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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”

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”

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”

Meet the Newest Riverside Innovation Hub Congregational Learning Partners!

Written by Brenna Zeimet

Collage of photos of participants from launch event chatting with each other, at their tables, in conversation with each other.Our new Thriving Congregation Learning Community has launched for the 2023-2025 RIH Journey. We have 3 cohorts, two local groups made up of Twin Cities Metro churches and one distance cohort made up of churches from coast to coast. We have a great mix of large suburban churches, smaller outstate churches and everything in between, giving us a diversity of experience and perspectives that will make our learning communities deep wells for growth and change.

Geoffrey Gill has returned as a congregational facilitator. He is at the helm of our distance cohort and will also facilitate one of our local learning communities. His passion for connection and deep relationship allows him to bridge geographical and cultural differences to create a welcoming space where churches from Massachusetts, Oregon, and rural Minnesota can find commonality and bond over the love for their neighbors. This distance cohort combines passion for racial justice in Oregon, innovative ministry to unhoused folks in Massachusetts, and community building across the small towns and cornfields of Southern Minnesota.

Geoffrey’s local cohort includes churches from St Paul to Plymouth who are passionate about doing work in their neighborhoods – amongst immigrants and politicians, for affordable housing and environmental justice, with students and community partners. These churches are joined by a team of mentors from Diamond Lake Lutheran Church in Minneapolis who will share the wisdom they gained as participants in our last round of RIH learning communities.

Brenna Zeimet has joined as our new cohort facilitator and she will be leading the other local cohort as well as piloting a new program for our alumni churches that helps them continue this work and weave the love for the neighbor into the culture of their congregations.

Brenna’s local cohort spans the Twin Cities Metro area, from Roseville to Eagan and St Paul to Bloomington. The churches in this group come from different denominations and neighborhoods, some are historic churches with a long legacy in their communities while others are young congregations who are growing and innovating in their new spaces. They all share an excitement for this work and a desire to live into being vital neighbors who make a difference in the people around them.

This learning community has proved to be passionate and excited to jump into this work. They already have great ideas and partnerships and seem to enter the space with a heart that beats for the neighbor. The feeling as we launch into this two year journey is one of hopefulness and anticipation. These churches are going to be forces for good in their respective communities and they can’t wait to get that ball rolling. For the full list of congregations, check out our RIH website. 

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 Confluence 2023 Mentor Experience

Written by Mentor Sarah Runck

Mentors taking a selfie over the overlook in Saint PaulMaking new connections and building on those relationships can be really exciting but also really scary. I got the opportunity to make new connections with high school youth at the 2023 Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: The Confluence! This program was filled with connections between our story, God’s story and The World’s story. We learned about our own spiritual gifts, practiced vocational discernment and heard stories from the neighbors in our community. Many memories, laughs, smiles, and even cries were shared. All of these things influenced why I chose to be a mentor this year. Having these connections with people who come from all over is a really important part of who we are. We get to hear each other’s stories, learn from them and grow because of them.

Sarah and Jasmyn at the overlook in Saint PaulThis weeklong program had a lot to offer to young people. However, as this week progressed there were some challenges that arose for us mentors. “Having the energy, the patience, and the positive attitude around the participants was the most challenging part” (A 2023 Mentor). But not only were there challenges, there were exciting moments. A fellow mentor said, “It was exciting to see the participants interact with guest pastors, speakers and teachers. Their curiosity was so inspiring and fun to watch.” As mentors, we realized that it was truly amazing to get to know each other and all the participants. We were able to create a relationship with everyone at this program. By having our own small groups, we got to know and understand participants at a deeper level spiritually and we were able to help each other grow in our faith”.              Continue reading “The Confluence 2023 Mentor Experience”

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 CONFLUENCE: a place where your story, the world’s story, and God’s story flow together.

Written by Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge

The CONFLUENCE

The group at the overlook over the Mississippi River. What a gift to host the 2023 Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: the Confluence! Our souls are refreshed, hearts are full, and bodies exhausted. On Sunday, June 25th, 20 high school students from Northfield, to North Minneapolis, to North Dakota and beyond, arrived on campus to spend a week focused on vocation, think theologically, and ask big questions about God’s purpose for their lives. This was the first in-person Institute we have been able to host in four years, and it was an incredible experience. Young people arrived eager to meet new people and share their stories, excited to learn more about themselves and the world around them, and dig deeper into God’s story.

Students sitting in desks in during a classroom session with Jeremy Myers.WHAT DID WE DO? 

Evening worshipParticipants stayed on campus in Anderson Hall and spent the week eating in the dining hall. We woke up every morning and started the day with a devotion prepared by college mentors. Participants spent 1.5 hours each morning in a college classroom with a college professor, digging into theology and exploring the same biblical texts offered for daily devotions. We built relationships with others in our small groups, we played games, we told stories. We got out into the community and we ate delicious food. Every evening we worshiped, in unique and different ways each day. A favorite of all participants was Dinner Church where we shared communion, a meal, and a little karaoke! The song “Wade in the Water” was a constant throughout the week (Refrain: wade in the water, wade in the water children, wade in the water. Don’t you know that God’s gonna trouble the water.) 

Continue reading “The CONFLUENCE: a place where your story, the world’s story, and God’s story flow together.”

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.”