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What Kind of Church Do We Want to Invite People Into?

This week, we hear from Baird Linke, an Innovation Coach at the Riverside Innovation Hub. Baird shares what came out of the panel on “Purpose & Community in Young Adulthood” at our 2019 February Learning Workshop event.

 

In February, we gathered people from various faith communities working with the Riverside Innovation Hub at our Learning Workshop. I was fortunate to work with my fellow Coach Amanda Vetsch to prepare a panel of young people with diverse perspectives to share about their relationships to faith and faith communities and how they make meaning in the world.

Panelists sharing their stories and thoughts at the panel. From left to right: Emily Kindelspire, Nick Jordan, Erik Olson, Grace Corbin, Luke Paquin, and Baird Linke (facilitator)

We had a wealth of experience in the room — an artist, an organizer, a seminarian, a healthcare professional, a legislative supervisor, and an Innovation Coach — all with varying relationships to faith and church. Some of them have chosen to step away from the Christian tradition they were raised in; some value the church but are not connected to a congregational community, and others have made working for and in the church their daily work.

In spite of the different paths and faith backgrounds, all panelists articulated the belief that what they chose to do is a part of making the world a better place. Some of the major concerns people brought up were climate change, access to health care, the rights of children and others, and the need to love and be loved. These young people care about the world around them, and they build communities in their lives with people who share similar passions.

This transformative motivation showed up again in our conversation about whether or not the panelists are involved with communities of faith and why. Panelists who have centered the church in their lives expressed they experience meaningful transformation in faith communities. They were also quick to point out some of the ways the church could stand some continued transformation. Some of the folks who are not involved with a church wondered whether or not the church was ultimately willing to be transformed by them. Others shared they did not find an understanding of the world that lined up with their own in the church or in Christianity. The commonality that came up in these conversations was the importance of the relationships that help our panelists live out their values in transformative ways — inside and outside the church.

An audience asked what needs to die in the church for there to be a resurrection along the lines of these transformative relationships. One response, in the limited time we had, was that the current business model needs to die. There was a sense from the panel that, if we are concerned primarily with the participation of a demographic category, we are looking for consumers for a product instead of genuinely loving fellow children of God in a way that changes the world.

Of course, the church needs resources to exist in our economy, and relationships do not happen without getting people through the door. In the time we had, we were not able to come up with the perfect spiritual practice to stay grounded in the face of those realities. I’d like to give you a straightforward answer to the question “how do we get young people back to church” because then, as a Coach, I would feel like I did my job well and now it’s up to you to do the work. But that’s not quite how it works. The truth is: there is no one perfect answer to this question.

There is NOT a golden program or rock-solid theology that will change people if it is not done from a foundation of genuine, mutually transformative relationship that some call love. And I do not think love is about answers that let you close the book. Love is about finding wonder in another person, and that is a practice that is never finished. Thanks be to God.

The church can be a place where this kind of love happens, but we cannot take it for granted that it just will. Instead of asking how to get young adults back to church, I would invite you to dwell into the question of what kind of church we want to invite them into.  

 

Great thanks to our panelists (in both sessions): Emily Kindelspire, Nick Jordan, Erik Olson, Grace Corbin, Luke Paquin, and Korla Masters

 

Waiting For What We Are Already Becoming

Hub staff visits the headwaters of the Mississippi River

“The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.” — John Muir

On Friday December 14th, the Riverside Innovation Hub staff visited the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park in Park Rapids, Minnesota. The Mississippi River has been an important conversation partner for us throughout our project. It serves as a reminder of the depth and breadth of God’s mercy flowing into our world (see Ezekiel and the Public Church: Everything will live where the River Flows).

 

It takes a drop of water at the headwaters 90 days to reach the Gulf of Mexico. That means the water we saw while we were there will be flowing through the Mississippi River valley until March 14th, the second week of Lent. That is a long time for these lovely drops of water to wait before they meet the warm waters of the Gulf. But Advent is all about waiting. And it is strange to think about Lent during Advent. But Advent is strange. Anticipatory waiting is strange.

