- Berlin, Germany
I am serving as an intern with the German Protestant Church in Germany.
What brings you joy in your ministry?
Seeing and being a small part of the transformations that take place when people let God enter their lives and love & forgive them. This is often the beginning of a beautiful relationship that is unique and blessed by God's grace.
Who inspires you in ministry or seminary?
I don't look 'up' and find inspiration from people. Rather, I look 'around' and feel inspired by neighbors, people waiting along with me at the airport, the stories and desires of people I contact through social media - and their friends, and their friends.
What are your interests outside of ministry?
I have interests in social justice issues that go outside of 'the Church.' I recently had an internship as a community organizer in a state where there will be a ballot measure to raise the state's minimum wage. We laid a lot of groundwork among local faith leaders to broach the subject and to use our faith and economic data resources to respond to the suffering of low-wage workers.
Best meal you've ever eaten?
My partner's homemade lasagne. He lived in Italy and learned how to make the sauce and noodles from the women living out in the countryside.
I worked for a large bank and had earned a BS degree in business management. I was also a caregiver to my ailing partner. First my partner, then my mother died early and while I was in my 40's. After my mother's passing, I began to discern a call to public ministry. I tried to explore some theological and leadership opportunities in my UMC congregation, but I felt resistance and stifled.
My boyfriend at the time invited me to his ELCA worship. After attending there, I asked the pastors if I could try out and participate in different programs and events, including assisting during worship. The pastors were eager for help and to mentor.
It was during this time the pastors suggested I contact Luther Seminary in MN. They had a Distance Learning model of teaching that had recently started. I applied with them and interviewed with the local ELCA synod to start my candidacy. The bishop was on the panel and asked why I wasn't pursuing an ELM track instead. I told him I had faith that later that year, 2009, the ELCA would adopt its Social Statement on Human Sexuality and I would be able to serve openly within the ELCA. He & panel liked that answer and I started seminary.
After 4 years of Distance Learning, I needed to fulfill my candidacy committee's requirement for my MDiv program that I have a residential year on campus. I sold my home, nearly all my furnishings, packed up and moved to Minnesota for the fall semester. After arriving and settling into seminary housing, I met with my candidacy committee via Skype twice to discuss endorsement. At the beginning of the second meeting, I was informed that the group would not endorse my candidacy. The pastor on the committee, proceeded to page through my endorsement essay and attempt to tear down and ridicule my personal theology - to support the decision to not endorse my candidacy.
For a long while, I took his comments very personally and became very depressed. I had enough strength to request to apply to transfer my credits to an MA degree program there at Luther, which was immediately approved. During the 1.5 years I completed my theology degree, I gathered additional information on the true reasons why I had not been endorsed. My home synod had lost many large congregations after 2009. Others remained, but withheld giving of benevolence to the bishop's office and work. If the committee had endorsed my candidacy, these and additional congregations would have left the synod - leaving the bishop's office in an even poorer, more impoverished state.
And yet, God found a way to turn this cynical decision and turn of events into a blessing for God's people: I applied for and received a stipend to continue my HS and college German language studies at a Goethe Institute German Language school in Germany. After my coursework there was completed, I stayed on and took my friends' advice: talk with a local pastor and ask if there were some way to serve the church in Germany. I was quite skeptical, but agreed to ask around. The pastor I met with listened to my story, held me in her care, and also suggested she contact a regional church leader to ask if I could meet him and discuss if there were any possibilities for this American theology grad to serve God's church in Germany.
I met with the church leader, shared lots of coffee and unburdened myself by telling my story once more. We alternated between English and German, just so that each of us was more clear on what the other was saying or hearing. As we emptied the coffee pot, he asked me, "Well Greg, when could you be here to start?" (WHAT?) Had I been interviewing for some job? Before and during our meeting, he then admitted he had been considering me for two possible positions: learn the ropes of German liturgy and worship in a local congregation as an intern -- or serve as a chaplain in a local center! He laid out the details of both positions and said that he could create a stipend for me to serve in either or both of them. I am rarely at a loss for words - but at that moment, all spoken languages failed me. But the languages of respect and love sufficed for both of us. This fall, I have made arrangements to pack up my life into two suitcases and move to Germany. I will be serving God's people through the Protestant Church of Germany - the direct descendant of Martin Luther's church. Isn't God beyond amazing?
Did you always want to be clergy?
Heck no! Being a minister or preacher sounded boring to me as a child. I was raised by parents who were both running away from God. It was only after my mother's Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis that she stopped running. My father is a scientist whose faith is in observable facts. He is supportive of my decision to become clergy - but because it is morally beneficial and I like the idea. As we say down South, "Bless his heart!"