Over lunch one day, Katie Clark was describing the process of becoming a certified foot care specialist. It was quite the feat! I was curious why she put so much work into that certification. Her response was, “Because most people who come into our Health Commons are coming in for foot care. They’re on their feet all day every day and their feet are in bad shape.” This epitomizes the compassion and commitment of Katie for her work and the people she serves. Katie’s commitment to approaching health care through accompaniment shapes her work as an ever changing response to what the neighbors need.
Dr. Katie Clark is a member of the nursing faculty and the Executive Director of Augsburg University’s Health Commons. The Health Commons are nursing-led drop-in centers that focus on radical hospitality and building trusting relationships with people in marginalized communities. These Health Commons are located in downtown Minneapolis, the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, and Rochester, MN.
Dr. Clark had extensive experience doing medical missions work overseas in Peru, Haiti, and Namibia. But those experiences never sat well with her. She would return home feeling as though she hadn’t learned enough about the culture or the larger situation and context in these countries. She wondered if she and her companions were simply promoting a monoculture of healthcare and wellness rather than learning how wellness, health, illness, and care were understood in the context of these cultures.
This uneasy feeling drew Katie to the study of transcultural nursing, the work of Dr. Paul Farmer, and the importance of social justice in the practice of nursing. You can’t just treat the symptoms of a problem; you must work to end the problem. You can just waltz into someone’s life with your solutions, you have to do the work of accompaniment in order to understand who they are, how they suffer, how they heal, and what they might need from you. Katie had found the way she wanted to do her work.
Under the leadership of Dr. Clark, the Augsburg Health Commons sites accompany those who are experiencing homelessness, are marginally housed, or are new immigrants who have fled wars. Their work with these neighbors is constantly evolving because the Health Commons are committed to this practice of accompaniment and mutuality, working diligently to fully humanize these neighbors while offering care. Students in Augsburg University’s nursing program gain firsthand experience providing care for people through more humanizing and relational practices than what most experience in our country’s healthcare system.Continue reading “Accompaniment One Foot at a Time”→
There is no one way to practice Accompaniment, Interpretation, Discernment, or Proclamation. Each faith community will determine the best way to put these art forms into practice given the specific limitations and assets of their community and neighborhood. Therefore, we use the language of “best questions” rather than best practices. By this we mean these are the questions your faith community can be continually exploring to guide your contextualized practices of accompaniment, interpretation, discernment, and proclamation. How you come to answer these questions will be unique to your setting. We believe time wrestling with these questions and their implications create space for God’s voice to stir, guide and challenge your faith community.
These are not questions for a leadership team of the select few, rather these are questions for the whole faith community to be pondering together. These are the questions we want members of faith communities to be pondering in their own daily lives. Therefore, it is important that we ponder them together as a faith community to learn how they feel and how to chase after their answers. This is not administrative work, it is the work of God’s people as we discern how God’s spirit it moving us to be a part of good news in our communities.
What is our neighborhood or parish (geographical location)?
Where are our listening posts?
What are the places and spaces in our context we are in relationship with and have a history with?
What are the places and spaces in our neighborhood we are curious to learn more about?
Who are the neighborhood historians — people who know the history of this place?
Who is our neighbor? What are the demographics of our neighborhood (race, socioeconomic, single family/rental units, age)? How do these compare to the demographics of our faith community?
How are our neighbors experiencing hope & joy?
How are our neighbors experiencing anxiety, fear and heartache?
What are our neighbors’ hopes, dreams and desires for our shared neighborhood?
Who cares about the things and people our faith community cares about?
Best Questions for INTERPRETATION
What has been the story of our faith community? What are the significant events, changes, people, etc. that shape our identity for better or worse? Where did we experience high points, struggles and growth? How do these things move us forward? How do they hinder our innovation?
What are the assets and anxieties that shape our faith community’s identity?
How does our faith community interpret scripture and think about the authority of scripture?
What are the core theological claims and beliefs of our faith community?
What are some important biblical narratives in the life of our faith community? How have they functioned for us?
Put God’s story and our neighbors’ stories in conversation with one another:
How do these core theological beliefs and important biblical narratives help us understand the stories we have heard from our neighbors? How do they challenge them? Change them? Enhance them?
How do the stories we heard from our neighbors help us understand these biblical texts and core beliefs? How do they challenge them? Change them? Enhance them?
Explore these texts about transformation at the riverside together. Which one seems to provide our faith community the most insight into the work we think we might need to do moving forward? Are there other stories of transformation from scripture that would work better for your faith community?
Where do we see the promises of God at work in our neighborhood, outside of the work of our faith community?
As we do the work of interpretation, what questions about the Bible and our faith community’s core beliefs are emerging? How and with whom could we go about further exploring those questions?
How can we engage our faith community in this interpretive work in order to deepen and expand it?
Best Questions for DISCERNMENT
Where do we see death and resurrection in our neighborhood?
Where are we hearing lamentation in our neighborhood?
Have we been part of the problem? What do we need to confess? To whom? Where? How?
Where and with whom do we sense the Holy Spirit pleading with us to linger, to pay more attention, to listen more closely?
What questions do we still have? Where might we learn more about these questions or with whom do we need to visit?
What are the passions and strengths of our faith community that seem to present themselves as assets in light of what we have seen and heard in our accompaniment and interpretation? (For example, space, people, finances, vision, relationships, etc.)
If gospel is good news, what is the good news that needs to be proclaimed in our neighborhood in order to liberate people from the bad news we have heard in the neighborhood?
How are we equipped to proclaim this good news? How are we not?
Given what we have seen and heard in our neighbors’ stories, God’s stories, and our stories – who is God calling us to be? What is God calling us to do? What might God be calling us to sacrifice or risk? How is God calling us to show up in this community?
Best Questions for PROCLAMATION
How will this new story we wish to tell bring life and human flourishing to the neighborhood?
How is this good news already being proclaimed in the neighborhood?
Does anything need to die in order for this new story to live?
Where is the best place for this to happen? What is the best way to do this?
How might Christ show up in this proclamation?
What do we need to do to live into who God is calling us to be, what God is calling us to do, what God is calling us to sacrifice or risk, and how God is calling us to show up in this neighborhood?
Who needs to be a part of proclaiming and creating this new story (individuals, organizations, existing partners, neighbors, etc.)? How do these people also become proclaimers of good news?
Who are the stakeholders we need to engage to live into this new story? What strategies do we have to engage these folks?
Take some time to be honest about the potential for failure. How might our proclamation of this good news fail at the levels of tactics, strategy and vision? What are the barriers? How is our perspective limited?
How might these potentials for failure shape our plan for proclamation?