- Pamela Jolicoeur
- Paul J. Dovre
- Anna Rhode â€™09
- Arland Jacobson
- Larry Papenfuss
- Polly Kloster
- Roger Degerman
- Stephanie Ahlfeldt
- Susan Oâ€™Shaughnessy
- Kristi Rendahl
- Dr. Heidi Manning
- Roy Hammerling
- Pamela Jolicoeur
- Jan Pranger
- Nikoli Falenschek '11
- Bruce Vieweg
- Dr. Paul Dovre
- Whitney Myhra '11
- Bruce Houglum
- Dr. Lisa Sethre-Hofstad
- Dr. Paul Dovre, Interim President
- Nick Ellig
- Virginia Connell
- Per Anderson
- Vincent Reusch
- Larry Papenfuss
- Carl-Martin Nelson
- President William Craft
- Dr. Olin Storvick
- George Connell
- Robert Chabora
Dr. Nicholas Ellig, Sociology and Social Work
Chapel Presentation (Nick Ellig: 3.23.11)
"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God; and I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses ... Then you will remember your evil ways, and your ways that were not good; and you will loath yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds." [Ezekiel 36: 27-29; 31]
Ah yes, Lent. A time for bringing an upbeat tempo to our lives just as those of us who live in these northern climes are in need of respite from a difficult winter and a spring that refuses to arrive, and when it does, likely will bring additional challenges. Would not it be nice to welcome a spring that brought reason for celebration rather than more reasons to be anxious?
The scripture readings for today challenge us to admit to our sinfulness and to recommit ourselves to mending our evil ways so as to keep the sacred covenant.
Lent is a time for us to reflect upon our transgressions, to take responsibility for our sins and to seek forgiveness for them. Although as a child in Roman Catholic parochial school my memories of Lent might have centered on early dismissal from Friday afternoon classes because of the mandated Stations of the Cross and the many combinations and permutations of creamed substances on toast that awaited me for Friday evening meals [referred to in more colorful ways by my father who was a veteran of the Second World War], my reflections from the vantage point of later adulthood are more in keeping with the scriptural call for denial, self-reflection (or is it flagellation?) and penance. Lent is not for the faint hearted.
Transgressions and iniquities are to be avoided because they jeopardize our possibilities for salvation. Indeed, recognizing these failings can have therapeutic outcomes for us in addition to helping us towards eternal salvation. As stated in Psalm 32, "When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long." Acknowledging sin can remove this burden from us.
This would be a safe place for me to stop since allowing a sociologist to interpret sacred scripture can be a dangerous enterprise. I could, for example, explore in greater depth Marx's interpretation of religion as therapeutic (or was it as an opiate?), but I will not to do so.
Instead, I have chosen to explore the connection between transgression and iniquity. At the risk of being too bold for someone born and raised in the Midwest, I will assert that transgression at times is necessary and constructive when seeking to address iniquities. Where would South Africa be today without leaders like Desmond Tutu who dared to transgress for the sake of realizing a more socially inclusive society? The project to move away from the institutionalized social exclusion of apartheid South Africa is far from finished, but it would not have started without the constructive transgression of courageous leaders. Or what about the transition away from an American apartheid of imposed racial exclusion? Where would it be without the leadership of Martin Luther King and people of courage and conscience like him who used constructive transgression to initiate the process of addressing racial iniquities? Again, even though the United States has its first African American president, this in no way signals the end of a racialized society.
Transgression does not necessarily mean breaking the law, sacred or mundane, although this can be the case. Rather, it also can mean pushing beyond that which is normal or acceptable. Many of the problems plaguing humankind today exist and persist because there are too few leaders who have the courage to lean forward, to borrow a slogan from a cable news channel. Instead, they find comfort remaining fixated in the "terrible twos" of adulthood where saying no comes easier than leading. This college professes to prepare students to become responsibly engaged in the world. Responsible engagement often requires transgression, and transgression requires courage and carries with it a certain amount of risk.
Now, I do not hold myself up as a good example of someone who has always been courageous enough to engage in constructive transgression. However, it has been my good fortune to know some people who had sufficient courage to transgress for the sake of making the world a better place. These individuals, and in some cases my memories of them, challenge me to do better. I would like to share my memories of one of these people.
I knew Dr. Harvey Stalwick as a colleague and as a friend. Some of you in the audience knew Harvey, many of you did not. Harvey died this past November from complications following surgery. He was a beloved and valued member of the Department of Sociology and Social Work at Concordia where he served the college as Director of the Social Work program and in other capacities until his retirement from Concordia in 2007. He was newly retired from Trinity College in Tacoma, Washington, at the time of his death. We will miss Harvey's counsel, his gentleness and the genuine care he had for other people. He was an exemplar of what it means to live the mission of this college. Harvey was one of those special people it is our good fortune to meet during our journey through life.
