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Unlikely Conversations from the Collegeville Institute
34 minutes | Dec 21, 2021
The Spiritual Practice of Discernment: A Conversation with the Rev. Dr. Jane Patterson
Have you ever asked yourself: how does spiritual discernment work, practically? What are the signposts? How can I feel God’s subtle nudge? In the final episode of this season, we discuss the ways that spiritual discernment practices reveal God's calling in our big and little decisions. Join our conversation with the Rev. Dr. Jane Patterson, who is Project Director of the Communities of Calling Initiative at the Collegeville Institute. Jane recently retired from Seminary of the Southwest, where she was Associate Professor of New Testament and Director of Community Care. She is a wise teacher and expert on spiritual discernment who works with congregational leaders, many of whom we’ve heard from this season on the podcast.
37 minutes | Dec 7, 2021
Creative Callings in the Pandemic at Plymouth Church
The pandemic has altered church life in ways we are still discerning. For Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York, the disruption dissolved lines between home life and church life, and it pushed congregational members to explore creative callings in new, innovative ways. In this episode, Journalist Eliza Gray and Pastor Brett Younger discuss the way COVID shifted their engagement and ministry in church community. Plymouth Church is one of thirteen congregations taking part in Collegeville Institute’s Communities of Calling Initiative. The Communities of Calling Initiative is a five-year program that grants congregations funds to design a new project or enhance existing ministries that help Christians discover and deepen their sense of God’s calling in their lives
29 minutes | Nov 23, 2021
Writing as Prayer, Discernment, and Vocation
When have you felt most alive before God? In this episode, Carol Davis Younger shares her vocational story of becoming a writer, which has deepened her spiritual journey and sense of God's presence. Through creating curriculum and hosting church writing groups centered on Scripture, she invites others in her congregation at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, NY to use writing as a tool of discernment and as a form a prayer.
35 minutes | Nov 9, 2021
The Call to Rise After Crisis: A Conversation with Meena Natarajan and Ingrid C. A. Rasmussen
What happens when a church is called during a crisis to not just to the people in the pews, but to the families, organizations, and businesses in the neighborhood? In this episode, we speak with Meena Natarajan, Executive and Artistic Director of Pangea World Theater, and Ingrid C. A. Rassmussen, pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Together, they tell the story of their friendship and partnership in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis following George Floyd's murder in May 2020. Pangea Theater produces community-based art and Holy Trinity is a Lutheran congregation located one block from the Third Police Precinct, which was burned during protests again police brutality in Minneapolis. Since those events, Ingrid and Meena have been meeting together with a coalition of community leaders called Longfellow Rising. Holy Trinity is one of thirteen congregations taking part in Collegeville Institute’s Communities of Calling Initiative. The Communities of Calling Initiative is a five-year program that grants congregations funds to design a new project or enhance existing ministries that help Christians discover and deepen their sense of God’s calling in their lives.
41 minutes | Oct 26, 2021
The Call to Sing at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
Music can deepen and broaden our experience of joy and grief. In this episode, Ann Schrooten speaks about her calling to serve through music, and how that vocation transformed during the pandemic and following George Floyd’s murder near her church in Minneapolis, MN. She describes how the cries for justice in her community led her to ask a new question about leading music in her church. Holy Trinity is one of thirteen congregations taking part in Collegeville Institute’s Communities of Calling Initiative. The Communities of Calling Initiative is a five-year program that grants congregations funds to design a new project or enhance existing ministries that help Christians discover and deepen their sense of God’s calling in their lives.
37 minutes | Oct 12, 2021
Addressing the Purpose Gap with Dr. Patrick B. Reyes
How do we understand God’s calling when not everyone has access to the same networks, resources, or opportunities? In this episode, practical theologian Dr. Patrick B. Reyes speaks about his new book, The Purpose Gap: Empowering Communities of Color to Find Meaning and Thrive. Reyes writes about his own childhood neighborhood, which he describes as an education desert. He flips the white, western script of individual “shining stars,” and expands our view to see calling in terms of whole constellations.
27 minutes | Sep 28, 2021
Invited to Mission at Edgewood Church: A Conversation with Marcia Beer and Diana Farmer
Think of a significant calling in your life. Who invited you to explore that calling? And what role did community play in that invitation? As a community, Edgewood United Church has been collectively invited by God to serve their neighbors through a specific, shared mission. In this episode, Marcia Beer and Diana Farmer speak how their community collectively discerned a common purpose. They also discuss how the pandemic disrupted and refocused their ministry in surprising ways. Edgewood is one of thirteen congregations taking part in Collegeville Institute’s Communities of Calling Initiative. The Communities of Calling Initiative is a five-year program that grants congregations funds to design a new project or enhance existing ministries that help Christians discover and deepen their sense of God’s calling in their lives.
