As the Diaconal Intern at St. Luke’s for the 2016-2017 school year, I inhabited a role that was largely created on-the-fly. At the start of my internship, many members of the community would come up to me and ask, “So, what exactly does a Diaconal Intern do?” And I would answer them honestly by saying, “You know what, I’m not entirely sure.” Despite the mystery of the diaconate, the congregation was enthusiastic not only about taking me under their wing in an ambiguously-defined role, but also as a new member – as one of their own, as one they could accompany through the process of candidacy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
I soon came to describe the work I was doing within St. Luke’s to be that of creating ways for those who gather each Sunday within the walls of the church to continue living out their baptisms outside those very same walls. Since St. Luke’s had just transitioned into a new worship space and was actively discerning what it meant to be a community within brand new walls, I sensed that this role was an important and timely one – and one that I was excited to fill. I came to St. Luke’s as someone passionate about chaplaincy and outreach to those who have been forced into the margins of society, and my work as an intern began to reflect this passion as I settled more into what my role could be.
The heart of chaplaincy – whether it is in a hospital setting, in the confines of a jail, or on the streets of Chicago – is creating relationships of trust with others, and allowing them the space to tell their stories. One of my favorite tasks as an intern – and, for me, the most rewarding – was to help members of the community craft stories from their lives into testimonies to be shared with the rest of the congregation during worship. What a blessing it was for me to have the opportunity simply to listen and get to know fellow members of the community. What a gift it was to co-create new meanings from long-held stories. These experiences are ones that I continue to carry with me as I follow my call to be a chaplain.
Other experiences I will always carry by my side are those opportunities provided by Table Talk: to meet with members of the community and have hard discussions about being a person of faith in the world. When Pastoral Intern Erin and I first began formulating our ideas for a new discussion group, we had no idea what type of community would emerge around shared food and drink in an informal, but directed setting. Table Talk allowed me to rediscover what it means to be Lutheran in a modern world – and also redefine for myself what it could mean to be a Lutheran as the world continues to change. Our discussions provided me the opportunity to make lasting friendships and to build relationships of love and support within a community that I was just getting to know. Table Talk helped me to be more confident in my faith, allowing me to ask the uncomfortable questions, and to be sure of God’s love despite what answers might emerge.
I feel fortunate that I have the privilege of sticking around at St. Luke’s. I have been able to give to the community in a certain capacity as an intern, and no w I get the opportunity to give back in an entirely different way – as a member. I look forward to the future I get to share with all the people who I have gotten to know, and who have supported me along my journey into ministry. To me, no matter what walls surround us, St. Luke’s will always feel like home.
University of Chicago Divinity School, MDiv ‘18