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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”

Saying Yes Because of This Truth: Project Reflection by Amar Peterman

Amar HeadshotIf you have not heard yet, we are writing a book! The purpose of this book project is to amplify the voices of young adults as they articulate their hopes, dreams, concerns, and frustrations to the church. This is not a book about young adults. Nor is this a book about how to attract young adults back to church. Rather, it is a book that offers the wisdom of young adults to the church as it discerns its next most faithful steps in these emerging times. Check out our author team here.

We recently asked the young adult writers for the project to reflect on this experience. Below is the reflection from Amar D. Peterman.

Amar D. Peterman (M.Div., Princeton Seminary) is an award-winning author and constructive theologian working at the intersection of faith and public life. His writing and research have been featured in Christianity Today, Faithfully Magazine, Fathom, The Berkeley Forum,, The Anxious Bench, Sojourners and The Christian Century. Amar is the founder of Scholarship for Religion and Society LLC, a research and consulting firm working with some of the leading philanthropic and civic institutions, religious organizations, and faith leaders in America today. Amar also serves as Program Manager at Interfaith America where he oversees programs related to emerging leaders, American evangelicalism, and Asian America. He writes regularly through his newsletter, “This Common Life.” You can learn more about him at amarpeterman.com. Amar’s co-author is Nicholas Tangen.


Why did you say yes to this experience and what are your hopes for the project? 

Written by Amar Peterman

Writing is always shaped by the people around us and the places we are located in. The best writing embraces this, capturing every moment as an opportunity to tell a story or find meaning in the ordinary moments of our life. Writing that reflects these daily experiences and infuses such with sacred meaning holds the opportunity to change us—even convict us—and as we are called into a community beyond ourselves. 

I said yes to this experience because of this truth. Through this project, I am not only brought into conversation with other writers across the country, but into active participation towards a shared goal. As we gather to envision a hopeful future for the Christian church, we are diligently writing and marking out tangible steps to create equitable spaces of inclusion and belonging for young people in local congregations across the United States. Together, we represent a diversity of experiences, locations, denominations, and beliefs within Christianity. These differences, though, are not a hindrance to our cooperation; they are gifts that allow this project to speak to more people than any individual could do on their own.  Continue reading “Saying Yes Because of This Truth: Project Reflection by Amar Peterman”

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.”

That’s a wrap! Final Two Vocation Chapels This Academic Year

Mark Hanson speaking at the podium in chapelIt has been a wonderful year full of stories from our community about how our staff and faculty have uncovered their own vocations throughout their lives. It truly has been an honor and blessing to listen to these stories. We are grateful for each one of them and for the campus ministry team for their willingness to try something new with us. We are looking forward to hearing more when we return to campus in the fall.

 

Watch our last two vocation chapels below from Dr. Ryan Haaland, Dean of Arts and Sciences and Rev. Mark Hanson, Interfaith Institute Fellow.


In case you are new or are unsure what vocation means. Vocation is a term we use a lot around Augsburg. It can be vague. It can mean different things to different people. It can feel elusive and slippery.

An attempt to explain vocation by Jeremy Myers: “You have probably heard the word vocation used to talk about one’s job. It is sometimes used to describe post-secondary educational institutions designed to train individuals for certain trades such as electrician, welder, plumber, carpenter, mechanic, etc. We use the term differently at Augsburg. It can be associated with your job, but it is also much more than that. Vocation is the way you are equipped, empowered, called, and driven to make our world a better place for all living things.”


“Be Careful What You Wish For”

“Formative Disruptions”

 

The Writer’s Have Met! A Recap of the Writer’s Retreat in Montreat

Written by Amanda Vetsch

I, Amanda, said yes to stewarding the young adult book project because I believe that this book, a book that centers and amplifies the voices of young adults who care deeply about the church, will be inspiring, disorienting, and transformational for the readers, congregations, neighborhoods, and communities who experience it. My hope is that this book will inspire us into hope, disorient us away from the status quo, help us remember who God is calling us to be, and continue transforming us so that we can show up more wholeheartedly in the places and spaces we are all called to be. 

