Trinity in the World

Stories of Trinity students and alums in mission and ministry

Bernard Cason Named Schweitzer Fellow

By Margaret L. Farnham

cason-bernard-croppedTrinity student Bernard Cason has received an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, a national award that funds graduate student projects designed to address unmet health needs and promote leadership development.

The Schweitzer Fellowship program was launched in select cities in 1992 as a way to identify and develop a network of leaders focused on health-related community service. Columbus joined the list of cities last year, and Cason was one of 15 students selected from the local chapter’s inaugural list of fellowship applicants.

Applicants submitted a proposal for a service project that was then approved by a board. The projects must provide at least 200 hours of service through an existing community agency and fall under the supervision of an academic advisor.

Cason’s project, which is still in the development stages, will provide training in emotional process and dynamics based on Bowen family systems theory to individuals in under-served populations, such as homeless individuals and the unemployed, in an effort to reduce stress and anxiety incurred within these populations. 

Joe Brosious Wins Prestigious Fellowship

By Margaret L. Farnham

brosious-joseph-fellowshipTrinity student Joe Brosious has been offered a place in the 2012 Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE). The fellowships are awarded to law, medical, journalism, and seminary school students to study contemporary ethical issues facing their professions using the Holocaust and the conduct of their professions in Nazi Germany as a framework for study.  

Participants travel to New York, Berlin and Poland during two weeks in June. Joe, who is serving his internship year at Ascension Lutheran Church, Columbus, was awarded one of 14 fellowships from a pool of 182 applicants.

Seek and You Will Find Your Vocation

tedeum 34-2 sarahBy Margaret L. Farnham
Trinity takes pride in helping shape the vocations of its students. Often those calls take the form
of pastoral ministry in a congregation. Students and graduates of Trinity’s other degree programs have found equally meaningful opportunities in a variety of settings. Nick Bates landed a job with a state agency advocating for social justice; Sarah Ehrman-Thompson left her small Ohio town to direct youth and family ministries in urban Baltimore; and Ned Perwo found his dream job in Newark, Delaware. Their stories highlight the opportunities available to graduates in any one of Trinity’s Master of Arts and Master of Theological Studies degree programs.

Law and Theology Inform Vocation

When Nick Bates completed his bar exam in July, he wasted no time with the next item on his agenda: a job. He spent hours
scanning the Internet and other media outlets for potential opportunities. His criteria included the following: Advocacy work for a non-profit organization committed to the welfare of others.

Nick is the first graduate in Trinity’s joint Master of Theological Studies/Juris Doctor degree program with Capital University. He graduated in May and now looks forward to a lifelong vocation that will capitalize on his knowledge of law (literally) and gospel.

Walking With The Saints In New Orleans and Beyond

By Kimberly Knowle-Zeller (’10)
tedeum 34-2 knowleI remember my first trip to New Orleans in 1997 for the youth gathering, “A River of Hope.” I was entering my sophomore year in high school, and the trip for my small youth group of four garnered the attention and excitement of our entire congregation. My most vivid and powerful memory from New Orleans that year wasn’t the inspiring speakers, the musicians, the dances at night, or eating at Cafe Du Monde, but rather the crowd of youth leaving the Superdome each night following the evening dome service. I never experienced a crowd of this magnitude, a crowd I can still picture to this day. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was a citizen with the saints.
I remember walking up the ramp to the entrance of Trinity Lutheran Seminary the summer before my senior year in high school. It was the inaugural summer for Summer Seminary Sampler, and I walked up that ramp to indulge in three weeks of seminary life - three weeks that I couldn’t even begin to imagine.
I met current seminary students who were to be my inspiration for the next three weeks and for years to come. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was a citizen with the saints.

When the World Comes to Trinity

International students raise the level of “cultural intelligence”
By Margaret L. Farnham
tedeum 34-1 international
Most Trinity students at some point will engage in a cross-cultural experience—whether they travel to the Middle East, Haiti, El Salvador, Detroit, or the hills of Appalachia. The idea is to broaden their academic experience and service opportunities. Trinity’s mission, after all, is to form leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world.

