Tag Archives: relationships

FOUR WARTBURG SEMINARY GRADUATES PUBLISH BOOKS

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Steward of Stories: Reflecting on Tensions in Daily Discipleship by JoAnn A. Post

JoAnn Post has been a Lutheran pastor and writer for three decades. She attended Wartburg College and Wartburg Theological Seminary before serving diverse congregations and settings. Her ministry has been committed to strong preaching and worship leadership, pastoral care, and community outreach. (See more about JoAnn and Steward of Stories at http://wipfandstock.com/author/view/detail/id/57509/)

As shared in her introduction JoAnn was dubbed “Steward of Stories” by her husband in recognition of how both strangers and friends entrusted her with their stories. The stories, many written while JoAnn underwent cancer treatments, presents meaningful reflection and insights into the rich and paradoxical world of a pastor. The thoughtful discussion questions at the end of each chapter encourage dialogue on the important topics brought to life in the stories shared in the book.

 


 

 Cover-_LauraNotes on the Journey: Living with Sarcoma & Hope by Laura A. Koppenhoefer

This book is a compellation of Laura’s “posts” from the Carepage.com journaling               she has done through the first years of her illness, a rare cancer diagnosis – “sarcoma”– changed   a lot in her life. Originally thinking that she was writing to inform the congregation she co-pastored of her treatment,          she found that she learned through writing as well. Insights are found in everyday things – gardens and baking and re-discovering knitting and quilting –        and the extreme circumstances of her medical care, the challenges of facing disability, and severe pain starting at age 49. However, all are instances for discovering the Spirit at work in her life whether in times of lament or joy. The proceeds of this book are all going to fund sarcoma  research at the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. For more about Laura and the Living in Hope foundation, see http://www.livinginhopefoundation.org/

A reflection from Tammy Barthels, Final Year M.Div. Student:

As I finish reading Laura’s book, two entries stick with me. 1) “Be strong and of good courage, be neither afraid or dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (p 332). And 2) “With thanks to …God – For your presence. Though I may feel lonely from time to time, I am never alone. For the gift of incredible people in my life – They are your hands and feet in the world” (p 333). Laura assures me, God assures me that God’s presence is always with us. God allows us to be lonely at times, but God never leaves as alone. God provides wonderful people in our lives to walk this journey with us.

 


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Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking by R.K. Kline and Daniel D. Maurer

Daniel D. Maurer was an ELCA pastor for 11 years, serving parishes in western North Dakota. He is now a freelance writer and writes under the “Dan the Story Man,” his non-fiction brand.  R.Kevin Kline is an ELCA pastor who has served in Kansas and Hawaii. Having recently moved back to the mainland and received approval as a mission developer, he plans to foster relationships with other organizations to raise awareness about the ongoing issues of justice in the LGBTQ community. Maurer and Kline collaborated on the book after realizing that Kevin’s story had the power to help others.

Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking breaks new ground in the problem of sex trafficking in that it also affects boys. Set in 1975, Kevin’s true story shows how a young boy can find himself in a difficult and unsustainable life. Yet even in darkness, there is a light of grace —Kevin found two friends during that summer of ’75. With them, he would come to see a loving God in ways that the world would only begin to see in more recent years. For more, see http://www.faraway-book.com/

A reflection from Tami Groth, Final Year Diaconal Ministry Student:

I first heard Rev. Kevin Kline speak in the Spring of 2013 when he spoke to students at Wartburg Seminary, and shared his story with us. I encourage others to both read the book, and if possible hear Kevin speak. His story is powerful and an important one for us to hear. I am thankful for Kevin’s courage and the authentic telling of his story.


