Luther College and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church embark on new journey together

September 14, 2020

Luther College and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church are partnering together to better serve the faith needs of students and community members. Serving as a bridge between the two is Vicar Kathryn Thompson, a Wartburg Seminary student who will work with both entities for the next four years.

            "Vicar Kathryn brings considerable strengths in empathy, listening and connecting with learners of all ages and backgrounds to her work at Luther College and work at Good Shepherd," said Rev. Anne Edison-Albright, Luther director of college ministries and college pastor. "Vicar Kathryn adds so much to our team, and I'm excited for the ways that our relationship with Good Shepherd, the Decorah community and Wartburg Seminary will deepen through Vicar Kathryn and her work and studies."

            Thompson will be involved in a variety of capacities at Luther and Good Shepherd. At Luther, she will lead Monday chapel, work with the Multifaith House and help connect interested students with area congregations. At Good Shepherd, she will continue her responsibilities to the Children, Youth and Family Ministry by leading Sunday school and Youth Forum, providing children's sermons and more.

            "I look forward to serving Luther College and its student body because I believe that relationships and collaboration produce beautiful opportunities for growth, creation and connection," said Thompson. "I hope to aid in this growth and creation by connecting Luther students with opportunities to use their gifts, as well as connecting Luther students beyond campus and into the Decorah community."

            Luther has made some changes in worship offerings on campus. Beginning this fall, rather than a Sunday morning service, Luther now offers worship services on Sunday evenings and during the week, along with other faith-programming opportunities. This allows students to explore other community congregations by attending their Sunday morning worship services.

It's a welcome change in the eyes of Rev. Amy Zalk Larson, pastor at Good Shepherd, who points out that back in 1958, Good Shepherd was formed on the west side of Decorah to provide a congregation for students. In 1959, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America changed its policy to allow for campus congregations, and the Luther Student Congregation was formed and Sunday morning worship was established on campus. For Zalk Larson, this new partnership makes it feel as though the church has come full circle.

"Good Shepherd members have always had a heart for Luther College and Luther students. This change at Luther allows us to live out a core reason we were founded: to be a congregation that serves and is served by students," said Zalk Larson.

Luther College and Good Shepherd are now considered Collaborative Learning sites for Wartburg Seminary students, including Thompson. The Collaborative Learning option at Wartburg Seminary is a four-year program in which students are embedded in a ministry site for all four years while taking most of their coursework online. It is a joint venture between Wartburg Seminary, the Northeastern Iowa Synod and individual ministry sites"”thus the name "collaborative."

"There is so much that Good Shepherd members can learn together with college students about how to live as the people of God today," said Zalk Larson. "Good Shepherd members can also provide welcome support and encouragement for college students. In a world that so often segregates people by generation, it is a gift to be able to build mutual relationships among all ages, live as the body of Christ together and see the face of God in one another."

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