Building Faith Bridges
By Pastor Kara
As you can imagine, the question that I have answered a great deal over the last several months is, “So, how to do you like your new job?” And the answer always is, “I love it!”
There are many reasons I love being a campus pastor, so my answer is not always the same. Today, when I was asked the question, my answer had to do with the privilege it is to walk with students on their faith journeys. Like snowflakes, no two faith journeys look alike. I knew that when I started this new call, and some of my experiences in this first semester on the job reminded me of the truth of that statement.
On Wednesdays during April, I offered a Bible Study before the Holden Evening Prayer service. It was a small group of students who were willing to give the new campus pastor a chance. I appreciated their willingness to share their own journeys and why they were willing to give an hour or more of their precious time to think about the “Big Words of Faith.”
The students came from several different Christian denominations. Most would claim the title of Christian, but one student didn’t identify that way. One student said it best “I’m ready to figure out what it is I believe and make it my own.” College is the perfect time to begin that part of the faith journey.
And this is what I love about being the campus pastor at Carthage. My job is to provide a space and place for all of the students, faculty, and staff to explore what it is that they believe and to own it. I love being a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and I own it. I love the focus on the extravagant grace of God for all people. I love the belief that we are 100 percent saint and 100 percent sinner.
I love the freedom of being a Christian. I have freedom from fear and death and freedom to serve and love those around me. This freedom allows me to love my neighbor, those who are different from me in belief, and ask them why they love being Muslim, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or agnostic, or Roman Catholic, or Methodist.
At the beginning of June, I had the opportunity (along with two other staff members and three students) to attend an interfaith conference at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. The main speaker was Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core. Eboo is a Muslim and loves his faith. He shared with us how important it is to own what you believe when having interfaith conversation. The image he gave us was that of a bridge (perfect for Carthage).
“A bridge goes from here to there and has to be made of something, preferably something solid. Without being anchored ‘here’, you can’t connect to ‘there,’” he said.
Students at Carthage live in a world of religious diversity on campus and will go out into the world of greater religious diversity. This is the space and place to take the time to figure out more clearly what you believe about who God is and to learn how to walk the bridge of understanding and learn what others believe.
What I love about this call to serve as the campus pastor at Carthage is the opportunity to be a bridge builder. I’m thankful for a faith that calls me into deeper community with others — those like me and those different from me.
I’m sure someone else will ask me soon what I like best about my new call. This is just one of my answers. Who knows that I will share next time the question is asked?
The Carthaginian is a magazine for Carthage alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends of the College. It is published three times a year by the Carthage Office of Communications. Read the Carthaginian online at www.carthage.edu/carthaginian.