50 minutes | Sep 14, 2021
Called Through Community at Edgewood Church
What role does community play in understanding our individual vocation? And what happens when a pastor called to ministry starts to burn out? In this episode, Liz Miller describes how community played an essential role in her decision to become a pastor, and how sabbath rest is essential to sustaining her ministry at Edgewood United Church in East Lansing, Michigan. She also explains how the church community asks itself not who they are going to serve, but who they are called to be because of where they are located. Edgewood is one of thirteen congregations doing a deep dive into personal and communal vocation with the Collegeville Institute’s Communities of Calling Initiative.
56 minutes | Aug 31, 2021
Embracing Communal Callings: Service at St. Matthew's Church
Some Christians have profound testimonies about how God has called them; but, it’s not everyone’s experience. More often, God calls whole communities to big things, not individuals. How can congregations invite members of all ages to embrace God's call to serve their neighbors? In this episode, Pastor Kelly Kirby and Lynn Miller from Saint Matthew's Episcopal Church in Louisville, KY tell the story of how God called their church to step out in faith and start a food ministry. They also discuss the challenges and blessings of running the food pantry during the pandemic, which became an important place of connection for youth and adults alike. St. Matthew’s is one of thirteen congregations taking part in Collegeville Institute’s Communities of Calling Initiative. The Communities of Calling Initiative is a five-year program that grants congregations funds to design a new project or enhance existing ministries that help Christians discover and deepen their sense of God’s calling in their lives.
29 minutes | Aug 17, 2021
A Multiplicity of Callings: Skills Sharing at St. Matthew's Church
Vocation is often understood as what we do for work, but God calls people to more than our place of employment. Can God's calling extend to skills or hobbies like bread baking, gardening, or cake decorating? Leaders at St. Matthew Episcopal Church in Louisville, Kentucky decided to find out by inviting individuals in their church to offer a course on something they love to do. In this episode, Pastor Benjamin Hart and Professor Justin Klassen discuss how the skills sharing classes at St. Matthew's transformed their understanding of God's calling in both their personal lives and the greater church community. St. Matthew’s is one of thirteen congregations taking part in Collegeville Institute’s Communities of Calling Initiative. The Communities of Calling Initiative is a five-year program that grants congregations funds to design a new project or enhance existing ministries that help Christians discover and deepen their sense of God’s calling in their lives.
36 minutes | Aug 3, 2021
Bringing Calling Back to Life: A Conversation with Dr. Kathleen Cahalan
Does the phrase "God's calling" make you tense? If so, you're not alone. Many Christians confuse calling with discovering one secret "right" path in life. When faced with multiple options and decisions, it can be paralyzing. According to Dr. Kathleen Cahalan, this individualistic view of vocation is often harmful. Instead, she advocates for returning to a more communal understanding of Christian calling where people see their callings first to be communities of faith. In this episode, Kathleen talks about her research and work to revitalize the language around vocation, equipping both individuals and congregations to experience God's calling in wider and more expansive ways. We are asking big questions about the theology of Christian calling and vocation during this season of the Unlikely Conversations podcast. Join us every other Tuesday for a new episode where host Ellie Roscher speaks with theologians, church leaders, and clergy in the Collegeville Institute's Communities of Calling Initiative about how they practice vocation as a dynamic verb rather than a static noun.
29 minutes | Feb 24, 2021
Undoing Oppressions: A Conversation with Nekeisha Alayna Alexis
When working to undo one type of oppression, activists often see how other types of oppression intersect. Nekeisha Alayna Alexis is an Anabaptist scholar whose writing addresses issues of justice for both human and animals. In this conversation, she describes how her conviction to nonviolence evolved into her interest in co-liberation with animals and becoming a vegan. She also discusses her role in leading anti-racism efforts within the context of a seminary and why joy is at the foundation of her work.
30 minutes | Feb 12, 2021
Welcome is Not Enough: A Conversation with Karen Gonzalez
On the surface, welcoming an immigrant seems kind. Karen Gonzalez asks Christians to look again and push deeper. Karen Gonzalez is a writer, speaker, and immigrant advocate. She is the author of The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong. In this conversation, Karen describes how her writing and theology has shifted since attending the 2019 Writing for Mystic Activists writing workshop at the Collegeville Institute. Writing can be a form of activism, and it can also be a way to live out a calling to collective liberation.
