Note: To mark the start of the fall semester of the academic year, this is the first of a two-part feature on in-coming and out-going interns from our Proclaim community.
Internship is made up of experiences, many of them firsts: from preaching sermons to leading adult forum, from teaching confirmation to presiding at funerals and weddings, and so much more. And yet: No backdrop from my year spent at Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska, is more vivid than that of the Homy Inn.
Just minutes away from Augustana, the Homy, as we call it, is the (un)official watering hole of the congregation I served for the past year. After midweek Lenten services, as the custom goes, the small but faithful crowd shuffles out the doors of the chapel and soon reunites around a table at the Homy. And as the weeks of Lent rolled on, so too our group grew larger.
I am convinced that on those Wednesday nights during Lent our liturgy did not end with the last notes of Holden Evening Prayer but continued in force at the Homy around food, drink, music, and fellowship — all elements familiar within stained glass-lined walls but reminders, too, that “church” happens even in “ordinary” or “secular” places.
For me, it was this sense of community at Augustana, embodied at the Homy, that continued to strike me throughout internship. The same community that intentionally sought out an LGBTQ+ intern and welcomed me with an extravagant welcome was also the community that coalesced in mutual support and celebration during parishioners’ life passages and the community that devoted themselves in service to its neighbors in the city and the world.
I remember that palpable sense of community, too, when I preached and led worship during our annual Reconciling in Christ (RIC) commemoration this past March. That Sunday, I preached my most personal sermon to date, telling my story and expressing my gratitude for a community built around inclusion and the ongoing work of reconciliation. After the service, at which members of the River City Mixed Chorus joined us to enhance our worship with song, I heard comments from our visitors and our regulars alike about how much they appreciated and needed to hear what I had to say. Humbling and inspiring feedback indeed.
Years earlier, in my entrance essay, I wrote about coming out to the pastor of a church I had only visited a couple times before meeting with him. When that pastor welcomed and affirmed me without question or reservation and invited me into deeper leadership, I reflected later how part of my sense of call is rooted in a desire to be in some small way what that pastor was for me in that moment of vulnerability. I suspect I was able to do just that with my RIC Sunday sermon, and maybe even in other less obvious ways, during my internship year. As one friend, who identifies as queer, told me this year: “Even something as simple as seeing someone like me at the front of the church means a lot even after having been out for years.”
Had it not been for the welcome of that pastor and the church I soon called home, I may have never wound up in seminary… I may have never found Proclaim and ELM… I may have never been able to serve and be served by the people of God at Augustana… And yet, with the support of all these communities, here I am, a candidate for Word and Sacrament in the ELCA. Deo gratias!
Josh Evans (he/him/his) has just returned from internship at Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and is eager to embark on his final year of seminary at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago this fall. He is also a self-admitted bandwagon Cubs fan, probably drinks too much coffee, watches inordinate amounts of Netflix, and (usually) behaves himself for his four-legged children (cats Oliver and Sophia and dog Roscoe). You can follow/stalk Josh online at sermonsetcetera.wordpress.com.