Friday, October 11, 2013

Random Pastor: What Goes Around Comes Around

Yesterday our Pastor of New Communities, Abigail Letsinger, was ordained at GPS Faith Community in Machesney Park, IL. Abigail recently graduated from Wartburg Seminary, and begins her work developing a second site of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, AR, later this month.

As the pastor of the community calling her, it was a privilege to travel and be present for this Spirit-filled event. I can still remember the power of many clergy laying hands on (and processing in red stoles) at my own ordination at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa ten years ago. The weight of all those hands was heavy on my head, but their presence and the gift of the Spirit has made the work of pastoral ministry a delight. Continuity in apostolic succession with those who have gone before in the proclamation of the gospel means much.

My former youth pastor, Michael Rinehart, now bishop of the Gulf-Coast Synod of the ELCA, flew up for my ordination at the last minute. He told me he just couldn't miss it. Similarly, there was no way I was going to miss participating in this ordination.

It's a long drive from Arkansas to northern Illinois, but it was totally worth it. Added bonus: it offered ample time for conversation, so it was a pleasure to drive up with Jody Dilday, a member of our congregation who served on Abigail's call committee, and the director of the Single Parent Scholarship Fund in NWA. There's really nothing like a long drive for faithful conversation. And lots of McDonalds.
On the left, holding the flashlight, is Rob James, pastor of GPS Faith Community; in the purple is the bishop of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, Michael Girlinghouse; on the right, in the red pants, is Abigail's brother Christiaan, who serves as the lead musician at GPS; and preparing to kneel for her ordination is Abigail.
When we got to GPS, they were setting up for the service. The worship leaders were wearing the traditional red (albeit as pants). Most of the rest of the congregation was wearing leopard pattern. The tech crew was running the slides dress rehearsal style, and the band was warming up, when suddenly... no power. Fire trucks were working outside trying to regain power, but apparently that portion of Rockford lost electricity for the rest of the evening.

What this meant practically: we were no longer able to worship in the sanctuary, because it was already getting dark. GPS is a great community of faith, very flexible, and they clearly know how to roll with the punches. We quickly moved chairs out to the foyer, set up a worship space, and began the service.

The band rocked it with an acoustic set, the sun continued to set, we prayed, we heard a sermon from Abigail's internship supervisor, and by the time things were in place for the ordination, it was completely dark outside and inside. Here's the picture of the actual moment of ordination. The only light comes from a) Rob's flashlight, b) my iPhone, and c) a truck that pulled up to the windows of the foyer and left their headlights on.

After the service, many people commented on how powerful it was to gather in the dark of that foyer for the ordination. It certainly was memorable. It felt like camp. It was a blessed day, and I was honored to be a part of it, and look forward to Abigail's partnership in ministry with us here in Arkansas.

Bhutanese/Nepali Music Videos

However, this doesn't even begin to catalog the interesting developments of the day. On that long drive north, I received two important messages, one on Facebook and one by e-mail. The first message was from Govinda, a young man our congregation (East Koshkonong Lutheran) helped resettle as a refugee from Bhutan four years ago when we were still in Wisconsin. 

Govinda is a tremendously creative young man. He recently traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, to produce a music video for a musician friend of his. I can still remember how much Govinda wanted to get set up with a computer in their small apartment when they arrived here from Nepal. He spent a majority of his childhood in a refugee camp in Nepal, and has, since his migration here, done incredibly well in school,  in work, and more. Here's the video on Youtube:

Govinda is the young man in the video with the tall, bleached hair.

There's a lot I love about this video. It's great to see Govinda thriving and creating. It's even more fun that he produced the video in Des Moines, Iowa! Congrats, Govinda, and I hope to see many more videos from you in the future.


Finally, I received an e-mail from my copy editor at Fortress Press, and Mediating Faith: Faith Formation in a Trans-Media Erahas now gone live on Amazon.

I have some work to do. I now have the copyedited manuscript in my hands, and I need to get them back by the end of the month so they can typeset proofs.

Here's the fun part. My copy editor, Marissa Wold, was (back in the day) a youth at Peace Lutheran in Plymouth, MN, where I served as Director of Youth and Family Ministry. Who would have guess--those many years ago--that we would be working on a book together? In any event, I'm proud to say she is now the Senior Project Manager at Fortress Press.

So (hint hint), pre-order the book now if you have the chance. The link is below. What goes around comes around, so who knows what connections you ordering a copy of the book might make?