An indelible image from my time as a ministry in context student at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square occurred weekly in the course of our gathering for worship. Near the end of the liturgy, as we prepared to be sent from the (old) sanctuary—to coffee hour or out onto Francisco to get on with our day and week—we would gather in and along the center aisle, grasp the hand of another forming a long, skinny circle and recite in chorus the benediction. This unique liturgical tradition embodies three enduring ways that my time with the folks at St. Luke’s has been formative in my discernment and journey into pastoral ministry.
Relationships have always been at the core of my identity—both as an individual and a faith leader. My time of learning at St. Luke’s solidified the centrality of relationships in my pastoral identity. Whether it was spending time sharing stories and passions during fellowship events, at bible study, on the street serving food with The Night Ministry, or in supervision, I sensed relational ministry to be essential at St. Luke’s. This set me up well for internship in rural Nebraska and parish ministry in two small suburban churches. I came to understand that regardless of context or setting, investing in relationships will continue be the foundation for what I do.
As a pastor’s kid I literally grew up in the church sanctuary and came to treasure and care deeply about Lutheran hymnody and liturgy. St. Luke’s afforded me the opportunity to strengthen skills in worship leadership—through preaching, assisting, worship planning, and my final project—a series of workshops designed to train lay people for worship leadership. Under Pastor Erik’s guidance I developed a routine for sermon preparation that took into account context and intentionality. I learned how to strike a delicate balance between worship that is well planned with integrity while also being accessible to a variety of people—from a cradle-to-grave Lutheran to someone walking into a church sanctuary for the first time.
Pastor Erik and the folks of St. Luke’s helped me discover a passion for justice and pushed me beyond my own understanding of what a radical welcome looks and feels like. During my time with St. Luke’s, the congregation was engaged in food justice and health initiatives for the local population. I also became familiar with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and St. Luke’s commitment to the LGBTQ community. The influence of Pastor Erik and St. Luke’s has continued to form me in this area as I begin the Reconciling in Christ discernment with my current congregation.
Holding hands, looking in the face of your neighbor and speaking the benediction describe a tradition that could only have emerged from a community deeply committed to and invested in each other. It was a liturgical moment that honored ancient worship traditions, while at the same time honored each individual—a gesture that helped make every person feel welcome and valued. It also illustrated the radical inclusivity that Pastor Erik and St. Luke’s embodies—the circle of bodies was always a collection of diverse backgrounds, identities and experiences. I’m forever grateful for Pastor Erik and the people of St. Luke’s who have helped form me into the leader I am today. What more could one ask for than to be blessed and learn in return how to be a blessing to others?
Chris Honig, Pastor, Ascension Lutheran Church, Riverside IL