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Archive for June, 2013

In 30 days I will be leaving the congregation I have had the privilege of serving for the past 17 months in Chicago.  This transition is among the best, as I am fortunate to begin my internship year as a candidate for ordination in the ELCA.  It is thrilling to think in a few weeks I will no longer be an admin but taking the first steps as a congregation’s vicar.  While I am so looking forward to the time ahead, there is a part of me that is not quite ready to let go of a community that I love so dearly.

This congregation is pretty amazing.  Just yesterday as I was walking back from the local produce store, I bumped into a pastor who serves a different church in Chicago.  In the brief few blocks we walked together, we chit-chatted about my seminary (where his wife works) and the respective congregations that we serve.  When I mentioned I would be leaving Chicago soon and that it was time to let go, he said, “That St. Luke’s, they know how to make people excited about ministry.  It seems I’m always hearing about the great work they do in Logan Square.”

There was not much I coulettinggold say to that comment but to agree.  St. Luke’s does make people excited about ministry.  They welcome the stranger, serve as a voice to the voiceless, comfort the grieving, empower every person, and live a life of honesty in their mission and their worship.  I cannot help but feel proud of this community for being such a strong witness of faith, which is why it is a bit of a challenge to say goodbye.

A few years ago I was in a similar position when I left the UCC congregation I served in Cleveland to head to seminary.  That transition was also a mixture of emotions, as that environment is what nurtured my call to ministry and set my feet upon this path.  I remember telling Pilgrim when I left, “we will find the perfect replacement for when I’m gone.”  Now as applications for my current position continue to arrive, I see several emails and cover letters attesting to how this potential candidate will be the “perfect fit.”

I hope that fit has been found for that congregation in Cleveland, and I hope that we will find the perfect fit for this community here in Logan Square.  The irony of it all is that I began both of these positions when I myself was not the perfect fit.  I began Pilgrim to make ends meet, hoping to return to a life working in libraries.  I began at St. Luke’s knowing I would have to balance my seminary obligations of field placements, foreign languages and a clinical pastoral education unit.  On paper, I was not the perfect fit.

Yet, these environments were the perfect places for me.  I needed Pilgrim to show me a progressive congregation so I could see that there was a place for me in the Church to do bold ministry.  I needed St. Luke’s with their healthy leadership and mentoring pastor to support me and affirm my call in the stressful and uncertain midst that is the seminary process.

These places were the perfect fit because they embody what it means to Christian, to have a passion for sharing God’s love in the world.

It is hard to let go of a community that has nurtured me so deeply.  As I begin the process of saying goodbye, I remember that had I not left my last perfect fit I never would have discovered this one.

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The following is an interview with Peter Wallace at Day1 TV about my experience participating in the Academy of Preachers 2013 National Festival of Young Preachers.  What a humbling and exciting blessing to be able to share about my experience with a program I believe so deeply in.

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The following article was written for the June 2013 issue of the Digest for Divinity Lutheran Church of Parma Heights, OH.

silence2In a handful of weeks I will beginning my internship year at Bethel Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri.  It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that this point in my education is almost before me.  It seems like just yesterday my mother and I went seminary searching together.

Every ELCA pastor I know has told me that internship year is the most formative point in seminary education.  I already feel that I have changed and grown so much since the beginning of this seminary process, yet I know that these pastors are probably right.  I will be working, living, and breathing with a new community for an entire year.  Together we will celebrate births and deaths, marriages and divorce, merriment and travesty.  It will change me in ways I cannot imagine.

There was a ceremony at the seminary chapel the day we received our assignments.  It was also the same day of the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Merely moments after our community learned of that devastating attack, we gathered together for word and prayer.  My friend Kara who is awaiting first call preached a powerful sermon of how assignments can feel a bit like the empty tomb of Easter.  They are wonderfully exciting moments, but they are still filled with uncertainty.  They are moments of hope and new beginnings, but the darkness of the tomb reinforces that while some parts of our future are clearer, they are still unknown.  Kara reminded us that while we wait to enter this empty tomb, we should take comfort in remembering that Jesus has already gone before us and is waiting for us at the other side.

As we gathered around the chapel’s font and were handed our envelopes that contained the name of our internship congregation, tension filled the air.  You could almost hear the questions of our minds fill the chapel.  Will I be a good intern?  Am I prepared to move across the country?  What if my supervisor and I don’t get along?  What if something like the Boston Marathon Bombing or the Texas fertilizer plant explosion happens in my new community?  Will I be prepared enough?  Will I be equipped enough to provide comfort?  Am I strong enough as a pastoral leader to face these unknowns?

I looked into the empty tomb that was my assignment envelope.  Inside I found Bethel Lutheran.  While it can at times be hard to see, Kara is right.  Jesus is indeed waiting for me there.  Jesus was present when I first called my internship supervisor, with whom I had a warm and welcome conversation.  Jesus was present when Bethel’s current intern reached out and filled me in on the neighborhood and community.   Jesus was present when the office admin asked for my bio, letting me know the congregation is eager to get to know me.  Jesus will be present when my cat Cozmo and I pull up to our new home, and Jesus will be present that first day in the parish.

Transitions are layered with a variety of emotions.  There is a bit of uncertainty with an unknown, even when you are eager for the new beginning.  It is comforting to know that Jesus has already gone before me and is there now, waiting for me.

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