Jayne M. Thompson's Blog
June 3, 2013
He's just a guy
|Guy Erwin (right) and members of the Southwest California Synod in prayer at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.|
I’m sure he’s heard that umpteen times. My friend, the Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, was elected to serve as the next bishop of the Southwest California Synod. I’m pretty sure he’s heard all the “guy-jokes” foisted upon those with the actual name of Guy. Being that he’s very unassuming as well as humorous, he might poke fun at himself, a twinkle in his eye saying, “I’m just a guy who got elected bishop, that’s all.”
I met Guy at the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, or maybe it was in 2003. It was a while ago. Whether one is there as a voting member, volunteer or participant, the assembly is a wonderful experience. We met primarily because I was helping lead voting members who were trying to bring about justice, inclusion and full welcome for LGBT clergy members. Guy was in my group. We all prayed together, we got to know one another, heard stories about where we were from and worked together for the week. I got to know him fairly well over that gathering and many more after that.
|Erwin addresses the issue of full communion with the United Methodists, 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
This guy named Guy seemed to me one of the calmest, modest, kindest and funniest, as well as thoughtfully brilliant and astutely articulate, people I’ve ever met. I found out he was a professor at California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks. “Well, that explains a lot,” I thought. When Guy got to a microphone to speak to the assembly, he always had something important to say. He spoke with a sense of humor as well as with his obvious command of any subject matter he was addressing. He never lost his cool, ever.
Over the years, I have loved his solid support and unfailing advocacy for Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM) across our church. Imagine how thrilled I was when he told me somewhere along the way that he became a Lutheran through his involvement with LCM in Cambridge, Mass. While chatting with Guy about this post he said, “I started [at University Lutheran Church/LCM] with Henry Horn, and then Fred Reisz came in — he baptized me. Assisting was our associate pastor, Jessica Crist (in her first call, now the bishop in the Montana Synod and chair of the Conference of Bishops) and our seminary intern, Liz Eaton, now bishop in Northeastern Ohio Synod. So, I was brought into the ELCA future without even knowing it.”
It certainly wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that there would be no "Pastor Guy" if it weren't for LCM. He really is a great guy!
It’s been interesting for me to read what others are saying about Guy’s election as synod bishop. Bishop Jim Gonia of the Rocky Mountain Synod was there. He mentioned that he didn’t know Erwin before the assembly. He only knew from his son who had attended CLU that Dr. Erwin was (and I quote with a smile) “a really good guy.” Gonia reflected on his time this way:
“I watched as the assembly began with the usual long list of candidates in addition to the six who had been pre-identified as potential nominees, including Pastor Erwin. That number was reduced to seven, then five and finally three. As the assembly listened to the three final candidates respond to questions and share parts of their stories, I was struck by the fact that all three were well qualified and each could serve effectively in this office. Yet there was something in Pastor Erwin that began to emerge as he spoke: his humility, his pastoral sensitivity, his thoughtfulness — and his humor — became evident not only to me but I believe to members of the assembly as well.”
Well, as turns out, others who meet Guy have the same impression of him. So in keeping with the “guy-sayings,” I could also exuberantly exclaim, “He’s quite a guy!” or “He’s really some guy!” or “He’s certainly not your average guy!” Other folks who know Guy would nod in vigorous agreement. But Guy would likely downplay any such accolades, because, well, Guy is just that way.
|Erwin and his partner, Rob Flynn, before his ordination, May 11, 2011.|
For the longest time, I didn’t know that Guy was gay or that he had a wonderful spouse named Rob. It wasn’t something that he talked about. I think maybe he felt, since he was teaching at an ELCA college, that it wasn’t something that could be very public. Guy just wanted to work for justice and the full welcome of the gospel. When it all comes down to it, in the end, it’s about Jesus and his love and not so much about a person’s orientation or heritage, though those things are significant, to be sure.
|Newly ordained. May 11, 2011.|
It’s a both/and moment for Guy. It’s wonderful, amazing and heartening, at least it is to me. It’s heartening in that finally after all those many long years of working so hard so that wonderful people like Guy could be ordained and then — wonder of wonders — be elected as a bishop of the church, well, that’s remarkable! I don’t think it matters that Guy is gay or that he hails from the Osage Nation, though these things are noteworthy. What matters really is that we had the compassion and the tenacity to fully welcome folks like Guy to the roster of the ELCA so he can bless us more fully with his ministry. People who have long been marginalized for one reason or another are often the ones with the most compassion and understanding for those who are still on the margins. They are often the humble ones who have the most to teach us.
In a Facebook comment to a friend of mine who was trying to articulate his excitement for Bishop-elect Erwin while others were trying to dampen his enthusiasm, I wrote:
|Bishop-elect Guy Erwin at the 2013 Southwest California Synod Assembly.|
“Dr. Erwin is a compassionate, brilliant, kind, witty, articulate pastor and theologian. He is thoughtful and patient as the day is long and he happens to be a partnered gay man as well as a Native American from the Oklahoma Osage Nation. That he is both and that there has never been either in the Conference of Bishops is indeed noteworthy, but certainly not the basis for his election. He is simply just a great person all around and will be a fine bishop.”
I believe with all my heart that this is most certainly true! Guy, to me you’re going to be that Bishop Guy. :)
All the best to you, to Rob and to all us in the ELCA!
May 20, 2013
St. Cloud State’s graduation took place on the morning of Mother’s Day, May 12. ‘Twas a chilly start to the day — even frosty in some parts of Minnesota, but nothing can squelch the enthusiasm of the SCSU grads. We had two grads that morning. By that I mean two young adults who had been active in our Lutheran Campus Ministry community. Jon, a native Minnesotan, received his bachelor's degree and is on his way to Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., this summer. Randi, hailing from Sri Lanka, received his master's degree and is on his way to another graduate school program at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
In addition to the palpable joy swirling through the air, I love the festal diversity of the SCSU graduation gatherings! There are Minnesotans who span a line of generations who have graduated from SCSU and then there are the international students whose families arrive for the celebration with hope in their eyes and pride in their hearts. For the students who arrived in the U.S. as refugees fleeing the violence and terror of their countries, this is a moment never imagined, a dream come true and a day of supreme wonder and happiness.
In my 20 years of serving as a Lutheran campus pastor, I must have attended at least two dozen or more college graduations. But I never weary of going (well, I do weary of the length of some of them) because it’s an important milestone in the lives of people I care about. It is the liturgy — the work of the people — of the academic world, a way to mark, through ritual and ceremony, a major accomplishment and that is beautiful to behold.
Later on in the afternoon, I went to campus. It was so quiet. The parking lots were nearly empty. The Atwood Memorial Union was closed. There were only a few maintenance people working, cleaning up a bit around the residence halls. After all the hectic rush of the semester’s activities, the end of the school year's farewells and final suppers and worship services, I love this time on campus.
I love this time because it’s so peaceful. It’s the visible end of my time spent with students: times of struggle, celebration, tears, laughter, worry, hope and heartbreak, dreams diverted and dreams realized. The end is always the next beginning — this is why we call it commencement. Graduation from a college or university is always understood as preparation for your adventure in the world, your journey in making a difference for humanity. That’s how we roll out after graduations.
The next Friday, I watched my sister, Carol, receive her doctor of philosophy in physical rehabilitation sciences (physical therapy) from the University of Iowa, Iowa City. She’s the first to receive a doctorate in our family. It’s hard to describe how very proud and happy we all were. She’s been working at the university for many years. As she was working and raising a family, she doggedly pursued her degree. I know it wasn’t easy. But she did it!
In the very hot and humid Carver Hawkeye Arena she walked to the stage and was hooded by her mentor, Kathleen. Now, after she grades her students’ finals and turns the grades in, her life will return to some moments of quiet repose before it all starts up again.
I love this about my ministry — the rhythms of the year, the finals week, the graduation and then — the quiet emptiness of its cycle of completion. I’ll be missing the students soon and the hubbub of the campus. But until that sets in, I’m going to relish their absence and the quiet peace.
April 12, 2013
The curry smelled so wonderful!
“I love the smell of curry, hey, I love to eat curry!” Pastor Darin Seaman of the First
|Dinish's curried chicken.|
Presbyterian Church (FPC), St. Cloud, Minn., exclaimed to me as I sat with him when their team hosted the April 10 Wednesday Student Supper. “We were upstairs last week when you all were cooking down here and it smelled so wonderful!”
I greeted Marsha who is the office manager from FPC as well. We shared worship leadership on Maundy Thursday. I wanted to thank her for her wonderful readings, but she wanted to talk about the wonderful smells from the kitchen last week. “I come in to play the piano before the choir rehearsal every Wednesday and the smells from the kitchen are so great, but last week — wow — the aroma of curry that went through the building, it was just too amazing!”
|Dinish's curried lentil stew.|
On April 3, we hosted a Sri Lankan feast at our Wednesday Night Student Supper. This year we have some wonderful student friends from Sri Lanka. Randi, Dinish, Tanya, Shiyanke and other friends offered to prepare a meal for us. It was aromatic, delicious and spectacular! In the bland-cooking land of Minnesota, these pungent smells aren't very common.
From year to year at any given time in Lutheran Campus Ministry, we have any number of international students gather with us. One year we had a large number of students from China, another year we had friends from Nepal. This year we have a sizable contingent from Sri Lanka. Most of them are graduate students, some of whom are working on a second master's degree. Some of them are from Christian communities — Anglican, Presbyterian or Roman Catholic. But many times, there are young adults from the Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim or Hindi communities. Dini is from the Buddhist faith and she is an amazing young woman.
|Jameson (left), Randi and Dinish with the coconut milk.|
Randi, our brilliant Anglican student friend, flew home over Christmas break and brought back the many spices needed for the feast. On Tuesday, the day before the supper, Dini, Randi and I went shopping. It was too fun! We brought the supplies back to FPC and agreed to meet up the next day a 3 p.m. I was in charge of the salad and boiling five pounds of potatoes.
Some folks may wonder what cooking has to do with campus ministry, and I’ve been asked that on numerous occasions. Cooking with students is wondrous and holy time. I talk with them about their days, what’s up in their student lives, their personal lives and how they might be thinking about or feeling about any number of global issues. Sometimes we listen to NPR other times we listen to their music.
On April 3, we found some live streaming radio from Sri Lanka. They were tickled about this. Cooking together isn’t just a utilitarian chore. It’s a labor of love for others. Breaking bread, saying table grace, sharing table talks about faith and life are what knit us together as humans beings. My friend, Alicia Anderson Reitz, Lutheran campus minister at Pennsylvania State University has written a little book about life and ministry through food and student suppers. She resonates with these reflections on the holy moments shared in cooking.
|Dini and I with our veggies.|
Dini and I were talking near the stove through the flurry of supper preparations. She said quietly, “This is amazing. I haven’t cooked for this many people since I came to the United States. Truthfully, I’m a little nervous about it.” She smiled at me.
“Why is that?” I wondered with her.
“Well, I told my parents I was doing this and my mom was so excited! But some of my friends who never really hang out or eat with Christians thought it was odd. We don’t really do this back home,” she said.
I replied: “Well, all the more wonderful that you are doing this with us! Here you are, sharing the food from your home and heart … from your mom and all those who came before you. You’re sharing this love from your heart to ours. I think that’s just great! We need to do more of this!”
And with that, we both turned to churning out lots of rice, stirring pots of curry, chopping veggies, calling out chores for others to help with and scurrying about to get ready for our guests.
