Robert Leverenz—March 1-6, 2009

Reverend Robert Leverenz is a social worker working with people living with HIV/AIDS and a pastor in the United Methodist Church. He will deliver the Annual Ecumenical Lecture on Thursday, March 5, CRH, "Living Ecumenically in the Matrix of Meaning."

Leverenz is a prime example of someone who in the course of his life, has found multiple callings that have built on each other and, even in his retirement, are still evolving. Leverenz’s vocation to serve others has led him into pastoral ministry, later into outreach as an ordained clergyman, eventually into the field of social work, and then back into parish ministry.

As a young person, Leverenz began his vocational journey during the turbulent sixties, marked by the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the rise of freedom movements among women, homosexuals, and Native Americans in this country, and movements grounded in liberation theology in Central and South America. All of these challenged both the agenda of the church and the role of the pastor responding to them.

Clearly, the response of the pastor continued to evolve over the ensuing years, but was always marked by a call to be of service to others wherever he has gone. During his long career as a ordained clergyman, Robert Leverenz served United Methodist parishes in West Des Moines, Cedar Falls, and until his recent retirement, Portland, Oregon.  However, his call was not confined to service in the church: After an extended time in parish ministry, Leverenz felt called to enter the field of social work, earning an M.S.W. from the University of Iowa School of Social Work.

As a social worker, he worked in partnership with his recently deceased wife in Houston, Texas, and Portland, with persons living with HIV/AIDS. There he worked with Home Health and directed a hospice program, shaped a residential care program for the elderly, and assisted with Aging and Disability Services.  Finally, toward the end of his working life, he returned to the position of pastor, his first love. Throughout his life and work, and now even in his new retirement, Leverenz has been guided by a call to heal the wounds of the people he has served and to heal the wounds of the community, as well, always according to the underlying premise of helping professionals: “Love your people well.”

Tuesday, March 3
9:00-11:00 a.m.: Conversation with Hospice Caregivers from Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice
7:00-9:00 p.m.: Workshop for NEIPU, local chapter of NASW social workers, Decorah Lutheran Church

Wednesday, March 4
8:00-10:00 a.m.: Breakfast gathering with Helping Services personnel
10:30 a.m.: CFL, speak in Daily Chapel
5:00 p.m.: Baker Village Commons, Don Kemp Memorial Social Work event

Thursday, March 5
6:00 p.m.: Meet with t.r.e.c. (formerly DIAKONOS) students
7:00 p.m.: CRH, Annual Ecumenical Lecture "Living Ecumenically in the Matrix of Meaning"

Classroom visits in the social work, religion, nursing, anthropology and communication departments.