Rev. Erik Christensen
- Chicago, IL
St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square; Chicago, IL
What brings you joy in your ministry?
As an increasing number of mainline Christian communities are pressed to do more with less, I have grown to love the part of my vocation as pastor that is about equipping lay leaders with the skills, support and confidence needed to lead their congregations in public mission for the sake of the common good.
Who inspires you in ministry or seminary?
The list of people who inspire me is too long to share here, but I can name a few. I'm inspired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu who, after earning the world's admiration for his work on racism and apartheid in South Africa, named LGBT oppression and the expanding gap between the richest and the poorest as pressing concerns for the church and society. I'm inspired by Parker Palmer who, as a Quaker author and educator, has continued to teach me about leading with integrity and creating safe spaces for people to hear the voice of their own souls.
I'm also inspired by so many young clergy, who are at the beginning of their careers in parish ministry and are part of a generation that I think will be redefining what it means to be the church in the United States for centuries to come, people like Pastor Emily Scott at St. Lydia's (ELCA) in Brooklyn, NY; Pastor John Helmiere at Valley & Mountain Fellowship (UMC) in Seattle, WA; Pr. Adam Rao at SafeHouse Church (Evangelical) in Minneapolis, MN.
What are your interests outside of ministry?
I've recently begun studying guitar, and have been surprised to discover that's it's not only a hobby, but a spiritual discipline. I'm (re)learning how to be really bad at something, and to be OK with that.
Best meal you've ever eaten?
I can barely remember the details of this meal, but when I was 12 my family traveled to Bangkok, Thailand to adopt my sister. While we were there, a Thai family we'd met the year before through a cultural exchange program took us out for a 7-course meal that included Peking Duck. The whole affair took hours, and the food was unlike anything I'd ever eaten in my life!
Erik Christensen is the pastor of St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square, where he was extraordinarily ordained as an openly gay pastor in 2006, three years before the ELCA changed its policies to allow people of all sexual orientations and gender identities to serve as clergy. St. Luke's is a redevelopment congregation, founded in 1900, but close to closure at the time of Erik's call. Since 2006 the community has grown from twelve to almost a hundred active members, representing a range of ages, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, gender and sexual identities. Erik serves on the Board of Directors of The Beatitudes Society, an ecumenical leadership development program that identifies and equips emerging leaders to grow progressive Christian faith communities for the sake of justice and the common good.
Did you always want to be clergy?
My first inkling that I was called to parish ministry came when I was 14 years old. I was out walking the dog with my dad the first time I said, "I think I might have a call to ministry." My dad, in true Lutheran form, reminded me that we're all called to ministry and encouraged me to stay open to the many forms that ministry might take. After I came out, I assumed ordained ministry would be off limits to me. So I tried a number of other jobs: I taught junior high for a year; I worked with runaway, homeless and street-dependent youth; I was a violence prevention educator at a family violence center. In the end, despite loving my clients, my co-workers, and my community, I still wasn't happy. It was then that one of my best friends from college, himself an atheist, told me it was time to go to seminary. It was the best advice I've ever been given, because it came from a friend who could tell the difference between what was right for him and what was right for me.