By 6 p.m. the FPC fellowship hall was a-chatter with students, helpers and congregation members. Among them were a middle school young people who weren’t super sure they were going to like spicy curry (weird food). But eureka, they loved it, though the girls admitted it was a bit too spicy for their taste. The students, who would not likely have a chance to eat authentic Sri Lankan food, got to dig in and go back for seconds and thirds!
All the while, Dini was beaming as she got applause, lots of kudos and hugs for her efforts. Basking in the glow of the evening later on at home I wrote these words to Facebook friends:
Friends around the table: Jameson (left), Randi, Chris, Tanya and Dini while others line up for the awesome Sri Lankan feast!
“PJ thinks that, while it could be possible in a parish, it's not likely that seemingly random young adults of many and varied backgrounds, nationalities, religions or no religion and such would converge at a parish to eat supper together week after week and it's highly unlikely that brilliant Sri Lankan students, one of whom is Buddhist, would come hang out with Lutherans and other Christians on a weekly basis AND that she, Dinish, would bless us with her cooking from her heart and home AND that 4 teenagers would actually try Sri Lankan food and like it and that one of the former LCMer's came back with her fiancée, Kim! LCM is not parish ministry ... it does not duplicate and create parish life on a campus. LCM does something unique and different — holy and blessed, creating community of love, spirit, friendship and awesomeness in the loving name of Jesus! This is what we do and, if I don't mind saying so in all humility — we, LCMers across the ELCA, rock at this!”
Next week, Kiel and I will cook some fun food and we’ll have our Buddhist and Christian dinner and conversation, all in the loving, welcoming name of Jesus — what an astounding blessing and grace it is to serve God in this ministry on your behalf. Bohoma Sthu-thee-yi (Sinhala language); Nandri (Tamil language) — Thanks very much!
April 2, 2013
For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:25).
|Mark Giese (left); the Rev. Darin Seaman, First Presbyterian Church; Rabbi Joseph Edelheit; Wendy and Ben Caduff, Newman Staff; and me.|
It’s fairly well known that campus ministers are a little bit, you know, crazy. One needs this trait if one is going to relate to the antics of the college students with whom we minister. We probably wouldn’t get much of an argument from the campus pastors and ministers at all. In fact, they’d be the first to tell stories on their colleagues and friends. Fools for the sake of Christ Jesus, that’s who we are.
For the last three years here at Lutheran Campus Ministry in St. Cloud, we’ve hosted an interfaith dinner and conversation on the Wednesday of Holy Week. This seems nuts to other folks in the parish! Why on earth would you add another service or event in Holy Week, for crying out loud?
|Interfaith Jewish Seder.
In 2011, we hosted the first-ever Muslim-Christian Dinner and Dialogue. It was amazing! Then the next year we hosted the Interfaith Jewish Seder — again, a wondrously uplifting event! We co-hosted it again this year on March 27 at the Newman Catholic Student Center. Rabbi Joseph Edelheit, the director of religious and Jewish studies at St. Cloud State University, was our host. Among the 90-plus folks who gathered, some were Lutheran, Presbyterian, Buddhist and Roman Catholic.
|Me in the kitchen stirring huge pot of chicken matzo ball soup.|
Rabbi Joseph does a fantastic job of weaving the stories of the Seder with those of modern life. This year was no exception. He told many stories connecting us to matters of justice and mercy throughout the world.
And then, he began to extoll the ministry of the newly elected Pope Francis. It was so moving to listen to the rabbi speak about our global need to come together as people of many faiths.
Rabbi Joseph noted that Pope Francis has already captured the attention of many in the interfaith communities with his commitment to simplicity and his care for the poor. I nodded. So did my friends, Ben and Wendy, my Newman co-hosts and colleagues. In a crazy way, it was one of the best moments of our Holy Week journey together. There aren’t many places where you can do this easily. On a college and university campus where there are students of many faiths and backgrounds, we are blessed to seize the moment.
|Pope Francis washing feet of teenagers on Maundy Thursday.|
The next day, I was incredulous when I learned the news that Pope Francis had not only gone to the youth detention center, as had been announced, to share the Maundy Thursday mass. But he also washed the feet of the young people, among them two girls, a Roman Catholic and a Muslim. No pope had ever washed the feet of any females.
Upon learning this, I wept. Like many others, I was deeply moved by this seemingly foolhardy act. Some people around the world were upset. I was grateful. The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
|LCM student leaders: Jacob Gulstad (left), Jon Rundquist, Ali Hesano and Grant Schellberg|
That Thursday evening I sent my friend, Wendy, the Facebook link to the photo and the story about the pope’s daring foot washing adventure with these words: “O my sister, what wondrous love is this ....”
The wondrous love of God is revealed in that which seems foolish and maybe even crazy at times. Lutheran Campus Ministry might seem to be folly to some, but to those of us who travel this road, it is holy — a very holy journey indeed.
Easter blessings from Lutheran Campus Ministry!
February 18, 2013
Laura Sinche, Lutheran Campus Ministry pastor at Towson University (and University of Maryland Baltimore County and Morgan State) in Baltimore, posted a funny message for us on Ash Wednesday: “A day in the life of campus ministry: Gathering in silence and preparing for Ash Wednesday worship while hearing the strains of ‘Get your condom Valentine’ coming from just outside our room.”
|This is the ceramic bowl I use every year to create the ashes.|
The room she was mentioning was in their Union. Unions are bustling places of all sorts of activities. Valentine’s Day brings out students selling candy, hawking movies, dances, the V-Monologues and, yes, even condoms. Many of us thought this was quite funny. Darin Johnson, LCM pastor at San Diego State University, said, “For us, it was construction noise and truck backup beepers. They are building a new student union right across the street from us [at Agape House].” Our campus ministry Ash Wednesdays are often much different from those of our neighboring parishes. We’re accustomed to dealing with a lot of activity and background noise.
Sue Sprowls, LCM pastor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor does Ashes on the Diag with some of her ecumenical colleagues. Reflecting on her day she wrote: “Many people expressed appreciation for our presence, including a young grad student in neuroscience who had been perched behind us for quite a while. As we began to pack up, he told my Methodist colleague that the only Christians he ever seemed to see on the Diag were yelling at people and it was really nice to see Christians who were just making themselves available to others.”
|One of the Ashes in Atwood stations.|
My Ash Wednesday was similar and different all at once. I was solo in our Atwood Memorial Union at our Ashes in Atwood event from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. I prepared the ashes the night before. I created the mix from burning our paper Epiphany stars upon which we had been writing prayers throughout the season. There were prayers for sick loved ones, for those in mourning, for the earth and its creatures, for places broken by violence and for friends. To those prayers I added dry palm fronds, peace lily leaves and a few dried flowers from my geranium plant. Dressed in my black cassock, I packed my Bible, purple prayer cards, ashes and napkins in a lovely green bin and headed to Atwood. I set up in front of the art gallery, prayed and hoped that some would actually stop.
|My table set up in between the two student groups' tables. This was the third and best station.|
I was in between the Secular Student Alliance and the Ethiopian Student Association tables and bracketed by the Multicultural Student office and the "Born of Hunger" International Student office. After all, this was a fairly odd thing to behold in our Union — a female cleric giving out ashes. At times I was tempted to cheerfully call out, “Ashes for Ash Wednesday, ashes for Ash Wednesday!” But that seemed just wrong on this solemn day, though I was certain in this sales-sort-of-atmosphere it would have just sounded completely normal to students and they would have been interested right away. So I just waited — catching the eyes of the passers-by, averting my gaze so as to not appear too prying, glimpsing enough to catch a glimmer of interest or curiosity.
Ashes in Atwood was amazing and profound in a very LCM sort of way. Eventually students walked by and smiled, some stopped to inquire and some said, "Oh, I want ashes, thanks!” And then as an additional happy thought said, “I'm going to show my mom!" This meant they were going to take a photo on their phone to send to their moms. Others said, "I can't get to church, I have class. Thanks for doing this!" or "I didn't know it was Ash Wednesday - I'd like some." Some of our LCM students came by for ashes on their way to class. I smiled at faculty and staff whom I knew.
Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or agnostic students stopped, "What is this?" I'd explain about ashes and the beginning of Lent. "Cool," they would reply. "Tell me about the ashes ...." To each and all I gave the little prayer card and said, "God bless you" or "Blessings!" I had several long talks about faith or books or churches back home. It was a feeling of being out of place, at home and in a holy place all at once.
|The green bin (given to me by my sister, Kathy) that I used for the "traveling ashes."|
Then it was off to the Legends of Heritage Place with my daughter, Katrina, to have Ash Wednesday with the memory loss folks in her unit. We sang "Amazing Grace" and "I Love to Tell the Story" (some of them sang quite well — like angels, I told them). I shared the word of the day from Isaiah. Then I went to each one seated, for they were sorely frail and could not get up, and, looking into elder eyes, I etched onto wizened brows and said, "Remember that you are dust ...." And as they whispered, "Thank you," I was profoundly aware how close some of them were to the dust. And we sang "Beautiful Savior," "Jesus Loves Me," "What A Friend We Have in Jesus," said goodbyes and then I was off to Harriet's room in the hospice hall. Her eyes were closed as she rested with her labored breathing on the threshold of death's door. I prayed and shared ashes on her sallow brow. We said the Lord's Prayer (Katrina and Harriet's niece prayed with me too). I departed in peace with the traveling Ash Wednesday bin.
Later that evening, still robed in my black cassock, I assisted in the service at the First Presbyterian Church with my colleague as members of our congregation and campus ministry joined in with the saints that night. I imposed ashes on those of all ages, most poignantly on a little girl and her baby brother.
So the traveling ashes were carried and given: for vivacious college students, astute professors, seniors who are veterans of life, children and babies. Whatever our stage or station in life, the message is holy and true: We are all fragile, created from the breath of God's spirit and the stuff of this earth and to that dust and the arms of the Holy One we shall return. From the campus to the corridors of care to the congregation, it was a most wondrous Ash Wednesday and a blessing to bear them in the traveling green bin in a Lutheran Campus Ministry sort of way.
Remember that you are dust .…
January 23, 2013
Sadly, it’s official.
Beginning Feb. 1, 2013, I will begin serving half-time in my call to Lutheran Campus Ministry and University Lutheran Church of the Epiphany. Upon my recommendation, Epiphany's council voted reluctantly and with regret to recommend to the congregation that this be done. The hope is that this will be temporary, but no one knows how long this will be necessary.
Our grant from Lutheran Campus Ministry of Minnesota will be going down another 10 percent beginning Feb. 1, garnering a total of $47,460 in 2013. According to our synod's compensation guidelines, that’s not enough to employ a newly ordained seminary graduate’s salary, housing and benefits. Then, there’s the matter of the program money and all that’s required to do ministry among a university crowd: posters, email accounts, rental of space, Internet expenses, Bible study materials, office equipment and supplies — all the stuff one would need to do their work — and you get the picture. This is stretched tighter than a shoestring, for sure. Most days it just feels like a very thin thread.
To give you the long view, in 2002 before I arrived in 2005, the grant for LCM-SCSU was more than $102,000 for staffing and programming. That’s about a 55 percent reduction compared to now. These reductions have been occurring every year for over a decade. I have no idea what the cumulative total is over time.
I know it’s not the end of the world. I’m glad I have a job and I love what I do. But it’s just tough in so many ways. The last time I was half-time in my ministry was 30 years ago in my first call. Doing half-time ministry is, of course, a challenge no matter how you slice it, dice it or chop it in bits. My synod’s guidelines say half-time ministry is 25 hours per week. Hmmm.
