Pastor Kate Reuer Welton recently attended the Lutheran Campus Ministry National Staff Gathering in Nebraska held by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It was a wonderful event to celebrate our ministry and connect with fellow students, faculty and staff on college and university campuses across the country.
At the closing banquet, Pastor Kate Reuer Welton was named the recipient of the 2014 Philip N. Knutson Award. This award recognizes those who have demonstrated special creativity and/or risk-taking in their campus ministry work.
Pastor Kate was recognized by her colleagues and the people she serves as a gifted, passionate, and vibrant campus ministry professional. An excerpt from her nomination provides a glimpse of her creative and risk-taking approach to ministry:
“When Kate started at the University of Minnesota four years ago, she did so with just a handful of students. Working together with them to dream about a church that they would want to be part of, the ministry grew quickly, in both depth of formation and outreach to students. Kate has challenged and nurtured students into deeper faith and a more open understanding of God’s work in the world. She has also led them in creative justice and immersion work, for example, taking a trip to Chiapas (a state in southern Mexico) to learn and serve with the community there, and to New York City on an interfaith service trip with students from Al Madinah, the Muslim group on campus. Because of her willingness to be a gracious and loving presence in the face of hatred, her creative immersion and interfaith work, and her deep and easy love of students, I am honored to nominate Kate Reuer Welton for the 2014 Philip N. Knutson award.”
When my roommate and I stumbled across LCM at the end of our freshman year I didn’t realize how important this group would become to me. Since then I’ve become more and more invested in LCM and watched it grow from a community of fifteen to fifty. When I spent a semester abroad in Rome, every Wednesday night I would get a little down because I knew I was missing Pause. I missed the community and the friends I had found here. All of us who come to Lutheran Campus Ministries are in one way or another looking for an open and supporting faith community. What we’ve found and what makes LCM so special is that along with a faith community, it’s also a place where you can be unapologetically yourself. We hug each other in greeting, crack each other up at the most inopportune times, and clean up the dishes together while singing show tunes and Disney. We’re a bit of a motley bunch and that’s a part of what makes LCM, LCM. We come from a variety of backgrounds with different experiences and view points yet we find a way to come together, laughing and praying and loving and living. Though a handful of us are graduating and going off to explore our own paths, we will carry these memories, lessons, and friendships with us. Like LCMer’s before us we’ll never be too far from the home that LCM has given us.
I.am.indignant! It has been my word of the semester. This semester I have been taking a break from design school to participate in a program through the Higher Education Consortium of Affairs (HECUA) focusing on inequality in America. The curriculum focuses on a variety of topics from wage discrepancies, housing, race and class issues, and politics. During the course of the semester I have learned so much, but I have also become so very, very angry.
Take housing for example. Most of our housing issues today stem from legislation and practices from the 1950s. After WWII there was a housing crisis that prompted suburban sprawl. During this time banks and realtors would “red line” certain areas, marking where they would give loans based on race or class. Realtors would “steer” certain families into certain neighborhoods, increasing segregation. Exclusionary zoning limited who could live where based upon their ethnicity, creating pockets of race around the city. Over time these pockets have been allotted different resources creating inequality between them. Some areas were destroyed during the era of urban renewal, removing affordable housing all together.
Now you may think that these practices have been outlawed by now, and most of them have, yet they still affect us. We still making zoning laws that limit residents based on their income. Richer sectors require 3 car garages and certain lot sizes ensuring that only those who can afford such luxuries live in their community. Communities given different resources in the past still don’t have equal access. Many of our communities are still segregated. So here I am, indignant. How are such unfair practices from 60 years ago STILL impacting us? How are we still unwilling to live near the people we work with or shop with or worship with? Why can’t we strive for a more equitable distribution of resources? I hope that this makes you a little uncomfortable too; uncomfortable or angry enough to educate yourself, or your family, or friends, or faith community. After all, we are called to care and love those around us, to change the systems that foster despair, hate, and poverty. I hope that you too are indignant enough to want to make a change, to live in an equitable community with those around us.
The last semester of senior year is, to no one’s surprise, a stressful time. Not only are you juggling school, work and clubs, but also trying to figure out your next steps in life. Finding a job, figuring out your place in the world, it is all very stressful stuff! As I am currently in the midst of sending out applications and putting my next year into focus, I have found the beauty of tea breaks.
Having taken a number of tea breaks in my time abroad, I have tried to maintain that moment of breathing. There is something wonderful about realizing you are tired and doing something about it. My days have become long and busy, but realizing that I can and should take 15 minutes to just sip a cup of tea has been a joy. God has a way of making us realize our own limits and God also has a way of giving us small joys in times of chaos. So even when I feel like life full and my “to do” list is too long, I have found joy in my moments of pause. I truly know that God is with us through everything but it can be hard to notice God’s presence if we don’t take a moment to stop. To stop and breath. To stop and sit, To stop and drink a hot cup of tea.
