Category Archives: Spirited Action

AN EXPERIENCE – FOUR OAKS – MAUNDY THURSDAY COMMUNION AND FOOT WASHING By Anna L. Dykeman, Final Year MA Diaconal Ministry

UCC Pastor Jean, Janet, and I all wanted to connect with the girls at Four Oaks at least one time out of the usual during Holy Week. We all felt a strong call to accompany the girls through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as remembered during this time because we knew that they have had similar experiences. The call of the Holy Spirit guides us to walk with others through their times of trial, because we have been freed from sin on account of Christ.  We wanted to live out that freedom by serving these young who have experienced such pain and change in their lives through some of the practices of Holy Week.

So, Jean and I created a worship service for Maundy Thursday. I was completely giddy at the way a Diaconal Minister and a Pastor would be working side by side in leadership and in worship. She would lead the communion portion and I would lead the foot washing. Perfect. And, by the end of the evening, it indeed was a perfect moving of the Holy Spirit, a clear example of how the Trinity dances and invites all who are gathered to join in.

When Maundy Thursday rolled around, the three of us met prior to the girls’ arrival to go over last minute details, to set up the space, and to pray. I was incredibly nervous. When we were ready to begin, it came about that we needed to totally rearrange our order of service because we were going to eat dinner with the girls – the dinner they eat (liken it to a school hot lunch), in their space – and we had to eat right then. So, we gathered, said a prayer, then went down to the cafeteria and received our tray of food with the girls who were joining us for worship; we went back into our room and ate together. It was here that I learned one can eat the whole entire kiwi, skin and all. Because the girls are not allowed to have knives to peel off the skin they have to eat the whole thing and honestly it is delicious! After we had eaten, Jean moved us into Holy Communion.

Communion, for me, is a fundamental understanding of who the Triune God is. It is God, in Christ Jesus, pouring God’s self out for the healing, redemption, and salvation of all people. This is a gift simply because it is a tangible way of understanding the goodness of God. Communion goes beyond mere words and engages our many senses and humanity is invited to dance in and with the Trinity. It is mystical and common all at once and this particular communion experience changed my understanding and belief of God profoundly.

After dinner the dishes were cleared and Jean led us in Confession and Assurance of Pardon and we prepared to give one another communion in the round. However, the most blessed thing happened prior to this moment that shaped the whole experience into something much deeper – Jean’s husband had purchased a bread mix but what was not realized until later was that the mix was a savory Italian bread. So, as Jean explained (with a chuckle and grin on her face) what had happened, the smell of the bread hit me. I can still smell it when I remember this experience, the freshness of the bread with basil and oregano mingling together causing my mouth to water. It was so intoxicating – I wanted that bread! Jean had also brought juice, Welches purple grape juice whose smell combined with the bread sent me into a whole other way of being present. The elements were inviting and I was begging to come. But, I focus on me and really it was the reaction that the girls had that will forever impact my understanding of God and God’s gift of communion.

“Oh [mouth full of bread] this is soooooooo good,” one said. And yet another, “I have never tasted anything so delicious.” And still another girl urgently asks, “Can we have more?” My eyes fill with tears as I think back on this experience because this means of grace which I encounter so much in my churched life actually breaks all human barriers and in this instance the Kingdom of God is there in our midst nearly as tangible as the bread and juice we are consuming. All I hear in my heart and mind in this moment is gift from the Holy Spirit “taste and see that the Lord is Good!” And I do, and we all do, and it is good. We all sit in those moments experiencing the goodness of bread and juice made Christ through the Holy Spirit and scripture. We are freed from our burdens, past, present, and future, and we are together in worship encountering the Trinity and meeting Christ in each other.

Now, you must understand that this is my communion experience; this is what I saw and lived in those moments of time. It has occurred to me since then what a travesty it is that the church does not often serve fresh, tasty bread to remember the broken body of Christ. It is also a problematic that more often than not the cheapest wine is purchased and shared to represent the blood of Christ poured out for all of creation. We, like the disciples, have forgotten that the poor will always be with us and that to anoint the feet of God with costly perfume is blessing God and honoring the Divine. Perhaps we should bring out the best bread and wine we have so people will crave more Christ! That those gathered may taste and see that the Lord is good not cheap, the delicious recognition of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection as God’s love for all of creation.

