It’s the 3rd week of school already and there is an unseasonably cold breeze blowing across Chicago as I and the senior class begin settling in to our classes and our varied routines. For some of us coming back from internship, it’s hard to leave real-world ministry and get back to the grind of never-ending reading and writing assignments. Top it off with having to take that class you’ve been putting off till senior, a looming approval essay, part-time jobs, and the like… and it’s rough.
All in all though, for me I’m glad to be back. I’ve missed the camaraderie of my classmates and the smiles of LSTC professors and administrators. I guess I’m also glad to have one more year of stability and time with good friends before my life changes pretty dramatically as I graduate and move somewhere only the Lord knows.
It’s amazing how this whole process can seem both forever long and as quick as a blink. There is so much to do and so many opportunities for ministry in and around LSTC and Chicago that I think I suffer from opportunity fatigue. I’ve had to restrain myself many times already this semester from over-committing myself and getting too excited. My husband will tell you that I haven’t done a very good job, but I think I’m doing better than years past at prioritizing and making time for ‘self-care.’ This is probably because I’ve become familiar with the consequences of not doing so.
One thing I do joyfully dedicate my time to is LSTC’s Center for Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice (CCME for short). Interfaith relations is my MDiv emphasis and is a topic which I find to enjoyable and so very relevant in our world. Through CCME, I heard about a sponsorship to attend the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference in Detroit last month, through an organization called Shoulder to Shoulder. When I applied and received the sponsorship I was ecstatic to be able to attend this event with 9 other Christian and Jewish seminarians from around the country to go and learn about American Muslim issues and about how Christian and Jewish faith leaders could be allies with Muslims in their struggles and in their fight for equality in America. CCME’s wonderful director Sara Trumm was also in attendance.
While there is much I could say about the experience, the biggest common take-away that I and the other seminary students had, was just how similar our dreams and goals are to that of our Muslim neighbors. Of the many lectures one could attend, there were only a few about those ‘classic’ Muslim issues like Syria, Palestine, or Islamophobia. There were many more about Muslim American Identity in general. Our group smiled when we read the lecture topics: “How to get youth back to the Mosque,” “How to make your mosque more accessible to people with disabilities,” and “how to make your mosque more ‘green.'” Sound familiar? we laughed.
We admired the Muslim activist Linda Sarsour as she said: the first thing a Muslim should talk about when asked about their faith is not prayer or fasting, but about social justice! This is what Muhammad demonstrated and it’s what he would have intended, said Sarsour. This made me ask myself: what’s the first thing I might say when asked about Lutheranism? And what power we could have if we collaborated more with our Muslim neighbors on social justice issues. If you’d like to read more about how we experienced Linda, a friend of mine wrote a beautiful reflection here: http://www.stateofformation.org/2014/09/standing-with-muslims-for-the-cause-of-the-gospel/
Somewhat ironically, the keynote speaker was none other than Baptist Christian: Jimmy Carter. It was kind-of adorable when he referenced that he would be teaching Bible study the next morning and he spoke out about an issue upon which we can all come together: women’s rights. He shared about his Carter Center, which is based in Atlanta and is working on all sorts of issues facing women around the world: trafficking, genital mutilation, infanticide, and general subjugation to name a few. Carter didn’t really care that critics denounced him for speaking at this ‘terrorism front’ Muslim conference… and I admired his ability to shake it off in the name of what’s right.
If only those critics would have seen the conference, would have heard the lectures, would have experienced the normalcy and the love.
It was fun getting to do some networking and interfaith work in Detroit, and now here I am back in the classroom. At times its dreary. Other times its invigorating… but nonetheless its right where I’m meant to be… I hope and pray. At least for now.
-Kristin Reed Klade