CROSS-CULTURAL EXPERIENCES CONVOCATION By Karen Ressel, Final Year M.Div. Student

The Wartburg community has been blessed by the presence of some of our Iceland Flagbrothers and sisters from Iceland this October who are attending the CGT Pastors’ Continuing Education Academy. At the convocation on October 23rd, they shared some of their observations and insights as a way of entering conversation on the impact of being submerged in a culture that is not your own.

Rev. Gunnar Sigurjónsson: Gunnar visited WTS for the first time in 2006. “We came as strangers and left as friends. It is a home away from home.” Gunnar partners with Wartburg professor Dr. Sam Giere to provide students with an opportunity to visit Iceland for a cross-cultural J-term.

Ms. Þóra Margrét Þórarinsdóttir: As a CEO for a non-governmental agency, Þóra serves people with various disabilities and helps to link them with services they need in their daily lives and pastoral care. She shared that they “love them all and serve them all” every day. The church of Iceland partners with the organization in caring for people, especially in times of distress.

Rev. Bryndis Valbjarnardóttir: “The welcome has been overwhelming! It feels like you are living the faith. It is very precious.” Bryndis was a funeral director before becoming a pastor, and she shared an Icelandic tradition of gathering when a loved one dies. Those closest to the deceased gather before the funeral and there is a feeling of close friendship. It is a time of thanksgiving and reconciliation. She has had the same feeling of closeness during her visit.

Rev. Jón Ragnarsson: The people of Iceland are surrounded by danger from the environment. They experience earthquakes and avalanches as a result of volcanic activity. As a pastor, crisis management is part of the ministry they do for and with the communities they serve.

Rev. Ingólfur Hartvigsson: Ingólfur was ordained in 2006 and works in the southeast of Iceland. The community that he serves was impacted by a volcanic eruption and earthquake in 2010. There was a foot of ash covering everything and people were in crisis. “First you need to find your inner calm. Once you find that calm, you establish contact with the people that are in your parish. You ask, ‘How are you coping? Do you need help?’ If you can’t find your inner calm you can’t help people.”

Rev. Magnús Björn Björnsson: Magnús spoke about the “overwhelming hospitality” that he has experienced during his visit to WTS. “What I have experienced here [illustrates] what we mean when we confess ‘I believe in the holy catholic church.’ I can see how the students are formed by the community here at Wartburg.”

The assembly enjoyed table conversation together about their own cross-cultural experiences and how these experiences opened their horizons. The theme of hospitality seemed to be the common thread of the stories shared at the table where I was seated. Intentional hospitality and what that means as we see the image of God in ourselves and those we come into contact. We need to consider how we present ourselves, as the guest and as the host/hostess, remembering that we are all acceptable to God as we learn to participate in the discipline of intentional hospitality. As we each shared around the table it was clear that no matter where we found ourselves, we were welcomed. I think each of us would agree with Gunnar, “We came as strangers and left as friends. It is a home away from home.”

ICE, a poem by Carina Schiltz, M.Div. Intern, Milwaukee, WI

ICE
(U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Another chapter in the land of the free, but only if you’re a citizen.
Now he only works one job instead of two.
He’s been here since 1985, has paid taxes  on his houses
at his jobs
since he walked across the border
when he was 20 years old.

His wife earned 90 dollars last week.
She cleaned 8 houses, top to bottom.

Their two children are citizens.  Beautiful. Bi-lingual.
Dressed in their school uniforms.
They do not know their father is in danger of deportation.
The parents haven’t told them yet.

The police stopped him after he “ran a red light.”
They handcuffed him.
He has never been ticketed.
He has never been in trouble.

He has one year until his court date.

The agonizing hours. The calls to lawyers.
The waiting. The grief. The fear.
La migra know everything now.
Where they live. Who their children are.

Everything.

And she cooks in the kitchen, waiting for her
husband of 25 years to bring the children home
from school.

Posole, enough to feed the whole family and
their friend, who eats with them every night
so the friend doesn’t have to eat alone.

Enough to feed the tiny girl who lives upstairs
and has to take care of herself because her
mother is working and her father no está.