Now, let us go back to Maundy Thursday. After communion we moved away from the desks that were fashioned into a long table, and sat in a circle on the floor. Prior to our gathering we set up three chairs (covering them with a beautiful cloth) and three basins. We based our foot washing on John 13:1-17 and Jean, Janet, and I did a readers theater of the text so the girls could connect why we were foot washing at all. As an offering to the girls, Jean, Janet and I would provide the foot washing because we wanted to show them what servant leadership was all about, to use this tangible means to illustrate Christ’s love for them. We are clear leaders for these girls but as far as we can tell, the other leaders in their lives have never been as servants to them.

Pouring warm water and tangerine smelling oil into the basins, Jean, Janet, and I invited the girls to come and sit when they felt ready. Again, I was unprepared for the experience that was about to happen. A young lady sits at my chair and hovers her feet over the basin and I pour the warm, fragrant water over her tired feet and she lets out a sigh. Then, I wash her feet with my bare hands, gently rubbing them and she groans with a sigh of relief and exclaims, “Girls, you have got to do this, this is amazing.” It was then that it hit me that these girls lack the vital necessity of positive touch, of being allowed to relax and be taken care of by another, of not being hurt or hit or abused by another. It was then that I vowed to wash each of the girls’ feet with attention, intention and love, to safely touch them where their stress and tiredness hides.

That evening, all of the girls who were with us had their feet washed. Then, they demanded to return the love by washing our feet! Three or four girls at a basin washing our feet, talking about how good the water smelled and how warm it felt on their hands. They knelt above our feet, studying them and caring for us. When that humbling moment of submitting to Christ’s love for me via the hands and hearts of the girls was finished the Holy Spirit blew the girls into a wind of excitement and love and they left the room to invite the staff to come in so the girls could wash their feet! The staff! The ones who are charged with caring for the girls and all that means, the staff who are exhausted, who yell, who hug, who are bitten by the girls, who restrain them when things get out of hand, who have to remove the privileges of the girls all the time. Those staff. The people who, in my life, I would never run to and invite them over so I could wash their feet. This was indeed an out pouring of Divine Love for the other! A few staff took up the invitation, and Jean, Janet, and I watched the girls lovingly wash the feet of the staff at Four Oaks. It will forever baffle me but will always, always exemplify Christ’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The breaking in of the Kingdom of God through community, communion, and foot washing. Perceiving the flight of the Holy Spirit and the hands of Christ at work and the feet of Christ having the dust removed from them. Understanding that this experience, the whole entire thing, is God’s intention for how life is to be lived, in humble service to each other. This was my Maundy Thursday experience, given by the Triune God through girls who have been hurt and abused and removed from society because they are the “bad” ones. They were the proclaimers of God’s grace and love, servants to the people in their midst, testifying to the abundance of God.

ADVENT[URE] By Michelle Kanzaki, Final year MDiv

Journal Entry 12/05/13

A friend of mine was working with the youth from her church and one of the questions she asked was…give me one word to describe the season of Advent. There was much silence as they pondered this question, there was giggling, and whispering when after what seemed like an eternity, one youth spoke up and said… “Adventure?!” Adventure! This indeed is a profound statement describing this season of waiting and anticipation. For me, the word adventure does not stir up thoughts of quiet, silence, or meditation. Oh, but how it stirs up thoughts of anticipation, joy, and exhilaration. Adventure stirs thoughts of pondering, preparation, and the unexpected. A profound description of Advent indeed.

In the King James Bible the word Adventure is only used twice. Once in Deuteronomy 28: 56 which says: The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter. The writers of Deuteronomy are offering to the Israelite the blessings and curses that lie ahead as they live in the law provided by God through Moses. The Israeli people know the choice is theirs to obey or not obey the “law.” They know there will be harsh and difficult consequences with disobedience and many blessings with obedience. The law takes us on a treacherous path because, human beings cannot keep the law. An adventure that leads to death.

Again in Acts 19:31 adventure is used in this way: “And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.” Paul if he adventured into the theater would be on a path leading to his death. This adventure falls in to the first definition of adventure as it is found in Merriam Webster: “An undertaking usually involving danger and risk.” Imagine the adventure Mary and Joseph felt as they travelled to Bethlehem…Mary and Joseph just about to become parents for the first time and both trusting in what the Angel of God told them. Yes indeed, an adventure filled with danger and risk.

On the other hand, Merriam Webster defines adventure as: an exciting remarkable experience. Yes, this is indeed an Advent adventure that results in an innocent babe who is the incarnate son of God. The one for whom we wait, becomes a new adventure in God. The adventure begins as we wait for his birth. Yet, the adventure does not stop at Jesus birth. The adventure continues as he grows into a man. The adventure carries on in a whole new way as Jesus does his ministry to heal the sick, feed the hungry, welcome the outsider, suffer, die and be buried! But the story doesn’t even end there—the adventure continues in Christ resurrection! It is at the cross and resurrection, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I are made righteous with God through the Grace of Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes this is the adventure I am looking forward to reliving once again during this season of Advent. The adventure to truly hear, learn, and participate in the revelation of God’s self throughout all the days to come. May the adventure of Advent begin!!!

