Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Third Act Life Discovery teaches how to ask good questions

Making sense of the whole over the various stages of one’s life

These are challenging times for so many people,” observes Pastor Ruth Frost, co-founder of Third Act Life Discovery. “But for all of us who have been taught to view consumerism as a necessary lifestyle, this economic downturn is an opportunity to push the ‘reset button’ on how we wish to live and share life with others. We may gain another kind of wealth that the stock market can never deliver.”

Frost and her colleague, Pastor Richard Andersen, founded the organization as a way to invite people to live purposefully in the ‘third act’ of their lives. “We wanted to help people see the importance of spirituality and community in daily living,” said Frost. “But, we think the economic upheaval worldwide has accelerated a desire in all ages to live more purposefully.”

The venture uses the three acts of a play as a metaphor for life. The first act introduces the characters and the second act develops the plot. But, the third act makes sense of the whole, giving meaning to the play and the significance of the character’s relationships.

Through a new program called “Joyful Living in Changing Times,” the co- founders hope to help people of all ages develop a sense of the power of community to support positive change in one another. “We think joyful living can be an antidote to the toxic climate of despair around us,” said Frost.

As clergy rostered through Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM), Pastors Frost and Andersen welcome people from diverse faith traditions and spiritual paths to participate in the program. (ELM credentials and rosters qualified candidates of all sexual orientations and gender identities for ministry, even those who have not been eligible for the official ELCA roster.) “We want to extend a wide embrace because we are all in this together,” said Andersen.

The ministry works with groups of 10 people in a home-like environment. People meet in a hospitable environment that the host has prepared. It’s not a lecture or a Bible study but a sharing of time together, say Pastors Frost and Andersen. There’s an invitation to people to be intentional about their lives and their legacies.

A start-up grant from ELM in 2008 is helping with the concept launch. Attendees address questions such as: How can I make a difference in the world? What does it mean to live more simply but no less joyfully? How can we make a difference in the lives of others while enhancing our own quality of life? What is the role of money and service in the pursuit of happiness? In a series entitled “Creating Spiritual Home Makeovers,” the following description is given:

Throughout our time together, we will meet in a home environment over light refreshments and help each other figure out how we want our home spaces to function to enhance the activities, interests and relationships that take place in them We will assess the obstacles that get in the way of having our homes function the way we want them to and help one another devise solutions to them. We will explore how we are connected to past relationships through our homes and how they influence present relationships and our well-being. We will end our time by celebrating with a time of hospitality and a home blessing ritual, the recipient of which will be chosen by the group.

Program groups are limited to 10 to encourage easy connection and meaningful sharing. Environments vary from private homes to St. Martin’s Table (a peace and justice community in Minneapolis that runs a bookstore and café) to a pine forest on an undeveloped lake an hour north of the Twin Cities. Participants can determine whether they want a year’s adventure, a month’s exploration, or a weekend get-away. While the organization is headquartered in the Twin Cities, the programs are “portable” and can be scheduled at other locations. Fees are on a sliding scale.

Readings, candlelight, and reflection are all part of the experience. Groups have ranged from one organized within Pilgrim Lutheran congregation (ELCA) in St. Paul to eclectic groups of people coming to retreat environments such as the ARC Retreat Center near Cambridge, Minnesota. Sharing of “authentic stories” is particularly important to Pastor Frost as a lesbian.

Even as they facilitate groups in designing their own plans for joyful living, Pastors Frost and Andersen have busy regular careers. Frost is a chaplain with Hospice of the Twin Cities and Andersen is director of congregational relations/ major gifts officer for Lutheran Social Service. Frost commented, “Hospice work is all about third act thinking. It teaches you to live well and die whole.”

The Web site for Third Act is www.thirdactlifediscovery.org. Additional information about groups is available at info@thirdactlifediscovery.org or by calling 612/810-0530.