Try these “experiments” in your congregation to help connect faith commitments to everyday life.
• Mission moments: When I was at Hope Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minn., just before the prayers of the people, worshipers would briefly share where they saw God at work — in a day care, in volunteer work and in our partner congregations in Guatemala.
For more ideas, see “Testimony” in Practicing Our Faith, edited by Dorothy C. Bass (Jossey Bass, 1996).
• Pastoral ethnographers: Ethnographers are researchers who often travel to other cultures to learn about their way of life. Pastors, too, can use one-on-one interviews with members to learn more about their vocations and visit the workplaces where they negotiate their Lutheran faith (law offices, day cares, grocery stores, farms and more).
For more ideas, see Ethnography as Pastoral Practice by Mary Clark Moschella (Pilgrim Press, 2008).
• Start a blog: Invite four or five members to post short reflections about how their faith shows up at work, in family and among their peers. Congregations might be surprised at what they learn from these everyday documentary theologies.
Want a wonderful example? Visit Carl Pierce’s blog at www.nursingtheology.blogspot.com.
Years ago at my college graduation, my father said something I’ve tried to keep in the foreground of my theological training. Shortly after I introduced him to one of my favorite theology professors, they shared this exchange:
Professor: I hear you work in health-care administration?
My father: Yes, and you teach theology?
Professor: That’s right. I teach church history and on Martin Luther.
My father: Well, good. In my work we need more people like you. We could use a few more theologians.
Professor (with a startled, overjoyed look): Oh really?
You see, theologians aren’t accustomed to being told by those in the (so-called) “real” world that they’re especially needed in a person’s daily work.
My father went on to explain that his lifelong participation in the church had not particularly equipped him to confront difficult issues in the boardroom. Somehow his Lutheran faith ought to have something to say about what it means to live well, to die well — the very issues he dealt with as a health-care administrator.
Too often in the church we neglect our call to equip Christians in their daily vocations. This call is at the heart of the baptismal promises we make to one another. To tend to this task, we must listen to the stories of those trying to negotiate their faith in everyday life.
Over the past few months I’ve been listening to complex stories young adults tell about their lives. Young adults today, argues sociologist Robert Wuthnow, live out their faith in an increasingly changing world. Amid those changes, they tell stories of resilient faith.
Carl Pierce, now 26, was part of campus ministry during his undergraduate years at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Wash. A few months ago, Pierce, an emergency room nurse in Tacoma, left work shaken. He had spent hours cleaning and caring for a patient with cerebral palsy. His patient, who seemed to display signs of neglect, cried out that she wanted to die. It wasn’t a good day for the patient or Pierce.
“My faith informs my care,” he said. “Everyone is God’s child so I want to provide care with that in mind.”
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