Ecumenical and interfaith students gather for a student supper Jan. 16, 2013.
Since the fine folks at The Lutheran invited me to reflect on matters related to Lutheran Campus Ministry with you, this is one of the real and present dangers we face across the nation. I just needed to be honest and let you know that this makes me very sad indeed.
Of course, we are all well aware of the situation with our national economy, the contraction of dollars for church work and such. But we are also well aware of the fact that has been saturating our news feeds for months (or has it been years?): the church is shrinking and 1 out of 5 young adults state that they aren’t part of any worshiping community of faith.
Therein lies the rub. How will we begin to understand and reach out if we don’t have ministry and conversations with these amazing young people? One of the places where there is the highest concentration of young adults at any time during the year is on our university and college campuses. We need to be here, for our sakes and for theirs (yes, this is a recurring theme in this blog-o-mine).
My bishop, Jon Anderson, is inviting everyone in our synod to have 1000 conversations with young adults in 100 days. He believes these conversations are essential to our shared ministry. The point of these conversations isn’t to inquire why these young folks aren’t going to “church.” Rather, it's to listen deeply about their hopes, dreams, fears and longings. Bishop Jon said, “I want to invite you to have conversations and notice what you learn about the gift of young adults in our midst.
So, here are Bishop Jon’s suggested questions to get you started:
- Tell me about your life?
- What are your greatest joys?
- What are your greatest challenges?
- When it comes to the church, what are your longings? Hunches?
- How could I pray for you?
Congregation members and students chat at the student supper Jan. 16, 2013.
I love this idea! And then I think, “Hey, what better place to get folks started than a visit to their local campus ministry?” All you would need to do is look up where the closest campus ministry site is to you. That could be Lutheran Campus Ministry, an ecumenical campus ministry or a campus ministry on one of the campuses of our ELCA colleges. You might want to do this with some other members of your congregation. You could contact the campus ministers and inquire about how this might be done. Do they have a weekly student supper? Could you provide a dish to share or desserts? Is there a certain day and time for worship? Is there a fellowship time after worship to hang out with the students to hear about their lives? I’m fairly certain that the campus ministry staff would be thrilled to hear from you! We love to have guests with us and love to tell about all the amazing things God is doing in and through LCM.
Cute couples gather for the student supper.
My most cheery and optimistic self thinks that, upon your hearing these stories about the amazing young adults and their journey with the church through Lutheran Campus Ministry, you might find some extra spare change or realize that some of your inheritance or investment savings might be shared with a Lutheran Campus Ministry place of grace. My hope and prayer is that the reductions will be reversed and all will be well as we reach out to the students, faculty and staff across the country.
Until then, as I go through this transition, I’ll be grateful for your prayers and your gifts of love and support. I know all my colleagues will be appreciative as well.
January 10, 2013
Epiphany isn't all sweetness and light
Give a campus pastor a little bit of a break after the flurry and rush of a semester which, at its conclusion, included bearing witness to the murdered lives of little children, mothers and teachers, and you’ll get pensive pondering. Mix in recovery from a concussion, a good dose of influenza and presto, you have the makings of poems and prose.
|One of the displays of this wonderful Dale Chihuly glass|
Being stuck in bed in flu-ville isn't all bad. You have to rest. Slow down. Sleep. Heal. These are all good things. Granted, they aren't easily recognized or accepted. But really, fighting it is pretty useless. So go with the flow, flow with flu.
I love Christmas and Epiphany, the festivals of lights. But I can't shake the nagging feeling and gritty reality that it’s not all about the light and glitter, as much as I adore glitter and lights.
This year, the massacre of schoolchildren ripped through my heart and soul. Their cute, smiling faces haunt me. The continuing violence in places like Syria plagues me.
|Karthi (with the prayer shawl I knit for her) and her brother, Kumar.|
The rape and murder of the 23-year-old woman in India traumatizes me — heightened by the fact that one of our dear friends, a woman in her 20s, was returning to India for an eight-month dance program. She calls Jack and I her “other parents.” Her parents are wonderful people. We were all there to celebrate her graduation from St. Cloud State University. Her brother was there as well. He’s another of our dear young adult friends and he’s worried about his sister too. He bought her some pepper spray before she left on New Year’s Day. As her Aikido instructors, we talked with her about how she could stay safe.
Then over New Year’s, my family was also mourning the first anniversary of the murder of one of my former Lutheran Campus Ministry-Kansas State University students. She was, as I have previously mentioned, a law enforcement park ranger. She carried a gun and knew how to use it. Since an assault rifle was used to gun Margaret down, an average of 87 people per day have died due to gun violence. That’s nearly 32,000 (31,755 to be exact). As I wrote elsewhere, that’s more than ten times the number of people who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. That’s 189 times the number of people who died in the Oklahoma City bombing. These facts are sobering, thus adding to my pensive mood that is magnified by concussion-brain, fever and flu-ishness. As I lay in bed, my soul agitated back and forth. My mind machinated over this trouble amid my favorite time of the year. I prayed. I worried. I got frustrated. Sometimes I was angry. I wanted to do something. At other times I was too sick to care. I slept.
All the other bleak, ridiculous, stupid news stories just droned on and on. So I just had to stop watching video segments on my laptop (I don’t have TV), stop reading, stop listening to NPR and stop cramming my brain with more and more statistics and facts.
Amid it all, the beloved refrain reverberates through my being, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” At times, this annoys me. In the face of atrocity and cruelty, I sometimes wonder if I have any business announcing the news about the irrepressible light of God. We pastors wonder about this every now and then. If we are honest, we confess that we do not have all the answers to any of the brutality and viciousness. We only cling, at times white-knuckled and gasping for breath, to Jesus, who is the Light and told us that we would be a light for the world, a shining city on a hill that cannot be hid.
So, I do know the truth of this great news. I’ve seen it, lived it and witnessed the Light dawning in the melancholy souls of those in despair. But it’s not all sweetness and light. Sometimes the light shines imperceptible as the filth of the world doubles down upon you and the white-hot heat of life melts it all into something different. Sometimes it’s something beautiful. But you can never know that going through the heat and the mess and the ashes. You just can’t. You just have to be and rest in the arms of the One who rocks and holds the universe and all the galaxies beyond.
So, I wrote a poem and I let it be.
|My husband, Jack Hayes|
Epiphany grit by Jayne M. Thompson © 2013
Dark matter eludes
and carolers still sing.
Star of wonder, star of night
Could our yearning, straining for hope
Lead us to look up and look out for a moment?
Behold. A shooting star passing by, cold crispness of indigo sky
Could this one tiny streak from afar yet massive blaze
rest over one heart, emblazon one mind, embolden one life?
Sands of desert wars
Rubble of crushed neighbors
Shrieks of women torn apart
Whimpers of children lost in the night or
Blasted away, blown apart by through the sleek, slim steel barrels of broken boys
or men of the darkness
Sobs and tears of rainbow parents; red grandmas, orange uncles, violet sisters,
sapphire brothers, emerald gramps and golden aunties
All seep into one brown mush of muddy sorrow.
Where is star wonder in the midst of the night?
How will the stardust call human souls
from the brink of despair?
No eye can see, no ear can hear it – the answer, no mind can conceive
The reply. Only known in the beauty of quartz sugar sand’s
Melt, 4,172° intense fire, a kiln of hope, forged in the furnace of faith,
caldron of caritas
|Our friend, Olivia-Beth Westphal|
Into the clarity of crystal – clear, pure, luminous and lovely.
Here, we cling to the notion that the Holy One of galaxies far flung and all beyond
Fashions splendor out of the feet of sandy clay, broken shards of our own destruction
Piece by piece, sliver by sliver burned into glass
into which epiphany breaks forth, flickers of light
Out of the grim
grime and grit of our sharp, jagged edges
Our torn dreams
The shattered mess
Out of this muddle does the light still shine,
In the night.
December 24, 2012
In the balance
It’s a phrase that is associated with a precarious condition or a state of suspense where the outcome is unknown. Campus ministers move into that in betwixt and between time now that students have gone home for holiday celebrations. We are in a time in the balance. Some of us turn to tasks that were placed on the back burner or a table for attention when the semester concluded. Some of us take to the roads to see family members and friends. Some turn thoughts to ideas, notions and ponderings set aside until there was time for deeper contemplation.
I’m hanging in the balance as it were, midway between contemplation of the atrocious murders in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, and the remembrance of the first anniversary of the murder of my friend and former student, National Park Ranger Margaret Kritsch Anderson, coming up on Jan. 1, 2013.
|Margaret Kritsch Anderson, right, shown in the last photo taken before her death.|
On New Year’s Day 2012, Margaret was on duty in Mount Rainier National Park. She raced down the mountain from the Jackson Visitors Center to set up a roadblock attempting to intercept a speeding car that blew through a checkpoint. The rogue driver was a troubled Iraq war veteran who had a stockpile of weapons in the car with him, a sampling from his arsenal at home.
According to folks from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the high powered weapon’s ammunition the shooter used to murder Margaret, wife of National Park Ranger Eric Anderson and mother of 1- and 3-year-old daughters, pierced through the door and her body armor as she sat in her SUV. There was documented evidence that the shooter suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. There was also a restraining order against him related to issues of domestic violence against his daughter's mother. The mother allegedly feared for the toddler while she was in his care because he had so many guns at his home. The courts, law enforcement, counselors and his family knew he was not well and likely on the verge of suicide.
Many of the guests who were up the mountain enjoying the center are convinced that Margaret saved the lives of the 100 plus women, men and children up at the end of the road where the shooter was heading. No one will ever know the actual motive of the man who gunned Margaret down. Reduced to tears but awash in determination to write about the Margaret I knew and loved, the day after her murder I wrote about her in a blog post. Now, in the aftermath of yet another horrific shooting where children were slaughtered with another high powered weapon and ammunition meant to tear through not only bones and flesh but to pierce metal and body armor, I returned to ponder that post:
We, O church, owe it to Margaret and yes, to Ben (the shooter), to ponder this more deeply. To dig down and do some New Year’s soul-searching as a nation about our addiction to violence, our support of its use under the state’s authorization in war, but our mass-projection and baffling monster-creation when one of our own turns on others out of pain, rage, despair and isolation. I didn’t know Ben, but I pray for his family and all who knew him, worried about him, loved him and mourn his violent actions and his cold, frozen death.
I did know Margaret Kritsch Anderson and I hope you know a little bit more about her too. Pray for Paul and Dorothy and her siblings, Sarah and Peter. Pray for Eric in his grave sorrow and above all, pray for Anna and Katie — wee little ones who will not remember their mom. Margaret’s heart was full of a passion for justice but equally full of forgiveness and compassion lived in Jesus’ name. We can all honor her memory by courageously speaking out against violence, by advocating for reasonable and just gun laws, by calling for full medical care for all our veterans and working for ways to keep our national parks safe for Margaret’s daughters and all of our children.
