Claim Ownership


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A handful of summers ago, Mel Bock visited Redeemer with her spouse and two children. They had heard about us through a story about our bees on NPR's local affiliate radio station, WUWM. The elder Bocks serve on council and the younger Bocks delight us with their curiosity about the world and their thirst for justice.For 16 years, Mel has worked as a registered nurse. The COVID pandemic has rocked her vocation and led her into an advocacy role she could not have predicted. I asked her to come on the pod to describe, from her unique vantage point, just what it's like to treat a COVID patient who requires hospitalization. I've heard voices from the medical community asking the media to share stories like these rather than only recording numbers of cases and trend lines. Yes, I know we are not exactly "the media," but with this episode, "Redeemer Lives!" is striving to do its part.Support the show (
I’m joined today by Vince Prantil, who with his wife and two children has attended Redeemer for the last decade or so. These days, he is a weekly volunteer at Redeemer’s Outdoor Pantry, and he recently auctioneered our wildly successful RedeemerFEST fundraiser for the embryonic Mental Health Resource Center being planned at our location. Vince recently has a Lazarus-like experience that he is willing to share with us today. Support the show (
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When you serve as pastor of a church that worshipped an average of 30 people when you started ministry back in 2011, when conversations over closure were very relevant, you can forgive me for watching the numbers is the subsequent years of redevelopment. One little fact I love about Redeemer’s story in the last decade is this: our highest attendance for a worship service was not Christmas or Easter! Our biggest services where days when the children of a certain extended family were baptized: the Tesfai family. Brother and sister, now in their 30s and each with their own spouses and children, are part of a bountiful network of people who show up for baptisms! On those Sundays, the congregation never looked so beautiful--dressed in the colorful garb of their homeland, they packed the pews. Add to that sight the smells emanating from the kitchen below--a feast for everyone with the authentic dishes and homemade honey mead--fantastic occasions--some of my favorite Redeemer Memories. We worship a God of Abundance at Redeemer and the Tesfai family baptisms made that abundantly clear.  I’ve asked Solomon Tesfai, the father of twin daughters baptized here, to come by and share his perspective on a very full life.Solomon serves as treasurer of Redeemer and so has his finger on the pulse of this scrappy congregation’s financial picture. We have a huge challenge before us--to renovate and restore our physical structure so it can face up to the rigors of ministry in decades to come. In my mind, Solomon approaches all of life--faith, family, finances--from place of realistic optimism. Abundance and bounty where others might lean into scarcity, lack, impossibility instead. Since so many good things emanate from baptism, I asked him to join me for this podcast: “Bountifully Baptized.”Support the show (
The Bible--and much of Western Christianity that uses it as its touchstone--is full of binary pairs of assumed opposites: light and dark, good and evil, clean and unclean, life and death, male and female. The Western culture that developed largely around the Mediterranean Sea--Northern Africa, the Middle East, and up through Europe--leaned into binaries as a key way to categorize our lived experience. It can be hard to question it or escape it--and many might wonder, well, why fight it at all? It’s simple, it’s manageable. Well . . . let’s explore that. Now Lutherans are known to embrace paradox, which begins to question the Either/Or of binaries (it’s either dark or light) by saying sometimes two things that seem opposed to each other can happen at the same time. Our shorthand is often “both/and” and the classic is that we are each, at the same time, Sinner *and* Saint. It’s possible that the ideas about God on this podcast reaches one step further: both/and . . . and also. And then some. Confused? Understandable. Better get my guest in here.I first met Aaron Musser when he was working along with my daughter at Good Earth Village, a Lutheran summer camp in southern Minnesota. I drove the two of them across the state to spend July 4th weekend in Milwaukee the summer of 2016. Within minutes, Aaron and I were talking theology and the church and Maddi was quietly smiling to herself, knowing that this would happen. After graduation from St. Olaf College, Aaron moved to Milwaukee and began serving as Redeemer’s Director of Music in July 2019.  I’ll let him tell you about what spurred him to apply to seminary and begin preparing for ordained ministry . . . he’s completing his first year as we record this. I’ve asked Aaron--who is usually the voiceless technician behind the scenes--to get in front of the microphone for this week’s podcast: Joyfully Queer and Christian.Support the show (
When I meet with couples preparing for marriage, I share an idea that most have never really considered before. Their pairing, before God and in the context of Christian community, means they will be able to serve God and their neighbor differently than they would as individuals. We explore what that could mean as the years unfold. Today, as a nod to Valentine’s Day, I want you to meet two people for whom that notion has been a driving force from the beginning of their relationship. And “the beginning”, is what I’ve asked Scott McIntosh and Luann Blohm to share on today’s podcast. Scott considers it his favorite story.Support the show
Ericka Jones accepted her mom’s invitation to try out the church she had just begun attending herself, steps from her apartment building. You guessed it--it was Redeemer. It has become the family’s church, with regular attendance, service in leadership, many baptisms, a wedding, and the upcoming confirmation of Ericka’s grandson. The Redeemer of today would not be what it is without Ericka. She has served as president of the congregation for 2/3rds of my time here, and even with the growth of the congregation, her goal every Sunday is to share the Peace with every person there. I could go on and on, but I’ve asked her here to share her story of faith and life with you in her own words. She can tell you about her upbringing in faith, from her youth to adulthood and how, especially in these most recent years, how she is committed to ongoing growth.Support the show (