Her diminutive voice squeaks out an hola
to the other visitor at the table this night,
me.

They welcomed me in
like I had always belonged there.

Podemos invitarla para Thanksgiving?
“Can we invite her
for Thanksgiving?” the 9-year-old son asks.
The 12-year-old daughter proudly shows me
her song she wrote about the kingdom of God
for school. “Do you like it?”
Yes, it’s beautiful. But it seems
so far away.

ICE, how dare you rip this family apart?
How dare you give them PTSD, fear
that at every turn,
you will take him away?

She can’t live without him.

The white wedding anniversary party dress
hangs in the dining room,
a specter incessantly whispering
how many more years will we have
together?

In Mexico they have no chance at survival,
safety, security.
They want to raise the children here,
where there is opportunity.

This is
all
they
know.

But, ICE, you call them and threaten.
You give them false hope and you
pour on the fear like it’s icing on a cake.
Thick.
Poisonous.
Deadly.

How you wield your power.

This country was built by fear and force,
on the backs of slave and now immigrant labor.

You let them in, take advantage,
and then send them home
when you are through.

You with your handcuffs, stealing
innocent men
from their families that they have worked
SO
hard  to become established. Working two jobs.
Anything
to get the kids through school.
So they can have a chance at something better.

They are feeding others,
but you don’t seem to care
that if he’s taken away, the little neighbor girl will go hungry.

Your justice serves only
the powerful, monied, gated,
privileged.

The “everyday American” benefits from your work,
complacent, ignorant, implicated.
We are ICE, too. I bear guilt as well as the armed
agent, hunting for an “illegal”.

If only you could sit at their table with them
and see what a beautiful family they are. Surely
that would soften your heart
and force you to feel your humanity.

If only you could catch the jokes they tell
one another,
the way she scolds the neighbor girl to sit
correctly on the chair and not slurp her posole.

But all you see
are criminals.

ICE, leave this family alone.

If only you would accept them
like they accepted me: with hugs and
invitations to return anytime I want.
They sent me home
with at least three servings
of left-overs
and an entire cake
to share with those around me.

I didn’t have to eat dinner alone tonight.
They welcomed me in, and invited me back.

They adopted me.

But you, ICE, with your frozen heart
and your rigid system
and your unrelenting torture,
the way you hang over people,
slowing their hearts and congealing
their hopes,

You deserve to hear the words that you say to so many:

You are not welcome here.

Go back to where you came from.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY: 9.5 THESIS, by the WTS American Genocide Class

Peace Pole

Photo by Tanner Howard, Final Year M.Div. Student

Introduction by Karen Ressel, Final Year M.Div. Student

How do we begin to address injustices that are so tightly woven into the fabric of our lives and nation? That is the question that looms in the minds of students in the American Genocide class at Wartburg Seminary as we discuss the atrocities committed against the indigenous peoples of the Americas. We are examining the stark, disturbing, realities that European contact brought to the “New World.” We are finding a different view of history than many of us learned earlier in our schooling. We are discovering that much of our national “history” does not give consideration, much less voice, to the millions of people killed after Columbus landed in America. The idea that we celebrate these national myths on the second Monday in October is ludicrous.

Lest we try to separate ourselves from the violence committed against American Indians in the past, the product of that violence remains in many forms of systemic racism that continues to oppress, ignore, and disregard American Indian peoples.

So, once again, “How do we begin to address injustices that are so tightly woven into the fabric of our lives and nation?” One of the students in the class shared a news article about some cities and institutions that had decided to observe Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day. We talked about what we might do and as a result of that discussion we drafted these 9.5 Theses in hopes of raising awareness and opening a space for honest conversation to break the silence that surrounds past as well as current events.

Today is Indigenous Peoples Day: 9.5 Theses!
Because the arrival of Columbus marked the beginning of an indiscriminate genocidal campaign against Indigenous Peoples, we resolve that the WTS community recognize the 2nd Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day.