In the 2006 fall issue of the ELCA publication Intersections, Stanley Olson wrote that "vocation is a metaphor that allows people to connect faith with all aspects of life." In the same issue, Steven Bahls stated that undergraduate liberal arts education can best prepare students for the professions "by encouraging [them] to explore their vocational callings and aspire to be ‘philosopher-servants'."
Certainly, social work represents a profession to which philosopher-servants are called, and Harvey Stalwick was an exemplar of such an individual. His service in the community, his leadership at the college and his work as a social work educator represented a rich blending of an enlightened view of the world and of our responsibilities in it, with an orientation towards service informed by the tenets of his faith tradition.
Experiential education was at the center of Harvey's pedagogy. This is evident in his adherence to the "education for life" principles descriptive of the European folk school movement. Harvey wanted students to connect social work practice with theory, and he believed this is best accomplished by having faculty and students together examine issues of justice and practice in community settings here and abroad.
There are too many examples to share here of how Harvey brought to life his teaching philosophy and social activism while transgressing the normal, but the following are some of the many ways he did so:
Harvey developed and led a service-learning May Seminar to Odessa where students gained firsthand experience with the human service challenges faced in the incipient stages of the transformation away from the Soviet state.
He was instrumental in gaining financial support for initiating the Church Professions Program at Concordia and took a lead role in developing the program. In a very real sense, this program was a logical extension of Harvey's efforts to nurture an ethos supportive of social ministry in his social work classes.
He coordinated a survey of Latino and American Indian households in Moorhead for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that resulted in a report titled "The Status of Equal Opportunity for Minorities in Moorhead, Minnesota". This report informed a series of community consultative sessions focusing on civil rights challenges in Moorhead. Harvey received the 2000 Human Rights Award from the Moorhead Human Rights Commission. His teaching and service to the community testify to his efforts on behalf of expanding multicultural awareness, fighting racism and bringing to light issues of diversity.
He provided leadership and carpentry skills to Habitat for Humanity that benefited many families in Fargo-Moorhead and beyond. He also provided opportunities for students to participate in these activities, therefore allowing them to develop further an understanding of what it means to be in service to their communities.
He was instrumental in bringing Concordia the five-year, two million dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment Theological Exploration of Vocation Program. This grant funded the Call to Serve Project at Concordia. Harvey coordinated the program that provided students, faculty and staff with the financial support to develop their vocational callings in many ways.
Dr. Harvey Stalwick was a man of boundless energy who had a deep passion for social justice issues. In so many ways, the world was enriched by his presence and will be poorer because of his absence. However, it is not an exaggeration to state that Harvey's spirit and good work will live on in those of us who knew him and in the many students and other people who benefited and continue to benefit from his teaching and social activism. Harvey dared to transgress for the sake of addressing various forms of injustice and social exclusion.
Constructive transgression can take many forms, large or small. Following the lead of Jesus, as described in today's gospel [John 7:53 - 8:11], it can involve forgiving someone who is finding it difficult to gain forgiveness from others. Or, as described by Clark Tufte in his chapel remarks yesterday, it can mean transgressing our normal comfort zone to tell someone else how much their actions affected us in a positive way. There are many things we can do to address injustice and to make life better for others if we have the courage to push beyond that which is normal.
My Lenten seasons seldom are what I would like for them to be. Perhaps I need to do a better job when combining critical self-reflection directed at recognizing my own sinfulness with finding ways to engage in constructive transgression that makes someone else's life a little better. By doing so, Lent becomes more than an experience that only benefits me. Instead, it can enable us to lean forward while benefitting others and addressing injustices.
Before closing, I want to share a prayer with you from a book of prayers written by someone who experienced the injustice and indignity of being homeless in London. Jason Dore is a former "rough sleeper" [the British term for an individual who sleeps in the streets] who, after being delivered from the streets, wrote this book [HOLD UP BOOK] titled Prayers from the Street. The prayer is "Morning Prayer," and it offers us some advice for how we, in our own personal way, might move beyond what for us is normal in order to make the world a better place.
I pray that today
I may take away some
pain and suffering in this
world and replace it with
many hours of happiness.
I pray that today
I may show benevolence
to all whom I encounter
and through me they see
the beauty of God's love.
I pray that today
I may benefit society
by saying a kind word
or performing a small deed
to lift those living without hope.
I pray that today
I may exemplify goodness
and act as a role model for others
to follow in my footsteps.
I pray that today
I may walk in the way of love
and know in my heart I made
the world a better place today.