For those of you who may not have heard, the LCMers took a pilgrimage of sorts to Holden Village over spring break. Holden is a Christian retreat center tucked away in the North Cascades in central Washington. The village receives most of its guests in the summer months, but a small community remains year-round to enjoy and maintain the village.
We spent our week at Holden helping out with whatever work needed to be done around the village, which included installing plumbing, doing housekeeping work, cooking, garbage duty, shoveling, peeling logs, etc.
In our free time, we ate, went hiking and snowshoeing, ate, worshiped, ate, enjoyed the sauna, and ate some more!
One of the unique aspects of Holden is the emphasis placed on rest, on leisure, on enjoying those basic things in life which are easy to overlook in today’s society. Many of us were reminded of how life-giving it is to slow down, take a deep breath, and enjoy the life God has given each of us.
After a few days of this relaxed, stress-free lifestyle, you can imagine how sad we all were to leave this sanctuary of tranquility. The idea of returning to our hectic lives as students was hard to imagine. How could we possibly leave this calm, restful place and go back to the stress of college life?
After about a week of being back on campus with all the bustle and obligations, I realized that the peace we experienced at Holden wasn’t locked away in the mountains. It wasn’t the physical environment, but rather the intention that allowed us to find rest and enjoy life. We can experience a similar – if not less extreme – life of peace simply by setting aside the time to do so. By intentionally creating a time and space for those life-giving, breathtaking moments, we can all experience life the way God meant us to.
This morning, like most Sunday mornings, I went to church at Grace University Lutheran Church, LCM’s home. It was a lovely walk over and a beautiful service. Today, we sang and heard Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd. This morning, one verse in particular stood out to me.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
It seems a little odd, I’ll admit, thinking about the shadow of death on such a lovely and sunny morning. The ice is melting and life seems to be returning. However, if I’ve learned anything at college, it’s that our world is entirely unpredictable. Heart aneurysms happen. Suicides happen. Accidents happen. Life is incredibly fragile and we never know when we’ll be walking through the shadow of death.
But we never walk alone. God is with us through it all, although it’s easy to forget and oftentimes hard to see.
After Psalm 23, 23 read John 9:1-41, the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. Again, one line stood out to me.
“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
I don’t pretend to know why bad things happen. But in every situation, God is present and powerful.
Today, the sun shone and the birds chirped. At Grace, we celebrated Peg’s 100th birthday. God’s love is all around us, even when life is difficult and unexplainable.
This Past week, a small group of us from LCM joined the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition for their “Day on the Hill.” For this event we split into our districts and discussed the JRLC views on some of the hot topics being discussed this session by the MN Legislators. Some of the focused topics were those such as Pay Day Lending, Minimum wage, and housing. It was a very exciting experience to see so many people of different faiths coming together on issues of social justice in our community!
Thirteen years ago, a nine year old version of myself sobbed in an apartment in Paris after visiting Monet’s garden, which was something that I had been looking forward to for two whole years (which in my defense was over 20% of my life at that point). When asked why I was so upset I simply answered, “What do I have to look forward to now?” Because the truth of the matter is realizing your dreams is scary because what comes after that? In the movies there is usually uplifting music as the protagonist smiles to themselves or dances in the streets, the camera pans out and then the credits roll, and you as the viewer walk away also with a smile on your face. But in real life the credits don’t just roll, life goes on, and as the moment you were looking forward to is realized there is no momentous music, instead there is just confusion as you think to yourself, “So that just happened.” And I don’t say this to be a downer or point out the unrealistic expectations given to us by the media. Because we all deserve our momentous music and pan out shot (but you can make it happen, that is what iPods are for).
I say this because never has the confusion of reaching your dreams seemed more real than now, as I am 72 days away from graduating college. Because not long after that nine year old version of me wiped away her tears and returned to Minnesota she learned about college. In sixth grade I had a large book listing over 300 different colleges and their statistics. My goal was do well in middle school, so that I could get into honors classes in high school, and then do well in those classes and graduate from high school after getting into a good college. Do well in college, graduate and get a job. This list was long and had many things to check off and it spanned many years, but I am now 72 days away from completing that checklist.
Along the way I have had some, “so that just happened moments.” I got into college, I graduated from high school, I was fortunate enough at the end of last summer to receive a job offer from my internship, which was another large “so that just happened” moment. And I smiled to myself and imagined a pan out shot but part of me felt empty; because who was I if I wasn’t the person working towards having a full time job after college. The answer to that question was a person who still had two more semesters of college to complete. But as that part of my life comes to an end I am forced to face what comes after. Because according to many people I have consulted with life continues after college, many might say that is when it begins.
Because the things that have made up and that I have sought out in my life so far still will exist. An amazing community amongst friends, many of whom I know because of LCM, who make me feel like one of the luckiest human beings even when I am having a horrible week will still be there. I will still seek out success, it will just no longer come in the form of letter grades, which is a very freeing prospect. I’ve learned so much over the past four years about myself and how I want to live my life and be as a person, and I will continue learning even if I am not in school. New dreams will be made, and then will hopefully come true to make room for some new ones.
And hopefully I will have a lot more, “so that just happened” moments to come.