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Bringing faith to life

Lutherans talk about vocation. In many ways it is one of the foundation concepts of the Reformation.

Prior to the movement Martin Luther initiated, “vocation” was a word equated with the special work of cloistered monks and nuns or diocesan priests. If one had a vocation, it meant that person was “set apart” for God’s work.

Luther flattened that understanding of vocation. Instead, in line with his concept of the priesthood of all believers, he believed that all people in their work, their “vocation,” are doing what God calls them to do.

This understanding of vocation is central to the way St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church (ELCA), approaches its public ministry. While engaged in a number of mission efforts, this congregation is perhaps best known throughout the Twin Cities for its insightful lecture series Faith & Life.

Four or five times a year, St. Philip the Deacon brings some of the freshest voices in a particular field to the Twin Cities to offer reflections on God’s working in that field and in the practitioner’s life.

Brené Brown

“Faith & Life is one of our most visible programs in the broader community,” explained the Rev. Tim Westermeyer, lead pastor at St. Philip the Deacon. “St. Philip is a very active congregation in the community, and the Faith & Life Lecture Series serves by design to be more public for the larger community; it is not simply [an educational program] for members of the congregation.”

Faith & Life in 2010/11

Toward the effort, St. Philip’s invites an interesting array of national and local speakers to think through what faith means in their lives. The 2010-11 series includes such luminaries as Dr. Brené Brown, research professor and writer at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work; Shane Claiborne, bestselling Christian author and activist; Dr. Will Willimon, Dean of the Chapel at Duke University; Richard Stearns, president of World Vision; and local playwright and storyteller Kevin Kling.

First up on the calendar is “Faith & the Gifts of Imperfection: Living with Courage, Connection and Compassion,” by Brené Brown. For the past 10 years, she has studied vulnerability, courage, and authenticity. She will tell how these become necessary components of the life of faith, according to Westermeyer.

Brown will speak on October 14 at 7:00 p.m., at St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church, 17205 County Road 6, Plymouth. “This presentation will be at the congregation, though most are intentionally in more public settings, which may be more comfortable for people who don’t have an historical connection to the church,” explained Westermeyer.

Popular activist Shane Claiborne, who self-identifies as a “recovering sinner,” will speak on November 18 at the Hopkins High School Auditorium. He will look at “Faith & Imagination: Creating a Holy Counter-culture.”

A unique educational experience

Local playwright Bob Stromberg was a presenter in the 2009-10 season. “I spoke on ‘Faith & Art,’” Stromberg told Metro Lutheran. “It’s a wonderful series, giving someone like me the opportunity to do something I don’t normally do, speak publicly about myself.

Shane Claiborne

Four or five times a year, St. Philip the Deacon brings some of the freshest voices in a particular field to the Twin Cities to offer reflections on God’s working in that field and in the practitioner’s life.

“A life of faith and the arts do integrate,” Stromberg continued. “I know my faith is reflected in what I produce, even though it might not explicitly use Jesus by name in a show.”

“Over the last seven years, every program has been wonderful,” said Westermeyer, “but Bob Stromberg was especially memorable. He was funny, captivating, and provided a meaningful message.

“But that’s what we usually experience,” he added.

The partners that work with St. Philip the Deacon and Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, also of Plymouth, are essential to maintain the quality of programming. The Crossroads Group of Thrivent has been very faithful in maintaining this lecture series.

“We continually look for ways to invest in our members’ communities and congregations,” said James Elvestrom, senior partner with the Crossroads Group. “Our partnership with the Faith & Life Series has been a very symbiotic relationship and a perfect fit as the series has brought, from all walks of Christian life, those that have lived their life in alignment with their core values.”

All programs are free and open to the public. For more information, see www.spdlc.org/ faith-life-lecture-series.

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