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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”

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”

2022 Youth Theology Institute Theme and Instructor

The Christensen Center for Vocation is proud to present the 2022 Augsburg Youth Theology Institute. After two years of virtual programming, we are looking forward to returning to in-person programming on campus at Augsburg University. We will continue to follow recommended guidelines for health and safety and will welcome a new group of high school participants to reside on campus for this year’s institute. We are delighted to welcome two Augsburg University professors as co-instructors this year to lead the institute participants in theological exploration through a college classroom experience as well as experiential learning in the community. Participants will be led by college mentors who will engage small group learning and relationship building through daily devotions and experiential learning. Together we will worship together with guest liturgists and musicians from the Twin Cities and explore the neighborhood as we seek to understand how God is calling us to [reconnect] and live in unity.

SAVE THE DATE

Sunday, June 26th – Friday, July 1st, 2022

THEME

God’s People [re]connect!

participants at youth theology institute

We believe God invites people to live together in unity, a beloved community. As we emerge from two years of change and uncertainty, we invite participants to ask big questions about connection and disconnection.

Continue reading “2022 Youth Theology Institute Theme and Instructor”

The Significance of Presence

Written by Dr. Jeremy Myers, Executive Director of Augsburg’s Christensen Center for Vocation

headshot of Brian Bantum

On Tuesday Oct 5, 2021, Dr. Brian Bantum gave a lecture entitled “All Things are New: The Language of Our Life in the Face of Empire” at our 2021 Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium. Dr. Bantum is the Neil F. And Ila A. Fisher Professor of Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL. He writes, speaks, and teaches on identity, racial imagination, creating spaces of justice, and the intersection of theology and embodiment for audiences around the United States.

He is a contributing editor of The Christian Century and is the author of “Redeeming Mulatto: A Theology of Race and Christian Hybridity,” “The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial  World,”  and  “Choosing Us: Marriage and Mutual Flourishing in a World of Difference,” which he co-authored with his spouse, Gail Song Bantum. You can view a recording of his talk here.

Continue reading “The Significance of Presence”

Join us for the Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium

Augsburg University’s Christensen Symposium will feature the esteemed Dr. Brian Bantum next week, Oct. 5 from 11:00am-12:00pm. Please join us either in the Hoversten Chapel at Augsburg or via livestream (register to attend online through this link.) His talk is titled, “All Things Are New: The Language of Our Life in the Face of Empire.”
Brian Bantum, PhD, writes, speaks, and teaches on identity, racial imagination, creating spaces of justice, and the intersection of theology and embodiment for audiences around the United States. He is a  contributing editor of The Christian Century and is the author of “Redeeming Mulatto: A Theology of Race and Christian Hybridity,” “The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial  World,”  and  “Choosing Us: Marriage and Mutual Flourishing in a World of Difference,” which he co-authored with his spouse, Gail Song Bantum.

Reflections on Antidotes to White Supremacy Culture

This reflection has been written by Amanda Vetsch who works as the Congregational Coordinator and Facilitator of the Riverside Innovation Hub and has recently completed her Master’s theses which focused on dismantling white supremacy, the church, and Lutheran theology [1,2]. 

Many of the staff in the Christensen Center for Vocation have used the list of White Supremacy Culture Characteristics by Tema Okun to examine, name and begin to dismantle the ways in which white supremacy shows up in the work we do as a Center [3]. See this previous blog or website to learn more about White Supremacy Culture Characteristics.

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The Art of Public Ministry

This video is the second of two introducing you to the work of the Riverside Innovation Hub which is an initiative of Augsburg University’s Christensen Center for Vocation. You can see the first video and blog post here.

At Augsburg University, we are convening learning communities of congregations and ministry leaders to explore new ways of being engaged in their contexts that create opportunities for the mutual sharing of good news with our neighbors.

Continue reading “The Art of Public Ministry”

The Foundations for a Public Church

This video introduces you to the work of the Riverside Innovation Hub which is an initiative of Augsburg University’s Christensen Center for Vocation. The video is about 60 minutes long. It is the first video of a two part series. This video covers the foundations upon which our work is built. The second video explains the process we use to do this work. This blog will give you some context for the video.

At Augsburg University, we are very committed to the theological concept of vocation in which Christ frees and empowers each person to be co-creators with God in the work of healing creation. Or, in a nutshell, Christ frees us to participate in our neighbors thriving.

Continue reading “The Foundations for a Public Church”

Fear & Mercy: A Sermon Series

We were asked to preach a sermon series on the public church at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Roseville, MN during Lent. The remaining services have since been canceled to allow for social distancing. This sermon was the last sermon we preached on Wednesday March 11, 2020. We wanted to share it with you, our partners, because we think it speaks to the tension and anxiety we find ourselves ministering in these days. 

There is an irony in asking a congregation to “be public” when the times call for social distancing. The purpose of the Public Church Framework is to move us into a humble relationship with our neighbor for our neighbor’s sake. And sometimes the best thing we can do for our neighbor is disengage and physically distance ourselves. At times like this we must find new ways to be public, new ways to proclaim God’s mercy in the midst of fear.

Fear & Mercy

March 11, 2020

Ezekiel 47:3-5

“Going on eastwards with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed.”

river at sunset

Continue reading “Fear & Mercy: A Sermon Series”