We launched the writing phase of the young adult book project in Mid-March by gathering all twenty-two writers at Montreat Conference Center for a Writers’ retreat. The purpose of the time together was to become familiar with each other and this project, preview how we plan to write a cohesive multi-voice book with twenty-two authors, and have each set of co-authors spend time together, in-person, to connect and plan. 

Two values listed on purple papers. Curiosity and No hold barredness (authenticity). Headshot of Amar speaking into the mic. Lower right image is a group at a table chatting. On Friday evening, we gathered for dinner and our first session together. We introduced ourselves to each other, shared what values were carrying into the room and into the project, and looked back at the project’s story so far (Project Overview).  

On Saturday, we had a mix of large group time and co-author time. In the large group, we looked at the logistics of how this project will come to fruition, and heard from each young adult author on why the theme they’ve been chosen to write on is important to the church.

In co-author pairs, each thought leader and young adult spent time connecting, brainstorming a chapter theme summary statement, and creating a game plan for how they’ll communicate, collaborate, and schedule their work. Each pair did this work uniquely, some started with a hike, some began with solitude, some took a stroll across the retreat center, some began by sharing about how their lived experiences will inform the theme they’ll write on, some began with writing, and all of them did really, really great work. Nicholas Tangen, the thought leader for the Community theme, said, “[He was] glad to meet so many new folks, to conspire and dream with my co-author Amar Peterman (who may be among the smartest people I’ve ever met), and to laugh way more than I had any business to. When people say the church is dying, I’m going to point back to rooms like the ones this weekend and let them know the church is more alive than ever!”  Continue reading “The Writer’s Have Met! A Recap of the Writer’s Retreat in Montreat”

“The Unleashed Voice” A Thought-Provoking Vlog by Geoffrey Gill

Our congregational facilitator, Geoffrey Gill, has been exploring his own vocation of vlogging. It is an honor to share on our CCV blog another inspirational video of his. It has been an opportunity to see through Geoffrey’s perspective of the world and how he inspires us to continue to show up as our authentic selves and to use our voice and actions to care for our neighbors around us in brave and powerful ways. Please enjoy!

A journey of self-discovery and empowerment! In my latest vlog, I delve into the impact of body language and the importance of being true to yourself. This thought-provoking vlog was inspired by MLK Day and will leave you feeling inspired to embrace your power, find your voice, and follow your heart. — Geoffrey Gill

Featuring: Pan African manager- Kezia Burrows, Drummer Spirit Boy, “Change Gonna Come” Traiveon Burrows

(In order of performance)

Poet: Curtis Love

Poet: LeeRayvone Gibson

Keynote speaker – Terrance Kwame-Ross

Thank you Augsburg University

Uncovering Vocation –  “Spanked: The Sanctioned Violence”

Dr. Christina Erickson, Social Work on January 24th, 2023

Reading:  By Anne LaMott

My coming to this vocation did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another.  Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved.   I can see how flimsy and indirect a path they made.  Yet each step brought me closer to the verdant pad on which I stay afloat today.  


Good morning –  I have been a social worker for 30 years and I felt like that gave me an easy out on this vocation stuff  –easy, it was my work – which I described as making the world a better place. Becoming a social work professor was a natural evolution of that original vocational path.  I was set. No more discoveries to be made. What I never expected, was a mid-life vocation that would grip me for more than 10 years.  Like Ann Lamott describes, I can look back and see how I leapt from lily pad to lily pad through the course of my life, never knowing that those experiences would become so important to a mid-life vocation I couldn’t have imagined.  

Lily pad 1…..My mother’s spanking – so futile, so “not into it”, her swings and misses.  My own wriggling away.  My father’s spanking – so scary, so shaming, having to stop himself because he was big and strong. My 3 older brothers spankings,  – so harsh, so much anger in both directions. 

My family of origin, the family I grew up in, was happy, I felt loved, we were loud, we laughed, 5 children and 2 parents who were high school sweethearts, pregnant before they were married despite strict Catholic upbringings, we were fine and good and my parents spanked us.  My parents hit us.  They never hit each other, they never hit the dog, but spanking a child on the butt….that was acceptable, anytime, parental decision alone, no child input needed.  In spanking, the perpetrator is always right and the victim is always wrong.

