Sarah Wicks is pursuing an M.A. in Social Work and an M.A. in Diaconal Ministry. She writes this article describing her joint degree work.

I’ve spent a lot of time this school year at the Almost Home shelter located at St. John’s Lutheran Church in downtown Dubuque. In my role as a social work field placement student at Project Concern, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the work at St. John’s and am involved with the lives of the shelter residents. St. John’s Lutheran is such a beautiful example of the powerful relationship that can exist between the worlds of social work and diaconal ministry.

One of my former social work professors told me once that, “social work is not just about understanding who the people are that we serve, but to more deeply understand what is happening in their lives and in their community that influences their lives and brings them to seek your services.” Social work is about seeing the visible and invisible social systems of power, poverty, racism, classism, and privilege at work and applying that understanding to the work we do with people. In my own understanding of diaconal ministry, I also see it as essential that we can identify and incorporate those visible and invisible systems into the work we do on behalf of congregations within the community.

St. John’s Lutheran is a powerful example of a congregation that saw those systems at play in their community and sought to build a bridge between the congregation and the people in the wider community. The shelter provides overflow beds for the Dubuque Rescue Mission and can shelter up to 12 men at a time. They offer showers, laundry services, social supports, and work with Project Concern and people like me to connect the shelter residents to rehousing programs. As someone who has training in social work and is also learning the fine art of diaconal ministry, I can speak both languages and that has been a critical resource. I understand the mission of the church and the history of downtown, urban churches that are declining in membership and have a need to fill their unused spaces.

I also understand the needs of the community, which I learn from the people I serve, and the programs in we participate. I can serve as a case manager for the shelter residents to get them back into permanent housing and connect them to supportive services. It is a really wild and exhilarating position to be in! I’m so grateful for congregations like St. John’s that have taken on this diaconal work and are doing it so well in their communities. I pray that we all continue to listen to the callings in our own lives, and to be creative in considering ways that we can continue to bridge these experiences and backgrounds with congregations and communities we will serve in the future.

NOTED! Book Review by Wendy Daiker, Final-Year MDiv Spouse


Jacobson, Kathy J. Noted! First edition. (Mineral Point, WI: Little Creek Press. A Division of Kristin Mitchell Design, Inc., 2015), 220pp.

NOTED!  By Kathy J. Jacobson is a Christian fiction novel that brings out real life events in her characters in an intriguing way that makes it hard to set the book down. Jillian, the main character is a Christian woman who wants a personal new start, with a job, in a new location across the country. She has her strong faith in God to help her through it. The job she takes pulls her into a world where she has to trust God and be patient. The job makes her evaluate her own failed relationships and how she will let go and move forward.

I love how Jacobson made me think about famous people and how their lives are hard in ways we may not think about and how they have the same hurts we have. They are not immune to the pain we have. They turn to the same God we turn to.

This book came at a perfect time in my life as I am beginning a new adventure into a new land and will be making new friends. I learned so much from Jillian in this novel about putting yourself out there and getting involved, and about taking a leap of faith to start new friendships.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an easy read Christian novel. It is beautifully written and hits many topics with God at the center of life.


Kathy J. Jacobson

is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa. She has worked counseling troubled youth, has been an at-home Mom, a church youth worker and Christian education coordinator, worked in campus ministry, and for the last twelve years, has served in rural parish ministry. In addition to her work in the church, she volunteers as a hospice chaplain. Kathy resides with her husband in the beautiful “Driftless Area” of southwestern Wisconsin. They are parents of three children, all “twenty-something.” Kathy is an avid traveler, having visited forty-nine states and five continents, with most memorable trips to Papua New Guinea, the Holy Land, and Tanzania, East Africa. She enjoys music, theater, reading, biking, walking and hiking, but writing is her passion. NOTED! is her debut novel.

HOPING FOR MORE Book Review By Barbara Daiker, WTS Alum Spouse


Thompson, Deanna A. Hoping for More: Having Cancer, Talking Faith, and Accepting Grace. (Eugene, Or: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2012), 166 pp.

Deanna Thompson called her life a “near perfect life” at age 42, as she had a caring and loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a career teaching religion at a Minnesota university. She also had opportunities to travel and observe the beauty of God’s creation, plus the blessing of family and friends who lived in close proximity and served as a great support group for her.  Along with all of this, she enjoyed the blessing of excellent health, so excellent that she rarely needed a doctor.  In fact, at age 42 she did not have a primary-care doctor of her own.

In the summer of 2008, however, this excellent health record took a major turn-about when Deanna began suffering major lower back pain accompanied by a burning sensation in her back.  This led her to appointments with chiropractors, doctors, and specialists. Finally, with the help of an MRI, Deanna was diagnosed as having a fractured spine and needing the expertise of a spine specialist.

The MRI revealed a mysterious fluid surrounding two fractured vertebrae – a fluid which was biopsied and revealed that she had breast cancer, a cancer that had spread to her spine.  The diagnosis was Stage IV breast cancer.  Thus began months of doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations, tests, medications, and total emotional drain.