Sometimes that global experience comes directly to the classroom, as international students on campus impart their personal and professional experiences in discussion, prayer, song, and sermons. This year, nine students representing seven countries and three continents are studying
at Trinity in five different degree programs.

Academic Dean Brad Binau says their presence in the classroom and in worship helps to raise everyone’s “cultural intelligence.”

“We’re more sensitive, more conversant, more knowledgeable, and more globally connected as a result,” he said. By raising our level of cultural intelligence we’re also freed from presuppositions and prejudice, he added.

Some students arrive at Trinity under the auspices of the ELCA and its overseas sister synods. Others have come to Ohio to reunite with family and friends. They have served churches in their native countries and hope to continue that service here.

While they come to advance their education, they also provide their classmates with some unexpected lessons. Their questions spark discussions about tradition and culture, such as why one culture prays before meals or another engages in the practice of casting out evil spirits. Often the conversation moves from the religious to the political, as many come from nations where Christians remain in the minority. Others relay stories of war and religious persecution.

The following stories provide a glimpse into the culture, education, and intended path of service of eight of the nine students from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe who currently study at Trinity; their stories are as varied as the languages they speak.

Finding Nourishment at Holden

By Laura Kuntztedeum 33-2 kuntz

There are times in our lives when we provide for others, and there are times when we need to be fed. I had spent two years in seminary, a full summer in the hospital for CPE, and would soon begin a year-long internship. In the two months I had free before internship, I knew that I needed to be fed. I had heard people talk about a Lutheran retreat center in the state of Washington called Holden Village. They told me about the beautiful mountains, the community of people, and the uniqueness of the village. This past summer I journeyed there with my partner Sara.

Even before we arrived at Holden Village we had a feeling we would love the place. When we finally arrived in Chelan, Washington, we saw a breathtaking view of the lake. After a two-hour boat ride we boarded an old yellow school bus. The bus carried us up the mountain and along a bumpy road that maneuvered through nine switchbacks. We arrived in the village to the waves and smiles of a crowd of people sitting on the lawn and standing nearby. I heard someone ask, “Who are those people?” A staff member responded, “They are staff and guests in the village.”

As we stepped off the bus the people clapped and greeted us with what they call “Holden Hospitality.” Holden Hospitality is all about sharing the gifts of the village through welcoming others, sharing meals, and serving one another. Many different things contribute to a meaningful experience at Holden. For me it began with the people I came to know, the daily worship, and all that I learned. All of these things were enhanced by the beauty of the mountains.

Holden Village is what remains of an old mining village that closed in 1957. A man named Wes Prieb saw potential in the empty and abandoned facility, and envisioned the place as a retreat center. My thankfulness for Wes Prieb’s vision is tremendous. It gave me an opportunity to be renewed and to be connected to a community. The village itself is a testimony to restoration and renewal.

Genuinely Different Leaders for Genuinely Different Times

tedeum 33-2 huber 

By Margaret L. Farnham

Trinity Days speaker Diana Butler Bass told her audience on September 29 that we are living in a time of “massive cultural change.” Individuals have less confidence in their clergy than they did a decade ago. Fewer people attend worship. Many under age 40 did not attend church as a child. “This is our time, genuinely different and genuinely challenging,” she said. “We have to figure out how to lead in times like these.”
Some of Trinity’s more recent graduates have faced today’s challenges head on. They are guided by God and innovative ideas—not big salaries or numbers in the pews. They are defined by vision and fortitude—not years of experience. They have taken what they learned in seminary and proven themselves genuinely different leaders in genuinely challenging times. What follows are a few of their stories.

Alum Provides Space for Questions and Conversation


By Margaret L. Farnham

Anna Madsen’s new venture, the OMG: Center for Theological Conversation, might sound like an invitation to exchange “tweets” on a complex theological query, but the 1996 Trinity alum prefers to meet with her clients F2F.

“Theology is contextual, and what people think cannot be isolated from who they are. Although I love the rich questions I get submitted on my website, when we’re able to meet face-to-face we can better think through the questions along with their context, and with what gave rise to them,” she said.