Jon Jacobs served in ordained ministry 45 years. Raised in Oklahoma, he attended Hamma School of Theology in Ohio and served parishes in Michigan before coming to Milwaukee in 1991. He served as pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church on Milwaukee’s near south side, a ministry that developed a faith community in three languages: English, Spanish, and Hmong. Jon retired in 2017 and joined Redeemer with his wife two years ago. Besides being a mentor to me and great source of collegial support, Jon is coordinating a team effort to establish an Interfaith Gathering Center at the corner of 19th and Wisconsin Ave in Milwaukee. Joan leads our Outdoor Pantry efforts at Redeemer. I asked Jon to come by for a podcast today because of a story he told me almost exactly one year ago. Transfiguration.Support the show (
Mark Fraley is a candidate for ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church, yet he interned with us at Redeemer beginning in September 2019. His year with us included much more than the Sunday routine--anti-racism training in New Orleans, a week absorbing the Lutheran church’s witness in El Salvador, and pitching in as we shifted to online ministry last spring made it a most unusual internship experience. As Mark finishes his seminary education online, he volunteers most weeks at Redeemer’s Outdoor Pantry. I’ve asked him to come and talk about a particular Thursday last October--a Pantry day--that ended with handcuffs, time in back of a squad car, and several hours at the West Allis Police Departments. Mark has done some writing on the experience that he shared with me some time ago, and I was struck by how he lived the experience as a person, and an emerging leader or faith.Support the show (
"The podcast took an unplanned couple of weeks off... Ministry happens and does not break for podcasts, we’re finding. But we’re back to close out this first batch of pods with an audio essay before we resume the interview format. We’ll invite other essayists in weeks to come, but I thought I’d go first with 'Garage Tale.'" - Pastor LisaSupport the show (
One of the most common challenge to faith is this: if we have a loving and powerful God, why does God allow bad things to happen? Long-time Redeemer member Joyce Johnson can answer this big question with her life. Joyce joins us to share a bit about her life and her faith.Support the show (
I first learned the name Dayvin Hallmon as founder and director of the Black String Triage Ensemble, committed to using music as the healing force for the soul in the immediate aftermath of community violence. If I’d been more aware, I would have already known his name from his service as the first openly gay, black Kenosha County supervisor. I was honored to collaborate with him a few years back when he led music at Redeemer as our guest. In my experience, Dayvin is that rare man who easily spins out ideas that you can’t believe no one has thought to do yet. He analyzes, challenges, and sometimes even afflicts. If you thought prophets were confined to the Old Testament, you clearly haven’t met Dayvin Hallmon.Support the show (
Aris Townsend worked as Communications Specialist at Redeemer from June 2015 to August 2020. It was a position designed with someone of her particular skills and training, but it quickly became apparent that she arrived with additional spiritual gifts that made her work here invaluable and impactful for all who encountered her on the job. This episode, she reminisces and give a distinct look behind the scenes at Redeemer, a striving city church in a neighborhood marked by both poverty and promise.Support the show (
In the early hours of Friday, March 29th 2019, Johnny Smith, also known as “Tennessee”, was bludgeoned to death in his sleeping bag on the east steps of our church. I remember the events and the feelings of those days vividly. As a church, our response needed to reflect our faith and send a distinct message to the neighborhood. Part of the response was worship; Sunday morning was just 48 hours from the time we were starting to get our heads together about this. And of course, especially for Lutherans, music would be a key part of the response. How does a community of faith respond musically to a murder on its doorstep? We’ll be exploring that with today’s guest, Jeff Bray.Support the show (
When people find out I’m a pastor, they instantly think they need to “clean up” their language. They’ll apologize profusely if they happen to utter a four-letter word in my presence. I find that surprising--of all things, wearing a collar does not make me the speech police. I’ll often tell people I’m much more offended that kids will go to bed hungry tonight than hearing you drop the f-bomb. Clearly, it has become more and more socially acceptable to use swear words in everyday conversation in almost all settings. Why is swearing still seen as a bad thing in the realm of religion? Well, our guest today has journeyed with speaking habits that she sometimes wrestled with changing. She’s got an amazing life story, and will weave both together in an episode we’re calling: “I Swear.”Support the show (
The God of our faith is sensitive to our struggles of illness, whether they have physical manifestations or mental manifestations or both. David's first assignment was to minister to a troubled Saul; Jesus heals the Gerasene Demoniac; Jesus addresses anxiety without shaming, etc... Join us as we consider the intersections of mental health and faith in an episode we’re calling: "Trauma, Mental Health, and Religion: Understanding 'Spiritual Health.'"Support the show (
Maybe you’ve been hearing this word "empath", especially in the last five years. What does it mean? Basically, an empath tends to sense and feel emotions as if they are part of their own experience. Someone else’s pain or happiness become your pain and happiness. Growing into being an “empath” is a long process, ongoing, needing careful tending along the way. How do you lay all of that alongside a faith in a greater power? What about choosing to tend an ongoing relationship with God through, in part, organized religion--including having a spiritual home in a church like Redeemer? We’ll be exploring all of that with our first guest, Meredith Sipe-Sumner.Support the show (
Before the pandemic hit, Tristan and Kiara met with me or Intern Mark Fraley, or both of us for an hour or so after church to go through a curriculum for Confirmation that is the rite of passage for young people often around their early teens to review and question our understanding of the faith tradition and then, as they choose, to affirm their faith before the congregation and have a big celebration afterward. During the pandemic we decided to postpone confirmation meetings till we can get together. Now there’s just a big review, bread-baking with me, and a session with male mentors of the congregation before the big day, which we are working on scheduling.I cannot overemphasize how important these young men are to our congregation. Tristan (over the years, leading worship) and Kiara (asked to be baptized and then got all four of his siblings baptized too.) Shepherd and Joseph in the Christmas program, helped with the bees. They are beloved by the congregation and to my mind their future should be bright, bright, bright. That’s why I’ve titled today’s podcast “Young, Gifted, and Black.”Support the show (
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