I wonder if I have done enough to honor Margaret’s memory. I worry that we clergy-folk have become so accustomed to this type of violence that we just acquiesce and preach the amazing and good new God’s love in Jesus and leave it at that. Of course, our preaching of God’s amazing, life-changing love in Jesus is essential in encouraging others to turn to the ways of compassion, care and love of neighbor and self. But our call to ministry includes not only our pastoral, priestly duties but also our prophetic role in engaging the people of God in the ways of justice and peace. One of my campus pastor friends, Dan Gibson, from LCM-University of Southern California in Los Angeles, urged me to blog about our collective voice as our nation is reeling in sorrow and disbelief and as we think about reasonable gun control.
|My husband, Jack, and I prepare for LCM Advent 3 worship. The luminary candle jars have photos of all 27 victims of the Newtown, Conn., massacre.|
Perhaps, because there is some worry about offending responsible hunters and gun owners, there is not enough prophetic indictment of violence, especially the mayhem caused by the types of weapons that killed Margaret, the children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School and all the other places around the country that have experienced the unfathomable terror and sorrow. Emotions run high when one ventures into attempts at a conversation. On the day of the Newtown massacre, one of my gun owner/supporter Facebook friends said, “Seriously people, today is NOT A DAY FOR GUN POLITICS. If you can't refrain from engaging in gun politics debates today, please, and I am in no way kidding, remove yourself from my friends list promptly.”
This friend de-friended others who were posting ideas and comments calling for a conversation on reasonable gun control. I wondered what provoked this response? I wondered why some gun owners wouldn’t want to talk about how to keep folks safe from gun violence? It almost seemed as though some folks want to protect gun ownership rather than people. That couldn’t be right, could it? Isn’t the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech as important as the Second protecting the right to bears arms? I worried about this some more.
|The candles from above.|
In my campus ministry here in Minnesota, many of my students are from hunting families, and that includes young women as well as young men. I support them in their family traditions to hunt food for their tables and their responsible gun use. I also have students in the National Guard, other branches of law enforcement and the military. I honor and respect them for their service.
As a campus pastor who is also a martial artist and instructor in the art of Aikido, presently a fourth-degree black belt, I teach and train others to protect and defend themselves. Aikido, which translated means something like, the art of peace or the way of harmony with the universe or even the way of love, can only be used for self-defense. While living in Manhattan, Kan., near the Fort Riley military base, my husband and I taught army medics and soldiers, mechanics and helicopter pilots. As well as teaching Aikido to students and faculty members, I've trained folks in criminal justice majors, prospective police officers, former Marines, army paratroopers as well as FBI, DEA and special operations agents.
All of these folks have guns and know how to use them well. The list includes my former peer minister and Lutheran Campus Ministry student, Margaret Kritsch Anderson. Margaret was a law enforcement ranger and carried weapons in order to protect those within the parks she served. Within all of these people was an ardent desire to learn a different way to deal with conflict; a way of inner peace — dare I say a peace that passes all understanding — a peace that no weapon could offer. Most recently, one of our former Aikido students, a police officer in Topeka, Kan., for 15 years, came up in November to take his long overdue first-degree black belt test with us. He did very well.
While I am passionate about peace-making and have worked tirelessly to bring people together to make peace, to work for peace and to enact the ways of peace, which I truly believe is the call of Jesus whom we call the Prince of Peace, I am not an obstinate pacifist. I believe in protecting others and have done so many times throughout my life. Whether by calling people out who are bullying others, confronting those picking on people who cannot defend themselves or actually stopping fights between people – I believe that I need to, whenever possible, put myself on the line in service to others and fight on their behalf when absolutely necessary. In my lifetime I have done all of those things. Folks who know me have heard me say more than once, “I don’t suffer bullies lightly.”
I recognize that there are times when, failing all else, one might need to use a gun to stop someone committing an act of violence. But surely somehow can we agree that it doesn’t need to be the first and often trigger-happy response as perhaps is the case here in Little Falls, Minn., when a man shot and murdered two unarmed teenagers who were breaking into his home on Thanksgiving Day? What about holding them at gunpoint until the police arrive? What about ordering them to get out or else? What about … any other response than gunning down misguided young people with multiple gunshots and then hiding their bodies in a basement for a day?
During these fragile and tender days of family gatherings at Christmastime, where hearts are broken and lives rent asunder by violence, especially communities blasted apart by gun violence, could we come together, call a truce? Could we huddle up together and use kind yet forthright words in our discussions and face the facts about violence around us and humbly recognize that there is violence within us? Could we preachers muster up a little more of our prophetic voices and begin to call folks together to do more than simply talk? Could we figure out how talk about what to do, how to move forward and how to protect the safety of all of our citizens, especially our children? These are questions that rumble about in my mind; questions with which my soul must wrestle.
According to St. Luke, the Christmas angels announced the peace of God on earth to lowly, smelly shepherds watching their flocks in the fields by night. Jesus was born into a land of tyranny and violent occupation by Roman soldiers. Jesus was born to impoverished parents and amid a people desperate for peace. Our worship greeting of “Peace be with you,” “Shalom Aleichem” in Hebrew and “Assalamu Alaikum” in Arabic and others are ancient greetings that endure around the world. We must not only give lip service to this greeting, but we need to embody the ways of peace in Jesus’ name.
The wise homiletics professor, Craig Sattlerlee, was musing on the angels' news and Christmas Eve sermons, “For years I have wondered whether the Christmas Eve sermon is of any consequence.” Upon reflection on what he would like to hear, he said this, “The angel’s announcement of the fulfillment of prophecy goes not to the Temple but to shepherds living in the fields. … So I imagine hearing the startling word that, if we want to experience the newborn Christ, and we take Luke’s account seriously, the last place to be on Christmas Eve is in church, because Jesus is being born where people need him most.”
The peace in my soul hangs in the balance as I prayerfully commit myself to honor Margaret’s memory and uphold her family in prayer as well as actively working for peace and reducing violence on my campus and in my community. If our celebrations of Christmas mean anything in this day and age, if we mean to let the world know that we are serious about worshipping God who announces peace on earth for all and asks that we work to make it so, then we will need to fall to our knees once again. We fall, not just in humble adoration of the Christ child in the manger, but at the feet of the forsaken, the brokenhearted, the abused, the lonely, the despairing ones and look for Jesus there. As we make our way to and from Christmas Eve worship this holy night, let’s behold the ones around us along the way and announce the peace of Christ to those who need him most. It just might be the tinsel-thin glimmer of good news that swings their balance into a shimmer of grace.
December 11, 2012
The end of any semester can be a bit frantic for students. The pressure to complete their regular academic work, some of which they have put off being big-time procrastinators and sometimes for a good cause, is now ratcheting up. In addition to homework, group projects (not a huge favorite with college students), end-of-the-semester papers and such, they often have floor parties, secret-Santa exchanges, and holiday get-togethers with department folks and the like. Add to the mix a huge winter storm, and things got rather interesting as we prepared for Sunday evening worship.
In campus ministry we also know that students need to take a break in the midst of the craziness of the semester’s end. So we provide quiet times for Holden Evening prayer and singing, candlelight caroling, listening ears if students are super-stressed out and a shoulder to cry on if they just broke up with a boyfriend or girlfriend or had a fight with a family member or learned about a grandparent failing in the nursing home or the death of a loved one.
In Lutheran Campus Ministry, we are often in betwixt and between. We celebrate two or three Sundays in Advent with our student friends. Then they go home to their other lives and celebrate the end of Advent and the Festival of the Nativity of Jesus with their families and friends, returning to us in the season of Epiphany with new stories to tell of adventures they had and the wonder and woes on the home front.
The cultural pressures of the Christmas season impinge on students as well. They ponder how they can go shopping for their loved ones when they’ll get home just two or three days before Christmas, as they will here at St. Cloud State University after finals end and commencement occurs on Dec. 22.
So here at LCM we pull out all the stops and have a Scandinavian feast as our last student supper of the year. This year I made krumkake and kringla from my Grandma Helene’s recipes. And I figure that you just have to have something to give all this pale food some color, so I made homemade sauce with cranberries from Wisconsin, a bit of orange juice, lots of sugar, cherry preserves and cloves. Others from our University Lutheran Church of the Epiphany community made buttered boiled potatoes with parsley, peas with butter, baked cod with butter, Swedish meatballs (probably with butter) and lefse, complete with butter, sugar and a bit of cinnamon.
My friend, Randi from Sri Lanka, brought peanut brittle from the store. He tells me that he doesn’t cook but likes to share.
All of this is just for fun. And for those who come from Scandinavian backgrounds, it brings back, at times, humorous memories and stories from home. One year a student made lutefisk and people thought that it was pretty darn good. I declined to eat it, making certain that there was enough for the neophytes to the dish (wink, wink).
This year we have a pretty big group of friends from Sri Lanka. Randi brought his friends and their friends told others to come. Some are from Christian families, others are Buddhist and some aren’t from any faith background at all. But they love coming to the Wednesday Student Suppers. On Scandinavian Juletide Feast night, some of the Sri Lankan friends wanted to come and learn how to make krumkake with me! Making krumkake, my friends, is a very labor-intensive project — even more so than making kringla where one rolls out the dough for each one and forms it into a pretzel shape. Krumkake must be made one at a time. But there is something ancient and fun about doing this for me, as well as me remembering my grandma and my mom as we made krumkake in the past. I like to think that I’m passing on a bit of the fun that I learned in my home and that I’m making memories with the students I meet.
From all of us in Lutheran Campus Ministry, we wish you a blessed Advent and a festive Christmas!
November 14, 2012
Review: Part 2
In "Review: Part 1" I wrote about the review process every Lutheran Campus Ministry site in the ELCA undergoes. As part of that review, former students, parents and friends of LCM-Saint Cloud State University write reflections on their time in our campus ministry congregation. Below are just some of the many written reflections:
|Becca and her fiance, Lee.|
Becca: I never anticipated finding a new church and becoming a part of a new faith community when I went to college. I was originally welcomed to the church by my roommate, Alyssa, who served as an LCM peer minister.
With LCM, I found a place of peace away from finals & research papers and a place of reflection when my grandfather passed away. Sunday nights were a time for everyone to re-charge and re-focus. Wednesday night suppers were a time when anyone and everyone felt welcome in the LCM basement (including several of my closest catholic friends).
I can't imagine what my time at SCSU would have been like if I had not had the opportunity to meet so many students and community members that cared about the same cause: reaching out to the newest members of the community (namely SCSU Students) and providing them with a place to thrive and grow.
|Alyssa and her boyfriend Dan.|
Alyssa: I enjoyed 4 years at LCM-SCSU, My sister first brought me there, as her roommate Carla worked at the church and she wanted us to join them. I was slightly hesitant as churches other than my home church in Monticello didn't seem all too interesting or in line with my morals and political views. But my sister liked it there so I was going to try it as well. The first night there was a student supper on a Wednesday night, great food, great people and the most positive and fun pastor I had ever met, PJ.
I was happy this church was open, loving and supportive. ULCE was not a church that 'filtered' the masses into groups that are allowed to come to church and those who are not welcome. All are Welcome! That’s my favorite phrase from ULCE-LCM. This relates so much more to Jesus than church that exclude certain members of our society from being a part of church. I loved the student suppers, themed nights, and bible studies. What I enjoyed most of all was the relaxed atmosphere where church was fun and a place to 'hang-out'.
I became a Peer Minister after PJ asked me and I loved it! I enjoy planning things anyway, and this was my chance to make a difference to the students of SCSU while planning student meals and student worship services. Night Light was our Sunday evening worship service for students, by students. I really enjoyed this; it was a small, intimate gathering with candles and relaxing music. I think the atmosphere made people feel at ease. It was like a small study group version of a larger church service. Everyone I worked with and met was kind, caring and most of all, had the attitude of all being welcome at that church to worship and relax. It was truly a getaway for me and a quiet place to study.
