Sister Michelle

After college I moved to Minneapolis to be near family, and landed in Urban Homeworks, an intentional community environment that paired young adults with their urban neighbors.  While I was not an ideal Urban Neighbor, the experience sparked in me a desire to live more intentionally out of my faith, in community, for the sake of the world around me.  During that year, my best friend and roommate from college died in a car accident.  That grief exposed some severe cracks in my prayingHandstheology that led to searching for a new language that allowed for grief, uncertainty, and doubt.  I discovered this new theological language at Salem Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis.   Salem became my ‘home church’ as I asked questions, encountered supportive community, wrestled with my prejudice and perceptions, and engaged in active mission in an urban environment.

During this time I went on a short term mission trip to Kenya to work in a children’s home, because I needed to heal from my own grief but also because I knew my heart needed to break for the suffering of others.  I left Kenya with a growing sense that I wanted to help the church—in the States and in Kenya—really understand the role and value of children in their midst.  I also left Kenya knowing I needed more training around how children learn, how the church teaches, and how children grow in their faith.

Before going to Kenya I had decided to attend Luther Seminary, more to ask my questions than out of a strong conviction of where I wanted to serve the church.  I had questions about the Lutheran understanding of baptism and its impact (or lack of impact) on young children.  I had questions about how to expand my understanding of the Bible, God, suffering, without totally walking away from my faith.

As I ‘became Lutheran,’ I noticed that Lutherans talked about Bible Camp as the primary place where they could identify an active spiritual experience.  I figured if I wanted to understand how Lutherans understand faith development, I needed to experience camp.  What I found at camp was an invitation to work beyond my fears and inhibitions about being a leader.  I found energy and life in coordinating, guiding, teaching, and engaging all the different aspects of camp, was fed and nourished by the intentional community that camp naturally provides, and was fueled by a desire to bring the Lutheran theology I was learning at seminary into relevant language and practice for children, youth and young adults.

As my experience at seminary and camp were ending, I was still searching for the right ‘fit’ for me.  One day my mom’s colleague reflected with me on my call to public ministry, and noticed to me my commitment to community, my commitment to expanding others’ perspectives on the world, and my commitment to my faith.  He recommended I explore the Deaconess Community as the place where my passions could take shape.

As I was entering into the Deaconess Community I was graduating from seminary and still unsure of the specific expression of my public ministry.  As I revisited those original questions about baptism and early childhood faith development, I realized I needed to know more about how young children learn and grow.  So I took courses in Early Childhood Education.  In early childhood education I finally found the language, tools, vision and resources to put my passions, convictions and abilities into practice.  In the Deaconess Community I found the relationships, support, theology and insp2014-06-08 12.14.33iration to continue to own my call.

Now, as a Deaconess I get to be involved in a variety of ministries that bring together many things that I care deeply about.  In my call to serve as the Director of Faith Formation, I get to preach, teach, organize, communicate, and strategize around how a community of faith engages children, youth and families in faith formation in a way that lives into the promises we make at baptism, the creeds we profess in worship, the theology that informs our values, and the call we have from Christ.  I get to be part of expanding people’s understanding of children and youth, justice, global awareness, and the incredible power of intentional faith-filled community.

My journey is not over.  I’m still dreaming about where this is all leading me and what it is that I’m called to do next.  I’m still asking questions about how the church can better embody its teachings and beliefs.  But becoming a Deaconess has provided me with a history, a vision, a community, and a conviction that informs not only who I am now…but who I want to be as a follower of Jesus.