COVID-19 & Travel
Last month we hosted a series of community meetings to share updates from Iringa, review best practice[...]
Like everyone, this fall was by far the most bizarre and tragic and challenging of my years in ministry. It also might have been the most biblical.
One of the things that difficult times do is separate us from our certainty that we know how to do everything right. And so, during that time, with the support of my colleague, Pastor Chris Bellefeuille, I decided to try something new: I bought a couple of decently rated microphones off the internet; I researched some open-source audio editing software; I signed up a free account on Buzzsprout (a hosting platform); and we launched a podcast. My colleague and I had talked briefly about what we hoped for, sketched out a script and some liturgy to help frame it, and then—like so much of ministry right now—we just hit “record.”
I am part of one of the cohorts of rostered ministers supported by the synod’s Thriving in Ministry grant from the Lilly Endowment. This year, one of the things we were focusing on was forming a lifelong, creative engagement with Scripture. We were asked to design and implement a project that would help us do that in our congregations. The grant provided the motivation and the funding to take this project on, but this is something I wish I’d thought of long ago!
We record “TrinityCast: An En-Courage-ing Word” about once a week during our regular check-in time. So far, we have had episodes on an overview of the Old Testament, the New Testament, as well as on different lenses for reading the Bible: devotional, historical, literary, and a Lutheran theological. We also just did a full hour-and-a half reading through the whole binge-able Gospel of Mark. We take turns “presenting,” which is simply bringing a text or topic and a few questions to get things going. But most of our time is spent in unplanned, unrehearsed conversation—asking each other questions and working our way towards answers.
A lot of this is stuff we talk about regularly together, but not on a hot mic! None of it has been earth shattering or particularly hard hitting; we haven’t solved any theological quandaries. We come to these conversations as we are—not as published theologians or scholars (whom I love dearly), but just as pastors going about their life and ministry. Each week, we chat for about 15 minutes about what we think about the topic, where we are struggling, what gets us excited. It’s simple, it’s often unpolished, but it’s us.
When members of the congregation download TrinityCast, they hear our transparency and honesty, how we work out our “God-algorithms,” how we encounter the voices of our community and neighbors in the Bible. Folks have commented that they love hearing how Pastor Chris and I work together, our mix of passion and joy, our questions and honest answers—even when, especially when the answers are “I really don’t know.” And they love hearing how we bring those into our preaching.
I’ve heard that some take feverish notes while they listen, or listen in the car, or while doing the dishes. Some have said that they haven’t engaged this much with the substance of Scripture since they were in confirmation, even if they have been weekly worshippers for years. For others, this is the first time they have listened to a podcast! This project has provided a trustworthy threshold for folks to take a digital footstep back into the Bible. I love hearing that, but my biggest takeaway—and the thing that I have found the most striking—is how people are hearing God’s story differently in this pandemic time. Maybe every faith community in a disrupted time goes back to the Bible. I know these ancient stories and poems and letters have helped so many who came before us shoulder the burdens of their day. They are helping me now, and I’m finding renewal in the work of inviting people to digitally step across this threshold and listen for how God’s story is unfolding in our time.
Listen in to TrinityCast: An En-Courage-ing Word at https://trinitylc.org/learning/adult/podcast/.
Rev. Peter Weston Miller
Trinity Lutheran Church, Stillwater
Pastor Peter is part of the synod's Lilly-funded Second Act Cohort for rostered ministers in years four to 10 of public ministry. The cohort is formed around a set of convictions about the center of the pastoral vocation: deep reflection on one’s life and world; practice of lifelong, careful study of scripture; ability to work gracefully with lay leaders; disciplined curiosity about context, community and self; and relationships with mentors to encourage and reinforce those habits.