Discovering the Shores of Serendip…AKA Omaha.
Sometimes, you know when a serendipitous moment changes the trajectory of your life’s plans.
In this case, I’m not sure which one, or ones, did it, but I do know that as of two weeks ago, I’ve bumped on the shores of Serendip.
It is now official: next June (after the next year’s spate of OMG speaking engagements), Karl, Else, and I are moving to Omaha, Nebraska.
I am honored to have been called to serve as a part-time pastor among the people of Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church.
It is a remarkable place, Kountze is, with a heritage long and deep and rich: a downtown congregation (the oldest continuous Lutheran Church west of the Missouri, they will be glad to inform you!) which without abandon lives out its motto: “a city-wide church with a world-wide mission.”
Established in 1858, Kountze has long cultivated a commitment to stellar music, robust children’s, youth, and family ministries, a dedication to creative and expansive education, and, by way of their food pantry (serving 1,200 people every month!) and their free clinic (offering free care and prescription meds to those who are excluded otherwise from help), a relentless devotion to the Least of These.
OMG: Center for Theological Conversation is still going to be alive and well! In fact, you can see on their info page about this process and me that my work with OMG is welcome at Kountze, and even in a way stewarded in the congregation.
The serendipitous part of it is this: my “papers” were not in to our synodical office, indicating that I was “Open To Call.”
In fact, I didn’t even know what or where my papers were.
In fact, rather than being “Open to Call” I was by default very closed to it.
When Pastor Jeff Alvestad, who heard me present in Sanibel, Florida last May (itself an event brought about by a variety of serendipitous moments), called a week after the conference finished to ask if I’d consider coming to Kountze, I laughed.
I like to think that I stifled my laugh, but you’ll have to ask him that.
The last time I laughed for similar reasons was when six years ago my good Bishop David Zellmer and I were thinking about what OMG could be, and we threw out the idea of me traveling as a presenter.
We chortled so much I think we both wiped tears from our eyes.
In related news, I’m writing this blog stuck in Chicago, on my way home from presenting in Florida.
The word “serendipity” was coined by Horace Walpole because of a Persian Fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip. These gentlemen “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”
I have not been in quest of a new call.
I love our home, I love our rhythm, I love my friendships here in Sioux Falls.
But as serendipity would have it–and, I am trusting, as God would have it–I’ve accidentally discovered that I am–and Karl and Else are–called to leave this place, and called to a new place, and called to a new thing.
Any credit of sagacity must go to Pastor Alvestad rather than to me–and probably evaluated after I’ve been there long enough to discern whether he was, in fact, sage to ring me up back in May.
We are very excited about this move. I have continued to laugh, now along with Karl and Else, but increasingly not in jest but out of joy and anticipation.
That said, the three of us will also, to be sure, shed tears, for there is much to lose in our leaving.
Sioux Falls welcomed us in a warm and tender way when we arrived in a very broken spot eleven years ago.
Over these years, we have made good and abiding friendships here.
We have been proud to be part of South Dakota’s rich heritage.
My grandparents, my late husband, and my mama are all buried in the soil of this place.
So it was no blithe and flippant decision to stop laughing and start listening.
But listen I did, and Karl and Else and I did, and Kountze did, and when we listened, we heard God calling, inviting, and maybe, maybe, we even heard a bit of a divine chuckle as I was seen nearing the shores of Serendip…also known as Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska.