Identifying and nurturing church leaders within congregations is crucial to the future of the church. The Lutheran church faces a shortage of ordained clergy, especially in rural areas. Most seminary graduates must borrow money to complete their education, which leaves them with debt that prohibits them from considering calls to rural or poor congregations.
For eligible candidates, Normandale’s Sending Forth ministry provides financial support for up to three years of seminary study. The goal is to underwrite up to 50% of the cost of seminary study and provide emotional and spiritual support as students proceed through the candidacy process.
Sending Forth is a ministry to people who have been members of Normandale Lutheran Church for at least one year and who feel called to congregational ministry as their life’s work. Candidates must have demonstrated leadership ability and expect to devote 20 or more years to ministry. Priority will be given to students attending Lutheran and accredited seminaries.
Update on Our Seminarians
Below you can read updates from Eric Hoffer and Anders Peterson, who are completing their seminary experience.
Normandale is thrilled to introduce you to an additional three members of our family preparing for the ordained ministry. Durk Thompson, Ann Fenlason, and Gary Dryg are all second year students studying for the ordained ministry. Funds from Marching Off the Maps assist them as they study and prepare for serving the church. They are grateful for your help and support.
Hello, Normandale Community. My name is Durk Thompson.
“I am in my second year at Luther Seminary working towards my Master of Divinity degree. Our family moved back to the Twin Cities two years ago from Fargo, North Dakota where I was the executive director at Churches United for the Homeless, NW Minnesota’s largest shelter and community outreach center.
My wife Elizabeth and I both graduated from Edina Schools. Liz and I are parents of our son, Cole, who is currently in 7th grade. One of my greatest joys about returning to Edina has been the opportunity for my family to worship with the congregation that meant so much to me as I was growing up. Normandale has always held a special place in my heart. It is where I was confirmed and first felt the love of God.
My path to seminary took a long time, but now that I am fully immersed in my studies I cannot see any other place that God would want me to be. While all of my professors and courses have been informative, my experience last summer in CPE (Clinical Pastoral Experience) and the time I spent in a rural immersion program in SW Minnesota and NW Iowa have done the most to affirm my call. This next year, I look forward to my internship at Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Church in Robbinsdale.
I pray that, in my absence, Normandale will continue to look after and engage with my wife and son on their spiritual journey.”
My name is Gary Dryg.
“I have been a Normandale member for about five years now, and am currently serving on the Diaconate Team. My membership at Normandale played a big part in my returning to Luther Seminary. I completed one year of the Masters of Divinity program 18 years ago. I left the Seminary at that time because I couldn't figure out why God wanted me to serve him in such a big way. God's call for me to serve never quite left me as I worked in the Hospitality Industry and then as an Elementary School Teacher.
When I found Normandale Lutheran Church and became a member, God's call to enter the ministry returned with renewed strength. It is obvious that God's Word and mission are truly present in everything that Normandale undertakes. It was this revelation that made me realize that it doesn't matter why God wants me to serve. What does matter is that God has a mission for me, as God has a mission for Normandale Lutheran. I am so glad to be a part of Normandale, and so grateful to have accepted God's call for me to serve. My life has been so blessed since I decided to once again pick up my cross and follow my Lord into his service. Your gift of tuition money is one of those true blessings in my life.
I look forward to serving with you now as a member, and in the future as part of God's greater community. My goal is to obtain my degree and to serve a congregation for at least three years. After that, unless God has other plans, I intend to seek a Chaplaincy position in a hospital or other type of care facility.
Thank-you again for your assistance. It is a testament to Normandale Lutheran's dedication to missions.”
Ann Fenlason writes:
“My roots to Normandale run deep as my grandfather (Rudy Westerberg) was one of the key founding figures of Normandale; my grandparents and my mother, Mary Ann, were all charter members of the congregation. As a teenager, I was confirmed by Pastor Don Carlson and also sang with the Youth Choir. During those years, the Holy Spirit was actively at work in my life, shaping and molding my faith through the many faithful people of Normandale. After college, I moved out of state to pursue a graduate degree in music, which led to positions where I taught flute and performed professionally. After a time, I decided to shift gears and get into aviation in order to become a commercial pilot. My airline career spanned 11 years—I flew for Milwaukee-based Skyway Airlines and later, Midwest Airlines. After Midwest folded, I took a position as a police and fire dispatcher for a suburb of Milwaukee.