This is a powerful book which connects the fearful and painful recognition of our own mortality with the grace of God and the comforting assertion of the Apostle Paul that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.”

Deanna Thompson is now living in remission, knowing that each day is a gift of grace.  She is awed by the way her family and her community have rallied around her.  She looks upon her cancer as a gift because, “the experiences of grace  that I’ve been privileged to have would not have happened had I not had cancer.”



Deanna A. Thompson

is a Professor of Religion at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota,
and the author of Crossing the Divide: Luther, Feminism, and the Cross. She lives with her husband and two daughters in St. Paul.



“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body” (Col. 3:14-15, NRSV).

The Wartburg community gathered together on campus as brothers and sisters March 4th in love and fellowship for the specific purpose of participating in God’s mission (mission Dei).  Individuals entered into conversation with their own past experiences of racism and the division that it causes.  Some entered desperately seeking ways in which to participate in God’s work of reconciliation and the healing of wounds caused by racism.  People were guided by the power of the Holy Spirit to struggle together with questions of what to do about racism within our Church, our communities, and even within our own selves.

Through the teaching, sharing, and practice of some skills on how to go about carrying out a conversation surrounding the topic of racism, the night progressed quite quickly.  As I observed the group with which I shared conversation and also looked around at other groups, I felt a strong sense of passion and emotion flowing among participants.  At the end, when the entire group gathered together for a sharing of final reflections, many ideas and emotions reverberated throughout the narthex: Heartache, Hope, Determination, Acceptance, Love, Pain, Resolve… These words along with the stories and shared experiences I heard that night will stay with me forever.

My hope is that others left that night with a sense of purpose and hope for the future just as I did. A strong mix of emotions flowed through my very being but one thought stuck with me:  the conversation continues because it must.  The Church has everything to lose if it does not continue to address racism through conversation and action.  We must realize that we, as the Body of Christ, are not whole when certain voices are being ignored or silenced.  My hope is that the Holy Spirit will continue to stir within us all, not only just in the Wartburg community, but in the whole world.  Let us not be content with the state of the Church right now.  Let the Word of God continue to unsettle us when we hear it and look around us at the walls that separate us.  Let the reconciling work of Christ work in and through us all, and let us come to the fullness of glory because of it. May almighty God give us God’s own peace.



I walked the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem for the first time during January Term, 2016. At each station of the Via Dolorosa, we sang and read scripture while the world went on around us. I tried to imagine Jesus roughly pushed out into the street, amidst yelling vendors and children playing loud games. Did everything become silent when Jesus stumbled? Or did the world’s noise just continue?

We entered several small chapels along the way. At the seventh station I sat down in the chapel with a sigh, and reached for my water bottle. No scourging, no cross, no crown of thorns, no crowd screaming for my murder, no betrayal or heartbreak,  but I was still tired. And thirsty. Lord, have mercy.

We marked the last five Stations in the courtyard behind the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was around noon, appropriately. Three people in non-Western robes, with covered hair and dark skin, were there when we arrived. As the bell struck 12, one of the men walked around a domed structure in the courtyard three times. He and I bowed our heads to each other in greeting.

We entered the church through the Ethiopian worship space, passing by two women reading and praying. I thought of Anna, “continually in the temple praising God.” I’d never considered that people today come and sit in the church all day, just to be there.

Continually praising God.

The sites in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were profound, overwhelming, wonderful. After I recovered from the amazement of seeing the tomb, I enjoyed watching others stream into the holy place. I needed to see myself surrounded by the communion of saints, and needed to see them all drawn to the same place I was.

I thank God for the random, blessed intersection of people at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the vendors we walked past, and the construction worker who looked at us as we sang at the First Station, and the two young Jewish boys gleefully laughing, expertly weaving in and out of our group on their way home.

IMAGES OF ICELAND by Kristi Grieder, 2nd Year MDiv


This poem was written while participating in a cross-cultural course to Iceland and Norway with Wartburg Theological Seminary in January 2016.

At matin, we rise for prayer
The sky is black
The cold is bitter
I walk to the chapel at Skálholt
My hands ache and long for warmth

Christ emerges from the altarpiece in blues and grays
His arms are open, embracing all who enter.
The nave echoes with chanting;
I do not hear my language
But I listen with my soul:
Give us this day, our daily bread,
And forgive us our sins.

At the pastors’ house, the bread is warm
The coffee is strong and candles glow
The walls are dressed with shiny frames and colorful canvas
Dalí and Picasso
Original and print
Art and artifact
Each revealing the stories of one’s life
And drawing me into wonder about my own.

Outside the parsonage, the wind howls
Thick walls have sheltered the family for twenty-eight winters
And the pastor hopes for twenty-eight more.
Laughter rises from the common table
And I wonder, do homes belong to people
Or do people belong to homes?

The falls at Gulfoss roar
The wind pushes me toward the cliff
I can barely keep my footing
But if I let go, it carries me
With a force that is greater than my own

I slip on sheets of ice and stumble on rocky craters
My bare heels burn on freezing sand as I run into the ocean
The path is uncertain
And the pilgrimage is not without pain.