29 minutes | Jan 27, 2021
Following a Mystical Jesus: A Conversation with Byron McMillan
What compels a decorated combat veteran and former missions pastor to study mysticism at a center founded by Fr. Richard Rohr? Byron McMillan's story is one of spiritual transformation and realignment, moving from his role as pastor at an evangelical megachurch in Raleigh, North Carolina to studying at the Center for Contemplation and action in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In this podcast interview, Byron discusses his journey following a mystical Jesus. He also describes how contemplative practices, including writing, have changed his faith and outlook on the world.
29 minutes | Jan 13, 2021
Consider the Birds: A Conversation on Community Organizing with Nicholas Tangen
Community organizing is often hard and contentious work. How can people stay committed when the world is chaotic? In this episode, writer and congregational organizer Nicholas Tangen describes how observing the natural world is connected to his work for justice within the ELCA church. Nicholas has relied on birdwatching as a spiritual practice during the pandemic and in the aftermath of George Floyd's killing in his city of Minneapolis. He also speaks about how Benedictine spirituality has been important in his work for justice.
31 minutes | Dec 16, 2020
Writing in Luminous Darkness: A Conversation with Rev. Wesley Morris
Being a good pastor and writer means bringing one’s whole self to the page, to the sanctuary, and to the community. For Wesley Morris, it also means embracing a "luminous darkness" – a phrase coined by mystic Howard Thurman – as a place of transformation. In this conversation, Pastor Morris describes his experiences as a chaplain at Harlem Hospital and as a student at Union Theological Seminary, where he studied under Black liberation theologian Dr. James Cone and wrote a Master's thesis titled: "A Dark Faith." He also discusses his time at the 2014 Writing to Change the World Collegeville Institute workshop led by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, where participants shared vulnerable writing with one another. Morris believes that writing can build bridges across our divides, allowing love to travel from one world to another.
25 minutes | Dec 2, 2020
Midwifing Stories in the American South: A Conversation with Josina Guess
Editors hold a hidden yet sacred role in the publishing world. As managing editor of The Bitter Southerner, writer Josina Guess works closely with storytellers to hone their work. At times she acts as midwife to writers, helping form narratives on difficult topics like domestic violence and racism. Before she became an editor, Josina attended three writing workshops at the Collegeville Institute, including Writing to Change the World led by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove in 2014, Revision, Christian Spirituality, and the Writing Life led by Lauren Winner in 2017, and Exploring Identity and (Dis)belonging through the Personal Essay led by Enuma Okoro in 2019. In this interview, Josina discusses her work as an editor, as well as her own writing on themes of race, violence, and family. Josina’s posture as an activist, writer, and editor is rooted in curiosity and empathy. From her home in rural Georgia, she shares wisdom from acting and storytelling within a particular community, which she believes is the best way writers can change the world.
37 minutes | Nov 18, 2020
Being Heard into Speech: A Conversation with Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas and Lyndsey Medford
What role can fellow writers play in the creative process? And how can a desire to "change the world" backfire? In this episode we hear a conversation between two writers: Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas and Lyndsey Medford. They met at the Collegeville Institute's Writing for Mystic Activists workshop in 2019 and, since then, have continued to encourage one another in their writing lives. Here, they discuss the dangers of writing to change the world without also being changed as humans, the call for writing as liberation, and how a writing community can help one be "heard into speech."
23 minutes | Nov 4, 2020
Start with Your Own Soul: A Conversation with Rev. Brandon Wrencher
How can writers begin to claim their own voice? And how should local communities inform both writing and organizing work? In this episode, we speak with writer, pastor, and community organizer Rev. Brandon Wrencher. Brandon is a serial innovator who pastors a network of spiritually rooted small groups through the Good Neighbor Movement, which is inspired, in part, by African hush harbors of the antebellum period and Latin American base communities. Listen to Brandon speak about his own writing journey, the importance of organizing through grassroots small groups, and why all good writing must start with your own soul.
32 minutes | Oct 21, 2020
Mothering Wisdom for Activists
In this episode, we continue for the second part of our conversation with Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Writers engaged in justice work can help others expand their imagination for what is possible, yet they also need accountability, support, and spiritual growth. Where can these activists turn for mothering wisdom? Listen to Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes and Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove discuss the global pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and the need for spiritual mothers and fathers to guide and care for activists.
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