Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sick of Being Sick

For the last two [three?] weeks I have been the victim of a particularly malicious strain of acute viral rhinopharyngitis. This condition has made it more difficult to do virtually everything I have to do the get through my day – work, study, play, talk, and especially sleep. It has even robbed me of my senses of taste and smell. I drank a cup of Starbucks coffee yesterday that I literally could not taste. This terrible disease is otherwise known, of course, as the common cold. But whereas most of my colds seem to last 2-3 days, this one has been going on for weeks. People around campus are starting to wonder, “Do you still have that same cold?”

I definitely have a greater appreciation for my health now, however, than I did three weeks ago. It’s amazing how having to live for 17 days with this relatively minor ailment [though it hasn’t always seemed minor] can change my perspective on things. It makes me think of those among us living with conditions, seen or unseen, that don’t go away like mine [hopefully] will very soon. It causes me to desire a more compassionate spirit, not knowing what the person sitting next to me has to deal with on a daily basis.

Caring God, help us to live lives full of grace and compassion, that we may show all with whom we have contact your mercy, for the glory of your son Jesus. And please take away this darn cold!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In Transit

Last Sunday we decided to begin scouring the city for a congregational home, a place to worship for our final year of seminary.

We awoke to an early alarm and bustled our way to the nearest bus stop, caught the #55 to the Red Line, and let Chicago’s elevated train cars carry us across the city. Our hands cradled the books we’d brought, which made for a nice ride and an even nicer metaphor. The Red Line is as good a classroom as any. As the neighborhoods pass by, so do the different populations of passengers who file in and out of the sliding doors; ride the El for a day and you’ll learn more about this city than a hundred books could teach.

At the Addison stop passengers spill out into the streets, and so do we, to a congregation only a few blocks from baseball’s Friendly Confines. The preacher reads the lesson from Luke’s gospel, a vivid story of the divisions between God’s people, the wide chasm between rich and poor, a canyon between the classes that exists in our world as much as Luke’s. Yet the final word, grace of graces, is not a sentence but a sending. “Go in peace,” the preacher tells us, “serve the Lord.”

As we re-board the train to return home, I notice a sign over the exits that could fit over church doors as well as the CTA’s. It reads, in big, block letters: “OUT TO STREETS AND BUSES.” Indeed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Learning to Trust

I spent last week at the Synod Ministerium for the Upstate New York Synod. Synod Ministerium is a chance for all rostered leaders in the synod to meet for fellowship and continuing education. This year the presenter was Dr. Craig Satterlee, LSTC’s homiletics professor, which was especially nice for me. With all the new in my life, it was wonderful to have a familiar face around.

Dr. Satterlee’s presentation was on “Preaching in Times of Transition.” His final lecture dealt with how clergy can take care of themselves during times of transition. After each of the lectures was a time for questions and discussion, but it was not until this topic that the conversation really took off. I sat and listened as seasoned clergy (one man in the room had been ordained fifty-one years) struggled with the same questions my classmates and I ask. How to maintain balance? How to set healthy boundaries? How to keep a strong prayer life? How to trust God?

As I sat in that room, thirteen days into my internship, it was strangely comforting to hear experience clergy asking the same questions I struggle with. It helped me remember that this path I walk is not mine to control. I will never reach a point where I am suddenly magically a pastor. Instead it is about being open to do the work I am called to; knowing I am not able and trusting in God to get me through.

Monday, September 27, 2010

All work and no play... I mean reverse that

In my second week I went to the library for a reserved book, thinking I could squeeze in a quick read before the library closed. I snagged my book from the reserve and as I round the corner, I start to hear some noise.

Half of my junior class was in the library studying for class; Pentateuch, Greek, and I had to read a chapter for Pastoral Care. Little did I know my night had just begun. We closed the library an hour later, probably doing more talking than studying.

Still full of conversation and in definite need of more study time, about six of us went to someone’s apartment. Surrounding a bowl of Sun Chips and some people taking advantage of our host’s Red Bull, we went to work… kind of. We did study, some more than others, but more importantly we laughed, and we did not let the stress of school get us too worked up. We found random YouTube videos and talked about our classes and professors and what we’ve experienced in these first couple of weeks.

Finally deciding it was past my bedtime I walked back to commuter housing. Sneaking into my room and trying to climb into the top bunk without making too much noise, I could not help but laugh, I thought I was going to be here 4 hours ago.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Be still and know that I am God.

I was driving home from a quick shopping trip today and as I was going under the Metra stop on 53rd Street , I suddenly heard music. I’ll admit that I was jamming along to Top 40 Hits with the sun roof open, but this was different music. It was haunting violin/cello/string ensemble music. I wish I could tell you who was playing it or what the title of the piece was, but I can’t. I can, however, tell you that I sat there, immobilized by these sounds, while the other drivers around me had their windows up and were simply waiting for the light to change.