With squinting eyes, I walk toward the altar
Yellow and orange flood the sacred space
With empty hands, I receive bread and wine
I cannot see the priest’s face
For the rays of light are too bright to bear
I cannot understand the words spoken,
But I taste the sour wine on my tongue, saying,
For you, the body of Christ, broken

At vespers, we worship in darkness
The blue lights and grand piano set the mood
As the melody of the choir soars, I sit in the pew;
I look through a long, narrow window
I can see the city lights,
And I am reminded of the parish
Beyond these walls and my sight

A baby boy is baptized
His long white gown spills over his grandfather’s arms
No one sitting in the pews knows his name
Until he is claimed as a child of God

Outside, the flag flies at half-mast
In the sanctuary, two caskets sit side by side
She died on the twenty-second
He stayed only five more days
Polka from their youth plays on the accordion
The caskets are carried to the grave
Two lives intertwined in life
Two souls dancing in death

The burial hymn of an Icelandic poet runs through the veins of the people,
And ring softly in my ears:
“Thus in Christ’s name I’m living;
Thus in Christ’s name, I’ll die…
O Grave, where is thy triumph?
O Death, where is thy sting?
‘Come thou wilt will, and welcome!’
Secure in Christ, I sing.”*

Pink and orange linger in the horizon
The sunset lasts for hours.
Steam rises from the rocky earth like a prayer
And I welcome the cold on my cheeks.

*Hallgrímur Pétursson (d. 1674), Icelandic Burial Hymn

KNOCK AT THE DOOR By Paul Waterman, Final-Year MDiv

I love to have company. The idea of having a house full of people, laughing and conversing, makes my heart swell. Providing hospitality and sharing my kitchen, dining room, and living room to host a gathering is among my favorite things. It all starts with a knock on the door! There is great anticipation to see who has arrived. However, I have a new perspective as a result of a January term trip in 2016.

A classmate and I were invited to a house in Austin, Texas, share a meal and conversation. The pastor, Pastor Joe, who himself is an immigrant from Central America, but currently serves a Latino congregation near Austin, Texas. prepared us for the home visit. We were given some details about the people which revealed the complexity of the living situation for this immigrant family. Three people lived in a duplex: one who is a dual citizen of El Salvador and the United States, their child, who is a natural-born citizen of the United States, and an ‘undocumented immigrant.’ I struggle using words to describe this individual who has arrived in the United States from Central America because of human-made boundaries (we call them borders). For this writing, I will use “undocumented immigrant” because it is the most fitting term. For this story, he will be referred to as Bill.

The family of three, the pastor, my classmate, and I were gathered around the family’s dining room table to enjoy a meal. We prayed and dug in. The food was absolutely delicious and the conversation was deep! All was well with our souls and stomachs as we reached for seconds. Then, things all changed.

There was a knock on the door. Time stood still. People froze. Silence rushed into the dining room. The atmosphere changed. The mood had taken an about face. There was another knock. The husband/father of the house, Bill, stood up and walked to the door. All eyes followed him. I can’t speak on behalf of the others around the table, but I immediately feared the worst, that ICE had arrived. We were going to see the ‘apprehension’ in front of our eye. This beautiful family was about to be torn apart! I was speechless and uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to respond.

Being an Iowa native, I was familiar with the ICE raids in Postville in 2008 and was faintly familiar with the difficulties that immigrants face daily. Bill had talked about being employed in the United States without having ‘legal documents.’ Bosses treated him differently, often withholding pay or only paying a portion of what was owed. Work hours were long; there are no ‘safety precautions’ for people without documents. They can be replaced easily by the next person looking for a shot at a better life. The working conditions were often treacherous. But what really got to me was the fear of driving. Every trip in the car could be the last time in the United States. Every law enforcement officer poses a threat of possible deportation.

Bill answered the door, and two gentlemen were outside waiting for him. The one on the right had a hat on with the logo of a local collegiate sports team. The other one was wearing a camouflage jacket. They said something to Bill that I couldn’t hear, and he walked outside. Seconds felt like hours. The silence was deafening. The tension was thick. A few seconds later, Bill returned–smiling! The men were repossession agents who were looking for someone and they had been given the wrong address. Bill made a joke about them taking his wife’s car, and we laughed. Bill sat back down and supper continued. Things were the same, kind of, for the rest of the evening.

The thoughts and feelings I had during those brief moments of unknowingness led me to a reality outside of my own experience and into the life of the roughly 11 million ‘undocumented immigrants.’ Nothing is simple; there is no such thing as a quick trip to the store. Every element of public life is a heightened experience, with the thought of apprehension looming. I cannot fully understand what Bill was going through when he heard the knock on the door, but I am certain that it is much different than what I feel from unexpected knocks on my door. What I do know is I have been changed; I have seen my neighbor differently. Looking at this experience through Bill’s lens has changed my life. Every knock on the door now takes me back to a dining room with friends, new and old, when the rhythm of the world was out of sync for a few moments. Thanks be to God for opportunities of transformation.