  1. When Jesus said “repent” he meant that believers should live a whole life of repenting. We are called upon to repent of the crimes against humanity committed in the name of Christ against the indigenous people of this continent, beginning with Columbus.
  2. We call attention to the fact that inaccurate and false reporting of historical events creates fertile ground for divisiveness, stereotypes, racism, segregation, fear, and hate.
  3. We call attention to the fact that egregious human rights violations were committed against Indigenous Peoples in the past through dehumanization and countless acts of violence.
  4. We call attention to the fact that human rights violations continue to this very day through systemic means that allow the continued dehumanization of Indigenous Peoples.
  5. We call for the concerted effort to form relationships and partnerships with Indigenous Peoples, learning from them, how we might begin to have a greater understanding of the impact our ancestors’ actions had on them, and their cultures.
  6. We call for standing in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in their struggle against oppression.
  7. We call for re-examination of beliefs and attitudes, both personally and communally, that actively prevent Indigenous Peoples from equal access to education, health care, and opportunities for self-determination.
  8. We call for the purposeful study of the past, to ascertain a more truthful understanding of the atrocities that prevent reconciliation with our indigenous brothers and sisters.
  9. We call for a truth and reconciliation process with the Indigenous People of this continent: to repudiate the doctrine of discovery, to confront the history of genocide against them, repent of past crimes committed against them, and to attend to their voices and wisdom in discerning a more just future.

9.5. How will you observe the 2nd Monday in October?

Signed: Karen Ressel, Jean Peterson, Craig Nessan, Jamie Jordan-Couch, Paul Johnson, Martha HarriSon, Mike HarriSon, Halcyon Bjornstad, Elizabeth Lippke, and Doug Dill

THE TIMING JUST DIDN’T WORK OUT… By Paul Johnson, Final Year M.Div. Student

In the past, I have been honored to participate in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) both as a youth as well as an adult leader. I earned the rank of Eagle while a member, fully knowing that the rank could be taken from me if the BSA found out I was an openly gay individual.

With recent discussion in the BSA on homosexuality, I held hope that they would allow openly gay youth and adults to participate as much as their heterosexual members. I was on internship when the latest decision to allow gay youth but not adults was passed. Having been approached several times from local troops, I tried, nicely, to decline requests to serve in a leadership role. Usually I gave other reasons, such as having an already full schedule or time conflicts with meetings.

Then I was approached by a Council member back home, asking if I would lead a worship service for an upcoming Jamboree. Since this gentleman knew me and my orientation, I told him that the BSA wouldn’t let me lead as an openly gay individual. “Then don’t lead as a gay man,” came his reply. “Lead as a child of God.”

I told him I would get back to him on the worship service, needing time to process what he had said. Could I separate my identity as a child of God from the rest of who I am? It wasn’t a question of whether I could lead without incorporating rainbows and glitter, or if I could go a weekend without mentioning my orientation. I appreciate rainbows and glitter about as much as (perhaps less than) my heterosexual male friends. My call story and identity as a child of God have been influenced by my sexual orientation and struggles with my identity as such.

Still, in my future ministry I don’t want to be the “gay pastor” or the pastor of a “gay church.” I just want to be a pastor who happens to be gay, and hopefully lead a congregation who is welcoming to their neighbors, some of whom happen to be LGBT individuals. I am more than my sexual orientation, and identify as gay among a myriad of other attributes and qualities.

But could I, a child of God and future pastor in the ELCA, regardless of my orientation, lead a worship service for scouts who may be struggling with the same issues, all while representing an organization that clearly rejects me as being fit to lead? Could I share the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection for ALL while standing for an organization that only accepts SOME?

In the end, the timing of the event just didn’t work out with my schedule. Still, it leaves the question in my mind of what I might do. Would I claim my identity, my full identity, and decline the offer based on the BSA’s policies, possibly resulting in someone more conservative taking the position? Or do I accept, preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection for all, staying silent on my orientation? I don’t have an easy answer, and likely won’t know unless the situation arises again. My hope is that I will be asked again, and soon. An even greater hope is that the policies of the BSA will have expanded by then.