 

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Sobriety A graphic novel by Daniel D Maurer. Illustrated by Spencer Amundson

Through rich illustration and narrative, Sobriety: A Graphic Novel offers an inside look into recovery from the perspectives of five Twelve Step group members, each with a unique set of additions, philosophies, struggles, and successes while working the Steps. Readers gain an intimate look at the challenges faced by those in recovery–and at the boundless power of working the Steps in helping people find strength in one another as they reach for a clean-and-sober life. For more, see http://www.danthestoryman.com/

FROM FERGUSON: TWO INTERVIEWS WITH REV. RICK BRENTON, WTS GRADUATE, by Norma Cook Everist, WTS Professor of Church and Ministry

December, 2014:

Rev. Richard Brenton, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Ferguson, Mo, (WTS 2010) in a telephone interview, said, “People are in need of ministry and are asking difficult questions. My calling is to walk with them.” He reported then that he was just beginning to feel how tired he was. “It’s been like living in a fish bowl” since August 15, 2014 when Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

After the shooting, Pastor Brenton along with other clergy marched with the protestors. Thousands of people marched. The clergy took toiletries and food with them for the protestors who came not only from the area but from across the country. In late November, after the release of the Grand Jury decision, Zion provided safe Sanctuary. Rick said he stayed at the church and kept the doors open. This sanctuary also provided legal observers and medical help. Many people came through, engaging also in important conversation.

Zion Lutheran, is “quite conservative,” with many white members now over 65 or 75, said Pastor Brenton. “Most of them think all of this will ‘go away’ when ‘things quiet down.’ The congregation is 25% African American, most in their middle adult years. Their children and grandchildren make up the youth in the congregation. They see things differently.” Rick tries to help the people see that “change is among us.” He knows his calling is to minister to the entire congregation and that this is a challenge. “It creates a delicate tension, a fine line.” The people within the congregation love one another. Rick said, “Loving care is central.”

Rick added, “There is not division or conflict within the congregation. We have strong relationships. Everyone knows everyone in the congregation.” It’s the people that the white folks don’t know that causes generalizations from the old white guard. We hear words such as “those people” and “those protestors.” And “those blacks.”

Rick has completed four years as pastor at Zion and trust has grown over those years. He has long been part of the Ferguson Ministerial Alliance.

March, 2015:

With the release of the U.S. Justice Department’s report on Ferguson, there is “renewed angst and denial,” said Pastor Brenton, in another phone call interview. “People don’t want to face the truth. Over the years they have allowed this to happen, have become used to it, and don’t want to admit that it’s real.” The evening of the interview Rick was going to ask the Church Council to provide some open forums for the congregation. “We need an atmosphere of trust,” said Rick, “because the issues are very polarizing. It’s like going through stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, blaming and depression.” They say, “We’ve read all about it and we don’t want to talk about it anymore.” They are shutting down. It has been overwhelming all these months. Overload. With the spotlight of the nation on them again, Rick said, “We have to interpret the events in the light of the Gospel.”

They need to know that systemic racism is everywhere, not just in Ferguson, so that they can feel not just shame, but Christ’s suffering for all on the cross. This has been especially important when headlines lately have compared the shooting of an unarmed young black man in Wisconsin to them, saying, “Madison handled it better than Ferguson.” Comparisons are not the point. There is justice work to do in every community. Religious leadership is important wherever one receives a call.

When asked how he was doing personally, Rick said, “Some days are fine; others are a real struggle. It’s a challenge to say the least.” He added, “It is important to stay close to Christ and to Christ’s journey.”

Now well into his 5th year he knows the congregation and the community and understands that people hold on to their old ways of adapting to injustices around them. Now feeling judged by the Justice Department Report and the nation, the issues are not being dispelled, but amplified. There is both shame and sentiments of, “You are running down our town.” Pastor Brenton said, “The African Americans at Zion are much in tune with the Gospel, very understanding and forgiving. But how much longer are they going to feel comfortable attending Zion?”

Rick is trying to minister to the white members of the congregation and to support the African American members (He also feels support from them.) We referenced the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, which thousands walked over recently marking the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. In some ways, Rick is also a bridge himself. He added, “And I feel the footprints on my back.” He gave thanks for the support of his bishop and for many friends through Facebook. He added that his education at Wartburg had been one of God’s deepest blessings to him.

