Friday, August 31, 2012

Some Thoughts Before Class Begins...

Life at LSTC has significantly changed for me in the past two weeks.  CPE has ended, my roommates have made it back to the apartment, I have visited my family, the juniors have arrived and move in, I’ve begun translating all of 1 Corinthians in preparation for class and my amazon account has been used more this week than in the past 6 months as I have been on the hunt for books.  Still, I find it somewhat strange to consider myself a middler in the M. Div program.  I have actually made the mistake multiple times of calling myself and my classmates juniors.  Have we really grown up that fast?  I suppose some of the shock is a little leftover from processing some of the self-discovery I have begun doing through CPE.   A part of it is also because I haven’t gone through endorsement yet (but I did turn in that wonderful essay!!!).  Another part is probably because classes haven’t started.  Who knows? 

While I am finding myself challenged to think of myself and my colleagues as middlers in some sense, I can say that there are joys which will be coming my way this year.  First of all, I get to do MIC.  MIC stands for Ministry in Context.  It’s a part of our field education which places us in semi-local Lutheran congregations for seven hours a week to begin learning what it’s like being a part of a congregation as a pastor.  It’s another one of those many opportunities to grow in pastoral identity.

Another joy that I am looking forward to is some more leadership opportunities.  I’ll be on the Master’s Students Association this year as a representative of the class.  That’s pretty sweet.  I’ve never been on student government or anything like that before, but I’m actually kind of pumped to experience something that could be so similar to church council someday.  I also will get to show some leadership in other activities including the Improv group, some music opportunities, and in chapel settings. 

And then there’s Lutherbowl, of course.

In the wake of CPE and reorientation, I can honestly say I am very excited for the year to start.

Until Next Friday! 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Year of the Interiddler

Coming to you live and direct..the Gypsy Project

Okay so perhaps I do not have my own radio show....

I am thankful that the end of this week approaches, and I am able to celebrate as well as being immensely  exhausted and saturated with community. Thankful to once more be joining you throughout another year of Seminary; for me this is the beginning..or the end?

It's strange when your pathway veers slightly and you are the only one remaining at the crossroads, your traveling companions continue and you lose sight of them in the distance and over the horizon. Then again I am not alone. I've coined the phrase "Interiddler" that is technically and officially I am still a middler having not embarked on Internship but I will be in 2013. I believe I've mentioned that it's different as orientation looms over us not seeing many of my classmates.

This beginning of the Seminary academic year however has been painful.

Each morning that I have gathered in the Grand Hallway or the Common Room, and seeing familiar faces I thought I'd still be in pain as last week we gathered to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of one of our classmates who now rests with the Creator. It was also strange as those events unfolded that my spirit could not mourn.

As I requested prayers through Facebook and Twitter one comment that arose covered in thorns was "There is a lot of depression at...."

Teachers who have to deal with students who are either homeless, abandoned by their parents because of their own shortcomings or involved in violence..they are depressed. Police Officers, EMT's, medical personnel, chaplains whose duty and passion is to protect, heal, save or walk with people and see the absolutely ugly side of humanity...they can be down. Community organizers who want to uplift a neighborhood or community and have political as well as personal roadblocks placed in front of them...can be locked in despair. Because where and what God has called us to and blessed us with this call, because we are dedicated to being bonded to our brothers and sisters in Christ, our brothers and sisters through faith sometimes we get disappointed in what life does not or will not yield to our very being and we feel...well...drained.

What I saw last Friday as we gathered together as the wider community were people who came to share the peace as strangers, neighbors and friends. What I witnessed was one young man's life that had touched so many. What I knew was that our lives can not just remain rooted in the depths of mud and muck; that the showers that rush and playfully douse our physical presence remind us of who we are and whose we are. What I know is that this year, striving to be intentional, vulnerable and pastoral to one another only fuels the fire of what our risen Christ wants us to learn and wants us to live out.

So it is alright to laugh and connect and just be as if everything was the same this week. And yet, reaching out to one another we have a deeper understanding of what it truly means to be brothers and sisters in the risen Christ. For many it is the beginning of a journey of self discovery, for others it is the end of a cornucopia of craziness and delight as first call begins its rise upwards to reveal itself. 