TWO WORLDS: A DIALOG BETWEEN ANN WALSVIK AND JULANE NEASE, Final Year M.Div. Students

Julane Nease and Ann Walsvik

Julane Nease and Ann Walsvik

In the following dialogue, conducted through an ongoing email exchange, Julane and Ann, who began seminary in the  WTS Distributed Learning program, reflect on the reality of living in “two worlds” during  their final seminary year while living on campus during the week and commuting home to family on weekends.

________________________________________
Sent: Tuesday, October 07, 2014 8:02 AM
Subject: Journal with ears
Good morning,

Ann, I’m thinking about this conversation as a sort of ‘journal with ears.’ This year on campus is a new exciting opportunity, but also poses some real challenges for us both. We’ve talked plenty about being a two-legged stool: one leg in seminary, the other home with our families. When I’m here I’m thinking about there; when I’m there, I’m thinking about here. By writing things down, we can sort through thoughts and emotions, pulling together random strings of feelings and ramblings, and because we have the chance to “listen” and respond, it’s like a journal with ears.

How was your weekend? I was ill for the first time this semester. I must say, I was glad I was home. I kept thinking how glad I was to be in my own bed feeling bad, rather than in my little dorm bed. Something sweet: My son even made me a cup of tea yesterday morning, and brought it to me in bed. I’m sure that if I’d been on campus, people would have looked in on me, checked up on me, but it isn’t the same as being home, is it?

Hope your day is good–hoping to be there tomorrow.

Peace,

Julane
________________________________________
Sent: Wednesday, October 08, 2014 9:34 PM
Subject: RE: Journal with ears
Hi Julane,

Sorry I wasn’t able to reply yesterday. It was a busy day for me. I am sad you are sick and cannot imagine how difficult that is not being here for classes. There is something about being home when you are sick! What a thoughtful gesture from your son.

Although I can relate to your metaphor of the two-legged stool, I have a rather different experience in many ways. I tend to put myself so much into what I am doing in the moment, that I can tend to put off or let the “other” fall by the wayside. I can be so caught up in my life at home that I do not get any school work done, even though, I plan to do some. When I am at Wartburg, I can lose track of the schedule my son has at home and struggle to keep in contact and even know what is going on in his life.

The travel time between is actually a blessing and is something that I find helps

Road

Photo by Tanner Howard, Final Year M.Div. Student

with the transition between the two. When I come on Sundays after 6 pm, I have had the pleasure of listening to NPR’s “Simply Folk” and have found that to be very enjoyable, lighthearted and thought provoking. The song you played in Spiritual Practices today reminded me of the music I hear during those times.

Sometimes I feel like a split personality – I love being home and I love being at Wartburg. I guess we have other areas of our lives about which we can say the same. How about you?

Luke went to Homecoming and I did the Mom thing and took all kinds of pictures with all the other Moms and Dads. We celebrated Luke’s 15th birthday with my family and it was nice. It has been awhile since we have gathered together.

It is a pleasure to host people in our homes, isn’t it? I enjoy visitors in my dorm room too. I bet others enjoy the same! Maybe I will go knocking on some doors tomorrow….

Sleep well. Peace,

Ann

________________________________________
Sent: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 9:18 PM
Subject: RE: Journal with ears
Hello Julane,

I have been wondering if Jesus ever felt like he was a part of two worlds. Are we always while human a part of two worlds and then we divide them up even further?

I have had several emails from high school teachers in the last two days and that takes me out of my reverie of study and moves me into the role of parent and the feeling that I am not being as present as I would like with my son. I am thankful for email as an option for being in contact with teachers. It is typically easier to receive a response via email than a phone call nowadays.

Wartburg Seminary

Photo by Tanner Howard, Final Year M.Div. Student

How is it going for you at home this Reading and Research week? I am thankful I am here on campus, but still finding it a struggle to stay focused on my studies. There are some fun things happening here, all done in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Still balancing the two-legged stool.

Shalom,

Ann

________________________________________
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2014 11:32 AM
Subject: RE: Journal with ears
Ann,

Yes, Jesus must have felt conflicted often. The story of the raising of Lazarus always moves me. “Lord if only you would have come sooner our brother would not have died”– what a pull; what a conflict! I could so relate to that moment! How often I’ve felt pulled in ten directions at once! Being wife, mother, student, neighbor, daughter, sister, and friend, and feeling like I’m doing none of them well! And this year doing it all from a distance, over the phone or in an email.