ELCA CHURCHWIDE ASSEMBLY GREETING by Jennifer Michael, WELCA President, 1st Year MDiv

WELCA President Jennifer Michael gave this address to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly gathered in Pittsburg, PA this past August. (Beginning at 03:23:00 in Plenary Nine)

Hello everyone… My name is Jenny Michael and as president of Women of the ELCA, I bring you greetings on behalf of our churchwide executive board, our executive director, Linda Post-Bushkofsky, our churchwide staff and the over 250,000 active participants of Women of the ELCA.

Some of you may be familiar with who we are as an organization… but I think that there are also a number of you who are unaware of what a valuable partner that Women of the ELCA continues to be for this church.  I heard from a friend this week who said that one of the voting members from her synod posted a remark about the gift you received from the Women of the ELCA… saying that he didn’t even know who we were… Well, I am here to answer that very question!

If you read our Purpose Statement, then you will know that we are a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship through Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  And each day we strive to make connections with women that will strengthen their gifts for leadership and service.

As an independent and totally self-funded organization, Women of the ELCA publishes many free downloadable faith resources each year used by small groups and congregations; we provide training and support for racial justice advocacy and we support many ecumenical efforts to eliminate poverty and hunger; and as an organization we sponsor special events that provide fellowship, renewal and spiritual growth for women.

And before I go on… I need one minute to give you a little infomercial about one of the events that is just on the horizon for Women of the ELCA… It is our 9th Triennial Convention and Gathering in Charlotte, NC in July 2014.  If you have never experienced this event, then you will just have to trust me!  It is without question the absolute best place for a Lutheran woman to be… There are enriching workshops and bible study and there are soul-stirring worship moments where you can listen to the collective voices of over 2000 Lutheran women singing their praises to God!  And the speakers… well, let me just say that in 2011, we hosted Leymah Gbowee just before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  And in 2008, a certain female bishop from Northeastern Ohio gave such a rousing sermon during closing worship that brought us all to a standing ovation!  With that kind of track record, I imagine that our upcoming speakers are wondering just what God has in store for them after they speak at the Triennial Gathering!

So, please mark your calendars and make plans to join us from Thursday, July 24th through Sunday, July 27th in Charlotte, North Carolina for the 9th Triennial Gathering of Women of the ELCA.

Okay, so that was the infomercial part… and a good one… but still, back to that question of just who are we as Women of the ELCA?

To some of you, we are only that ladies knitting group that meets every Tuesday at 10AM… to some of you, we are only the hands that prepare the funeral dinners and make sure the kitchens are well stocked…

But to me, we are also the women’s circle group from Western North Dakota who decided to begin a prison quilt ministry.  Knowing that everyone can uncover a heart for service, these women go once a month to the prison with their sewing machines and donated material… and they sew quilts together with female prisoners that are then donated to Lutheran World Relief and in the process help these women to connect back a portion of their own humanity.  We are social advocates…

To me, we are the first organization in the ELCA to have a smartphone app with Daily Grace and the first in the ELCA to provide a digital tablet app of our magazine Gather … which I’ve been told you all have been enjoying on your notebooks this week.   You’re welcome!  We are visionaries…

To me, we are those delicious cookies that you have been enjoying all week… Now I know I can get an “AMEN” on that one!  You may not know this, but all of these cookies have been provided the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synodical Women’s Organization… when the call was sent out, we were there!  We are hospitality…

And then again, to me… Women of the ELCA is a sisterhood where we are in deep relationship with one another… an organization that can provide comfort and support through Facebook to a recent widow… we are that community that nurtures and empowers a young woman of color to serve on a synodical board… and to me, Women of the ELCA has been a transformational force in my own spiritual life, helping me to recognize a call to public ministry.  We are spiritual change agents…

So you ask, “Just who are the Women of the ELCA?”  I say we are ground-breaking, justice-preaching, soul-giving women who are vital partners in the ministry of this church!

In the past 25 years, we have:

  • Supported and sustained over 7,000 congregational units
  • Won over 150 awards for excellence for resources, content, programming and publications produced by Women of the ELCA.
  • Provided over $500,000 in scholarships to Lutheran women
  • Given over $3.5 million in grants to ministries both internationally and here at home
  • And in the past 25 years, as an independent and totally self-funded organization we have contributed more than $16 million toward the ongoing ministries of the ELCA.