For myself it is the beginning of a deeper understanding of what it means to be truly called and the end of being in familiarity and embarking into the unknown, knowing that through the power of the Holy Spirit, God, Our Creator cradles us and Christ travels with us.

Rest well Alpha. Hope you are eating all the Honey O's with tons o ice cream(?) and chocolate syrup(?) that you want. Even while you are not with us, you still make us laugh.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Dichotomy of Austin and Church?

Carvings from 1930's
When I walk out my door now I see students everywhere.  When I walk, when I drive, they are everywhere and it is apparent that school is starting soon.  What was a ghost town of Austin natives has now become a campus of over 50,000 students.  This means more bikes and longer lines at all the places I frequent...all except church.  We have seen no growth, nor will we dramatically feel the push of 50,000 students.  We know that the ELCA has a campus ministry, which also happens to be one of the last remaining partnership areas for the ELCA and the LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod).  I know that my church at First English is not created for young adult ministry or campus ministry, and I know that it works for all generations of Austin.  But, I cannot help but notice that I never saw the people who walk by my house and frequent the places I already have grown to love in Austin even before the students showed up.  It almost seems that our church has an image issue.  When compared to the hip Austin culture we are surrounded by, like all the music, University of Texas, the unique food (Food Trucks like you've never seen!), and all the hair styles and tattoos (a lot of leg tattoos...unique to warm climate, worthless in the Midwest).  Is there anything to do but admit defeat?  Of course not, but I do find it interesting that our church fits into the Austin culture more than we realize.

Found in every church pew

Wood carved medallions

I met an architect last week who had connected with my supervisor and wanted to see our church and see where we were at with some internal building ideas.  Ben Heimsath is an architect, who happens to have his own blog and speaks to the importance of churches and their architecture.  After a wonderful meeting with him, it was then that I realized that First English Lutheran Church is relevant to Austin.  We were one of the first churches to be Reconciling in Christ in Austin and have always put a sacred importance in accepting all that come through the doors where they are at.  Austin is about the arts and what better a place to support such an idea as First English.  With us just taking down our summer art series provided by Texas local artists we celebrated our 75 years by bringing in the gifts that surround us.  And for all the retro fans out there in our old school cathedral setup we have these wood carved medallions that can be seen on every pew (some can be seen on this blog) from the 1930's, amazing pieces of art that we have kept to remember our beginnings.  Lastly, our cathedral acoustics are outstanding and do not always require electronic assistance.  Any music played from the organ to a family band singing old time church songs, or the occasional chants to our choir only amplify the talents and beauty of the worship experience.  In our simplest forms we seem to have many of the offerings of the original Austin culture we live in.  So yes we are not a church run by young adults and we may not look like the culture, but we understand it, and have been living into Austin's ideals...probably before it was hip to do so.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lunch-$7.50, USC-Priceless

Mmmmm...a tithes worth of Nachos!
The other day, there were people using the kitchen in the house I live in during lunch.  Since Urban Servant Corps hadn't officially started, I figured I'd just go out to lunch...sort of like a personal "last supper" of sorts before I started USC, which has a major principle of simplicity.  

That means, in part, that I make $75 a month as my stipend for my internship year.  It's a great opportunity to learn the difference between needs and wants.  It's also a great time to really understand the value of community, as I'm living with 9 other people in a house, and how we can use each other as resources, instead of just having to purchase our happiness.  

So, I walked to Qdoba, about 2 blocks from my house, and my nachos ended up being $7.50-ish.  As I paid, I reflected on my purchase, and that in just a few short days that would be 10% of my monthly salary.  I reflected that just weeks earlier, I would have thought nothing about spending this much money on lunch...after all, a couple friends and I have a slight addiction to Jimmy John's.  But now, everything is upside down, and I do think about how I spend money.  

