Lake Park Lutheran Church

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

Guiding theological question: How is calling a product of experiences beyond our control? How does being limited in our control help deepen our calling? What metaphors are good for our new understanding of calling, and what ones do we need to leave behind?

Guiding Scripture passage: Genesis 1 and Job and the whirlwind. Job in the whirlwind i an experiential story of how we’ve all felt. It also holds some of the lament or suffering at the heart of our experience. Genesis 1 holds creation out of chaos and a kind of ordered reawakening to a new world not controlled by people, but part of a larger understanding of all creation.

Signs of change:

  • More global understanding of calling and a deeper understanding of calling being forced upon us.
  • we have a deeper capacity to respond to the justice aspects of calling (being called in to justice / equity work) as we see both in Milwaukee and in Llano how community events shape how we see God’s call.
  • Flexibility is key — less formal way of being church. We adapted to differing and shifting ways of being the church this year and had to quickly get rid of previous ways of being.
  • Language of calling is more common and “shared” in and between our communities. This resulted from vocational development grounded in the pandemic.

Year 2 Activities

  • Transforming our church community into a more racially diverse, accepting, aware, and healing catalyst in our community through: healing circles, meeting with leadership, and individual conversations. 
  • Provide a way to focus on how quarantine has positively changed their lives and subsequently the church. We will use an artistic approach to this conversation, including walks, bonfires, use of multi-media, brunch / banter. We will be creative using safe methods that we’ve already learned from our quarantine time, but the direct focus will be on personal questions around calling and harvesting the insights of this time.
  • The goal for Llano is to spread the discussion of calling to other groups within the church community while continuing some of their original work. They will join in discussion with Lake Park related to calling during the time of the pandemic. 

Year 1 Learnings

  • Calling is out of our control, not optional.
  • Calling is relational. 
  • Calling is always global — the entire world is going through this.
  • Calling is not static, ever changing, and always happening. 

Resources Developed by Lake Park

  • Congregational leader’s retreat — Fall 2019

Recommended Prayer & Study Resources

  • In conjunction with a sabbatical experience we hosted a large congregational leader’s retreat where we asked the question about calling, and participation in “The People’s Church.” As part of that conversation we commissioned a resident artist to paint an altar piece that is more reflective of the larger people in our history and community. We also focused on a hymn by Nikolai Gruntvig called “Built on a Rock” in which we talked about not steeples or stones, but Christ’s living stones, us.
  • We focused a good amount on the visual arts in our conversations about calling and had the most success in conversations this Advent around darkness and light as well as broadening cultural conversations around our society calling. Currently we are reading two books: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and Nobody Cries When We Die by Patrick Reyes. Both books talk about calling as much deeper than jobs or roles, but callings that come from the soil of our culture and because of the unique political/community challenges of the time.

Congregation Story

Share one story that illustrates your congregation living out your mission:

One story that embodies our mission and our priorities is the story of the Aparicio-Castillo family. We met the parents (Jenny and Carlos) and children (Fabricio, Johnson, and Karla) through our sister church partnership in El Salvador. Jenny and Carlos, like many Salvadorans, struggled daily with the violence in their country. We spent many hours on Facebook and in person talking about these struggles over the next few years.

As Fabricio grew, the gangs began to target him (then 13), threatening and at times assaulting him as he went to and from school. We discussed the situation with their local church, their local Pastor Julio, and their local community. We learned from them and offered any care and support we could. As the threats got worse, Jenny made the very difficult decision to leave El Salvador, traveling to the United States and asking for asylum, with her three children. All along the way we talked daily. Upon their arrival to our area, Lake Park joined with them supporting them spiritually and financially and advocating legal help through the asylum process. But all of this could have never prepared us for the powerful and difficult spiritual journey ahead.

Seven months after his arrival, after officially beginning the immigration process, Fabricio died. We lost him as he was on a youth trip with another congregation in a drowning accident in Wisconsin. The death deepened and changed us all and revealed a common grief, love, and a common calling in our midst.

Through his life and death we began, as a congregation, to be more and more involved in true partnership. One fruit of that love has been a deeper involvement in immigration reform. Another is a local scholarship program in our local Salvadoran community. Another is singing together joyous songs in memory of Fabricio but also in a celebration Sunday after asylum was granted for the family this past year. We have begun to see a new way of living in relationship with all of our partners. We hope to continue to grow in God’s mission for us.