LCM was a fun place to meet new people and chat with old friends; a wonderful place to have (student) supper. It was a retreat from the world and most of all, we had a quiet, reflective place to worship and unwind. I hope LCM will be at SCSU for many years to come and it will serve other students like me who seem to be caught up the rush and mad-dash that is college life. And I do hope they get to meet PJ and her wonderful husband Jack, as their positivity and smiling faces make LCM a place of fun but also a retreat from the outside world.
Alyssa's mom, Kim: I think the LCM program was wonderful way to fill the gap between college and home. As we are faithful churchgoers in our hometown, it was like a second church family to be there for both girls. They had fun and spiritual guidance. It was a great experience for Alyssa to be a Peer Minister and have the responsibility for activities with other students. She grew in her faith while helping others. It is a wonderful program and should be continued. Thanks for all the work you do for the kids!
Cassandra: In 2005 a friend of mine, Ryan Birkman, invited me to the Student Suppers at University Lutheran Church on campus. For a few weeks I was like “No, I am not ever stepping back in a church.” I had this belief as I had given up on my faith and believing in God because growing up I was always told I was going to hell for being a lesbian. Well, after a few weeks my friend convinced me to go to the student supper. He said all are welcome and the church is opening and affirming. Let me just say that first student supper changed my life for the better. I ended up going to student suppers every week, church on Sunday’s and also doing some readings during church.
That one student supper restored my faith in God. After six years, I put a cross back on. Having my faith back really has helped me through some hard times in life. Being involved in the church helped me in becoming healthier for my physical, mental and psychological well-being. Pastor Jayne and everyone at the church were always there for me in the good and bad times. Having a church on campus that I felt welcomed at is a true lifesaver. I have been gone from campus for about six years and it is great that I know that whenever I am having a hard time I can still call up Pastor Jayne when I am in need.
In November 2011 I had a very serious stomach infection and had about 15 seizures while in the hospital. I fully coded on one of my seizures and they didn’t know if I was going to wake back up. Having my faith really helped me through that hard time in my life. I had to learned how to walk again and to fight to be independent again. Having my faith back all because of the amazing work that University Lutheran Church did helped me. I am and will always be thankful for everything that Pastor Jayne and everyone at University Lutheran did for me and helping me regain my faith in God back.
|Ryan and me.|
Ryan: I am honored to speak of Lutheran Campus Ministry in St. Cloud as an alumni, as a former student outreach coordinator, as a former council member, as a seminarian, and as somebody who has benefited from it to the extent that it has changed my life.
First, I came to college as somebody who had stepped out of the church for seven years, because I was not sure if there was a place for me as an openly gay man. When I came back to church, it was only timidly and through this campus ministry and congregation, which happened to be of the ELCA, the same Lutheran Church I grew up in. I was on my way to a United Church of Christ worship service, when I noticed colorful flags in front of a white building as I walked by. Recognizing that it was an ELCA church, I somewhat cautiously but optimistically entered. As I stumbled into this place, I was warmly greeted by Pastor Jayne Thompson and church members who warmly greeted me into worship, into the life of the church, and into a campus ministry which was a place open to my questions and my desire to learn about faith.
My presence as a student was not only welcomed as a token of an outsider welcomed in, or as a group of mentors serving young people in some top-down way, but I was quickly welcomed into the leadership of the ministry, the church council, and as a voting member at synod assemblies. Lutheran Campus Ministry in St. Cloud is an open and important place for people to learn how to be stewards and leaders of the church.
It was because of this that I was able to discern my vocation in Word and Sacrament ministry. The work of being a student outreach coordinator, which included designing and hosting, along with a team of peer ministers, an entire set of programs for students, ranging from worship and prayer events to weekly hospitality and fellowship activities.
Working alongside Pastor Jayne and other officials in the congregation, I really had a chance to see how a church runs administratively to how the ministry of God's church unfolds in the world. During the season of Lent in my senior year, as I assisted with Sunday morning, midweek and Holy Week services, I discerned my call to ministry and decided to go to seminary rather than law school.
In the past couple of years, the congregation has seen strife and conflict. I worked as a contextual education student in the congregation over the last couple of years and saw also what it looks like when a church hits extraordinarily turbulent times and tried to help in that process. I understand that the church is still working its way toward financial recovery. I also understand that, in spite of this, the campus ministry continues to do its work for students at the second largest public university in the state.
The public respect for this campus ministry continues to be strong in the community. The Lutheran Church is well represented in this academic community by this campus ministry. It is also among the most important places for cultivating the future of our church as we attract life-long Lutherans, bring back those who have left, other Christians, and those exploring the Christian faith. This is a ministry that is critical to our church and to society.
Bruce: When I first arrived at St. Cloud State University, I was coming from a life of being involved deeply in my home church since I was old enough to help decorate the sanctuary with my dad. I wanted to find that connection again in my new college home, so I looked up the ELCA campus ministry in St. Cloud, and I went to a couple suppers and worship services. I really enjoyed meeting the awesome Pastor (that would be Pastor Jayne) and the extremely smiley and cheerful Student Outreach Coordinator (Carla), and I really like the feeling of belonging for all that the church brought me when I walked in. Then, my life with classes got insane, and I wasn’t able to attend again for the next two years.
I showed up again at the beginning of my third year at SCSU, after not attending for two solid years, and I was greeted by Pastor Jayne… who still remembered my name. Two years later. At that moment, I said to myself, “I think I just found my new church home.” I knew something special was happening here, and I was drawn to it.
I became very involved at University Lutheran Church of the Epiphany & Lutheran Campus Ministry of St. Cloud because I felt that I owed something to this amazing organization. They gave me a place to belong, a place to be welcomed and loved in my college town, and most important to me, a church to go to where I wouldn’t hear sermons telling me my mom, who came out in 1998 and lives in New Mexico with her partner of almost 8 years and my 2 adopted brothers, was going to hell. I was coming out of a very low period in my life, and my whole life, schooling, everything was in a state of transition, and I do not believe I could have made it through without the love and support of every single person at ULCE & LCM.
Being a peer minister, Communications Director, resident techie, whatever hat I happened to wear at any particular moment, was one of the most rewarding experiences I could have had while I was at school. It gave me opportunities to meet and work with amazing people, help out a ministry that I believe in with every ounce of my being, and give back to the people that brought me back to God after a very bad period in my life. In addition to my ministries in LCM/ULCE, I also was able to serve as the Great River Conference Lay Chair, as a student consultant to Lutheran Campus Ministry of Minnesota’s Board of Directors and served as a voting member at the Southwestern Minnesota Synod’s assembly.
I was forced by lack of cash flow to move back home to the Cities, and I have found a wonderful church to attend in Minneapolis (it just so happens to be Grace University Lutheran Church, the home of LCM-Twin Cities… go figure). However, my heart, soul, thoughts and prayers are always with my church family in St. Cloud. I still help with website stuff and whatever else I can do from an hour away. Even through this time of transition ULCE & LCM has been undertaking, I believe the Holy Spirit is going to allow LCM@SCSU to do wonderful things on the campus of St. Cloud State University even more so now than when we were “holding forth at 4th and 4th.”
I can never thank PJ and everyone at University Lutheran Church of the Epiphany & Lutheran Campus Ministry enough for what they have done in my life, and I hope to see incredible things happen through them in the future. If a ministry can have as profound an impact on a person as LCM has had on me, it is worth supporting in any way possible.
|Ashley and her dog.|
Ashley: To whom it may concern - I just wanted to say that Lutheran Campus Ministries has provided me with a group of friends that I don't believe I would have otherwise met. I moved up to St. Cloud this August and didn't really know anybody. At the Mainstreet event I met PJ at her booth. She was very friendly and invited me to come to the Wednesday night suppers and to service on Sunday nights. I haven't been able to come to a service so far, but I really enjoy the Wednesday fellowships. We have some really good food and some interesting conversations. I love how open and friendly everyone is to anyone who comes. My boyfriend came with to our last supper, and was welcomed with open arms. I really enjoy meeting with everyone every week and look forward to continuing meeting for the rest of the school year. I hope to make it to service as well, I'm sure it's just as much fun as the dinners, knowing PJ. I really want Lutheran Campus Ministries to continue to be available to students and continue their outreach.
November 13, 2012
Review: Part 1
1. To look over, study or examine again.
2. To consider retrospectively; look back on.
The first definitions pretty much sum it up. I also thought of the word, rearview, as in your car mirror, as an apt image for the process of looking back so you can see your way forward.
For those of you who might not be aware, every Lutheran Campus Ministry site in the ELCA undergoes a quadrennial review process every four years, as the name suggests. It's a rigorous process. The LCM staff, council members and students work hard to gather up information, submit the past four years of annual reports, the financial stuff, constitutional and bylaw documents, create a 14-page quadrennial ministry plan to be submitted to the team. This team reviews your ministry together and then invites hundreds of folks to come and chat about your work as a Lutheran Campus Ministry site of the ELCA.
Who is this "team?" you may be wondering. Usually the team is made up of a regional coordinator, someone representing the synod staff (in our case it was our bishop), someone from the state campus ministry board and a Lutheran Campus Ministry peer who is a colleague in LCM. I've been through four reviews and have been the peer on some of these teams. It's an enormous undertaking no matter which side of the conversation table you sit.
Our review took place Oct. 30-31. If you've been following this blog-o-mine over the last year, you might recall that we've been through some rather seismic transitions. We are still in the process of moving out of our building, still selling our building, still getting used to our new worship space in the Atwood Student Center, still getting used to our new digs at First Presbyterian Church and my new office at the Newman Center and all this on a fraying shoestring budget with which to do it all. Review? Now? Daunting ... yes, but we all put our shoulders to the yoke and pulled forward together.
To be honest, the bulk of the work in rounding up folks to come talk about your campus ministry falls to the campus pastor or campus minister. After all, you're the person with the most public face of the ministry. You have a lot of friendships fashioned over the years as you relate to folks from your public college or university, the students — present and past — and those in the community.
So, in addition to gathering up the saints locally, I also invited former students, parents and friends of LCM-SCSU who live out of the area to write reflections on their time in our campus ministry congregation. Slowly but surely they began sending amazing reflections about the importance of campus ministry, their cherished memories and at times, life-saving moments in LCM-SCSU. Some of them will be posted on my blog tomorrow. As I read them, I was moved by their witness and, at times, was downright teary.
Oh, and to top off the excitement in the midst of the planning, I received a late request from the State Cloud State University LGBT Resource Center to be on an interfaith panel at noon on Oct. 30 to address this question, "Does God Really Hate Queer People?" I let the team know that I needed to participate. No worries. They said they would see me over in Atwood.
To give you a glimpse into the types of folks who came to talk about campus ministry all day, here's just a peek: two staff ministers from the Newman Catholic Center; the vice president for Student Life and Development (also bringing reflections from the university president); the director of the Atwood Conferences and Scheduling; director of the LGBT Resource Center; Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Jewish friends of LCM; local ELCA pastors; ecumenical friends including a former Minnesota state senator; longtime alumni of LCM; LCM peer ministers; new students who aren't part of any church; and those who are active in their ELCA home congregations. To that list add in our own congregation members, the council and students who brought friends to the delicious crock-pot supper on Tuesday night. It was all a gift of grace. All of these people coming together to meet, converse, pray and support LCM here at SCSU. After every review, I've heard parish pastors marvel at the process and exclaim, "We should be doing these in the parish!" I agree.