I felt like I won this little jackpot. I happened upon this gorgeous music that I shouldn’t have been able to hear. As cheesy as it sounds, it reminded me to stop and listen for music. I have definitely been feeling the hustle and bustle of life at LSTC and I sometimes forget to stop and LISTEN. Listen to God. Listen to the breeze. Listen to laughter. Listen to music. Listen.

It really makes me think about the big word that we keep throwing around: discernment. Yes, I discerned to get here, but I’m still discerning. Today’s discernment was the gentle reminder from my Creator that I need to be listening to whatever joyful sound begins to echo above my head.

God's peace,

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

God works in mysterious ways

In 2007, I headed to Chicago for four days. I wrote about the trip in my journal. Fast forward to April 2009—God woke me up one morning and called me to pastoral leadership. Although I dreaded the school required, I thought about all the places I had traveled for the Lord and knew that this was an important part of my journey. I said yes.

As I was searching for seminaries, most of the seminaries had already closed registration. The next day I found a receipt from that Chicago trip that I had not seen in years, to the Frank Lloyd Wright Museum. I was so excited that I framed it in a little purple frame and sat it on my desk. I knew Chicago was where I was headed.

A Presbyterian friend recommended LSTC. She recommended that I speak with the Admissions Director. After I left her office, I realized that this is where God sent me.

After orientation, I walked up to Dean Baeder, unable to form my words from holding back the tears, and told him that the orientation was excellent. I knew that I had arrived to a seminary of great quality, an institution of great professionalism, respect of diverse cultures, and focused on the spirit of God.
God wanted greater quality, and greater spirituality, because although I have previous degrees, this is God’s job, the one that ultimately matters. God works in mysterious ways.

--Constance Johnson

Connie Johnson is from Chicago, Illinois and is an Elder in the Presbyterian Church, USA. She is currently developing a publication company here in Chicago as she pursues the MDiv. She plays cello, tennis, and is interested in researching, writing and reading autobiographies.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lutheran Year

It’s funny how sometimes things don’t turn out how you expect them to. I’m taking four classes during this first of two semesters I’ll be spending here at LSTC as a “Lutheran year” student. Two of them are core “Lutheran” classes that I felt my candidacy committee would want me to take, and the other two are classes I chose because I was excited for the topics. I figured the ones I chose for myself would be the ones I would most enjoy, but so far, I figured wrong!

The main reason I like my “Lutheran classes” are the professors. I could sit and listen to Kurt Hendel talk about Luther’s theology all day. The insights I gleaned after just one class with him made me excited to dive into one of those many volumes of Luther’s Works. And Ben Stewart’s perspectives on Worship get me psyched for the lively, theologically sound worship that must be happening at Lutheran churches led by LSTC grads everywhere.

Even after just four weeks in Hyde Park, there are all kinds of things that have enriched me—daily chapel services, experiencing community with other students and families, Luther Bowl practice, getting to know the city. But when it comes down to it, the reason I’m here is to take classes. So the quality of my Lutheran year education is largely determined by the professors. And LSTC, I’m finding, is not lacking in quality professors. --Matthew Anderson

Matthew is a “Lutheran year” student at LSTC, which means he only gets to spend one year in this lovely place before going out on internship and, God willing, on to ordination. While studying at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA, working toward his M.Div., he eventually gave in to what he discerned as God’s calling into parish ministry. So in August 2010, his wife Becky and he packed up their car, a moving truck, and their two cats, and headed across the country to experience the climate and culture of Chicago.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You are the legacy

These words held such power as Dr. Ralph Klein addressed the LSTC congregational community in his sermon today. The Ralph W. and Marilyn R. Klein Chair of Old Testament was established this year, announcing Dr. Esther Menn as the first seat holder in said chair.

While he preached to all of us, he specifically addressed his five charming grandsons when he used the words, “You are the legacy.” The tears welled in my eyes as I heard him tell them to speak to the future Klein Chair professor, fifty years from now, and tell him or her about Nana and Poppa.

I was so moved by watching him share this moment, which recognized his esteemed scholarship and generosity, with his five young boys. Part of me wished that I was one of his grandchildren, being a part of that legacy. I’m not though. I am, however, part of the team that is called to minister to his legacy.

I may never have one of the Klein children in Sunday School or sitting in a pew in my parish, but I pray that I will be a mentor for other children, inspiring them to find God in the world. We are called to empower and encourage the future generations of our church. I pray that God blesses Dr. Klein’s legacy and teaches me how to better serve God’s children.

