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Jeni Falkman Grangaard ’02

Pastor, Glyndon Lutheran Church, Glyndon, Minn.

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Jeni Falkman Grangaard stands in a sanctuaryAs a pastor, what did you learn that you didn’t expect to learn?

It’s a huge learning experience … things from how to learn about sump pumps, budgeting, working with office managers, how to be tactful and graceful, how to balance a really chaotic life and come at it with some sensibility and some sense of peace—all of these are a big part of my learning experience.

What is an issue that you never imagined yourself dealing with as a pastor?

One is dealing with a local sugar producer. A lot of our people harvest beets, and we have a lot who work in the plant. Their union has been locked out since August. There are some people who aren’t union who are working 12-hour shifts now and can’t see their families. I also have people who are on the board there. So I don’t make any comments on the issue. It’s really messy, and there’s no one side to stand on.

What are your own spiritual practices? Where/to whom do you turn for guidance and support?

Spiritual practice for me means finding time for silence. Colin (husband) and I went to Taizé in France and got into the rhythm of simple prayer, silence, and meditation. I turn to colleagues and good friends who are in similar positions for guidance. There are some good seasoned pastors who have made themselves available to have conversations with, and certainly our bishop’s staff at the synod has a lot of experience.

Who at Augsburg inspired or guided you, and how?

Augsburg was a place that really rooted my faith in the world and really shaped the person I am today. Having not grown up in church, I was so young in faith when I came to Augsburg. The Religion Department faculty took time to respond to my questions, especially Janelle Bussert, Bev Stratton, Mark Tranvik, Lynn Lorenzen, Brad Holt, Phil Quanbeck, and Lori Brandt Hale. Pastor Dave Wold and Pastor Sonja Hagander were my first pastors, and they invited me into the language and liturgy of being Lutheran. The Center for Global Education taught me to see that faith isn’t just a personal relationship with God but a deep engagement with the world, especially in places of suffering; they helped me to see that God is with those who suffer. Augsburg prepared me to be a pastor before I began discerning the call to ordained ministry.

Is there a particular passage of scripture that frames your call to ministry?

There have been a lot of different verses that I’ve clung to at different times. Galatians 2:19-21.

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

What is one thing you wish non-clergy knew about your life/identity/call as a pastor?

I just want people to know I’m easy to talk to, and I’m not trying to get anything from them. I’m not here to tell people they are behaving badly. I’d rather just talk about the gospel. I want people to know we don’t fit into a mold, and pastors aren’t the guardians of the gospel. No one can claim ownership on the gospel.

What is one of your most memorable services?

I did a prayer service and funeral for a 54-year-old man who had served on the board of a local company. There were over 1,000 people, and we had to have the funeral at a bigger church in town. There’s something strangely beautiful about a funeral. There’s no pretending. It’s an inevitable part of life. Sometimes it’s a celebration, but this one was special. Before I entered the church, I closed my eyes and was praying, and there was a beautiful light streaming in through the stained glass windows. It was a really meaningful service. I’m still reflecting on it and getting comments on it. Working with the family has been strangely affirming and grounding.

When you meet God, what do you hope God says to you?

What I hope I’d hear God say is, “I kinda like that Josh Ritter song, too.” The song is Thin Blue Flame, and it includes lyrics like: “Only a full house gonna have a prayer,” and “You need faith for the same reasons that it’s so hard to find,” and “And all wrongs forgotten and all vengeance made right. The suffering verbs put to sleep in the night.”

What do you think you would be if you were not a pastor?

If I knew, I would go be that. I don’t know! Sometimes I think I’d like to be a chef. I like the idea of making meals and baking bread and spending time with people. Part of me wants to design websites. The thing about being a pastor that is so appealing, other than the vocational call that brings you there, is that you have permission to be a generalist. You get to do a lot of different things.

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