Thursday, June 17, 2010

Community in Many Forms

by Scott Dalen

Last night, members of my cohort met with the academic dean, Rollie Martinson. We shared a meal and then spent some time discussing the current DL "state of the union." This is a normal experience when we gather on campus and one that I am grateful for. If I can say one thing about Luther, they are very intentional about continuing to make this Distributed Learning program not only work, but to shine. Many thanks to everyone involved with the program for that.

One of the things that we discussed at the meeting was the need for community and Rollie told us that everyone looking from the outside sees a wonderful sense of community within the cohort system. I have to agree.

Tuesday night, we grilled out. One of my classmates had a ton of meat and we cooked it in style.

Our hope when we do communal meals like this is always that people will gather. We didn't have an issue with that. A nice afternoon in a building with no air conditioning means that windows are open...and that grill smell makes its way to everyone.
Members from all three cohorts showed up to partake in a wide variety of grilled meaty goodness. The running joke was that we were having table fellowship without the table...though this is not entirely accurate as you can see the picnic table in the picture. However, with about 15-20 of us gathered around, the table was insufficient to seat us all.

One of the other examples of community that Rollie discussed last night is the faith community that each DL student is actively participating in at home. This is a very important part of our education and one that I cherish.

That being said, last night my faith community...aka my church back home...was holding a meeting. This meeting is a precursor to a congregational vote that is coming up within the next couple weeks. In my discussions with various classmates over the past few days, I have simply needed to say that we're having "the vote" and everyone pretty much seems to know what that means.

My wife is on staff at our church, and as Wednesday night is church night, she was of course on hand for the meeting last night, so I received reports (as obviously I was not able to be there). Our sanctuary is designed to seat about 500 people and apparently it was full to the rafters. I think this is a good thing. People care about this vote, and they should because it is a monumental decision. However, as expected, people also tried to turn it into a debate, which was not the point of the meeting itself. I'm told that the congregational president did a good job of steering away from that situation though, which I think is good.

I admit to being fearful of the vote that is coming up because of the wide spread implications of the result. Either way, my home church will be different following this vote. That is my feeling. If the vote to leave the ELCA does not pass, I believe that a fair amount of members, people that I am very fond of, will walk out the door for the last time. On the other hand, if the vote does pass, it leads down a road that I personally cannot follow. I am a candidate for ordination in the ELCA so being a member at a congregation which leaves the organization doesn't really work so well.

This situation is scary. It means a lot of changes, changes which at the moment I can't begin to fathom. It raises many questions, questions which at the moment cannot be answered. But perhaps this period of waiting is yet another lesson from Big Guns Upstairs.

He's tried to teach me this lesson many times over the years. You'd think I'd learn it one of these times.

I can almost hear a voice whispering in my ear right now...Be still and know that I am God.

Maybe I'll just start with a deep breathe...


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