As the campus pastor, once you do the dogged task of sending save-the-date postcards, emailing, text messaging, Facebook messaging and friendly reminders on Facebook timelines, phone calls, in-person reminders and praying that folks will respond and then remember to come to their appointed time in the conversation schedule — all you can do is pray some more. The Spirit does the rest and at the point the review was under way, I could only trust that all would be well at the end of the day — oh, and at the end the review. Phew!
All was well. The review team shared its impressions and many positive affirmations verbally with two council members and me on the morning of Reformation Day, Oct. 31. We'll receive the written report after Thanksgiving. Until then, here's some of what they heard about LCM-SCSU: that in spite of all the difficulties and how tired we all are (yes, as ministers themselves, they recognized that we have been carrying a very heavy load and really do need to rest), that we are known as a very hospitable campus ministry who welcomes everyone to that table for conversation and faith discussions. We are known for bringing people of many faith traditions together for mutual conversation and understanding. Our university friends are so very grateful that the ELCA sees fit to provide campus ministries and ministers to accompany them in their work. Finally, as usual, it was the students who brought it all home.
So, I dedicate this blog post and the commendations in the review to all of them, the ones who wrote reflections and those who shared their stories in person.
I know that I quite often end these posts with thanks, but I really do mean it, as do the hundreds of other gifted campus ministry staff of the ELCA. We really do share our gratitude for your prayers, love, support and care for the public places of higher education. We need to be there. They want us to be there with them. This is our holy calling to be your face and your voice, O ELCA, proclaiming and living the good news, in Jesus' name.
Next: Review Part 2—reflections from the students.
November 5, 2012
Author's note: While in Duluth, Minn., on Nov. 2 for a Lutheran Campus Ministry of Minnesota Board meeting, I received a voice message inviting me to offer the invocation at an event they were planning with President Bill Clinton at St. Cloud State University on Nov. 4. I returned the call and enthusiastically said, "Yes!" Thus began the rigorous vetting process that occurs when one is offered this humbling opportunity. Additionally, one of my LCM students, Heaven Leigh Leonard-Wright, sang that National Anthem! I was honored and blessed by this experience and was once again reminded why it is so very important for the ELCA to have Lutheran campus pastors and minsters at our public universities. It is where people like me stand on your behalf and offer the face of the ELCA and entire church in Jesus' name. Thanks for supporting LCM, I am deeply grateful.
Invocation by the Rev. Jayne M. Thompson
For the visit of President Bill Clinton to St. Cloud State University
Nov. 4, 2012
Me preparing for the invocation at the SCSU Atwood Memorial Center Student Union.
Grace and peace to all of you gathered in this hall, across the mall in the auditorium, outside in the dark and those listening and viewing from near and far. From our hearts to your hearts, we here at St. Cloud State University, send our greetings.
It is a grace and a blessing to gather with you tonight.
A prayer from my faith tradition begins this way:
Loving God, you have knit your people together in one communion…
It’s the beginning of the prayer from All Saints Day.
I was in Duluth this weekend with my friend, campus pastor Doug Paulson. He was thinking about this prayer for All Saints Day and knitting. He shared wonderful images about his brown sweater and a pesky snag he had one day. He reminded us about what happens when you pull the snag thinking that it will hide the problem and make it go away. But actually, what happens is that your sweater begins to unravel until it becomes a wrinkled pile of yarn. As we gather on this evening, may we imagine ourselves as citizens knit together as many splendored yarns of all colors and textures, knit by the hand of the Holy One who loves us and holds us fast … imagining how strong and beautiful we are woven together … and as we imagine, let us pray:
|Heaven Leigh Leonard-Wright and me in the little holding area waiting for our cues to go on stage. She did a great job singing the National Anthem!|
Holy Grace, we gather together mindful of our connections and our cares. We pray for all those who have been harmed or harried by the roaring winds, raging waters and devastation of Hurricane Sandy. We remember the first responders, medics and police, firefighters and safety officers as well as the neighbors, kind strangers and helpers who came to the rescue. Be with those who struggle tonight without warmth, food, water or shelter in our nation and all places throughout the world. As wars continue to ravage lands and people, lift up the leadership of those who are working for peace. We pray for an end to conflicts that rend communities asunder. Inspire our kindness and neighborliness as we seek to proclaim your compassion for all.
Holy Wisdom, you offer the power of words to inspire and comfort your people. Enable us to speak the truth with hospitality and respect. Restore civility to our public discourse. Empower us to look upon others with whom we disagree with kinder eyes and gentler hearts. Banish from us the temptation to speak harshly. Save us from the dangerous practice of using words as weapons to injure hearts, spirits or reputations. Instead, with your great grace, teach us the ways of reconciliation, healing and peace. We pray on this night for all the candidates across the land who are traversing the sidewalks, byways, highways, runways, neighborhoods, town halls, coffee shops, fields and farmland, downtowns and college campuses as they seek public service in our nation. As they seek to offer their gifts in public service, be with their very tired bodies and weary souls; uphold their families and friends, give them patience and fortitude to endure these last days. May they be gracious in victory or defeat, come what may.
|Heaven Leigh Leonard-Wright sings the National Anthem.|
Holy Welcome, your loving arms gather the broken and the wounded. We pray for those injured in service to our country and for those who have lost loved ones due to war or violence of any kind. On this evening we especially pray for the children of the world, holding close to our hearts those kids who may be frightened by gunfire whether on the streets outside their homes, in their school vans or mortars falling in fields. Blanket them with hugs of comfort and love. We pray for teenagers tonight who may be drowning in despair or self-loathing. Give them a mantle of caring friends and families. We also remember young adults on our university campuses, community colleges, technical schools and all places of learning. Be with them as they study and seek to make a difference in our world.
Holy Blessing, be with our President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle, their daughters, Malia and Sasha. Be with all the elected and appointed public servants of our beloved nation as well as those who have served and will continue to serve. Knit us together into communities of kindness and care. Be with all of us as we seek to make our homeland a welcome place, and a place of grace for all.
In your holy and blessed name we pray and may we whisper together. Amen.
+ + +
|I give the invocation.|
Mr. President, on behalf of the SCSU community, I knit you a scarf in the SCSU colors of red and black. It also has hints of gray and a bit of purple — red and blue together make purple — to remind all of us, as I paraphrase remarks from the once young senator from Illinois: there isn’t a red America or a blue America, but only the United States of America, citizens knit together as one people, one nation under God.
God bless you, Mr. President, as you travel.
Thank you for your service to our beloved country.
Video links to the Invocation:
October 26, 2012
It makes you happy
“It’s one of the only things that makes you happy.”
We were standing around after LCM student supper. Well — OK, we don’t just stand around after supper. Usually we are all scurrying about, washing dishes, chatting about life, asking where certain items go — random stuff. We were in the midst of this when one of our council members asked my daughter if she was coming to help with the review and talk to the team.
My daughter, Katrina, and I at the 2011 LCM BBQ.
Every four years, each ELCA Lutheran Campus Ministry site undergoes a review by a team of church leaders. Our review is coming up over the dates of Oct. 30-31. The team visits with a wide variety of folks related to the ministry to learn about and hear how that campus ministry is known on campus. Family members of the campus pastor are often interviewed as well. My daughter has been through several of these reviews before, so when she quipped, “No,” that she wasn’t coming to the review, I wasn’t surprised.
Pastors’ kids, “PKs” as they are often dubbed, have front row seats in watching the life of their parents’ work. Many times they are the recipient of loads of love, care and friendship from folks involved in the ministry. Sadly, at times, they are also witnesses to the unseemly actions of very unpleasant people and other church leaders. Recently she’s been dismayed over the dwindling funding for Lutheran Campus Ministry here and across the church. As a young adult, this bothers her greatly. So she didn’t think she would be able to say anything helpful.
“But,” I asked, “What about all the wonderful things that happen in LCM? All the good times you’ve had over the years? All the friends you’ve made?” She tilted her head a bit, thought about it and then said, “OK, because it’s the only thing that makes you happy.” I was taken aback, not in a bad way, but in a just wow-way.
New friend, Liz, and I at LCM Supper.
“What do you mean?” I queried.
“Well, it’s the only thing about your job that makes you happy … you know, LCM,” she smiled and said, “So, I’ll come.” And with that she turned and went out the door.
I thought about her words all the way home. I looked at the photos of me with the students that night and the other adults who come to listen to them and hear their stories. I looked so happy. LCM is what delights me to the core of my bones even when other things bogged my blog down.
It’s been many months since I’ve written this blog. Sorry about that. My computer died in July and it took some time to replace it because of the lack-of-money-thing. Then, things with the sale of our building stalled out right before the start of Saint Cloud State University and it created quite a commotion for all of us. We’re still just waiting and waiting for the buyers to come up with their financing. Sigh. My editor, Amber, from The Lutheran magazine moved out west and well, some days I was just too darn weary to write one word.
New students at our LCM Supper.
But, then this one phrase, “Because LCM makes you happy,” inspired me again because it’s true. As I thought more about it after our supper and shared stories, I’ve really been a campus minister most of my life and I love my calling to be in ministry with students.
Everything can’t always be sweetness and light in one’s life. It’s been a rough, at times blue, year for us here in LCM-Saint Cloud. But, nothing can diminish the joy I feel when I’m doing that part of my job that makes me happy — Lutheran Campus Ministry.
July 10, 2012
Living the dream
On August 23, 2010, the ELCA News Service wrote this about my friend, Beth Platz: “For nearly 45 years, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Platz has served here at the University of Maryland (UM), quietly influencing generations of Lutheran students to remain active in the church and in service to others.”
Pastor Beth Platz and me at our 2012 LCM Staff Conference.
Beth was at her last Lutheran Campus Ministry staff conference when we all met for the 2012 Global Conference of Chaplains in Higher Education at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. at the end of June (see June 27 blog post, "One little spot"). Beth is retiring after 47 years of service in Lutheran Campus Ministry. After earning a bachelor of divinity at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Beth served for five years as an assistant to the chaplain at the University of Maryland before she was the first Lutheran woman in North America to be ordained in 1970. Looking back, Beth said she could never have imagined being ordained. Indeed, who could have imagined it back then? Ever since that day, Beth has been living the dream of her life serving as the chaplain to the university!
|Pastor Beth Platz serves communion at the 2012 Lutheran Campus Ministry staff conference.|
At our closing worship service, Beth was the celebrant at the table. As usual, we sang with gusto and joy. We heard great preaching and prayed heartfelt prayers. Then, we turned toward the table and heard the bold and blessed voice of Pastor Beth. Beth told the news service folks that she is still overwhelmed when the communion liturgy begins ("40 Years Later, ELCA Pastor Elizabeth Platz Still Serves Maryland Students "). I was overwhelmed with her, realizing that this was likely the last time I would see her among us and the last time that I would see her lift the paten and the chalice and hear her say, “The body and blood of Christ, given and shed for you.”
Moved by this, one by one many of us began to seize the moment by quietly and furtively snapping photos of Beth, this living legend who was faithfully and humbly serving in our midst as she had done for almost five decades. We knew we were in the presence of the gentle grace of one who has served the Church and who has loved students in the name of Jesus for a very long time.
Pastor Janine Olson, Pastor Connie Parvey and Vicar Ingrid Hamilton chat at the Lutheran Campus Ministry-Saint Cloud State University LCM centennial celebration in October 2007.
