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St. Luke’s former seminarians reflect: Jessica Palys

What St. Luke’s meant to me


My name is Jessica Palys.  I am an ordained UCC minister and solo pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Hastings, Nebraska.  I served St. Luke’s during the 2012-2013 school year as a student at Chicago Theological Seminary – part of an intern team of four!

For me, my time at St. Luke’s was about vision and framework.  I had entered Seminary without a vision for myself or how I would fit into this odd and wondrous calling we call ministry.  But I saw St. Luke’s as a visionary church where the congregation’s faith committed them to being boldly visible in the world as it is to work towards the world as it should be.  I saw the pastor and the congregation leading the way towards being a prophetic, generous and community-building agent of God’s love in Logan Square.  I wanted to learn about how to do that – and be a part of it.

What I gained was experience with the framework of a congregation in the midst of change, in the midst of a neighborhood in change, in a fast-changing world.  It is easy to get swept away in all those currents.  Pastor Erik mentored me to slow down, stand back, and watch for where God is moving within the waves of change.  Coming from a profession (and frankly, a personality) of being in control of change, if I hadn’t been schooled by him I might never have learned how to catch Grace – as it can be elusive.

Pastor Erik’s vision helped me take in the full picture of what’s happening in a congregation, and because of that I learned that I am never alone in this work – God is always helping with the heavy lifting.

My crossover into the world of Lutherans further blessed me with a Lutheran framework of ministry: a deeper appreciation of Lutheran theology, a glimpse into the vast infrastructure of curricula, processes, publications, and justice organizations that support ministry in the world, and the long Lutheran history and traditions of spiritual formation and advocacy.  Coming from a Congregationalist background, the most striking difference I noticed in Lutheran church was the tendency to lift up Lutheran heritage and history frequently throughout the church year (such as Reformation Sunday).  This reaching back and revisiting centuries of history provided a vision of how to build public witness as a clear continuation of centuries of Christian action for justice in the world.  This key insight of how to connect the storied past with a vision for the future and is something I am still working to incorporate into my ministry.

But most significantly, serving St. Luke’s let me see how I might look in parish ministry.  The opportunities to lead, to learn, to write, to reflect, and to be let into others’ lives as an extension of God’s compassion for all people showed me what ministry really is.  Even as we say goodbye to dear, departed Dea Chechhin, someone who allowed me to get close and care for her during a major change in her life, I am reminded about how the people and the experiences you have in ministry change you.  St. Luke’s set up space in my heart and I always feel that I am part of your wonderful community, no matter how far away I live or how many new faces are present when I visit.  Thank you for being a vision of active, loving and prophetic community.

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