On July 17-19, 2017 the second cohort of the Twin Cities Fellows Program met at the Collegeville Institute for their final capstone meeting. The Twin Cities Fellows Program, which was led by Gary Reierson, first began in August 2013 and included two cohorts of pastors and clergy dedicated to expanding their roles as civic leaders. The program paved the way for new Fellows programs that will begin their initial cohorts in the Fall of 2017 at the Collegeville Institute— the Rural Minnesota Fellows Program led by Bernie Evans and the Multi-Religious Fellows Program led by Barry Cytron.
Guest presenters for the capstone gathering included Heidi Neumark, Lutheran pastor from New York City and author of Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx, and Donald Samuels, entrepreneur, Minneapolis City Council member, community minister, and now CEO of MicroGrants, which gives small grants for low-income people of potential to invest in their lives. Both presenters spoke on the topics of “Pastoral Leadership in the Public Realm” and “Public Ministry: Successes and Failures.”
Following the presentations, the Fellows had an opportunity to reflect on their experiences and exchange gifts. Each Fellow participant received a mug from Saint John’s Pottery as did the program director Gary Reierson and theological facilitator Kathleen Cahalan. The Fellows considered what was next for them as a group following this final gathering of the formal program and took turns answering the question: “What are three things you learned about leadership and public theology through your projects and the Fellows Program?” Among their learnings were listening beyond entrenched views, the importance of telling stories, and that justice begins with relationships. Abbot John Klassen of Saint John’s Abbey joined the Fellows for their concluding lunch where he expressed his gratitude on behalf of the entire abbey for the Fellows Program and the commitment and engagement of each of the Fellows.
As she reflected on her experience as a Twin Cities Fellow, Stephanie Williams O’Brien said: “I spent nearly two years in a fellowship focused on Public Theology… and I got to hear from high level leaders in education, health care, criminal justice, business and more. It was an amazing opportunity. The deepest privilege was getting to know my colleagues. If this intelligent, thoughtful, passionate and diverse group of people are the future of the church in the Twin Cities—the future is bright!”