Tim and I had our 29th wedding anniversary on Sunday. I arrived home from WTS on Sunday afternoon and we had a quiet dinner out, just the two of us. The fall I started at Wartburg we had our 25th anniversary, and when we were married Tim had no idea he would be marrying a pastor. I am grateful and count my blessings every day that he is supportive of me, my call and this crazy process. It may not be so for everyone.

fallleavesMy time at home this week is good, but being productive is tough. There are things to do: doctor’s, dentist’s, and hair appointments, housework and time with my family–all important, but the academic work won’t take care of itself. I feel tempted to return to Dubuque early so I can get more done, but feel guilty that I will be leaving home. I think this sounds like whining. I don’t mean to be. It’s the reality of the dual world existence I’m living in right now.

Peace to you, Ann, in your motherhood and call to ministry existing side-by-side
Julane

________________________________________
Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2014 12:42 AM
Subject: RE: Journal with ears
Julane,

I wanted to build on our face-to-face conversation of the other day about those special moments. Moments we often take for granted, but because we are away, we see them more vividly than before. Moments like I had watching my son Luke run cross country in a conference meet on junior varsity. I recorded him coming into the final shoot, neck and neck with a friend of his. He said he wanted to push his friend to run faster, but Luke was hoping to beat him. Luke lost by .01 of a second. Even though he wasn’t happy about coming in behind his friend, he felt he had a hand in his friend’s good race. His friend came in 2 minutes faster than he ever had the entire season. Now that’s a win, win! I was so thankful that I had taped him. Special moment that I will remember for quite awhile.

How about you?

I wish to offer you a heartfelt thanks for being my family tonight as we shared our joy, trepidation, relief and affirmation upon receiving our faculty approval language. It meant so much that we could share that together. God is good and always before us.

Shalom,
Ann

________________________________________
Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2014 01:22 AM
Subject: RE: Journal with ears

Dear Ann, what a night–what a journey! So proud that we’ve walked together all these years. I am so blessed by your friendship and presence in my life!!

How thrilling that you were able to be home and present at Luke’s race. I know that if you hadn’t been there, it would have been fine, but the fact that you were there to have that shared experience has produced a powerful memory. Thanks for sharing it with me.

It was nice to be home last week, and while I had so much to do and was trying to bounce back from the crud that had invaded my body, I still had some “moments”, too. Andrew has really stepped up at home while I’m gone with doing cooking and shopping. He wanted to try making a dish that I have made for them 500 times! He asked for my help. I did help, and it was so special. At one point I felt overwhelmed by it. We were there together, he’s all grown up and I was passing on to him this dish that my family loves. Food produces powerful memories. So there we were side-by-side, past, future and present coming together in perfect synchronicity–ah…

So, today with the thoughts of conversations and approval language still filling the space in my brain, I head home–you, too! And I’ll drive and think, and enjoy the beauty of the trees and the solitude of my car. Tonight I’ll sit at the family table and eat with my family, talk, catch-up, and then as I go to bed, Wartburg will be on my mind. The two-legged stool will be wobbling again in these two worlds. But that’s the way it is, for now. It’s a challenge–but I’m blessed. This is my reality. I love my family and home, I love this place and the faculty and friends who are such a part of my life, and the solitariness of my dorm room that is my own, for now. The Holy Spirit is at work in ways we cannot begin to comprehend.

Love and peace to you today, Ann, and in your time at home.

Peace,
Julane

BEFORE GLASS CEILINGS By Susan Anderson, 1st year M.Div. Distributed Learning Student

How far the Lutheran church has come and how far we have yet to go! Not quite 50 years ago I was entering college for the first time. I was not sure where God was leading me. I felt called to enter the pastoral ministry, but the Lutheran church, like most other denominations, was not yet ordaining women. I talked with my pastor, but, as a traditional conservative minister, he did not encourage me. He directed me toward the occupations he thought more appropriate for women, but they did not appeal to me. As a young woman with an intellectual bent, I wanted to study theology and serve as a leader in the church. I saw young men in my congregation preparing to enter the pastoral ministry and wondered what it was that they possessed but I lacked.