Madsen is not a counselor or a spiritual director, though she has great admiration for both. “When people come in here I don’t intend to make them stronger in their faith—or weaker! I just want to provide a space that is open and free, where they can ask questions even over a period of time if necessary,” she said.

That space is a book-lined study in a quaint old building in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She opened the office and launched her new vocation last January, three years after leaving behind a teaching career at Augustana College and nearly six years after a tragic accident killed her husband, Bill Coning (’96), and severely injured the couple’s son, Karl.

Bill died June 19, 2004, when he was struck by a car while crossing a street in Regensburg, Germany, where the family lived while Anna completed her doctoral work at the University of Regensburg. Karl, then almost 3, sustained a brain injury and spent weeks in rehabilitation. Though doctors predicted he would never walk or talk, he manages to do both, though with difficulty. He entered the third grade this fall and daughter Else, 7, entered the first.

The accident and Madsen’s experiences in the years following ultimately led to the development of OMG. She said, in hindsight, she probably shouldn’t have started teaching so soon after her husband’s death and her move to Sioux Falls from Germany.

Extraordinary Calls in Extraordinary Times

By Margaret L. Farnham

Professor Brad Binau in a recent letter to alumni spoke of “these extraordinary times.” He wrote of the challenges Trinity has faced in the wake of the economic downturn, and the seminary’s need to make decisions entailing real sacrifice.

“We have repositioned ourselves by making needed adjustments to reshape our budget, faculty, staff and salaries. We have repositioned ourselves for mission,” he wrote.

In the past two years Trinity graduates also have had to “reshape” their ministries and “reposition” themselves for mission. A fragile economy and the sometimes contentious discourse over social issues have provided them with unique challenges.

Transitions and Thika

How a Trip to Kenya Jump-started One Mission Developer's Call

Where to begin? Literally. As a newly graduated, newly ordained, fresh from seminary first call pastor it can be a bit tricky figuring out how to make the transition from library to lectionary. As a first call mission developer, the transition has been slightly more akin to jumping from a plane.

Trip to China Gives Student a Glimpse of the Emerging Global Church

As a fellow with the Fund for Theological Education, then-M.Div. student (and current alum) Michael Powell traversed the cities and towns of the most populated country in the world – China.

Baptismal Covenant Inspires Gaeta as Organizer

Sue Gaeta
Sue Gaeta with members of MICAH, the Milwaukee affiliate of Gamaliel.
Until the 2008 election campaign, community organizers went about their work with little fanfare. Then we learned of Barack Obama’s years as a community organizer on Chicago’s south side, and heard the subsequent debate over whether such experience counted as relevant experience for a presidential candidate.
Community organizers have been around for years. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in fact, has had a Congregation Based Organizing Team in one form or another for about 10 years. The team promotes and provides training for congregation-based community organizing. Among its members is Trinity graduate Sue Gaeta, most recently pastor of Divine Word Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Gaeta also presides over the Gamaliel National Clergy Caucus (GNCC) and was the chair of the Religious Leader Caucus of MICAH, the Milwaukee affiliate of the Gamaliel Foundation. Gamaliel is becoming a national power organization which also provides support and training for community leaders working on issues of social justice. Among Gamaliel’s most noted organizers is President Obama.

“There is a different feel for me about organizing,” says Gaeta. “Some people involved in social justice work in isolation. For me, the most important thing is the quality of relationships that are fostered. I think if we learned how to relate to one another, the justice issues would be solved.”

Yellow Arrows, Prayers, & Others

For 33 days, then-M.Div. student (and current alum) Kimberly Knowle embarked on a pilgrimage across Northern Spain, a prayerful walk funded with a $5,000 grant awarded by the Fund for Theological Education for an independent study of the student’s design. The following story details her journey along the Camino de Santiago and the lessons learned in this unique course of study.

Genszler Heeds Scriptural Call to Advocacy

U.S. hunger. Poverty. Climate change. Foreign aid. The Middle East.

The list reads like a presidential cabinet agenda. Instead, this weighty catalog represents issues important to Lutherans and – in particular – Lutherans guiding the work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Washington Office.