Christian theologians use the phrase “the already-not-yet” to describe the era in which we live. God’s deep and wide mercy has already begun flowing into our world, but the fullness of the life and healing this mercy brings has not yet been fully realized. We wait for it, with anticipation. It is this anticipatory, strange waiting that our project is experiencing right now. We are in the already-not-yet. We are already experiencing the challenges and blessings of the slow work of innovation – the journey through the river’s valley – but we have not yet fully seen its fruits. This feels strange to many of us. We are not good at waiting. We prefer to control and initiate.

This is where I think John Muir might have something to offer us. God’s mercy is not something we sit next to and observe. It is something that flows “through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.” We long for every drop of God’s mercy to reach its destination. But it does not make its journey through a river valley, it makes its journey through us, through our bodies.

Mary, the Theotokos (God-bearer), teaches us how to carry God’s mercy in our bodies.
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46 – 55).

 

Innovation is the same. The work of accompaniment, interpretation, discernment, and proclamation are not things that flow past us. They flow through us. We carry this work in our bodies. It becomes incarnate when we show up and engage a person, a place, an idea. We carry it in awe, and gratitude, and humility. And we wait. We wait for God’s good work that has already begun but is not yet complete.

 

Written by Jeremy Myers, PhD

Photo credit: Ha (Cassie) Dong

 

Come and meet us!

Augsburg University will host two Meet and Greet events on campus this fall for local congregations and others interested in learning more about the Riverside Innovation Hub, Augsburg’s newest initiative in relationship with congregations discerning their call to ministry with young adults.

  • Meet the Riverside Innovation Hub team
  • Learn more about the scope of this 5-year project and ways to get involved
  • Consider applying for our Innovative Ministry Partnership
  • Share your curiosities about ministry with young adults
  • Connect with local congregations and leaders

We are hosting an evening event on Nov. 13 and a morning event on Nov. 16.  Information at each event will be the same. Light refreshments and beverages will be served. Those attending on Nov. 16 are also invited to stay for chapel from 11:30-11:50PM. Kristina Fruge, Program Manager for the Riverside Innovation Hub, will be preaching.

We hope you will join us!

 

MON. NOVEMBER 13 @ 7:00-8:30PM

Augsburg University, Oren Gateway, Room 100

NOVEMBER 13 RSVP

THURS. NOVEMBER 16 @ 9:45-11:15AM

Augsburg University, Christensen Center, The Augsburg Room

NOVEMBER 16 RSVP 

 

GETTING TO AUGSBURG

Augsburg University is located at 2211 Riverside Ave. in Minneapolis, MN on the north side of Hwy 94.

We are able to provide a limited number of parking permits on campus for each November event. The first 30 people who register for each date will receive parking permit via email the week before. City street parking is available around campus on a first come, first serve basis. Please pay attention to parking signs as they are strictly enforced!

More detailed directions and a link to a campus map, click here. 

Opportunities for Congregations

Please join us in this endeavor! Here are some ways you can become involved in the work of the Riverside Innovation Hub at varying levels of commitment.

 

ATTEND OUR EVENTS

  • Hub Seminars – Our annual Hub Seminars will be a place to share ideas, and learn from one another as we support each other in our ministry with young adults. These seminars will feature keynote speakers and breakout sessions with lots of time for networking and dreaming. RSVP for our March 12, 2018 Hub Seminar, focusing on key learnings from our research with faith communities and young adults. 
  • Pop-up Conversations – Our Pop-up Conversations at coffee shops and brew pubs around the Twin Cities will be an opportunity to have less formal conversation around one specific aspect of faith and ministry with young adults.

APPLY FOR OUR INNOVATIVE MINISTRY PARTNERSHIP

Augsburg University’s Riverside Innovation Hub is reaching out to faith communities in and near the Twin Cities to create four-year innovative partnerships around ministry with young adults through the Innovative Ministry Partnership. On January 15, 2018 the application process will open for faith communities interested in applying to partner and learn with us over the next four years through three different tracks for participation.

The deadline for submitting applications is April 15, 2018.

RSVP for an Information Session here.

 

Application Application Guide Printable Application Three Tracks for Participation

 

STAY CONNECTED

To stay up to date on when our application process opens and informed about other opportunities with the Riverside Innovation Hub, join our mailing list and follow our project online and with social media.

Or reach out for a cup of coffee or a phone call. We love to connect and learn from the questions and insights of colleagues and friends!