This is who we are as Women of the ELCA… We ARE that place in the church that provides the space and opportunity for connections of purpose and faith to happen.  Please consider what your relationship to Women of the ELCA might be in the coming year… and how you can add your voice to this community to see what we can do together!

Thank you!

PERSISTENT FOR PEACE by Tammy Barthels, M.Div. Middler and Prof. Norma Cook Everist

“It is a delight to come home to Wartburg. Wartburg has strengthened me and formed me in who I am today.”

Dr. Winston Persaud introduced her Excellency Marie Jilo Barnett to the Wartburg community at a dinner given in her honor this Spring.  Appointed in 2008, she is Sierra Leone’s first female ambassador to Liberia, as well as to Core d’Ivoire. Marie studied at Wartburg from 1990 to 1994, when she received her M.Div. degree.

Reverend Barnett was passionate and invoked hope with each word that she spoke about teaching men and women to co-exist in the Image of God. “It is possible,” she said.

Ambassador Barnett is zealous about negotiating peace and promoting women. She was the first Lutheran woman to be ordained in Western Africa. Her position as Ambassador is about building bridges between Liberia and Sierra Leone; this, she said, is the essence of her appointment.

She encourages women to take action. “Do what you can. Avoid Chaos. Pray with one another, do not pray alone. Get everyone of all races and religions involved. Say ‘NO’ to injustice.”

Ambassador Barnett is called to serve. She did not campaign, nor did she join a political party. She is doing what she believes is hers to do. She depends on her faith and is strong in prayer. “Seek the kingdom and all will be given to you.” Her faith gives her the strength to sit on parliament and represent women and their rights.  She believes strength comes when women come together and support one another. She said, “We do not do it on our own.”  She is involved with a network of women: women lawyers, women doctors, and women from the market. “Together we make a difference. In the nothingness that we have, we share, and we have much.”

Marie has seen a lot of hardship and constantly worked in ministries of reconciliation.  She sees the need to build bridges of peace.  In her role now as Ambassador and also through Lutheran World Federation she has had many opportunities to serve.  “God has been with me everywhere I have been all over the world.”

Ambassador Barnett had worked with Laymeh Gbowoee, well-known Lutheran laywoman who led the peace-movement in Liberia. She said to Gbowe, “Don’t sit alone.” Barnett and other women supported the women from Liberia in the peace talks. Ambassador Barnett now works with Liberian President Serlief. Gbowe and Serlief both became Nobel Peace Prize recipients.

When asked what is most important for her theologically, Ambassador Barnett said, “Justification by grace through faith.  If we have faith, the Holy Spirit will guide us.” She told of times when she needed to speak publicly in crucial diplomatic situations.  “The Holy Spirit would guide my words.  Be strong in prayer.”

Marie’s husband, Tom, also received his M.Div from Wartburg in 1994 and now serves as the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierre Leone.  Dr. Dan Olson, WTS professor emeritus, preached at their ordination in Sierre Leone.  In a church of lay leadership, the Barnetts were the first to be ordained.   Marie served as pastor of Faith Community Lutheran Church, Freetown.

While at Wartburg Marie said that she and Tom were welcomed and supported as international students.  She said, “The international students saw some American students for whom ends did not meet.”  Together with others started the food pantry for students , which continues to this day.

When asked about the demands of her busy life, Marie responded, “When I’m helping people, I’m revived.”  She  concluded with Christ’s mandate: “Go and baptize all nations. Do not be afraid. I will be with you to the end of the age.”

From 1996 – 2002 Marie was a member of Parliament in Sierre Leonne, serving on various Committees asfollows:

1. Foreign Affairs and International

Cooperation Founded the Network of Women Ministers and Parliamentarians and served as Vice President.

2. Health and Environment Pioneered the settingup of the National AIDS Secretariate.

3. Education – Participated in the oversight that saw the University of Sierra Leone

locate campuses in the different Geographical Regions.

4. Defence – The only female member of the drafting committee of the much celebrated

“Lome Peace Accord” that brought lasting peace to Sierra Leone in 2002.

5. Works and Infrastructure – Pioneered the setting up of the Social Action for Poverty

Alleviation under the National Commission for Re-integration, Repatriation and Resettlement.

6. Social Welfare, Gender and Children

Set up the network of women Ministers

TO PROTEST BY PERSISTING IN REMAINING by Paul Andrew Johnson, 2nd year M.Div.