--Meredith Harber

Postscript: Listen to the podcast of Ralph Klein's sermon.

Meredith is a junior (first year) M.Div. student from Marion Center, Pennsylvania. She was raised ELCA-Lutheran and she’s here to prove that there ARE Lutherans outside of the Midwest! After spending a year in the West Bank, Palestine, she came to LSTC with a strong pull towards the interfaith emphasis. She’s still thinking about it, but she is open to where God is calling her. She does know that she is excited and energized by the LSTC community. She is exactly where she needs to be right now.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Prayer Life at LSTC--Guest Blogger of the Week

I did not realize how much one community could pray before coming to LSTC. Granted, I’m a life-long Lutheran with your stereotypical aversion to praying in public, whose high school youth group played the “nose goes” game (the game starts when one person surreptitiously places their finger on their nose, the last person to notice has to perform a prearranged task) to decide who had to pray. But I went to a Lutheran college (Go Gusties) where there was daily chapel, blessings and benedictions before conferences, community meals and graduation, it should be similar to that right? Not so gentle reader, not so.

When classes started I discovered that all of them open with some form of prayer, in one a student takes concerns of the class and prays to open the day, in a couple others the professor opens the class in prayer, in worship class students signed up to open the class by praying the collect from the previous Sunday. Prayer concerns go out to the community by email and there are lengthy petitions in chapel, my goodness it just never stops!

As I adjusted to the sheer volume of prayer I realized that it is not out of obligation or route that continuous community prayer happens here, rather it is a thread that ties these nomadic religious scholars and teachers together, at the same time creating community and connecting us to the whole world. For that I say thanks be to God.
–Emily Hefty

Emily Hefty is a junior (first year) M.Div student from Portland, Oregon. Emily graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2009 after studying music and religion and spent a year volunteering with AmeriCorps in Portland before coming to LSTC. Emily enjoys theological study, chapel and exploring Chicago with her husband, Nick.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

“The Victor”

Half the people at my internship site call me “The Victor.” My formal title is vicar, but that not being a familiar word they settled on the closest thing they could figure out. I must admit it makes me smile every time I hear it. Most days I do not feel very victorious in this new and unfamiliar place, a cheery “hey Victor” helps me remember that people here believe in me.

I preached and led worship for the first time on Wednesday night. Standing alone in the cavernous sanctuary as I was getting ready for the service, I did not feel very victorious. Shivering in the cold and dwarfed by the enormity of the space, I did not feel up to the task of faithfully leading God’s people in worship.

But it was Holy Cross day on Wednesday. And on Holy Cross day we celebrate the triumph of the cross. With shouts and praise and glorious red paraments, we celebrate the incredible juxtaposition that is Christ’s victory in the cross, God’s strength in human weakness, eternal life from death. “Foolishness,” Paul called it, “but the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

What a day to begin my year as “victor.” A year where I will stand in this liminal space, not yet ordained but not quite lay. As I learn, and grow, and make tremendous mistakes, I pray that I remember the way of the One I follow. One whose power is in weakness.

--Kjersten Priddy

Kjersten Priddy is on internship at Atonement Lutheran Church in Syracuse, NY. Atonement is a Horizon internship site that does urban ministry on the south side of the city. She is originally from California and is learning to love snow. She enjoys running, biking, and seasonal vegetarian cooking, and she is a die-hard Washington Nationals fan.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Walk in the Park

Last week my wife and I took a walk through Hyde Park, the Chicago neighborhood LSTC calls home. As a senior in the M.Div program, I’ve lived here before, for my first two years of seminary, but we’ve been away on internship. It was time to get reacquainted with our old/new neighborhood.

We had forgotten the trees. Leafy and full, they line the avenues, standing like sentinels in front of brownstone apartment buildings, allowing just enough of the evening light to dapple through. Crossing the street, we enter the campus of the University of Chicago, full of gothic architecture and gargoyles galore, with shoulders as big as this city’s.

Approaching the edge of campus, we find the neighborhood already beginning to change. Construction crews crawl over the towering skeleton of the university’s expanding medical center. In its shadow, a few small, storefront businesses hang on.

Beyond this porous border lie the other neighborhoods that make up this city, spreading out like puzzle pieces in every direction but the big blue of Lake Michigan. In my time at LSTC I’ve had opportunities to learn and to do ministry in so many of them, in congregations and in the wider communities that surround them.

