October 27, 2010

Finding my focus

Two years ago, when I decided to get a Masters in Social Justice, I looked forward to using the degree program to help me clarify my focus. Social Justice is a broad term that covers everything from immigrant rights, to race relations, to food and beyond. I struggled with trying to identify where my passions fit. Where was I called to work? To say that I was interested in "social justice" is just too broad and I knew I had to pick an area more specific.

I have struggled with picking a focus area and graduated the program without the clarification of a focus that I sought. Fortunately, through my work at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary this semester and thanks to a Christian Educators Fellowship conference that I attended this weekend, I think my focus area is finally becoming more clear.

I feel like I am called to work to build relationships. We live in a society that emphasizes individualism. Today, more than ever, we live in a world of broken relationships. Our relationships between each other are broken, weak, or even non-existent. The same holds true for our relationship with God. These two types of relationships are dependent on each other. If we do not have relationships with each other, it is difficult to have a strong relationship with God. And I believe that if we do not have a strong relationship with God (under whatever name one may call God) it is difficult to have strong relationships with each other.

And so more and more, I am feeling a call to facilitate the mending of the broken relationships that exist around me. My definition of social justice falls into this understanding of relationships. I define social justice as "living in right relationship." I feel called to examine relationships around me and to work to make them right. I feel called to help build community and to create a world of love where relationships are valued.

July 4, 2010

New Home Sweet Home

I have moved! Earlier this spring I was given the opportunity to move into a house that is owned by the church. I will be doing a rent/work exchange as a part of that will be managing a new intentional community.

A sad part of this is that my time at the Ella Baker Community has come to an end and I think it may also mark the end of the community. Everyone has decided to move on. We have replaced the people in the house and I believe they are interested in intentional community, so I hope some of the values will continue. We will have to see.

I have moved into a gorgeous old house that is over 100 years old. I am excited because I have gotten to do a ton of work on it and because I work at the church, I have more control over the house. This means that I can install things like a hanging pot rack and magnetic knife holder in the kitchen and a compost bin in the back. It also means that chickens are more of a possibility.

We have had the house back for about a month, though I just moved in yesterday, and it has been a flurry of activity. We have painted the entire house, redone the floors on the second and third floors, redone some of the kitchen (though not by choice and it'll need more work soon), and installed 4 raised beds in the front yard.

I am already seeing the wonderful possibilities this house can offer. We have met a ton of people all-ready through the front yard gardens. One of my housemates is really excited about community outreach and so we've been brainstorming all kinds of ideas. I see a bright future for this yet unnamed community and I can't wait to see what unfolds.

June 11, 2010


Things are constantly changing in my life. Some days I feel like I lead a pretty boring lifestyle, but if I sit and think about all that is going on in my life, I realize my life is anything but boring.

This summer, through the help of fundraising and lots of work, I am employed full-time at the United Church of Rogers Park as the volunteer coordinator. I am assisting the minister of education and outreach with coordinating the children's summer camp that will run for 5 weeks in July and August, helping run a mission trip program for highschool students, and helping start an intentional community. Beginning July 1, I will be moving into this community.

I'm a bit sad about leaving the Ella Baker House, but I won't have to pay rent in the new place because it will be part of my pay for work so it was a hard offer to turn down. After deciding to leave the Ella Baker House, everyone else decided to move out as well. I was a little frustrated because I was hoping the community would continue on without me, and maybe it will because the people moving in after us were attracted by an ad talking about community, but we'll see. Life doesn't always work out as nicely as you plan.

In the fall, I will begin at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in the MA program for Christian Education. I'm hoping that after getting some basic theology credits done, I will be able to switch into the PhD program. I'm really wanting to study Education for Social Change and I think look specifically at how the church can be a vehicle for this type of education.

There are so many things going on that life feels just a little crazy right now. But that's how I function the best, so I think I'll just hold on to the wild ride.

April 19, 2010

One day I will be a Reverend

This past weekend I attended the Deacon Dialogue at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and the calling I have been feeling in my life was very strongly confirmed.

For years I have felt called into ministry. I originally entered undergrad at Concordia with the intention of earning a degree in religion and becoming a youth pastor. My time had not yet arrived, and early on in college I found myself at ends with all religion. I would flounder back and forth, some weeks I would hate everything having to do with the Church and be pretty sure I didn't even believe God. Other weeks I would be researching seminary and what it took to be ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

At the end of undergrad, I found myself with a strong passion for social justice and searching to reconcile with the Church. I entered grad school in Chicago and quickly became involved with the United Church of Rogers Park. This past year I have been working there and found myself feeling more and more called into ministry. I began exploring the position of deacon in the United Methodist Church.

Deacons are ordained persons who are called to connect the Church with the world and the world with the Church. This is what I believe I am called to do. I think that there is such a disconnect with these two things. The Church ignores the world and the world ignores the Church. The Church wants to insulate itself from the messiness of the world. But this is not what Jesus did. He didn't lock himself away in the temple and teach only to those like him. He spent his time in the streets and got involved in the messiness of life. While doing this he taught about the radical love of God to all who would listen. This is what I am called to do.

So, I have begun the ordination process as a deacon. Next fall, I will begin seminary with the hopes of at least completing the requirements for ordination, but hopefully also earning my PhD. This is a crazy path that I didn't forsee myself traveling down, but it feels right. So now we will see where it takes me.