A CONGREGATION BETRAYED: BOOK RESPONSE by Jennifer Dahle, Final Year M.Div. Student

As I read When a Congregation is Betrayed: Responding to Clergy Misconduct (Alban, 2006), a series of essays edited by Beth Ann Gaeide, I was struck by the extensive work that needs to be done in churches before any kind of misconduct possibly occurs. It really forced me to think about how I could help a church to prepare for an eventuality like misconduct, but it pushed me even more to think about my theology surrounding misconduct and the office of pastor. On page 26, the essay author, Patricia Liberty, suggests thinking about the far-reaching extent of damage that accompanies sexual misconduct in particular by envisioning the following exercise. “Think of your favorite hymn, your favorite Bible verse, your favorite sacred space. Are they written down? Now, look at the hymn you chose. Your pastor hummed that tune while he/she had sex with you; cross it off your list. The favorite verse you wrote down? You pastor quoted that verse to you when he/she was justifying your actions together; cross it off your list. That sacred space was entered by the pastor while you were there and you had sex; cross it off your list.” The extent of damage is astounding when framed by this exercise.

The essays I read invited me to think about sexual misconduct not as an “affair” but as an abuse of power within the pastoral office. “Clergy sexual abuse is often referred to as ‘sexual sin’ or ‘adultery’…these terms are too narrow to name the damage done to the entire congregation…Further, they encourage a privatization of the behavior that keeps the focus on the sexual activity of two individuals rather than on the betrayal of the sacred trust of the office and the pain caused an entire congregation.” (Patricia Liberty, 16-17)  Trying to heal from a misconduct case needs to involve re-examining how we define sin and evil.

Theologically, clergy misconduct violates trust and poses a potential stumbling block to faith for those involved. It is vital to have clear, open communication around the event and to support the victims and the rest of the congregation. No church that finds itself in the midst of a case of clergy misconduct is going to have an easy time of it, but the more the procedures are in place for such an event, the more potentially effective the healing.

I have much thinking left to do around this topic. Having met someone who is still feeling the effects of clergy misconduct 20 years later has made me feel particularly drawn to trying to actually being prepared should something like this occur near or where I am serving. My thoughts are still racing, but this is a starting point at least.

BELONGING AND COMMUNITY by Tami Groth, 2nd Year M.A. Diaconal

This past November I had the opportunity to return to my home congregation and preach during the Sunday worship services. Unfortunately with my seminary schedule and family commitments I do not frequently have the opportunity to return home and spend time with my home congregation community. I have frequently thought about how I belong to that community even though I am now mostly absent from it while I am present in my seminary community here at Wartburg Theological Seminary. The gospel text for the day was John 18.33-37, ending with “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” brought me to that questioning place again as I pondered what it means to belong to the truth.

As I contemplated what word I was called to share that morning, the word “belonging” echoed through my mind. What does it mean to belong? Many of us know it when we experience belonging. The experience of belonging is felt in the depths of our being. There are moments when we know for certain “yes, I belong here.” There are also moments we know without doubt when another belongs. It seems more of a feeling than an objective description.

When I witness a strong sense of belonging in others I reflect on what communities I belong to. Who knows me and loves me anyway? What communities count me as their own? How do I contribute to the sense of belonging within those communities.

It is often during reunion moments that the sense of belonging to a community is strongest. When you return to a place and it feels like home, or if not home, then a comfort away from home. Those times hearts and eyes light up as individuals are reunited.

Or, we feel the pain of not belonging. The pain and longing of wanting to belong or possibly wondering if you belong to a group or a place — as humans, we know what that feels like in the very depths of our being.

As Christians we belong to Christ. And we are called to work within and belong to specific communities within the body of Christ.

Each community exists in the midst of constant transition. Some communities, such as a seminary community where students are being called and sent to new places each year, transition in predictable ways while other communities experience change in more unpredictable ways. Yet, through our shared relationships we belong to each other. Our stories are entwined.

We also are called to actively write some of the story of a community that belongs to Christ and to each other. In our relationships with each other we are invited to share in relationship with one another, we are also invited (dared?) to share in the truth as experienced in Jesus Christ.

