Eric has interviewed me as part of a nice, slow moving meme that is making its way around the blogosphere. He gets to ask me five questions (which he posted here), I have to answer on my blog and offer to interview someone else (directions below). So, here are his questions with my answers. Thanks!
(1) What one class does the seminary not offer that they should?
In the senior year of seminary, all students should be required to take a cross-cultural immersion course called, "The Laity: A Look at the World According to Everybody Else." In this course seminarians would
- talk with an actual layperson about their work, preferably at their workplace
- read Joel Osteen and various other best-selling pop-religion authors
- interview 10 laypersons about their experience with religion, faith, worship, church
- go to a soccer field or Starbucks on a Sunday morning
- visit three Lutheran congregations as a visitor and try really, really hard to analyze the experience from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know the difference between a "green book," a "kyrie," and "intinction."
(2) When did you first know that you were called to ordained
ministry? Who did God sound/look like (i.e. In my call story God
sounded and looked like my dad)?
Though I was always active in my tiny congregation as a youth, I never considered ordained ministry until my freshman year in college. At that time I was spending time with Evangelical Christians whose witness to Christ lit in me a new passion for the Gospel, even while I continued to worship in the Lutheran church. I recall one Sunday, during the Prayers of the Church, praying out loud for a friend of mine who was not baptized but curious about Christianity, that she might find the comfort and joy that comes from Christ (or something like that). As I prayed for her I was overcome by goosebumps and a feeling of complete love – as if I had become a conduit of God’s love for my friend, and in the process had received a wickedly powerful dose of divine love myself. At that moment I knew that I wanted to be in the business of sharing the Gospel with others.
(3) At the risk of sounding like a candidacy committee member, what
is your hope for the future of the ELCA? What concerns you about their
I’m concerned that we’re increasingly irrelevant to the lives of folks not already in our pews, stuck in a incurvatus en se posture that gets more worked up about liturgy and potlucks than about encountering, embracing, and sharing the Living Word of God in our daily lives. I hope that our church can come to live into the wonderful words of Wengert and Lathrop, who write, ""For [Luther], church was less an institution and more an event. It
occurred precisely where God’s word and faith collided." We need to cultivate collisions of people’s faith with God’s Word in – and beyond! – our congregations.
(4) I like hearing about books people read. What one book has made
the biggest impact on your ministry (other than the Bible and the
My passion is to help others live out their faith in daily life. To that end, two distinct books have shaped my faith practice and way I speak about faith. Michael Foss’ Real Faith for Real Life: Living the Six Marks of Discipleship outlines six core personal faith practices – Daily Prayer, Daily Bible Reading, Weekly Worship, Christian Service, Relationships That Encourage Spiritual Growth, and Giving in the Spirit of Generosity. These are wonderful marks of the Christian life, and this book has encouraged me to attempt a more disciplined approach to practicing my Christian faith.
On the other hand, another Augsburg Fortress book – Listen God is Calling! Luther Speaks of Vocation, Faith and Work, by Michael Bennethum – is an excellent little book grounded in a Two Kingdoms and Baptismal perspective that shows the value and spirituality of the daily work of laity. It is a wonderfully pastoral book, written out of a concern for the faith of church members who often doubt that their daily work is special or holy, or who fail to see that faith has something to say about their line of work.
The Foss book is an exercise in a disciplined piety; the Bennethum book is an articulation of the spiritual value of otherwise "secular" or ordinary work. While they both look at the issue of faith in daily life, they take very different approaches. I feel more "at home" in Bennethum’s approach, but feel that even a good vocational theology needs to be supported by regular, personal faith practices as outlined by Foss. (I have done an adult forum on the issue – perhaps I’ll post my notes here soon.)
(5) And finally…a "fun" question: What cartoon character do you relate to the most and why?
Dilbert. I’m not sure that I identify with him as much as I just love the sarcasm and dry humor of the comic strip. I often wonder what a church version of Dilbert – complete with wry mockery of the latest church growth fads – would look like.
And…to continue Diane’s addition to this meme: What is one question you would like someone to ask you?
Q) Outside of your involvement in the church, what is the single most important or formative experience of your life?
Therapy. Years of therapy. In my mid-twenties I spent a little more than three years in psychotherapy, including a year of five day/week psychoanalysis. Dr. Levin – or rather, the work I did with Dr. Levin – changed my life. Through this work I was able to acknowledge and break through all kinds of unhelpful emotional conflicts stemming from my childhood that, left untreated, would have seriously threatened my ability to keep a job or stay in a longterm relationship. So much more could be said, but I’ll leave it at that.
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Many thanks to Eric for taking the time to ask me such thought-provoking questions. This was really fun to do, especially as a respite in the midst of what has been a rather busy week (note the lack of blogposts in the past week).
So, here are the rules, folks. If you’ve made it this far, read on for just a few more pixels:
1. If you are interested in being interviewed, leave me a comment saying "interview me."
2. I will respond by posting 5 questions for you. I get to post the questions.
3. You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them 5 questions.