March 12, 2010

My brain is currently fried

I'm tired. My brain is tired. There are just too many things running through my mind on a daily basis.

I'm currently applying to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary for a Masters in Christian Education. I'm torn about this. Part of me is ready to be done with school. I'm a bit burned out. But then the other part of me loves learning and is excited about what possibilities more study holds. I am going to seminary to begin the process of ordination as a deacon in the United Methodist Church. I feel called to this, but some days it frightens me to all ends.

Thinking about Garrett leads me to think about future plans. As of right now I plan on beginning a full time job at the United Church of Rogers Park in June. I am constantly stressing out about fundraising the salary for this position. I have sent out fundraising letters and have written grants, but I worry that this will not be enough. Combining this with the fact that I'm planning on starting seminary in the fall makes me question if I should do this job full-time or instead do it part time.

These two ideas bouncing around in my head have caused me to be constantly thinking about my vocation. Is this indeed where God has called me? What if I'm wrong? Do I really want to work in the Church for the rest of my life? What does that look like?

As I'm thinking about the future and the economic situation combined with my ethics of economics course this semester, I have been thinking a lot about the radical life that I feel Jesus calls us to. He says we should drop everything and follow him. This involves not planning for the future. Not worrying about our next paycheck. Just working for justice. Living in poverty. Could I do these things? My current plan may seem radical to some, but it's still an incredibly safe route. I will be employed full-time and have a salary. I will still follow a path that the world deems as "safe." Am I called to a life that's "safe"? Or am I called to challenge the world and live a life that's on the edge?

These are only a few of the things that are bouncing around in my head. There are still so many more. Issues of charity vs. justice. Afterschool programming. Bullying. Working with kids. Working with volunteers. The list goes on and it makes me tired.

March 1, 2010

I've been thinking a lot about mission work and service lately. Perhaps this is because my final paper is about mission trips and the concepts of charity versus social justice in the context of these trips. Along with these concepts I have been reflecting on the location of these trips and where I feel called to do my work in general.

I graduated college with a degree in global studies and French and had originally believed that I would work in a global context, perhaps for a large organization like the United Nations or some other large non-profit. I had even considered working for the church.

As I traveled, I realized that I wasn't sure these large organizations were able to work at the grassroots levels where change was really needed. So, I then decided that I wanted to work for a small non-profit, but still at the global level. After more traveling and thinking, I realized that it's not fair for me to go abroad when there is so much to do here in the United States. Why should I take jobs that could be done by local people?

But I think I am starting to see why people seem so excited to go abroad and work rather than stay in their own cultural context. Work in the US is hard. There are many times that I wish I could go abroad and teach some people English or how to grow food. They would probably look up to me because of my American accent and white skin. But that's not right. Just because I'm foreign doesn't mean I know more than them. More likely, they know so much more than me. But work in the US is hard. Issues are super complex. How do you show that people are living in poverty when their children have Nike shoes and ipods? There are complex issues that have people spending money on luxuries instead of necessities, but when you try to appeal to people to help, they just point to the ipod and say that obviously people don't need their help.

Navigating the world in one of the most economically and culturally diverse zipcodes in the United States is really causing me to question many things and has shown me how hard it is to paint the world in black and white. But, there are many who see the world in black and white and so I question, how do I get people to open their eyes and understand the issues around us and support people like me who are who are working for social change?

January 7, 2010

I'm back....

I have been neglecting this blog of late. I think I have been in sort of a funk and my new year's resolution is to get out of it.

People always tell me that I am idealistic, question how I can believe so much in the good of others, and wonder how I can be so optimistic about social change. Well, at the end of 2009, I hit a wall.

Upon moving to Chicago I found myself in a world unlike anything I had ever experienced. I finally had the opportunity to go to protests, I found people who thought like me, I got involved with an alternative-gift economy (something I had been wanting to start for a while), I discovered intentional communities and was eventually able to move into one, I was growing food for the first time, and the list goes on. I was finally able to live what I had been dreaming up. I felt like I really could change the world and each day I saw that happening.

But by the end of last year, the world didn't quite seem as rose colored. I began to feel overwhelmed by all the problems of the world; hunger, war, capitalism, globalization, etc. And I wasn't finding hope in those near me that before had seemed to hold all the problems. I was working with kids whose parents were struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their heads while I was getting together with people just like myself (white, university-educated, between the ages of 20-30) and trading stuff we made,"changing the world," and "bringing revolution." We weren't doing anything to help people who weren't like us, unless it was in a paternalistic manner of let's give those poor people some money. What about the fact that D has schizophrenia and will never be able to hold down a job? Is it fair that B has to grow up in a
culture that is not her own without a mother? Is it fair that a drunk driver his J and hurt him and killed his mom?

So, I am now at a crossroads and trying to pick up the pieces. I'm trying to come to terms that my actions probably won't change the world. But I also need to know that my actions can change the world for one person and perhaps that is all that matters.

So, my goal for this upcoming year is to pull myself out of this funk and find hope in the world. To find hope in a little girl telling me she loves me, a smile from the homeless man in the lobby, and in the friends that accept me for who I am.