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Discerning My Call
I have been raised in faith. I was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS), went to a Lutheran grade school (shoutout to St.Paul's!), and attended our local LCMS high school (Go Spartans!). In true LCMS tradition, the importance of biblical and catechetical learning was emphasized. From my earliest remembrances, I had theology classes with our pastor, memorized passages from the Bible and Luther’s small catechism, and openly talked about what it meant to be a good Christian. I am thankful for the strong biblical literacy that the LCMS helped me develop. I believe that my understanding of Scripture has deepened my faith and allowed me a closer relationship with Christ. My LCMS education gave me confidence and conviction in my faith, and a passion for being Lutheran.
I loved church as a child...perhaps my parents would remember it differently, but at least, looking back as an adult, I remember loving church. Maybe I was weird; both my brothers always grumbled when we had to get up on Sunday morning. Many of my classmates found every excuse to not do their memory work. In high school, theology class seemed like an education in avoiding eye contact and trying not to get called on. In contrast, I remember church and school with great joy. The hymns with the organ, the beautiful stained glass windows, and the service filled with tradition, all spoke to something bigger and greater than myself. Memory work was a fun challenge, and although I had to tread the social waters of high school with care, never wanting to seem too passionate, I always had thoughts, ideas, and questions to share in my theology classes. I often heard from teachers, pastors, and other adults that I should be a pastor, and overtime this seed they planted started to take root.
I knew from an early age that I loved my faith, I was curious to know more, and I wanted to be active in the church. However, struggling with sexual identity caused me to seek out a faith community that would accept all of me, the way God created me to be. This lead me to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and since college, I have built strong connections with the ELCA churches to which I have belonged. I volunteered as a youth leader, a confirmation mentor, and a Sunday school teacher at these churches. I often refer to these churches as parts of my faith family, and to call the church members “family” means a great deal to me. I have developed close friendships with the youth directors, I have been active in the lives of the youth that have come up through our programs, and the families of these young adults have welcomed me into their lives. My hope in working with young people in the church is not only to help them develop a strong faith, but also to ensure every one of them knows the love God has for them and that nothing can separate them from God's unconditional love.
In discerning a call to youth ministry or the ministry of Word and Sacrament, I came to the realization that, while I have a gift for working with young people, my passion for teaching is not limited to youth. In speaking with a number of pastors with whom I am fortunate to be friends, I am confident that the gifts of a strong pastor are similar to those of a strong educator: clear vision and leadership goals, the ability to break down complex ideas to accessible lessons, an engaging approach to the material, and a willingness to learn from those you lead. The opportunity to instruct people of all ages in the Word, to help children and adults grow in their faith together, and to share God’s grace, forgiveness, and acceptance with all of God's children is a calling that I am excited to be pursuing.
When I told people that I was coming to seminary, the response from many in my life was the same… “WHY?” I am a single guy and had an incredible job, a beautiful home, great friends, and a loving family in the Milwaukee area. I had the resources to take vacations, go out on the weekends, and still put money away in savings and for retirement. By society’s standards, I was successful and should have been content. Why would I give up everything in my life to pursue a call to seminary? It is true, my life was blessed, and I am so thankful for the opportunities God has given me up to this point in my life. However, I have found that the Spirit comes in many forms. The Spirit can comfort and offer peace. The Spirit can inspire and bring joy. And, often, the Spirit can disrupt and challenge contentment. The disciples were commanded to put down their nets and follow Christ. They were not asked to finish what they were doing, get their affairs in order, and when convenient follow Jesus. Likewise, I needed to stop waiting for the perfect time to listen to the Spirit. I needed to stop making excuses for why I wasn't ready. I could no longer ignore this voice within me, saying that there is something greater to which I was being called.
I believe God has given me the gifts to lead within the faith. I am a confident and well-spoken leader who sets clear expectations, holds high standards, and walks alongside others in their journey. I am a high energy, fun-loving educator, interested in sharing my expertise and learning from those around me. At a time when the church needs innovative thinkers, I believe that I am an enthusiastic risk-taker who thrives on challenge, opportunities to grow, and supporting others in exciting, new experiences.
I was a teacher for a long time, and being a student again is exciting to me. I love learning, challenging myself to think differently, and engaging in discussion with educated, passionate people. In the same breath, I feel I bring a great deal of experience to the seminary classroom, to my internship congregation, and to the ELCA faith community. I built a thriving theatre program at my school, and drama ministry is definitely an engaging way to share the Word of God. I ran a collaborative teaching blog, an educational podcast, and a weekly Twitter chat. My knowledge of educational technologies will help connect the church with its members and extend its impact beyond the sanctuary walls. I designed class curricula for school, counselor trainings for camp, and Sunday school lessons for church. I have lead countless youth retreats, chaperoned youth gatherings, and guided faith development classes. Entering seminary as a second career is allowing me to bring these experiences and a different perspective into the classroom. The fact that everyone at seminary has come with their own unique perspective, experiences, and journey is, perhaps, the most exciting aspect of this new chapter in my life.
God has a plan for all His children. Through faithful prayer and thoughtful discernment, I have begun to answer this new call in my life, and look forward to sharing more about my journey, my faith, and my call to seminary.
I am having a lot of fun at seminary, and I am really happy with my decision to make a life change and pursue my call into ministry. While I am enjoying the learning, seminary is also a lot of hard work. If you would like to learn more about the work that I am doing at LTSP click on the button below to check out my e-portfolio: resume, classes, papers, reflections, sermons, and more! Feel free to share any of my work that you think will contribute to the common good.
I feel a strong call to share my thoughts and ideas about faith with a larger community. I believe that in our words and actions, we can speak of God's presence, power, and promise in our lives, our communities, and in the world. The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia shares this understanding and has made "Public Theology" an integral part of the curriculum. Check out my thoughts about this topic by clicking on the button to the below.