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A Lutheran for the summer

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Guest column by Kellan Day

Salem Lutheran Church
Salem Lutheran Church

If you were to look at my life from afar, one might call me a seeker. But not in the sense of “I don’t know what I believe” or “Is there even a God?” No – I am a committed Christian, earnestly seeking a life that glorifies the father through the love of Christ with the guidance of the Spirit. Instead, I’m a denominational seeker and a tradition explorer. After growing up in a loosely reformed tradition, playing with the evangelicals for a short period in high school, unknowingly attending a very reformed college in the Midwest, dropping by an Episcopal church for a few months, and being best friends with an enthusiastic Pentecostal, I finally have ended up here in Spokane at the delightful church of Salem Lutheran in West Central. While my technical duty is to be the church intern (aka: help the staff members, relieve the work load, etc), I have an intuition that suggests I will be more of a burden — for I have far too much to learn for one meager summer internship.

Before coming out here, one of my dear professors gave me a piece of advice: “Be where you are. If you attend an Episcopal church, be Episcopalian; when you are out in Spokane, be a Lutheran.” So I am pulling on my metaphorical alb, trying to condense Lutheran theology into an easily learnable format, and relying on the patience of the Rev. Liv Larson Andrews  (dear pastor and mentor) and the congregation. So far, the Lutheran tradition is incredibly compelling with its high liturgy, sacramental theology, and emphasis on grace. This grace thing is a nice change, let me tell you. I have heard about my total depravity for the last three years at the Reformed college (and rightly so — to some extent), and I am finally hearing the fullness of God’s grace through time spent at Salem. I am beyond thankful.

While I do not know the definitive length of my Lutheran escapade, I have a feeling that it will give my Christian identity fullness, solidification, and another dose of diversity. Even though I have struggled to remain in one denomination throughout my life, I am coming to the conclusion that I should root myself in one tradition fairly soon (especially if I am considering seminary). I think there is great merit in committing oneself to a place and a people, sticking with it despite the imperfections, and rejoicing in their strengths. Maybe an apt metaphor would be marriage. Simultaneously, though, I want to be conscious of the wider body of Christ. Faithful yet indiscriminatory; grounded yet ecumenical. We have yet another paradox in the Christian life. With the help of the wise Spirit, I believe our place is to rest in this tension.

 Both catholicity and locality are essential to the Body of Christ. Christ himself embodies these characteristics:  theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar points to Jesus as the “concrete universal”. The paradox of the body mirrors the paradox of Christ’s incarnation. And while I walk the balance this summer, I look forward to more Lutheran coffee hours, alb wearing, hymn singing with new brothers and sisters in Christ. May the grace of Christ shown through their love encourage me to extend my roots here — whether or not I’m a Lutheran for the summer or a lifetime.

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.

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2 comments

  1. We’re very glad to have you in our community and at Salem. Look forward to many more good talks and experiences throughout the summer.

  2. P.S. “My Lutheran Escapade” would be a great title for your future memoir.

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