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Full Circles and Unbelievable Blessings

by Tina Heise
The "Subversive Cross" in a Lutheran Church in El Salvador

The “Subversive Cross” in a Lutheran Church in El Salvador

A little over 19 months ago I was sitting in a guest house in El Salvador, logging into my email to send an update home to the States about my experience in Central America when I saw Pastor Erik’s email float into my inbox, hoping to schedule an interview.  Little did I know then that a year-and-a-half later I would be leaving a job I loved in Logan Square just as St. Luke’s began their connection with Dan Beirne, an urban missionary who had previously worked in El Salvador.

Today is my last day serving as Administrative Assistant for St. Luke’s, and as I attempt to clean up the last of a seemingly never ending stack of files to make room for my replacement, I can’t help feeling how grateful I am for full circles and unbelievable blessings.

I moved to Chicago two years ago to study at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago to obtain my Masters of Divinity.  In a few days I will be heading to Missouri to spend a year as a vicar (i.e. pastoral intern) for Bethel Lutheran Church of St. Louis.  In the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, those training to be pastors complete a series of field education requirements, ranging from a hospital chaplaincy unit, to a few hours each week for Ministry in Context, to a full time internship in a different part of the country.  These learning requirements accompany the three year academic program.

aopl1cAcademia has never been my first love, and I was grateful to have St. Luke’s as my workplace in a program filled with Greek, Hebrew, and Systematic Theology.  Working with Pastor Erik under his strong leadership and mentorship has helped me find the balance of coursework with my passion of working with people who live into their faith.  He and St. Luke’s leadership encouraged me to complete my hospital training in New Hampshire at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center last summer.  I was even able to work for St. Luke’s remotely while I was lived there.  While I was never St. Luke’s intern or MIC student, Pastor Erik has always supported my pastoral development, celebrating with me when a sermon I preached at the Academy of Preachers National Festival of Young Preachers was selected to be published and encouraging me when I was interviewed by Peter Wallace on on what it means to be a young woman preacher.

I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to work and learn from Pastor Erik and my time so far at LSTC.  There is no doubt, however, that my greatest learning to date has come from working for the community found within these blessed walls on Francisco Avenue.

St. Luke’s, you are a beautiful people who live into the spirit of resurrection in ways that are humbling and awe inspiring.  This spirit reaches beyond the growth of your membership and the number of faces in the pews on Sunday.  You are a people who embody Christ’s love and peace so deeply that you are compelled to reach out and extend that blessing to your neighbors.  You embrace reality that progress is both beautiful and challenging.  While many others may have been intimidated by the newness that accompanies change, you boldly walk towards uncertainties with steps of thoughtful, reflective action.  You recognize that collaborative work is essential for progress, so you connect with our neighbors, synod, and seminary.  You are rooted in your history while still living into the reality that who the church once was does not limit who it is yet to be.   You have been my greatest teacher.

Every pastor I know speaks of their internship as one of the most defining years of their pastoral development.  It is a beautiful thing to be embraced so deeply into the lifeblood of a community, to be granted the privilege of journeying with them as they live into their relationship with God and one another.  That is what I have felt serving as your Admin.  While I know there are countless experiences before me that I cannot begin to imagine, I can imagine what it is like to be so affected by a community because of you.

I have been blessed by your spirit and leadership in ways that are hard to put in words.  I do not underestimate for a second the gift it has been to walk with you, grow with you, and experience God from you.

What a blessing this time has been, for which I am ever grateful.

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