This article has remained unwritten for far too long. Despite encouragement from classmates, there always seemed to be something else more important to do. I realize now how foolish that was. I do not want it to sound like I am such an insightful person, or that when I speak, everyone should listen—far from it.  It is the message, not the messenger, that needs to be heard.

I am an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.  I cherish this title and am proud of what that represents.  I am also a homosexual. Same thing goes. But most of all, I am a child of God, and that alone makes me special. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have decided to uphold a policy which suggests that, because I publicly identify as gay, I am unfit to be a leader in this organization.

In recent months this has gained much media attention from both sides of the issue, both for and against homosexuals in scouting. One particular group, which seems to be growing ever-larger, is the group of Eagle Scouts who have turned in their badges to the BSA in protest of their stance. I definitely support these individuals in their personal decisions and am encouraged by their public statements in protest. But I will NOT be turning in my badge, and I hope they can respect that as well.

I do not want anyone to think this is because I believe the BSA’s current stance is correct, nor that I disagree with those who have made the decision to protest by turning in their badges.  Above all, I certainly hope no one thinks this stance is because I am not passionate about the Boy Scouts or do not care about the issue—quite the opposite.

My decision is both to recognize that I, a child of God who happens to be gay, have rightfully earned the rank of Eagle. It honors all those who have been denied this honor because of their orientation. Even more, I hold on to my medal because I wish also to honor all those who earned this rank before and after me. Turning in my badge would, for me personally, disregard all those who worked so hard to earn this rank. I wish rather to honor those individuals, who include, among others, my brother, cousin, friends and role-models.

I anticipate a day when I may once again proudly don that scouting uniform, hold my right hand up proudly in the scout sign and join my voice with all the others in saying “A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent,” and “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” Until then, I will stand not only with those who protest the exclusion of homosexuals, but also with all those who still believe in and are proud of this organization and its scouts.

LIVING IN COMMUNITY WITH OUR ABILITIES AND DISABILITIES

The following comments were perspectives presented at a Wartburg Seminary Convocation on November 8, 2012. Following the presentations was an extended time of table conversation for students, faculty and staff.  The questions for conversation and additional resources are included here in a .doc format: Convocation Resources – Nov 2012.

Norma Cook Everist, Wartburg Faculty: It was a November evening, 1982, while my husband, Burton, and I were delivering Thanksgiving baskets in downtown Dubuque when I suddenly felt overwhelming fatigue. I became ill with what at first seemed like flu but from which I never recovered. The illness, later diagnosed as myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS), has many physiological and neurological complications. Today, still with no known cause and no known cure, it affects hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

I have a disease; I am not my disease. How do I mark the 30th anniversary of living with a chronic illness?  With sadness or celebration? A good way is to have this convocation on “Living in community with Our Abilities and Disabilities.” Many people with CFS become homebound, isolated, but supported by this caring and respectful Wartburg community, I have been able to continue fully serving here and in the broader church and world.

Lisa Heffernan, WTS M.Div. Senior: As we gather this morning to talk about this topic, I want to introduce a few pieces that will be part of the discussion. Our student speakers today are people who have some sort of disability, or who have a friendship with a person who has a disability of some kind. We share these stories and perspectives to encourage the community to think about how we all live together in this community as people with and without disabilities. Our definition is broad: we will be talking about disabilities in terms of physical and visible disabilities (like mine), physical disabilities that are unseen, and disabilities or conditions that can either be considered mental, cognitive, or emotional. Not only that, but we will be also talking about specific issues that come along with different disabilities and how we might view them within our life together at WTS. The question we might consider is: How do we as a student body, staff, and faculty live together faithfully in this place, with our gifts and limitations, recognizing each person as a child of God and a vital part of the body of Christ?

My own experience and view as a person with a physical and visible disability has greatly changed and improved since coming to seminary. In this place, I am accepted and valued as the person God created me to be—completely and fully. Before coming here, I never had the experience of being in a community where people would seek to have me involved in all aspects of life, no matter how tricky doing so might be. The best brief examples I can give are the time that my class was having a gathering at Pulpit Rock our middler year…on the 2nd floor. Without me even having to ask them to do so, 4 of the guys in my class lifted me up those steps, just so I could be there with my class.  I was scared, but they wanted me there, and I wanted to be there. So they helped me out. The other side of this is that these same friends challenge me to be more fearless and independent. This is the same thing I hope I do for them. We care for and challenge one another. And we include one another in all areas of life here. There are things that are difficult to make that happen sometimes, but I’m finally in a place where my disability doesn’t feel like a barrier to having an active life.