Lily pad 2….my high school boyfriend. We met in the tennis module of gym class.  We were separated by gender (this was 1984) through the whole unit until the end when the ranked boys played the ranked girls.  He was ranked first in his gender and I in mine.  We had to battle it out, and while I lost handily, it was love, love.  We started dating.  2 years into our high school romance I punched him in the stomach in my parent’s basement family room.  I have no memory of why, but I remember the event vividly.  My anger, my punching, the look on his face.  

Lily pad 3 – I go to graduate school in social work and begin my field experience at The Initial Intervention Unit in child and family services.  We were the first social workers to visit a home or school with a child abuse investigation. I see the effects of hitting on little bodies. I see the pain and shame of parents who have to talk to us. I feel their struggle, I see their love for their children. 

Lily pad 4 – I’ll read a section from my book –  I suddenly saw that if I hit my kids, it was the same as hitting my high school boyfriend, back in 1986 (the other parent of my children by the way).  If I hit them too, I would be the face of modern domestic violence.  Continue reading “Uncovering Vocation –  “Spanked: The Sanctioned Violence””

The Kin-dom of Heaven is like a Front Porch By Kristina Frugé 

Jesus can regularly be heard saying “the kin-dom of heaven is like…” and then offering an image, a story, a metaphor to root this vision to a place or experience. It is like a mustard seed, a lost coin, wheat among the weeds, a treasure in clay jars, the leaven that makes bread rise. Kin-dom or reign of God are of course, in themselves a kind of metaphor that reflect the ancient context of their teacher.  These metaphors speak to the audience – an agricultural community of peoples around the turn of the century – as Jesus seeks to stir the people’s imagination for the kind of world God desires them to experience and participate in. 

Sts. Luke and James red front door with peace flags hung up on a string across the front yard.

The Riverside Innovation Hub and the congregational partners we’ve been blessed to learn alongside these past several years, have been about this kin-dom of God work too. I cannot remember ever using this language explicitly with our congregational learning communities. But what we have been talking about and working towards is cultivating more places and relationships that reflect the ways God intends for us to be and be together. We’ve been chasing after that call, one relationship at a time, one walk through our neighborhoods at a time, one story or surprise at a time. 

Kin-dom metaphors may not quite fit our current context, but the idea of a front porch has caught our imagination as a helpful metaphor to encourage the relationship building work we are trying to be about. Relationships that shape stories that shape neighborhoods that look and feel a little bit more like God’s good intentions for a whole, flourishing and connected creation – one neighborhood block at a time. 

On one of these neighborhood blocks – at the corner of Colfax and W 46th St. in south Minneapolis – sits Sts Luke & James Episcopal Church. Also on this corner block exists a front porch of sorts. It wasn’t always there, but a few years ago the folks from this congregation began seeking out places to listen to their neighbors and some hints of an invitation began to stir among them. Continue reading “The Kin-dom of Heaven is like a Front Porch By Kristina Frugé “

“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”

Reflections on the Word “Yes”

Today’s blog post has been commissioned by the Riverside Innovation Hub to bring in the stories and views from our partner congregations forward. We continue with a piece by Ryana Holt, a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

Artist, Angela Two Stars is speaking in a microphone, spaced between 4 volunteers.

I have been reflecting on the word “yes.” This word or similar affirmative phrase mark the cusp to new beginnings. Like Samuel’s “here I am”. How do young people become leaders? Some create opportunities for themselves. Others find themselves saying “yes”, “here I am,” and the journey thereafter unveils and develops their leadership.

“Yes” was the beginning to my involvement at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (HTLC) when I only knew only about five people’s names and it was likely that less than five people knew mine. After a service, one of my pastors must have recognized I wasn’t just a 20-something passing through and asked if I would join other young adults in the Riverside Innovation Hub grant team. 

Yes, of course. I was there to root in community. Take my email, I am ready to participate. 

Continue reading “Reflections on the Word “Yes””