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice

Indeed we need to actively listen — to seek, to understand. To live our lives in community with one another, to belong to one another is a gift best actively received. Together we actively seek to understand as we belong to each other and not of this world. These shared communities are not limited by the observed boundaries of the world — All are welcome.

We look to our loving God to begin to understand this gift of belonging as part of reconciled relationships lived out in response to the new reality created in Christ as we are restored to right relationship with God and humanity. Faith gives us the vision for this new reality as we act differently. We listen. We seek to understand. We acknowledge and live out relationships with God and each other. We act differently because God’s love frees us and restores us to love in right relationship with God and others — to belong.

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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THE IN-BETWEENS OF CALL by Jealaine Marple, WTS, 2011, Dubuque, Iowa

In our Baptism we are sealed with the cross of Christ forever and given the most important vocation of our lives: child of God.  As we grow, become educated, and gain life experience, we discover, thanks to the Holy Spirit, that we are destined for several, if not many, roles in life.  We should think about these as a vocation as well.  Perhaps we are called to be a spouse or partner, maybe a parent, an aunt or uncle, a sibling, a grandparent, a friend, a confidant.  This list could go on and on and on.  The most important thing for us to remember is that no vocation is more important  than the other.  

When we are doing what God created us to do we are living into the fullness of life that God has created and planned for us.  The same can be said for our vocations that provide a service for others beyond our families.  Perhaps it is a societal “normal” job of Monday thru Friday, 8-5; maybe it is shift work. It may be working out of the home or in the home.  

 But what happens when one vocation seems to supersede another?  What happens when what God has created you to be (mother, father, spouse, partner, sister, etc…) interferes, intersects, interrupts  what  you feel God has called you to be beyond your immediate relationships?  What happens when we find ourselves in the “in between?”  

This is a common, although not always voiced, struggle in which many in the church find themselves.  We get those “heart tugs” of God calling us, beckoning us to serve God and people beyond our present lives.  Yet, we get the tugs of family (however that may be defined by you) also tugging at our hearts.  Perhaps it is the tug to become a parent again, or for the first time.  Maybe it is the tug to become a spouse or partner.  Or it may even be the tug to become a caretaker for an aging parent, grandparent, or older adult in one’s life.  It is situations like these, when we try and balance our various calls to vocations by God, that we may find ourselves in the “in between.”  

 If we answer God’s call to whatever God has in store for us, we may feel we do so at the risk of damaging the relationships in which we now exist.  For example, let’s say someone is offered a higher position at a company they love as well as a hefty pay raise.  However, accepting this new position means hours on the weekend which equals time away from friends and family.  Or perhaps a couple wants to add a child or children to their family.  However, by doing this, one partner or the other would have to leave their profession.  These conundrums may even lead to “wilderness” periods,  those times when we may feel further away from God than usual; further away from God than we thought possible.  There is no clear cut answer.  There is no magic formula for how to navigate the “in between.”

 In order to persevere through the “in-between,”  you may want to do the following: 1) pray.  This seems like an elementary suggestion, but even if your discernment and in between period has turned into a wilderness period, continue your prayer life.  Even if you’re mad at God, it’s okay.  Continue to talk and more importantly, continue to listen; 2) Engage the wisdom of others.  This person could be a pastor, diaconal minister, a spiritual director, or dear trusted friend.  While the correct decision will ultimately be stirred up by the Holy Spirit, it can help to have companions on the journey.  These companions can pray for you too; 3)  Dare to trust in God. Remember your Baptismal identity: Child of God.  God will not leave you, abandon or forsake you.  You are washed in the promises of God’s grace.  We are justified by grace through faith.  We are not justified through titles, positions, accolades, achievements, or salary.  At the end of the day, only God’s grace can justify us.  God’s grace, unlike everything else in our lives, will never fail us.  Lastly, remember that the “in-between” doesn’t last forever.  God will show you a way through the “in-between” and God will accompany you the entire time as you navigate your “in-betweens.”