University Pastor James Wetzstein and Deaconess Kristin Lewis pen this week’s devotion.
Pr. Jim: If you’re a student, welcome (back) to campus! If you’re faculty or staff, welcome to these days for which we spend the summer preparing. I’m looking forward to the abundance of blessings that this year will bring.
We have some changes at the Chapel this year:
I’ve begun studies for a PhD in liturgical studies at the University of Notre Dame. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to combine my long-standing love of theology and art into a research project that will involve the work of Ernst Schwidder, a sculptor who was the first chair of Valpo’s art department and provided altars, crosses and other work for hundreds of churches across North America. I’ll be at Notre Dame Monday and Wednesday afternoons as well as Tuesday. I’ll be at Valpo Monday and Wednesday mornings and evenings plus all day Thursday and Friday as well as Sunday mornings.
With this in mind, I’m delighted to welcome my new colleague and old friend, Deaconess Kristin Barnett Lewis, to her role as Interim Campus MInister this year. Deaconess Kristin’s presence will give us this year to conduct a search for a new ELCA University Pastor. You’ll be hearing more on that in the weeks ahead.
In the meantime, here’s Deaconess Kristin!
Dcs. Kristin: Greetings! I am thrilled for the opportunity to walk with members of campus this year. I have enjoyed being a part of this campus from the periphery over the past four years but look forward to all that comes from jumping into the heart of the campus. For those of you who don’t know me, I have lived in Valparaiso for 12 years where I have served as deaconess at Trinity Lutheran Church in Valpo, as founder and chair of the board for Dayspring Women’s Center, and most recently as the co-director of education and formation with the Lutheran Diaconal Association (LDA). As a deaconess I am called to a ministry of “Word and Service” which is slightly different than a pastor’s call to “Word and Sacrament.” I hope that my lens of word and service ministry can collaborate with the many areas of campus that are a part of the mission to “prepare students to lead and serve in church and society.” I have a wonderful husband, Jeff, who is involved in the community and works as an architect. Our household of chaos includes our son Parker (8), and twin daughters Atley and Elyn (4), and loving dog Rudy.
Pr. Jim: The work of University Pastor has been such a blessing to me. Fifteen years of conversations with college students has helped me hone in on the ways in which my Christian faith is important to me. When we give, we always gain much in return.
At the center for me is the historical fact of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I’m with the Apostle Paul when he writes “…if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” But the meaning of this event for me resolves into the experience of forgiveness.
It’s my view that growing maturity in the faith is not found in living a life that is so perfect that my need of Jesus is less. It’s realized through the living of a life growing in honest self-reflection that increasingly cherishes the forgiveness that Jesus’ death and resurrection brings.
In a recent interview, the British philosopher Alain de Botton observed that “The great enemy of love, good relationships, good friendships, is self-righteousness.” I agree with him, though I have my moments when I forget this. When I do, things go astray and forgiveness brings me back. When I am living in this humility, forgiveness buoys my day. For me, it’s the necessary miracle that makes life together possible.
Dcs. Kristin: Over my life and vocational journey I am often reminded that we are called to live in community with one another. As humans this can bring lots of joy but also plenty of headaches. This is done in a more intense way on a university campus than many areas of life. I am looking forward to being in conversation with students and the community about the gifts, joys, and challenges of our life together. For me life together is best done when we listen to the way that God calls us to live together. I believe we are called to see one another through God’s eyes, seeing the Imago Dei (Image of God) that is on each of us. This means that God is best revealed when we interact with the diversity of God’s creation and the wide range of “image bearers.” God has already claimed each of us as children prior to us doing anything and despite our screw-ups, so we shouldn’t have to prove our value to one another. For our community to be grounded in a faith that calls us into community where we value each other and look to see God in one another despite — and, more importantly, because of — our differences brings depth to this place. Universities are also grounded in traditions of wonder, questions, and curiosity that I hope helps students and others explore their faith in reach and meaningful ways.
Pastor Jim and I look forward to joining in this space of wonder, exploration, and study through our weekly devotions that will be a part of this newsletter each week. If you ever have something that you would like to see us explore please let us know — ASK ME ANYTHING #AMA. We are also both always available to meet with you individually for conversation about anything. See the links below to “book us.”
Pr. Jim: Yes, we’d love to hear your topic suggestions. We’re currently thinking about how to best host a “I’m a pastor/deaconess #AMA” event and we’d love to hear your ideas about how to make that work.
Peace and joy in the coming days.
Aug. 22, 2018