Lutheran Campus Ministry has a proud legacy of supporting the professional ministry of women when the rest of the church lagged behind. Another beloved and esteemed friend of ours, the Rev. Dr. Constance (Connie) Parvey was a long-time campus pastor, too. Connie was the fifth woman ordained in the Lutheran Church in America and the first woman ordained in the Harvard Divinity School chapel. She then served five years as associate pastor at University Lutheran Church as well as the Lutheran chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 1978 she began work with the World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland. She died last year on May 21, 2011. Connie was my dear friend and roommate for many years at staff conference and she traveled to both of my campus ministry sites for celebrations to give the keynote address. The last time I saw her was in 2007 for our Lutheran Campus Ministry-Saint Cloud State University centennial. Everywhere she went, people loved her. Like Beth, she was brilliant, kind, powerful in her presence and passionate about students.
Lutheran Campus Ministry has a long tradition of lifting us the gifts of laywomen as well. I think of these great women from the past: Laurie Fox-Petrov, Signe Gray, Donna King, Audrey Mortenson, Jerie Smith and Kim Williams to name a few. Among the veteran laywomen presently serving are the talented Alicia Anderson and, of course, our very own national director of Lutheran Campus Ministry, Sue Rothmeyer.
I count it a great blessing to serve among these gifted women and to share their deep love of campus ministry, love of the amazing students we are all blessed to meet and the love of wonderful colleagues we cherish, each of us — living the dream of our vocations in Lutheran Campus Ministry.
For all of your prayers and support, we are so grateful.
June 27, 2012
One little spot
"Wait! There's one little spot I see."
Artist Nancy Katz paused in her concluding remarks to guests who had gathered to embark on a community art project at the 2012 Global Conference of Chaplains in Higher Education.
Bereft of color until we brought the silk pattern to kaleidoscopic life, Katz completed the work with one small dash of purple. As creator of the pattern, she could only have imagined the outcome weeks before this conference at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.
The ELCA Lutheran Campus Ministry staff, regional coordinators and churchwide staff are the largest denominational group present this week. This is impressive, and we, of course, celebrate and cheer this. But our numbers aren't more impressive than the stellar constellation of faces representing so many incredible and rich ministries from across the globe.
We represent college and university chaplains and campus ministers and pastors from many faith traditions and from countries worldwide. We are gathering around the theme "Mosaics in Motion: Spiritual Leadership in a Multifaith World." But standing around the silk canvas stretched before us, we were all artists-in-community. Some worked diligently with intent silence. Others chatted gregariously about a color or symbol. Some asked Katz how they were supposed to "do it." She assured folks there was no right or wrong way to paint. Just pick a color from the containers of dyes, look at the fabric and shapes depicted and — paint!
So, from the tentative and timid to the bold and confident ones, we painted a community creation. Toward the end, Ivy looked at the blank parts of the silk that outlined the continents. Someone had begun a blended wash of greens, oranges and blues — and then had stopped. Ivy said, "The whole world should look like that!" Without pausing to discuss the merits of her exclamation, those of us within earshot began to paint. All hands on deck rallied, as it were, to bring the world to life.
We applauded, cheered, gazed in rapt wonder and smiled. A mosaic in motion — poetic in its theme and boldly embodied as we enlivened a stark white piece of silk. Until the keen eye of the artist caught that one little spot out of the corner of her eye. It was simple and yet profound as we watched her add the final dot of royal purple. "C'est fini," I whispered. It's complete. It's done. It's finished.
The work of campus ministers and pastors, chaplains, deans and directors is certainly that of paying creative attention to the whole of the canvas of the campus. We seek to travel with ease from place to place, noting the color and tenor of a department, a residence hall, an administration's joys and sorrows. I pray also that we all would have that keen eye of the artist who notices the one little spot that needs attention. The student who always sits in the back of a lecture hall looking down at his feet or entranced by her phone. The janitor who shovels up tons of trash, week after week in the student union, cafeteria or dining hall as scores of people pass by without a word of thanks or acknowledgement. The professor who is smart and brilliant beyond anyone's comprehension but seems to have no friends and sits alone in the faculty dining area.
|The final painting and its artists. Blogger Jayne M. Thompson is on the left (blue shirt) of the painting, Nancy Katz is to the right of it.|
There's always one little spot that needs attention and care. Kratz noticed and provided inspiration, as do the many chaplains who serve attentively on campuses near and far. I am blessed by their presence and deep compassion. Please, remember all of them in your prayers as they serve faithfully and ably in their faith traditions to lift up a blessed life lived in the Holy One's presence and a life lived in the communities that bear witness to God, who notices the little missing spots around us and invites us to do the same.
June 20, 2012
“Well, Lutheran Campus Ministry is a ministry of the entire church,” my friend said intently and matter-of-factly. It was a “no duh” kind of moment. We were discussing the dwindling funds for LCM across the country and its impact on the local sites.
|Pastor Anita Hill (right) and her partner, Janelle Bussert, in the prayer shawl I made for them.
I looked at her, a bit stunned and amazed at this woman’s wisdom. Anita Hill is one of the best and pastorally brilliant pastors I know. We met up again at my synod’s assembly at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., earlier this month. We laughed and shared stories with other friends around us about how we fashioned our long and enduring friendship. Acquaintances at first, through the Spirit’s weaving we worked together at the 2001 Churchwide Assembly in Indianapolis. We worked hard to overturn the policy that prevented her from serving as an ordained pastor in the ELCA simply because she was partnered to Janelle Bussert, one of my other dear friends from my days at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Anita wanted to come to St. Cloud to catch up on news and swap life stories, so she drove up to see us on her birthday, June 18!
As a college student, Anita discovered LCM through a Bible study. Born in Louisiana and spending her growing-up years in Mississippi, she didn’t have much contact with Lutherans. But when she went to college, she found committed Christians who were willing to wrestle with big questions about faith and how to welcome this Southern gal who happened to be a lesbian.
Lord of Light Lutheran Campus Ministry in Ann Arbor, Mich.
In the 1970s, Anita joined the Lutheran church through LCM at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. In 1983, she joined the staff of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn. There she helped broaden the reach of Wingspan, a ministry originally devoted to reaching out to gay and lesbian teens when they were being rejected right and left from families and worshiping communities in the Twin Cities. Anita spent almost 30 years in ministry with St. Paul-Reformation Church. Now she’s on to new adventures as the regional director for Region 3 of ReconcilingWorks (formerly known as Lutherans Concerned/North America).
I was blessed to visit Lord of Light Lutheran Campus Ministry in April 2012.
Anita has acute clarity about the importance of LCM to the entire church. LCM isn’t just a ministry of a town or a congregation, cluster of congregations, a synod or a state. LCM is our ministry — all of us in the ELCA. It’s not simply a ministry to Lutherans. It’s a ministry to all those who might be wondering about the love of God in Jesus. If we, in the ELCA, succumb and mirror the culture’s practice of outsourcing and punt LCM into the arms of an individualistic and piecemeal, hit-or-miss practice, we will surely be diminished and all the more impoverished. Anita, brilliant woman, sage teacher and gifted pastor, has it right. Listen up and hear this well, “Lutheran Campus Ministry is a ministry of the entire church.”
June 14, 2012
Nick and Chris
Two Sunday evening worship services behind us—a myriad to go!
We are met with smiles and cheery hellos each night we arrive at the Atwood Memorial Center!
|Pastor (and blogger) Jayne M. Thompson and Lynn Rae Olson sing during worship.
The first Sunday we were welcomed by Nick, the building manager and a St. Cloud State University student. His task is to make sure groups using the building have everything they need for their event.
The next week we were welcomed by Chris, also a St. Cloud State University student and the lead building manager. Both of these young men were so gracious, helpful and kind. They gave us their work cell phone numbers so we could call them at any time if we needed assistance. Both were intrigued and interested in our worship service and set-up. Both went out of their way to make us feel at home.
Already we have made new friends. Already the miracle of being the church in an unexpected place has begun. I would hazard an educated guess that neither Chris nor Nick would have come over to our building on the corner of 4th Street and 4th Avenue. But now they ask questions and hang out to help. Perhaps they may join us in the future when they're not on the clock. Who knows? But what is certain is that there is a greater possibility they might because we are there, making friends in the name of Jesus.
|Peer minister Jon Rundquist (left) and Jack Hayes play guitar.|
The name Nicholas means "victory of the people" and, of course, the names Christian or Christopher mean "follower" and "bearer of Christ," respectively. I pray that we continue to do justice to their names and to bear witness to the radiant Epiphany light of Christ for the people who meander the halls of Atwood and the sidewalks of St. Cloud State University.
We're starting to get the hang of being the "church with legs." If you're in St. Cloud, come and join us. If you're too far away and give us a passing thought on any given Sunday night at 6 p.m., say a little prayer for us and our new friends as we sing and pray and make our way in the name of Jesus who loves us all!
June 4, 2012
Worship at the heart of the campus
On Sunday morning, June 3, I glanced at a Faceboook update from my new friend, Pastor Mike Vinson, who will begin his call at the Lutheran Campus Ministry in Morris, Minn. and who is the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Alberta, Minn.
He said, "I think we will worship in the St. Cloud area today."
"That's nice," I thought, "I wonder where they'll go this morning?" The thought floated away amidst the flurry of lists that were flitting about in my brain. We had this crazy rummage sale at the church building on Friday night and a better part of the day on Saturday. My sister and niece had come from Iowa to help the rest of us with the sale. Woven into the other parts of the day on Saturday were the final selection of hymns and such. They had to be do-able in a brand new space.
|Pastor Mike Vinson
The Atwood Memorial Center is actually closed on Sundays in the summer months. We had special building managers scheduled to let folks in at 5:30 p.m. for our 6 p.m. worship service. A bunch of us converged at the church building around 5 p.m. to gather the rest of the things that we'd need to transport to our new space three blocks away. The processional cross was in the back on someone's car. The bin with Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnals, communion ware, bulletins and Tree of Life booklets in another. I had my white chasuble, my Mac, hymnal and Lutheran Study Bible (of course, one must have these things along no matter what)!
Whisking all these precious items into vehicles and watching the merry band of Uni-Lu folks caravan over was inspirational. Pulling into the parking lot, I saw that I had an incoming call from Pastor Mike. "Hey, how ya doing? What's up?"
"Hey PJ, how do we get into the Atwood Center? We're at Door A and it's locked."
"Omigosh, you're here? That's awesome!" I chirped. "You need to go around the front of the building through the glass doors. There's a fountain in that plaza. I officially know that I just love you as a colleague! See you at the door!" With backpack, projector and vestments all a-flow, I set off towards the entrance. Close behind me were the others. Striding to the door, I saw my friend Pastor Mike and his entire family! "Welcome," I cried out. They had traveled over an hour to get there to be with us in our new worship space. This is the stuff that Lutheran Campus Ministry is made of, my friends!
We were met by the Atwood staff who opened the doors for us with wide smiles and offers of help. I chatted with Pastor Mike's son, Matthew. He had been to Saint Cloud State University's campus before. He's a high school wrestler. I found out that his sister, Emma, was having a birthday. They were all going out to eat after the service. Emma said that they always go to Olive Garden for her birthday.
|The first service at Atwood Memorial Center on the Saint Cloud State University campus.
Setting up a pilgrim church's worship is a matter of efficiency and I think we pulled it off well. Being in the Alumni Room wasn't awkward, but rather like putting your foot into a new shiny shoe. One marvels at the beauty and dreams about the fit that will come over time.
The saints assembled: expecting parents, a baby, young adults, children, couples, families, seniors and the middlers, too. We sang "Holy, Holy, Holy" many times over during the course of the service. It was grand and moving and oh, so magnificent!