The point of this, of course, is not to hoard everything, and pinch pennies, and be overly litigious about money, but instead to learn that we live in a society that measures success on how much money we have, and not how much we can get from community.  So, while lunch has a price, the value I know I will receive from community (I'm also not kidding WILL be hard at times, stay tuned!) is priceless.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

#46 in Austin

A gift from vicar number 44 Carolyn Albert
Even the chips have Texas pride!
Pack your cowboy hats and boots?  Not really, better to pack loose fitting clothing and ear plugs!  Although when we think of Texas, maybe we think about a big cowboy saying, "Howdy partner!"  But here, with the slogan being "Keep Austin Weird" I find out they have the most restaurants per capita and everywhere you look it seems you can find live music.  I am excited to take part in eatin some BBQ and finding that new band no one has ever heard of, and I am sure I will do my part to keep Austin weird, but I have a bigger job to do in Austin.  I am the 46th intern or vicar as they like to call me at First English Lutheran, and yesterday was my first day in the office.  I spent a majority of the time looking over paperwork for the coming year, finding out when I preach and what special responsibilities I may have throughout the year as the vicar (lead a talent show on Shrove Tuesday?!).  I was feeling a little daunted by the number 46 and worried about what I could ever do to be original.  I have never heard of a church so committed to the internship process and making it a ministry of their church for so long.  But after I realized how relaxed Austin is, I was able to see that First English was and is a place that could create great leaders, and all the while Austin cultured them at the same time.  I appreciate that opportunity and feel blessed to be on this journey with my supervisor, pastor at First English, and former vicar at First English as well, Mike Coffey.  Already showing support by taking me on a driving tour of Austin which included lunch at an Austin favorite, Mike has even had me over to his house and fed me his soon to be famous Hatch Chile (very popular down here) Queso!  I also was greeted in my apartment with a bag of Texas goodies from the vicar committee including some chips and salsa, but not to be out done by any other chips, the chips were shaped like Texas!  I feel lucky to have encountered such an amazing church built on such an amazing culture as Austin.  I hope to remember such lessons in hospitality in my own life and ministry here and wherever I go.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wow. I'm Officially A Vicar!

Yesterday was my first day at House for All Sinners and Saints as their newest Vicar.  But, I really started on Friday where Nadia, my supervising pastor, had "Office Hours" to get to know the new vicar.  "Office Hours" are essentially when Nadia is guaranteed to be at a coffee shop during certain times and people can come and hang out and chat about whatever with whoever shows up.  I think it's a great concept and definitely fosters a sense of community.  One of the parishioners actually came and used her lunch break to hang out and talk.

Then Saturday I got to find out what I'm actually going to be doing.  And I'm pretty sure that not many other interns will have an internship like mine.  Basically, I get to be a person for an living this year!  Part of my job will be, of course, preparing sermons, having coffee from parishoners, making hot dishes for potlucks, and the like.  But, since HFASS is a mission start church, I'll get to do things like join clubs (hiking? biking? book? help me choose!) and doing volunteer work (again...suggestions welcome!) in the community as a religious leader.  That is to say, I'll do these things being clear that I am a leader in the Church.  The point is not necessarily to get more people to come to HFASS, but instead to be an active presence in the community.  My internship responsibilities also include personal health and growth, through reading stuff I want to read, working out, and making friends outside the church.

I'm pretty stoked that I get to be a person for a year, doing God's work in all the world, not just in an office!

Seriously...give me suggestions for clubs/volunteer jobs/general merriment!

Monday, August 13, 2012

"Do What You Love"

I have one of those stretchy bracelets with that quote on it and I've been wearing it for the past week or so.  I got it a few years ago when I was working at Gap as a sales associate and our CEO passed away.  This was his catchphrase and what he structured his business model around...he did what he loved: selling denim to the masses.  

It got me thinking about what I loved on my drive today.  I'm on my way to internship in Denver (it's finally becoming real...yay!) and I have had all day to ponder my bracelet.  I've come to realize, through talking with friends this week, that I love ministry a whole lot.  I love the sacraments, I love that God comes to us in the most ordinary of things-Water, Wheat, Wine.  I love that God meets us in our suffering because God suffered on the Cross.  I love that I am blessed enough to get to do ministry in an awesome urban setting with creative liturgy and liberal use of incense.  I love walking with people in their joys, struggles, pain, and comfort.  I love listening to, and proclaiming, the endless good news of God's love for all people through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  

And as I was driving and thinking of all of this, I realized that I also love driving.  It's a great time to think and jam out to my girls (Britney, Rihanna, Xtina) at the same time.  I love how blessed I am to get to have this adventure...and I love doing what I love!  

Driving through the Midwest!! My Parents are along for the journey in front of me.