Aleese Kenitzer, WTS M.Div. Junior:  I have a significant hearing loss in my right ear. It has been my responsibility to assure that my disability does not affect me in school or in ministry, but it is extremely helpful when people are aware of the fact that I do not hear well, and make an effort to improve communication. But often, I have either witnessed how people do not understand how an impairment affects one’s lifestyle, or have witnessed the response of “well, people need must scream for you to be able to hear.” Neither one is true, and both of these actions exclude those who cannot hear well. It is common for those with hearing impairments to be excluded because they cannot hear and understand what is happening around them, or excluded because of those who overcompensate.

Dave Fier, WTS M.Div. Junior: I have a genetic learning difference called Soto’s syndrome. I was blessed to be my current height of 6ft 4inches in fifth grade I haven’t grown since. One of my many challenges is it takes me along time to process information.  “Fear not,” I say. This difference has also affected my coordination and some of my physical abilities. “Fear not,” I say.  Another difference I have been blessed with is to have a heightened emotional and artistic sense.  “Fear not,” I say.  God blessed me with this difference and I wouldn’t have life any other way. Most importantly I am child God. I am a brother in this community of many. The real question is how can we all learn and grow together.

Tami Groth, WTS 2nd year M.A. Diacaonl Ministry: My medical history includes both clinical depression–a chemical imbalance which impacts both your emotions and your ability to think correctly–and celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder where gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley, attacks my body. These conditions are not related, but their effects can compound one another. When you cannot automatically join in something as basic as sharing bread with others, it is easy to feel isolated, and isolation can make you wonder if depression is returning.

I fight these issues by creating inclusive community however I can: by making food I can eat to share with others, by meeting others in their own needs, and by sharing what I have learned as I have educated myself about my conditions. Sometimes accommodating everyone’s needs seems like more than we can cope with–the list feels endless. But the joy of seeing someone feel like they can now be a part of a community is boundless, and it always makes me determined never to assume that what works for me works for all.

Lee Gable, WTS M.Div. Senior: My friend lives with multiple chemical sensitivity related to fibromyalgia plus complications.  The air she breathes and any surfaces or fabrics she is in contact with are potential sources of pain.  Even your hand lotion can affect her.  She must be aware of what is around her.  She uses air purifiers to hold back the multiplicity of scents and carefully researches and uses products to help her environment not be a source of pain.

If you don’t see her in church, ask about what is going on or send a card.  Ask the her if she wants to be on the prayer list.  Please don’t be offended if she has to get up and move away from unseen conditions that cause unseen pain.  As a child of God living with conditions she would not have chosen for herself, my friend only asks, “Don’t define me by my illness.”

So how can we be compassionate, accommodating others, without being exclusive?

Megan Reedstrom, WTS M.Div. Senior: I have been asked to talk about friendship because I have the pleasure of calling Lisa Heffernan one of my very best friends. Through our friendship I have become much more cognizant of accessibility and its importance and how frustrating it is when people abuse or misuse things like accessible parking. And through two road trips we have taken together, I’ve learned that traveling with someone who uses a wheelchair is not that different than traveling with someone who doesn’t. We just allow a little extra time for travel, and do a little extra planning to make sure the places we are headed are accessible. The most important thing I have learned in all we have done together as friends is that we are far more alike than we are different.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12:27)

Some WTS Alumni who live with disabilities and serve in the church and world:

Rev. Phil Wangberg, who uses a wheelchair due to cancer of the spine, is pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church, Albuquerque, NM.

Diaconal Minister Rich Mohr-Kelly, who is visually impaired, serves in Pittsburgh, PA neighborhood ministry and at Stewart Avenue Lutheran and Birmingham UCC Congregational Churches.

Rev. Kathryn Bielfeldt, who is blind, served for over 21 years as pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Campbell Hill, IL and added on part-time service to 2 other congregations in the Wartburg Parish of Southern Illinois. She recently retired.