It was during this time—just under 3 years ago now—that I received my unmistakable call to ministry. Before that point, I’d never even considered becoming a pastor; however, the moment I “heard my call,” I was able to see that God had been leading me in this direction for a very long time. In 2010, I moved back to the Twin Cities to begin my seminary career at Luther and am now about to complete my second year. Next year, I will be doing my internship at Nokomis Heights Lutheran in Minneapolis. There is so much on my plate—all of it exciting and wonderful. But there is still much left to learn and simply not enough hours in the day. The expense of attending seminary is a heavy burden and I am so grateful for the financial support Normandale has given me. But even more amazing has been the encouragement and the warm and welcoming words I continue to receive from the faithful people of Normandale. You have embodied that, as Christians, we are indeed a family—brothers and sis-ters in Christ. Each time I come to Normandale, I feel as though I have come home. You are a vibrant and loving congregation and the prayers you say for us seminarians are a gift you give us each and every day—thank you!
May God continue to bless you and to bless Normandale!”
Previous Update on Our Seminarians
Supported by Normandale’s Sending Forth Program Normandale extends its mission into the future as well as to new horizons by encouraging and supporting members who are preparing for the ministry. Our Marching Off the Maps Campaign provided funds that assist seminarians by underwriting a portion of the financial costs of their seminary education. Two graduating seniors, Eric Hoffer and Anders Peterson, have written to us, expressing appreciation for your help and expressing hopes and dreams for their ministries.
Eric Hoffer, a senior at Luther Seminary, described his formative experiences here, his years of study and preparation, and plans for the future.
‘Hello people of Normandale! I am a very thankful recipient of your support via the Sending Forth program. I am a child of Normandale, baptized here and continuing through worship, confirmation, and youth events. After high school, I went to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. There I met my wonderful wife, Kirsten. Through many conversations, work at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp, some time in campus outreach, and a good dose of the Holy Spirit, I discovered that I was most passionate and what meant the most to me was faith. So I decided to go to seminary to discern what God was up to in my life as it relates to God’s work in the world.
Now I’m a senior Master of Divinity student at Luther Seminary, finishing in May. Last year was spent on internship in Salem, Oregon and was fantastic! I see God calling me towards mission development or redevelopment in a church that’s not too far from a city. My teaching congregation was Redeemer Lutheran in North Minneapolis. I dream of ways in which the church can feed all the needs of a community, coming together around the table where all are welcome.
While I would normally be soon assigned to a synod, I am postponing the process for one year while my wife finishes her Masters degree at Hamline University. This next year, I hope to find a job that is ministry or non-profit related, save a little money, and continue to prepare for my first call.
Blessings to you all, and again, thank you so very much for supporting me financially, emotionally, and spiritually – and for always being a home.’
Anders Peterson has similar, deep roots at Normandale. His seminary education brought him to the ELCA’s Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) and Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, California. This year marks both his internship year and his final year of seminary. Following graduation in May, Anders will receive a call into ordained ministry.
Anders describes these highlights from 2011: completing three years of studies at PLTS and GTU; shadowing an ELCA pastor who is exploring the phenomena of starting new churches and spiritual communities; marrying Michelle Clark last September with Pastor Chris Enstad officiating; and beginning a year-long residency in the Chelan Valley of Washington where I an the intern pastor for Lake Chelan Lutheran Church until mid-May and then vicar of Holden Village through the ELCA’s Horizon Internship Program.
Last summer, Anders was approved as a potential mission developer for the ELCA. He and Michelle hope to be involved in a development project, possibly starting a spiritual community in an urban setting for folks who are ‘spiritual but not religious,’ ‘seekers’ or with ‘no religious preference.’ ‘While most interested in the San Francisco Bay Area or the Minneapolis/St Paul Area, we are open to other locations as well. Being able to answer the call to love and support those who have been neglected by our church is much more important to us than a particular location.
Anders closes with this: Thank you, thank you, thank you for investing in me and in this church we serve and nurture together. I look forward to welcoming those planning retreats to Holden Village this summer! Shalom, Salaam, Peace.
We are privileged to have been a part of their lives and are excited for them as God leads them forward. But there are other stories waiting to be told. Durk Thompson, Ann Fenlason, and Greg Dryg are all enrolled as 2nd year students at Luther Seminary and have deep ties to Normandale. Stay tuned for more accounts of God at work in these hearts.
Thanks to all of you, whose gifts to Marching Off the Maps made their support possible.
Joanna Swanson, Sending Forth Committee
Pastor Dale Howard