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A Devotion and Invitation to Reflect on Interpretation

Written by Geoffrey Gill

A pond with grass, lilly pads, ripples and a fishing pole. Greetings,

In the flow of our everyday lives, finding moments of peace to hear the quiet, divine whispers can be out of sight and out of mind. Today, I’m reaching out to share such a moment with you.

This is my invitation for you to join me in a quiet reflection on the profound connections between the sacred words of scripture and the intricate details of our personal journeys. As we consider how the living words of scripture, like fresh waters, bring vitality and clarity to our lives, let us pause and be present in the serenity of this understanding. Together, let’s explore how these deeper truths resonate within our own stories, guiding us towards deeper insights and a renewed spirit.


A devotion and Invitation to Reflect on Interpretation

Peace,

In my life there is this constant movement and noise, it’s sometimes very challenging to find moments of true stillness—moments where I can pause and be deeply present with the divine whispers that my busy day usually drowns out. Today, I am extending an invitation to you, an invitation to take a moment and journey with me into a reflection on interpretation; an exploration of how the sacred word intertwines with the intimate details of our personal stories. Continue reading “A Devotion and Invitation to Reflect on Interpretation”

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”

One to Ones: Tool for Deep Conversations

 

Two alum smiling while hugging at the table

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 last layer of accompaniment, one to ones.

You can also read more about the other three layers – Understanding Demographic Data, Prayer Walk in the Neighborhood, and Engaging Listening Posts.

Tools for Deep Conversations

Written by Brenna Zeimet 

The desire to know and be known is at the core of our being as humans. Our compassion, our actions, and our hearts are driven by the relationships and stories of the people around us. When we understand others deeply and connect their experience to our own, we are compelled to love them, it is how we are wired.

Most of us navigate the world as the star of our own story, we spend our days running our errands, chasing our goals and interacting with the friends and family that complete our story’s cast of characters. Every single day we pass dozens of other humans, on the road, in our schools, in the grocery store, even on our own block. Like extras on a movie set, those people wander through the scenes that make up our days and for the most part, we are oblivious to their existence.

What if we got curious about the characters that pass us everyday? What if when we thought about the people who we share space with we saw human beings with stories and dreams and value. What if we began to investigate the depth and beauty and friendships that we are missing out on each day?

Any good story hinges on character development, we connect with the characters when we understand their essence. We want to know their backstory, their motivation, their strengths, their goals, how they think, what they love, what breaks their heart. Knowing your neighbor involves getting to know their essence, moving beyond surface conversation about the weather and sports, and having real, deep, curious conversations – conversations that result in knowing and being known. Continue reading “One to Ones: Tool for Deep Conversations”

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”

Accompaniment: The Prayer Walk in the Neighborhood

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 second layer of accompaniment, a prayer walks in the neighborhood. 

You can also read more about the previous layer in our last blog post – Becoming familiar with the Demographics of your neighborhood

Infographic of a triangle with four layers labeled 'Demographic Data,' 'Prayer Walk,' 'Listening Posts,' and 'One-on-Ones.'

Demographic Data Statistics describing various demographic trends in a geographic area.
Prayer Walk A reflective walk seeking places of hope and despair in the neighborhood.
Four Layers of Accompaniment
Listening Posts Places in the neighborhood where the community gathers.
One-on-Ones Conversations with neighbors about their lives.Often congregations may begin at the top of the triangle and work down as a pathway to getting to know the neighbor. However, notice the proportions of each of the layers match the amount of time folks are encouraged to spend with each aspect. Demographic information begins to help us get to know things about our neighbors and may spark curiosity around things we want to learn more about, but to really get to know our neighbors, one to one conversations are at the heart of building real relationships.


The Prayer Walk in the Neighborhood

Written by Kristina Frugé 

The practice of a neighborhood prayer walk is inspired by the  Ignatian Awareness Examen, a contemplative prayer exercise that guides you through an examination of your day as you prayerfully seek moments of desolation and moments of consolation.

Moments of desolation are times of sorrow, brokenness, fear, anxiety, etc.

Moments of consolation are times of hope, healing, courage, peace, etc.

People working on a map labeled "Plymouth Church Prayer Walk" at a table.You can use the lens of desolation and consolation as you walk through the neighborhood in which your faith community is located, asking God to show you the places of desolation and consolation in that neighborhood. The general outline of this activity includes walking through the neighborhood, paying particular attention to what stands out as consolation and desolation. Then, together, with people in your faith community, reflect on what you saw, felt, sensed and heard and map the locations of those places of consolation and desolation on a shared map. You will find some simple instructions at the end of this post to help you plan for a prayer walk. However, while this activity is fairly straightforward, there are some important aspects to be aware of as you begin.