It wasn't perfect, but it was wondrous. From where I was standing at the altar, I could see out the window, something I had not been able to do for over seven years in our church building's worship space. The random tablecloth I tossed on the table serving as the altar was a bit askew. The podium boldly bore witness to SCSU, not the liturgical color of the day. But it was good and it was enough. Grace sufficient for that moment and for that day.
What follows is my homily, since I'm not sure most folks get to preach in moments such as ours. Here's what I said:
First things first; there are times when there are new beginnings where one is not exactly sure what to say, or how to say it. Here in this place on this evening, it is a new(er) beginning for those of us in LCM and ULCE. Though being here is not exactly new for some. For those who traveled these halls as a student or a faculty or a staff member long ago or not so long ago, this is familiar territory. For some, Atwood feels like coming home. For others, this is something never imagined or perhaps even attempted. Being here as a campus ministry congregation was not a twinkle in anyone’s eye. Still for others who have come our way from other campuses and campus ministry settings, this is a no-brainer. It was a twinkle in someone else’s eye and became a living, breathing reality in campus ministries in Duluth and Moorhead and Bemidji. So, for now — on this night—let us rest into all of our feelings. The feeling of being in a new and maybe strange place, the feeling of familiarity from another campus and above all, the feeling of coming home to rest in God’s mighty, enduring, amazing and saving love.
As we rest, let us pray:
Holy Mystery, Holy Trinity, one God, Three in One we wait for your grace and your blessing in this place, be with us as we gather — and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
"Holy Holy Holy" — these are the blessed words we sing today on Holy Trinity Sunday — many, many times over we sing, Holy. Sung thrice we know this as the Sanctus when sung or said in Latin. Sanctus equals sanctified (to be set apart), sanctuary (a place set apart) for holy things and holy people.
Holy has been perhaps overused in our modern tongue. Super action hero, the boy Robin, might be heard shouting to someone else something like this: “Holy Trinity, (fill in the name/blank — Batman!)” More crass exclamations abound. I’ll not belabor or bore you with them nor amuse you by shouting, “Holy Beejesus, Hackman!” I’m sure your mind has gone to some of the more outrageous or unspeakable ones as soon as I mentioned it.
What makes something or someone or some place holy? What is sacred? What is profane? What is holy ground? These answers to these questions that might seem self-evident or ones that need no explanation. When we consecrate certain buildings as churches and set them apart for the practice of our worship and faith life, we call them holy. But we know that in actuality, the bricks or the concrete, lumber, nails and all that is required to make a building a building are no more special than the house next door. What makes a place holy and makes it sacred ground is our humble human recognition that something amazing, mysterious, mighty and yes, holy, may happen with us or among us. We might catch a glimpse of God’s wondrous grace in a sanctuary like the National Cathedral in Washington, DC and we might catch a glimpse of the Holy One here, in the alumni room on the SCSU campus.
Speaking of the Holy One – yes, that holy word AGAIN! We center our singing and our prayers and our meditations in our confessions of our faith, that God is somehow made known to us in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God our Creator and Christ Jesus our Redeemer. The Holy Trinity, One God, Three in One, One in Three. Trinity — a word that never appears in Holy Scripture, but is inferred by those first followers of Jesus. How was Jesus related to God, sometimes known as the Father? How was Jesus related to the Holy Spirit, sometimes known as the Holy Ghost? There were big church fights about this and controversies galore. So big and vast were the fights, that they caused the first bishops and leaders to gather to write the creeds: Nicene, Apostles’ and the Athanasian creeds. They were just trying to hone down the language and put it in shorthand words about how we might confess our faith together without all this fighting!
But without Jesus, there would be no controversy. It was and always has been about Jesus. "Holy Holy Holy" — Jesus, set apart by the grace and love of God to show us the way to new life and hope and peace. For God so loved the world — the entire world, not just some chosen people, not just a certain race of people or a certain religion of people or a certain nation of people but all people. And not just people but all creatures great and small, the entire world — God so loves, loves, loves — with holy, holy, holy love that God sent Jesus to show us the way, to live the way and to embody this way of love for all to see.
So, on this night of new and new-ish beginnings, let it be enough that we gather together to be the church — holy and beloved — in this place as we sing of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and as we dance the mystery of God’s love with all we meet. Let us always keep our minds and hearts on Jesus. Amen.
And we sang "Come, Join the Dance of Trinity," prayed prayers, broke bread and received blessing upon blessing. After worship, having carted the blessed things back to the building, we all went to the Olive Garden to celebrate Emma's birthday. New friends were made, the love of God in Jesus shared and laughter filled the night.
I was at peace, in Jesus.
May 28, 2012
A bold move: The finale and our bold plans
Author's note: This is the seventh and final post in a series of posts related to Lutheran Campus Ministry-St. Cloud State University and its connection to our campus ministry congregation. While these posts reflect ideas related to our campus ministry congregation, I hope you might "overhear" the challenge before all of us in the church. This post descibes our last Sunday in our building and what plans loom ahead for us at University Lutheran Church of the Epiphany (ULCE). Perhaps you will re-envision how your congregation might make a bold move for the sake of the gospel as we travel together in the ELCA.
|When we were racing around the church cleaning and such on May 24th, I stopped to notice that the altar was all aglow with the sunlight coming in from the window near the bell tower. It was so beautiful and breathtaking. Later, I realized that it would be the last time that the altar would look that way with the Easter paraments on it. It was a poignant moment of grace and fleeting beauty.|
On Pentecost Sunday, our campus ministry congregation held its final worship service in the building nestled on the corner of 4th Avenue and 4th Street in St. Cloud. So worship we did as we sang of Pentecost fire and wind, breath and transformation.
Next week we will begin to have worship in the union. In the meantime, we'll keep cleaning, organizing and planning for our June 1-2 rummage sale and the sale of our building. If you've ever cleaned and prepared a house for sale, imagine doing that — only 10 times bigger. It's much more complex since you might not have any clue where certain things will go or who gave them, especially if the items might have sentimental value unbenownst to you.
|This photo was taken on the Vigil of Pentecost (Saturday evening, May 26), after we were done rehearsing music. Jack Hayes (my husband) is talking to Kiel Ruberg, one of the LCM peer ministers, while my dog Koda is chilling out on the red kids' rug.
Thanks for your prayers and your care as you stand with us in our bold move. Forward ho, in Jesus' name!
With our target date of June 3, we will move our worship to the Atwood Memorial Center’s Alumni Room (AR) on Sundays at 6 p.m. Since Lutheran Campus Ministry is a registered student organization, we can request and reserve space at no cost to the student organization.
The alternate time of 6 p.m. worship allows for many benefits and possibilities:
- LCM/ULCE folks can be out in area congregations on Sunday mornings to share the good news about campus ministry at SCSU.
- Other area ELCA members — youth groups, children’s ministries, women’s and men’s groups — as well as ecumenical and interfaith friends would have more flexibility in visiting us.
Council co-chair, Lynn Rae Olson, and I lead worship on May 27, the Day of Pentecost.
- Students and others connected with SCSU who travel over the weekend would have a better chance of joining us at this later time on Sunday evening.
- Knowing the biorhythms of college students, and others who are not morning people, will allow for a time that most folks would be awake and able to attend worship.
- Families with youth participating in sporting and other weekend traveling team events would be able to worship together. There are very few public school or social events that take place on Sunday evenings at that time.
- For those who must work on Sundays, many businesses close around 5:30 p.m. thus making this another possible time to worship for those who can't do so on Sunday mornings.
|Peer minister Kiel Ruberg, rings the bell for the last worship service in the building on May 27.|
There is free parking in the L lot, near Garvey adjacent to Atwood. Atwood is climate controlled, so the worry of it being either too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter will be eliminated, as well as the worry of snow removal and lawn care. The AR is the most recently renovated room in Atwood. Formerly an office space, it was completely redone to create the first-ever AR in on campus. It is equipped with all the tech-support necessary and also has an excellent keyboard available. The Atwood staff will set up the room prior to our worship and meetings to our specifications. We can request different room set-ups throughout the year. The AR is next to the Atwood Theatre that hosts movies and many group meetings. It is on the way to the LGBT Resource Center office. It is situated in one of the most utilized parts of Atwood for study and group meetings in the lobby and hallway outside the AR.
There are other possibilities for our campus ministry congregation prior to and after worship. The bowling alley is open until 10 p.m., Caribou Coffee is available for conversation until 8 p.m. and at any given time on a Sunday there will be movies, special presentations, lectures and cultural events for folks to attend. Our "bold move" will provide a bridge for parents to introduce their children to college life. Nontraditional students wishing to return to SCSU and retired folks seeking to take a class or two will have a chance to become familiar with the university’s “home place” and make themselves at home in that setting.
|The baptismal font on Pentecost Sunday, May 27.|
Finally, by befriending the university and our neighbors who dwell there, we will be open to new friendships and adventures. We will become the living, welcoming and inviting presence of Jesus as the beloved community that bears his name. We may, as we sing out the refrains of our favorite hymn, All Are Welcome, be privileged and blessed to meet even more young adults — and older adults — searching just like Gabe, who will come and sit with us because they heard the church singing. Let us then boldly embrace our mission with joy and enthusiasm and may we hold each other as beloved in the midst of our travels together for the sake of Jesus and his love.
Our Bold move awaits us — let us courageously become the sent church!
May 21, 2012
A Bold Move: Our crisis and our opportunity
Author's note: This is the sixth in a series of posts related to Lutheran Campus Ministry-St. Cloud State University and its connection to our campus ministry congregation. While these posts reflect ideas related to our campus ministry congregation, I hope you might "overhear" the challenge before all of us in the church. This post frankly elucidates not only what looms for us at University Lutheran Church of the Epiphany (ULCE), but for all of us in the ELCA:
|Jack Hayes plays guitar in the sanctuary of University Lutheran Church of the Epiphany (ULCE). May 27 will be the last Sunday that ULCE will worship in its building. Beginning June 3 the congregation will worship in the Atwood Memorial Center at on the St. Cloud State University campus. Blogger Jayne M. Thompson says: "As we await the sale of our building, these are bittersweet days for us at ULCE."|
Our crisis and our opportunity
The crucible of dwindling funding and financial support from the ELCA and Lutheran Campus Ministry of Minnesota, coupled with the overextended indebtedness in which our congregation found itself, became the catalyzing and perhaps catapulting event that compels us to rethink our missional outreach to SCSU and our community's other higher education institutions.
To this end we, as a campus ministry congregation of community members and young adults, are poised to embark on our "bold move" to engage and befriend our campus — or as I like to also say, “becoming a sent church or a church on the move or a church with legs.” As we await the purchase of our building, we will chart a course to move to the university with prayer, planning and deep intentionality.
This move is not fashioned on some romantic notion that it will be easy. While aspects of this adventure may be fun and even exhilarating, some of the changes will push the comfort zones of folks in our community. There will be things that we will miss about being in the building on the corner of 4th Avenue and 4th Street. I encourage members to be mindful of these thoughts and feelings and share them with others, recognizing that “missing a place” is a normal part of this transition to the campus.
We have many wonderful memories about our time in the building and we shall celebrate and cherish those as precious. However, our passion for our mission, not our need to be comfortable, is what compels us forward into our move closer to the heart of our campus. Potential and untold blessings and friendships await us. It is to this calling and mission we cling, as we continue to pray this beloved evening prayer:
"Lord, God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen" (Lutheran Book of Worship, page 153, Evening Vespers).
Next up: The finale