I entered Wartburg College, which had a strong pre-seminary program. I wanted to take theology courses, but my advisor would not approve and suggested that I enroll in the social work or education curriculum instead. But that was not what I wanted. After exploring several possible majors as diverse as German and biology, I eventually ended up with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and went on to graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in psychology.

You might ask why, if I felt such a strong calling to ministry, I did not pursue it anyway. Surely there were roles I could have played in the church that I would have found fulfilling. To understand my response, it’s important to be aware of the mindset of the times. I grew up in a conservative Midwestern town, in a conservative home, a conservative church. The women’s liberation movement was barely beginning when I entered high school and it would be many years before we would feel much effect from it in small town America. Young women, especially those raised in church-going families, were taught to respect authority, not to question the status quo. We didn’t have role models to follow who were breaking down barriers. We were expected to become wives and mothers. If we had to work, we could be a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher. So pursuing pastoral ministry was just not an option.

During my four years of college I gradually became more and more disillusioned by the church.   Attending a church college, there were religion courses that I was required to take. These were taught entirely by males, many of them ordained ministers. And what I heard learned from these professors was disappointing. Women were not encouraged to become involved in leadership roles; it wasn’t proper. The rhetoric was sexist and misogynistic. I quit going to the campus church and went to an off-campus church. The rhetoric was the same, just less intellectual. So I quit going to church entirely for a number of years. I graduated from college in 1970, the same year that the Lutheran church approved the ordination of women. But I no longer cared.

A number of years later I found my way back to the Lutheran church. I had been feeling that something was lacking in my life, but I still wasn’t sure that I could be comfortable in a church that was strongly dominated by males. A few years later, my congregation called a younger minister who was fairly progressive. Through conversations with him, my faith in God was gradually restored only to be nearly destroyed again later by an older, domineering and manipulative male minister. But the embers were not totally put out and my faith has slowly been rekindled and grown stronger. It is a far different faith than I had in high school, scarred and battered, but more resilient. My beliefs are not so tied to conservative church dogma. I focus on loving God and loving my neighbor. And once again, I feel called to serve. I am not yet sure where that call will take me, but I find that I have come full circle. I am enrolled once again at Wartburg, the seminary this time rather than the college, and I am finally getting to take those theology courses that I was interested in so long ago. My goal of obtaining an M.Div. degree and becoming ordained seems possible after all, God willing.

How far the church has come in the last 50 years! The seminary is no longer a closed male society. There are female faculty and about half the seminarians are female. Many females serve in pastoral ministry. But the leadership at the synod level and above is still predominantly male. The election of Elizabeth Eaton as presiding bishop of the ELCA last year marks another milestone in opening the church to women. The church is changing.

I welcome the fresh breezes blowing in the church. I pray that new generations of young people will be encouraged to find a place in the church where they can use their talents to lead and serve regardless of gender or other artificial barriers. “Come, Holy Spirit.”

WHEN I AM HERE, MY HEART LONGS FOR HOME, a poem and photo by Tammy Barthels, Final Year M.Div. Student

Photo of sun reflecting and meeting water

Photo captured by Tammy Barthels as a reflection of two worlds meeting.

Broken pieces

Shards of glass

Pierce my heart

Make me bleed.

Souls united

Now torn apart

Distance separates

                              Broken hearts.

Identity lost

      Among the chaos of classes.

                  Role of wife, mother, grandmother

                              Crashes.

Joyful sounds of baby’s laughter

      Now replaced with

                  Slamming doors

                              And that of cantors.

Commuter, Student, Theologian

      I’ve become.

                  Once whole at home

                              Here, reduced to half.

The only hope that I may have

      Holding on to the One

                  Who eternally

                              Calls me home.

You promise hope, grace, and mercy.

      Please give me peace.

                  When I am here

                              And my heart longs for home.