Rev. Chris Kinney, who has quadriplegia due to MS, Oakdale, MN, currently does supply preaching, advocacy, mentoring, and short-term counseling

and many more alums who have served and now serve throughout the church in the world …

KEEP YOUR COURAGE AND JOY an Interview with Dr. Renate Wind

KEEP YOUR COURAGE AND JOY an Interview with Dr. Renate Wind

by Karen Ressel, M.Div. Middler

Dr. Renate Wind read excerpts from her latest biography, Dorothee Soelle-Mystic and Rebel, opening the world of Soelle to the students and faculty of Wartburg Theological Seminary during Wind’s public lecture here September 13. Dr. Wind, Professor of Biblical Theology and Church History at the Evangelische Hochschule Nürnberg, Germany, is an activist and reformer in her own right.  She was, and continues to be, engaged in the peace and justice movements.  “I think we can change the world only with movements from below, from the grassroots; in Germany it is graswurzel,” said Wind

In 1968 she stood with many others in protest of the Vietnam War and the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Army.  “We demonstrated against the two super nations.  We opposed the use of military forces used to stop liberation movements here and there.”

Wind always knew she wanted to be a teacher; however, becoming a theologian and a biographer was not as obvious to her.  “I wanted to be a teacher since my first year of school.  As a pastor’s daughter, I was familiar with my church, but also in protest against it, like many pastor’s children are. Even now I have some difficulty with conservative Lutheran theology.”

“When I was eighteen I wanted to study art, or journalism, but then came the theology of liberation from Latin America and a new perspective of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (among other things).  That was new thinking in theology.”  She began as a parish pastor in southwest Germany.  Then she found herself serving as a school pastor for twelve years, and finally she was elected as a professor.

“During the 1970’s there was a great change and a lot of reform, and a will to reform school education to help children of all abilities.  It was a very exciting time.  I worked at one of the new schools that integrated all kinds of pupils together.  I gave a lot of energy to that!  Many of the children came from very difficult circumstances.  All children should have the chance to make the best of it.  Yes, it was very exciting to be there.”

Her desire to educate her students was the motivation for each of the biographies she has undertaken, “I wanted to make a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for my pupils who were 16, 17, and 18 years old.  I wanted to show the young people that there is a way to be a politically active person, a way to be in life and society.”

“I did not make the Bonhoeffer biography to become a famous writer!  I never thought it would be so successful!  I only wanted to make it for my pupils but it brought me to Wartburg, for example, and many other places.”

“All of the biographies have to do with my engagement in the peace activist movement and solidarity of the Latin American liberation movements. …All of my subjects had a great influence on me and my theological thinking.  Each biography is not the biography of saint; it is holistic.  I wanted to have dialogs with human beings that impressed me; that influenced me.”  As she researched, she asked herself, “What is the legacy that is important for us today?”

Wind feels there has been a shift in education over the last twenty years to a more conservative, elitist thinking, but she is not discouraged, “I take courage in my job as a teacher.  I think there will be something going forward in many people, not in all of course, but many.  My students become teachers in schools.  I am always connected with school life.”

“I took part in many movements that were not very successful.  But, the movement of Jesus was also not very successful in the beginning.  I am an old revolutionary student from 1968.  I still hope we can change the world and make it a better place! I think education is one of the main things to do that.”

Dr. Renate Wind is an inspiration and has this advice for those who will come after her, continuing the work toward peace and justice: “Keep your courage.  Keep your joy.  If you have no joy in the movement and what you are doing politically, you will not get through the difficult times.”

TO MY DAD by Anna Johnson, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

Anna Johnson, 23, finished a B.A. last year and now lives and works on the Mount of Olives in the office of the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem.  She is the daughter of Andrew Johnson, Executive Assistant to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, and Kathy Gerking, an ELCA Pastor and Wartburg Seminary graduate.  In her Father’s Day note to Andy, she reflects on some aspects of being a Pastor’s Kid when it’s your mom who is the pastor.  She tells her dad:

…how awesome I think YOU are for supporting her. Since entering the “real” world, I have realized that there are still a lot of discrepancies and prejudices in how our world treats men and women. Even amongst couples I have a great deal of respect for, I have noticed that not only do traditional “gender” roles hold fast, but power disparity often does as well. Funny thing is that I really thought this stuff was probably a thing of the past growing up, and I have you and Mom to thank for that.

I am not sure I ever told you about a moment in one of my classes last year when someone was talking about how there are men out there who take care of things in the household and take care of the kids, etc – and we were all talking about this as some sort of novel concept – until a lightbulb went off in my head and I realized that “hey! my dad did those things when I was growing up, too! that’s not weird!… is it??” Kind of like hearing Uncle Paul talk about seeing a one-armed man and feeling sorry for him before it hit him “hey! my dad only has one arm!” Except that the “weird” thing about my dad is that he is a feminist rather than that he is missing any limbs.

