Sisters and Brothers,
In April, I quietly celebrated five years of ordained ministry.
For three of those years, I served as part-time pastor at First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in Bridgeport, Chicago, and continued to work, in one capacity or another, at the U of C Lab Schools.
In that time, I gradually became involved, and then more involved in community organizing and social justice work, forming Bridgeport Alliance with many of you, partnering with Bridgeport residents, Benton House, SOUL, IIRON, National People's Action, and Sierra Club.
God's ministry at First Trinity, as it has evolved and grown, has been both Lutheran and inclusive of varied expressions of faithfulness. It's been generous in welcome, and increasingly oriented toward justice, liberation, and the proclamation of God's love for all people, and all of Creation. We continue to seek out better ways to be a Sanctuary and Home"”a safe place and a place of belonging. We continue to work, through organizing and action, to make the world a safer place, and a place where more people feel at home. We are thankful for grace and second chances when we have done quite the opposite.
For the last two years, as I've continued to serve at First Trinity, I was also lead to help re-start the Episcopal and Lutheran South Loop Campus Ministry, just a couple of neighborhoods north of Bridgeport.
With the help of Seminarians Joe Hopkins and Drew Rindfleisch, as well as the SLCM board, that ministry is started, and growing. An impressive group of students meets regularly to discuss theology, to pray, to hang out, to organize, and to serve their homeless sisters and brothers who live in the neighborhood. SLCM is an incredibly important campus ministry in the South Loop, especially as it offers a Christian perspective that is, again, inclusive of all of God's people, and is love, grace, and liberation oriented.
Over the past year, I have been on a bit of an intensified spiritual journey of my own.
After much prayer, consideration, and journeying, I have come to feel that this summer, at the end of my two years with South Loop Campus Ministry, it is time for me to move on from SLCM.
I will continue to serve as part-time pastor at First Trinity in Bridgeport, and to be active as a leader with Bridgeport Alliance, SOUL, and IIRON, but I will be passing on my leadership and role at SLCM.
In turn, I will be returning to the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago to pursue a Ph.D. in Theology.
This has been a dream of mine since before I graduated from the MDiv program seven years ago.
This program will provide me with tools to better write, to become a published author, and to be a clearer and more effective voice for a faith that lives and breathes spirituality, community, and liberation. It will also eventually give me opportunities to teach at colleges or graduate schools, as I continue to serve as a pastor and a community leader.
For me, personally, this program will allow me to dive deeper into many of the questions and issues I still wrestle with, and provide a disciplined venue to engage in dialogue and study that will help me explore meaning as it pertains to my journey through faith, doubt, and the search for political, communal, and personal liberation and resurrection.
For this opportunity, I am incredibly grateful.
As I begin a new stage in my journey, I am asking for your help.
I need it.
If you are able, and would like to show a vote of confidence in my continued formal education and my ongoing journey, as well as my attempts at the practice of ministry, please, please, please, help me pay for it!
Pretty please. Seriously. Please.
Your gift will help me. A lot. (Thanks!)
Next year I will begin at LSTC as a "Special Student."
Applications for the Ph.D. program will officially be received in February"”mine is already turned in, with references. I hope eventually for fellowships or grants, but to pay for school, as all stands right now, I am looking to raise $45,000 for four to six years of studies.
I very much appreciate any dollar you might be able to contribute.
I can pledge, simply, not to use my education in vain.
I can pledge that the knowledge and tools I receive will be used for ministry, the life of the church, and the larger movement for justice and liberation.
I can pledge my gratitude for your help on my journey in faith and life.
I am excited as I look ahead to a renewed journey, and I thank you, genuinely and deeply, for your support.
In God's Peace and Love.
Rev. Tom Gaulke, First Trinity, Chicago
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