By John Grinvalds
I was shy, timid, and teetering into puberty the first time I stepped foot in The Lutheran Center.
I was in 7th grade, just beginning my study of algebra and my voice’s creaky descent to a lower register. My brother had attended his first LC service during the spring semester of his freshman year, and he was hooked. One Sunday, he tugged my mom, my dad, and me along.
Even then, I felt welcome. The band played Ben Larson’s “Behold I Make All Things New” liturgy with stunning liveliness, a far cry from the sounds of funeral marches that leaked from my home church’s organ every Sunday.
A few weeks later, after another service or two, I remember Pastor Adam taking the time to give me a mini-lecture on the theologian Karl Barth; he answered questions of faith that lingered in my mind long after hearing my home pastor’s dissatisfying answers. But more than that, the LC posed questions that pestered me from middle school into high school and even when I stepped foot into the building as a college freshman.
It’s in the asking of questions that we become more human. We do not have God’s command of the Word; we cannot speak light and creation into existence. But we can, and we do, ask why it’s there. Our consciousness is entwined with curiosity.
The LC isn’t merely a place of mild curiosity, though; we’re a community that asks difficult, probing questions. We’re a community that, like the biblical Jacob, wrestles with God.
Studying, working, and hanging out at the LC gave me plenty of opportunities to grapple with faith and vocation.
In my job as the LC’s development director, I got to see behind the ministry’s curtain. I felt the kindness and generosity of so many donors, the wind behind our sails, empowering us to move toward the horizon. We chased the dawn through the darkness of displacement and COVID-19.
And despite that moving, despite the structural changes to the building—the absence of rotting ceilings and the presence of a grand, stone facade—our community hasn’t moved so far. We have changed, yes, to fit our new mold. Yet, we worship in the footprint of the previous sanctuary; we see fingerprints of our history all around. And we still carry with us the same searching spirit, the same collective call to wrestle with God.
Now, as I depart from my role as student and development director, I have fond, bittersweet memories of the past four years. I think of all the future college students—and perhaps middle schoolers—who will step through the LC’s doors and leave with a fire burning inside.
The Lutheran Center transformed me in ways I will not fully appreciate, fully understand, for years to come. A person’s time as a college student flashes in their lives like a storm, a fury of noise and light and change. In that storm, I’m thankful I had such an anchor.