My heart full of memory, I pause for a moment, and give thanks: for what has been and what is to come, here in this place, here amid a kaleidoscope of cultures and a patchwork of people, here in Chicago. --Matt Keadle

Born in California and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Matt attended Valparaiso University before deciding to explore a call to seminary. He chose to attend LSTC in order to study urban ministry, and over the last several years he’s had an opportunity to do just that. After a study abroad program in Mexico City and a pastoral internship in Seattle, Washington, he is in the midst of his final year at LSTC.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Blessings of New Students--Guest Blogger of the Week

Whether the last time you were in a classroom was in the past three months or the past three decades, the first day of seminary can be a bit, well, daunting. Although all the new students had spent the previous week forming relationships and building a new community, I’ll admit I was still a little nervous for my 8:00 a.m. Church History class.

By the time chapel rolled around I was starting to feel better. As the bells rang to begin the morning worship, I felt a very welcome sense of peace fill me. I relaxed, took a deep breath, and let the familiarity of liturgy wash over me. I was surrounded by a wonderful new community who had come together to celebrate and rejoice as we began our new academic year. In the middle of the service the presiding and assisting ministers asked each of the new students to gather around the baptismal font.

Reminding us that in all things we are called by God, and that through all things we should seek to glorify God, the 2010 entering class was blessed before the assembly of returning students, faculty, staff, spouses, partners, and children. We are all children of God, and to be reminded of that as we begin our new academic endeavors is, I believe, the most important lesson we will learn in our time at LSTC.

--Jenna Pulkowski

Jenna Pulkowski is a Junior MDiv student originally from Roscoe, IL. After graduating from Luther College in 2009 with a BA in English (what do you do with a BA in English???) she moved to Denver, CO to do a year of service with the Urban Servant Corps. She likes (really, really, REALLY likes) coffee, mountains, fall weather, volleyball, and Chicago. If you ever want to talk theology, coffee, camping, traveling, or pretty much anything else she’d love to have a chat with you!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Score Sheet - Intern: 1 Fear: 0

I'll admit it. Fear plays a part in my decisions. Maybe it has to do with being an introvert but I feel we all have it to some degree about various things: the future, our social life, the next generation, money, the world. And then there's that horrible cliche: "Don't worry about anything. Pray about everything."

Because of course we will worry - we're human. More specifically, we are seminarians. We get to pair our fears with the weight of spirituality so it becomes not only a decision about where to go to school but an entire discernment process about our entire life. We fret about where to go to seminary, what CPE and MIC will be like, where to go on internship or first call, and how to find good news in a text filled with law. It is terrifying.

And yet.... here I am in Montana, snubbing my fears about being farther away from my home in Tennessee than I ever thought I would be, to catch glimpses of God in the beautiful mountains and in long conversations with elderly residents about life as they've lived it. I am blessed beyond imagining. I won't lie and say the fear is gone. But it becomes easier to note it's presence and go, "So what?" It becomes easier to pair that worry with prayer. "Montana? Really, God? But... okay. Send me." And here I am.

Alison is an intern in big sky country splitting her time between chaplain type work at an assisted living facility and parish ministry in Billings, Montana. She originally comes from Tennessee so her seminary journey to Chicago and then to Montana is certainly food for thought. She is passionate about the WORD, in all forms, including preaching, blogging, and the Word that was in the beginning and is now. Amen!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Being Open in the Spirit

Surrounded by my fellow new peers and classmates in a circle, I allowed myself to be in a vulnerable position, to be open and humbled so that as we began this journey together there were no questions or barriers between us. I spoke what it meant to be an African-American woman not only in this city, but within our church family and more personally our LSTC community.

Diversity is, and will always continue to be a hot topic in this part of the world yet, if we are to come together and commune with the Holy Spirit in fellowship, worship and prayer, then we must respect each other’s path; respect our ancestries and the shoulders of those we stand on and the responsibility of honoring them.

There are many who feel that multiculturalism is not important—and as I expressed to my 30 new sisters and brothers, that for those who express disregard or displeasure it is because they have no sense of where they have come from.

Yet, in God’s eyes we are not different and even here, no matter what label you bear—M. Div., M.A. or Advanced Studies student; first year, intern or finishing a dissertation—one thing is clear. We have been called to God’s Mission, spreading God’s love and mercy through Word and Sacrament, through passing of the peace and raising our voices in praises and song. Regardless of where we come from, we are all beloved children of the Most High, of the Creator, of God.
--Kwame Pitts

Kwame Pitts hails from Chicago and worships at Zion Lutheran Church where she has joyfully served as a deacon to working with middle and high school youth. Excited about starting as a M.Div, she will continue to explore her passions of youth and outdoor ministry and “allowing the Holy Spirit to guide my steps.” She also enjoys writing poetry, reading, her family and celebrating life. Kwame is married to Robert, a teacher and photographer and lives in Seminary housing with her two children.