In other words, I have loved learning more about the parts of your relationship (from engagement, to wedding, and beyond!) that other people might find “quirky” or too progressive, but that I grew up thinking were normal. I am proud to have a dad who was a strong enough man to marry a woman who did not change her name and who has always supported her career opportunities. Patriarchy is alive and well in our society and in our churches (and at times, in our family), and while this angers me on countless levels, I think in some way I feel less personally wounded by it than many others because at least I grew up in a household that shows hope for how more relationships might be in the future – and society can only change when we change how we ourselves act in relationship with one another….

I love you!
Anna

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WARTBURG WOMAN NEW BISHOP OF ALASKA SYNOD

The Rev. Shelley Wickstrom, WTS, 1986, was elected bishop of the Alaska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Friday, April 27. Shelley currently serves as Co-ordinator of Region 1 of the ELCA. She has served congregations in Alaska and Montana.

Shelley, a woman with gentle strength and wisdom, brings years of experience in parish ministry, and service in the broader ELCA. She lived in Alaska before her studies at Wartburg Seminary and served bi-vocationally in her first call in Alaska. She will be a blessing in the church in Alaska and bring a clear voice to the public world as bishop on behalf of the church.

The Alaska Synod is 64th out of the 65 synods of the ELCA in membership, but the largest in geographic size. It stretches from the congregation in Shismaref to the congregation in Ketchikan 1400 air miles away. They have the largest and only Inupiat (Alaskan Eskimo) population of the ELCA who make up almost 20% of their baptized membership.

http://www.elcaalaska.net

SHE WASHED JESUS’ FEET AND HE WASHED THEIRS by Roberta Pierce, WTS Senior

Segments of a Sermon preached in Wartburg Seminary Chapel, Spring, 2012

John 12:1-11

The anointing of Jesus is a familiar text. It appears in all four gospels.

In the gospel of John, Mary anoints Jesus.  She is named.  Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus had come to the home of Lazarus when he heard of Lazarus’ death.  When he arrived, Martha was the first one to come to Jesus. Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would rise again. Martha misunderstood him and thought he meant Lazarus would rise during the resurrection on the last day. When Mary came to Jesus, she fell to his feet weeping and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Mary knew the power of Jesus and her faith moved Jesus deeply. He commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb.

Jesus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends. It was this deep friendship that brought Jesus back to the house of Lazarus six days before the Passover. This was not the safest place for Jesus to be, but it was where he wanted to be; with his friends. He may have been invited as a way for them to thank him for saving Lazarus, but for Jesus, he was there to say good-bye.

The people around the table could not believe what they were seeing. Only slaves washed the feet of guests; and a woman never touched a man, except her husband, and that was only in private; only a woman of loose morals let her hair flow freely; and the cleaning of  feet was never done with perfume.  What was Mary thinking? If she had anointed his head, it would have been similar to what was done at the installation of a priest, prophet, or king. When people died, that was the time to anoint their whole body. So, what was Mary trying to convey by what she did?

Mary had probably heard the rumors that Jesus was going to die for going against the government and stirring up the people. Jesus death would be by crucifixion. Mary knew about crucifixion. She knew that those who die that way were not given a proper burial. She had seen convicted criminals hang until birds and small animals have picked their bones clean. She ached at the thought of her precious Jesus dying that way. She did all she could to show her love, her loyalty and her faith in Jesus. She knelt at his feet and ministered to him.  She prepared him for his burial.

A few days later, Jesus knelt before the disciples and washed their feet.  Was he following Mary’s example? Was Jesus that moved by the way Mary ministered to him that he wanted to do the same for those who had been his loyal followers?  Mary had taken a great risk that evening. She had gone against cultural norms. She did it in front of those who would criticize her.  But, she was doing what Jesus had done throughout his ministry. She was going against the norm to care for the one she thought needed her care the most. Her actions were in sharp contrast to what was expected of her. Her love for Jesus was all that mattered and she wanted that love to show in her actions. Mary gave everything she had for Jesus. She poured herself out to show her faith. She believed; she was generous, and she was devoted.

Jesus became flesh for us and the feet of his body were anointed by Mary. Mary used her hands to honor Jesus’ body and used her hair as a towel. We have been given gifts by God to use to the glory of God. We use those gifts in all we do. We minister to those around us. We all face brokenness and look to each other for support. When one part of the body hurts, we all hurt.  Jesus was hung on the cross for our salvation and as resurrection people we continue to be fed the body and blood of Christ each time we come to the table and are nourished for the days ahead. We all were created in God’s image to do God’s work in this world. It is not an easy task. What Mary did that night no one would have imagined.  What Jesus did for us in his death and resurrection is more than we could have ever imagined.