In all of our efforts to become vital neighbors, we will find ourselves encountering people and places we don’t know or don’t know very well. We will encounter differences between ourselves and others – whether it be racially, religiously, socio-economically, generationally, or across so many other distinctions. We also expect to experience connection as we discover similarities – love of the same local business, or our pets, or our children, or perhaps share similar fears or longings for ourselves and our neighborhoods.  Continue reading “Accompaniment: The Prayer Walk in the Neighborhood”

Becoming Familiar with the Demographics of Your Neighborhood

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 first layer of accompaniment, the Demographics of the Neighborhood. 


Introduction

Written by Jeremy Myers

Kristina's neighborhood street with snow in the evening as the sun is settingSummary and Learning Outcomes

This lesson is intended to help individuals and/ or teams gather the demographic data of their particular neighborhoods and begin reflecting on that data in order to gain more insight into those who live in that particular neighborhood. Completing this lesson should help you:

  1. be able to find and collect the demographic data of those who live within a particular neighborhood.
  2. know more about the people who live their lives within this particular neighborhood.
  3. develop a deeper sense of empathy for these neighbors and become curious about how you might get to know them better.

Preparation

  1. Use “Preparing to Lead the Lesson Plan” to help you complete these following steps in preparation for leading this lesson.
  2. Read “What is Accompaniment?” and “Why Demographics?”.
  3. Generate your Demographic Report and familiarize yourself with it.
  4. Gather the following materials below. 

Materials

Continue reading “Becoming Familiar with the Demographics of Your Neighborhood”

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”

Uncovering the Mystery: Campus Ministry Fall Theme

Written by Hannah Sackett, our Campus Ministry Pastoral Intern. Hannah has previously worked with CCV through a local congregation involvement in our Riverside Innovation Hub. We are excited to have her on campus this next year. Find out more about Hannah here. 

The school year has begun at Augsburg University! The buildings are abuzz with energy and life, and there is a general sense of newness as the community navigates what it looks like to be together again in these days. Much of what the school year may hold remains undiscovered and unknown; full of possibilities, but also perhaps tinged with some new-year-nerves. As the new pastoral intern on campus, I can relate! 

 

The campus ministry team at the block party outside Foss. This fall, the theme in Campus Ministry is “Uncovering the Mystery”, a theme that in itself allows space for multiple meanings: holding space for Scripture, learning from one another in community, and practicing listening deeply, to name a few. But it also encourages us to explore some big questions together. Does something need to be uncovered in our lives in order to live into God’s call more fully? How might we make space for new wisdom to take root, to reveal what has felt hidden? Will something about our vocation be made clearer to us this year? Maybe sitting in mystery together can allow for new understandings, as well as a comfort with the unknown. 

 

For a period of time, I worked as a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota. And during canoe trips, I was often eager to know my exact route, know where each portage trail began and ended, to know how things would unfold. Oftentimes, though, the geographical twists and turns on the lakes in real life were not as easy to navigate as they were on the birdseye view from a map. Commonly, in fact, you couldn’t really see a portage entrance until it was right in front of you – and it was definitely easier and more enjoyable to do with other group members. Over time, I became more comfortable with the phrase we often used, “Know as you go”. And while it’s not always easy, it felt like a life lesson that applied to more than just canoe trips. What can feel like a mystery is often revealed if we draw closer to it and pay attention together. 

 

Students with Pastor Babette at the Block partyThe theme of “Uncovering the Mystery” similarly invites us to come closer and sit together in life and faith’s countless question marks, in the hope that new understanding and new life is just around the corner, waiting to be revealed. We’re so happy to welcome students back to campus this fall, and welcome all to come be a part of all that’s going on in campus ministries! 

 

Public Church Practices: Summer Neighborhood Prayer Walk

Outside. Sunshine. Gatherings in the backyard. Kids playing up and down the block. Time by the water. Schedules, full yet less scheduled. These describe summers in Minnesota to me. A time where more folks are out and engaging with each other while walking around the neighborhood. What could happen if we intentional went for a walk in our neighborhood paying attention to where joy was hanging out or where fear or anxiety was creeping in?

The Christensen Center for Vocation’s Riverside Innovation Hub is a learning community made local congregations who who gather together to learn how to be and become public church in their neighborhood contexts. We convene the congregations and then invite them to practice the artforms of the Public Church Framework in their contexts.

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.

The practice of a neighborhood prayer walk is a spinoff of the  Ignatian Awareness Examen, a contemplative prayer exercise that guides you through an examination of your day as you prayerfully seek moments of desolation (sorrow, brokenness, fear, anxiety, etc.) and moments of consolation (hope, life, courage, healing, joy, etc.).

We invite you this summer to join us in prayer walks around your own neighborhood. You can use this same framework as you walk through the neighborhood in which your faith community is situated, asking God to show you the places of desolation and consolation in that neighborhood. The general outline of that activity is to practice this by walking through the neighborhood, paying particular attention to consolation and desolation. Then, together, with people in your faith community or neighborhood, reflect on what you saw, felt, sensed and heard and map the locations of those places of consolation and desolation on a shared map. Continue reading “Public Church Practices: Summer Neighborhood Prayer Walk”

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”