What will Nathan and I be doing next year?
Ufda. Well, for starters, we'll be moving to Des Moines, Iowa, where Nathan will complete his own pastoral internship. As many of you know, Nathan and I were in the same seminary class—but Nathan was gracious enough to take a year off from his schooling while I came to intern at Messiah. Next year it's his turn! He'll be serving at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines—a vibrant congregation with several campuses and a large pastoral staff.
While Nathan is working on his internship, I'll be working on another exciting project: I'll be travelling around the United States and to several countries in order to study the religious life of communities that have experienced Genocide—particularly, how they hear and experience the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the U.S. I'll be learning from Native American communities, as well as hearing the experiences of other marginalized groups that have settled in North America. I'll also be spending a few months doing the same kind of work with religious communities in Rwanda, Cambodia, Turkey, Guatemala, and India.
Wait, so how did this arrangement come about?
In March, I was nominated by the faculty at Luther to apply for a Graduate Preaching Fellowship. Each year, this Fellowship pays for a graduate from Luther Seminary to go just about anywhere and study just about anything—so long as she can make the argument that it will make her a better preacher. So I wrote out a project proposal outlining my rationale for wanting to study this topic. To my tremendous surprise and honor, my proposal was selected.
And Nathan's just going to hang out in Iowa while you do this?
Well, no, actually! We are currently working with Nathan's future church to find ways for him to accompany me for much of my travelling next year. After all, by sharing in these experiences and developing his own proclamation of the gospel as a result, he will be able to enrich his host congregation in numerous ways as well. The large pastoral staff of his placement site are a huge blessing to us in this regard because his church will hopefully be able to grant him the freedom to come along for the ride. We are still working out the nuts and bolts of this arrangement, so we aren't sure just what it will look like yet. Stay tuned!
Of all the things you could have studied, why genocide?
Seven years ago, I spent a summer teaching English in Rwanda. Every aspect of Rwandan life was touched in some way by the genocide that happened there in 1994, yet the vast majority of people I met were deeply faithful despite what they had been though. Rwanda was almost entirely Christian both before and after the genocide, but around half the population has converted to new denominations in the wake of genocide. Furthermore, I spoke to hundreds of people in my time there—and only two said that they lost their faith as a result of their experiences. For seven years, I have been pondering these phenomena: How is faith sustained in the wake of such tremendous tragedy? Does how you hear the gospel and experience faith change that? How do you understand your neighbor, your God, and yourself after such an experience? And what might the voices with answers to these questions have to teach me and my fellow American Lutherans? These questions matter for us and our neighbors more than we might imagine, and I am honored to have the opportunity.
To meet Ryan Dockery, Messiah's '17-'18 pastoral intern, click here.
To learn where daughter of the congregation, Heidi Johnson, will serve her '17-'18 pastoral internship, click here.