our chilly Minnesota winter hasn’t made room for any visits yet from these fascinating flighted creatures, they have been on mind this Easter. 

To be candid, Easter has always been uncomfortable for me. Back in my youth ministry days, that mostly had to do with the fact that I’d start my Easter Sunday at 6:00am in the church kitchen preparing food with sleepy students for our church’s Easter breakfast youth fundraiser. But over the last few years, I’ve simply struggled to connect with the joyful celebration of Easter worship. The Hallelujah chorus and triumphant shouts that “Christ has risen indeed!” have landed flat for me. Disingenuous seems too harsh of a label, but something has remained amiss for me with the Easter proclamation when life around me – or rather the devaluing of it – seems to reflect something far from the truth of this promise. 

Continue reading “The Promise of Dragonflies by Kristina Fruge”

CHRISTENSEN CENTER FOR VOCATION STUDENT ASSISTANTS

Angelique Young ‘25 (she/her)

Major: Social work, Minor: PsychologyStudent Worker Angel Young

Hometown: Brooklyn Park, MN. 

 

I am one of the Student Assistants at the Christensen Center and Augsburg Youth Theology Institute. Having a positive impact on others is very important to me, from my work to my schooling to my personal life. I have worked for organizations like City Hall and Second Harvest that value helping others. It is also why I accepted my current position with the CCV and AYTI. I value gaining experience and opportunities that will benefit me in the future. 

 


AYTI Student Worker Renee Christensen

Renee Christensen ‘23 (she/her)

Major: Theology and public leadership, Minor: Psychology

Hometown: Shafer, MN.

 

I am one of the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute Student Assistants, and have worked with AYTI for 3 years! I was lucky enough to attend AYTI as a participant and fell in love with Augsburg and this program! I am so excited to share all of the great ways AYTI has impacted the lives of youth!

 


 

CCV Worker Jam PashyayevaJam Pashyayeva ‘25 (she/her)

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Capital of Azerbaijan, Baku.

 

I am an international student at Augsburg. I am good at a range of different skills such as cooking, writing, and all sorts of sports (cycling, tennis, basketball, swimming and etc.). I know English, Russian, Ukrainian, and Azerbaijani languages on an exceptional level and currently learning French and Italian. I worked as a personal translator for KoçSistem Company Director. Art was always my passion since a very young age that’s why I decided that working in the sphere that will require my skills and this position at CCV as part-time work is the best opportunity to start learning and getting on the right track for my future career.

 


Student Worker Aaron Puent

Aaron Puent ‘23 (he/him)

Major: Religion w/ Concentration in Global Religions and Interfaith Studies

Hometown: La Crosse, WI.

 

Working in CCV is important to me because it combines my passion for studying theology with my interest in helping others find the spiritual and intellectual tools that they need. I began working with CCV last year when I was an AYTI mentor. The following fall, I was able to join as a recruiter for the Public Church Scholars program. Because of this work, I can help others find what they need for future success, and I am still learning about Augsburg, its affiliations, and the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in the background.  

 


 

Student Worker Sarah RunckSarah Runck ‘24 (she/her) 

 

Major: Music Therapy 

Hometown: New Ulm MN

 

I love to play instruments which include flute, piano, guitar, and ukulele. I also grew up on a farm where I always liked to be outside and go on walks. Along with this, I was involved with my church growing up. Some church things included helping with VBS, teaching Religious education to 2nd graders, helping with music, and helping with festivals. Faith has always been a strong passion of mine and working at CCV has given me the opportunity to grow in my faith and learn about other religions. I am excited to keep learning and to hear more stories!

Welcome Ellen Weber to the CCV Team!

Ellen joined the Christensen Center for Vocation team at the beginning of March 2022 as the Operations Program Associate. Ellen will be supporting our initiatives by helping us communicate the stories of our work. Additionally, she will be helping develop and implement our new online collaborative learning community project with our new grant. 

Headshot of Ellen Weber

Prior to working at Augsburg, she worked in a variety of settings from youth and young adult ministry, CADI waiver case management, speech coaching, working in higher ed, and working as a parent educator. Ellen was a member of the Riverside Innovation Hub’s first congregational partners working with young adults in a South Minneapolis congregation where she traveled with a group to Guatemala. They brought back their learnings that bloomed into a community space with fruit trees, a community garden and honey from the bees on top of the church.

When Ellen isn’t working she enjoys being with family, throwing dinner parties with friends, playing softball, and being in her kayak on the water with her partner Caleb. She currently is on the board of Mental Health Connect, a collaborative that supports congregations with mental health resources, and is a member of the New Brighton Equity Commission. Lastly, Ellen is part of the Journey of Hope 2022 cohort with other faith leaders, “a program for people of faith to transform themselves and their communities through peacemaking”. 

She fell in love with the initiatives of CCV, through RIH and AYTI and is grateful to be part of the team. Ellen cares deeply about belonging. She states “I want to belong to a place where people can heal and come back to our bodies. I want to be part of a place that creates better things for people to belong to.” She was inspired by the space held for the young adults in her context and the way that the Public Church framework allowed them to feel valued, listened to and become changemakers in their context. The work she did with RIH was about belonging. She is excited to be part of the important work that all of CCV is doing. She is excited to learn new skills with the new online learning community while strengthening her communications and storytelling skills. 

 

Awareness

The congregational facilitator staff in our Riverside Innovation Hub work at the intersection of relationships and learning. Put another way, they are stewards of change, accompanying our congregational partners towards discerning the call to be neighbor in their places. As one might imagine, this work presents great challenges at times. Geoffrey Gill, one of our RIH facilitators, shares in the blog below about is commitment to awareness – a critical component of what helps him show up in this work and in the world. 


The most important practice I have put into motion in my 30s is meditation and slow moving exercises like tai chi and Qi gong. People take medication to help regulate their mind and body and I do the same thing with meditation. It’s a daily practice (well, almost everyday).

Man stares at reflection in mirror

I used to watch my dad do yoga when I was younger and so as I got older I just started naturally incorporating it into my life. Although, it wasn’t until recently that I started practicing consistently. That’s when I started to see changes. Changes physically, mentally, and emotionally. I especially noticed that when stress or anxiety came up, my body was adeptly aware. It was almost like it knew what to do to get it back in its normal state. For example, I was in a meeting recently on zoom. I was being trolled by some lady who, my bias, has some heavy personal mental issues and trauma with black men. She tried to put it all on me because I wasn’t giving her attention. She said some crazy things to me. Things I won’t repeat here.

After the meeting I realized that my body was in some sort of shock. I was stuck in my seat. I didn’t want to move, but I had to go to the bathroom. When I sat down in the bathroom, I realized I hadn’t been breathing. I was breathing of course, but not really breathing. So, I started breathing deeply; like in the belly deep and then I closed my eyes. As I was breathing, it popped in my head that I was still holding the stuff that lady said. It was like I was holding my breath and simultaneously holding all the words this lady said, inside of me. As I breathed I consciously said, I give it to you God. After about 10 or so minutes later I felt a release. Like a dynamic force being lifted off of me.

Continue reading “Awareness”

Welcome Jon Bates to the CCV Team!

Jon joined the Christensen Center for Vocation team at the beginning of 2022 as the V-Portfolio Coordinator. In this role he will be coordinating the creation of the V-Portfolio which is a tool that will allow students to capture, reflect, and gain insight from their learning experiences and vocation throughout their time at Augsburg.


Headshot of Jon BatesWith excitement, Jon makes a return to Augsburg University as he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Youth and Family Ministry Degree in 2015. Since graduation Jon worked in children, youth, and family ministry in faith communities within the Twin Cities and also Billings, Montana. He also spent time working in the digital department at Star Tribune from 2017-2019. Through his eclectic career, Jon has admired his time building relationships amongst his teams, creating projects for people of all ages, and the time spent organizing information, art supplies, and bundt pans.

Currently, Jon is also a nursing student at Minneapolis Community & Technical College. He finds joy in coffee, reading, time with his loved ones, and time napping. Jon is eager to strengthen his skills in project management, work with the CCV Team and other departments on campus, and create the V-Portfolio for the students of Augsburg.