Introducing Vicar Alissa Oleson
“May the sacredness of your work bring light and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.” - John O’Donohue
Greetings from the new worker among you, your vicar. I’d like to share a little of my story as I begin my year with you. I grew up in western Michigan with three sisters, where my mom served as a Lutheran pastor. I studied Biology and Religion at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio (some of you might even know my classmate, Vicar CJ!). After college, I worked at a neighborhood center in Wilmington, Delaware serving with Lutheran Volunteer Corps. I also played in the beautiful woods of North Carolina for several years as the program director at an ELCA outdoor ministry site. I received my Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in 2013, where I was particularly interested in Jewish-Christian dialogue and worked as a Young Adult Coordinator at University Lutheran Church. I finished up my “Lutheran Year” at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. I enjoy laughing (and bad jokes!), running really slowly, attempting new yoga poses, listening to and learning about people’s stories, and baking treats of the chocolate variety.
Most of you will meet me on Sunday, the day before Labor Day. As I begin my internship at St. Paul, this seems like a fitting time to think a bit about work. Above, you’ll find part of a blessing from one of my favorite poets, John O’Donohue. What draws me to O’Donohue’s blessing is that he isn’t just speaking to leaders in the church about their “sacred work,” but rather, he is speaking to everyone. O’Donohue’s beautifully crafted words nod to Luther’s idea about work and vocation. Luther fought against the distinction that only priests, monks and nuns were fully involved in the service of God. Instead, Luther insisted that through baptism, we all join in the priesthood of believers, meaning that everyone could be in full service to God in the work they were each called to do – teachers, maintenance workers, lawyers, students, mothers, and vicars alike (the list could go on!).
In his writings, “To the Christian Nobility,” Luther wrote, “…A cobbler, a smith, a peasant – each has the work and office of his trade, and yet they are all alike consecrated priests and bishops. Further, everyone must benefit and serve every other by means of his own work or office so that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community, just as all the members of the body serve one another [1 Cor. 12:14-26]…” And while we often talk about our work and vocation in terms of jobs – especially in a community that is a powerhouse for academia and careers – it is important to remember that all responsibilities and callings that people have in life are vocations. Being a parent, partner, citizen, child, caretaker or member of St. Paul are all vocations and all very much sacred work.
I so look forward to journeying together this year in this sacred work of loving God and our neighbors. I’m ready to hear stories of your vocation(s). What you do matters! But first, enjoy the celebrations and rest of Labor Day.
With gratitude for the work you do,