Introducing new Chaplains to campus
Between previous experiences serving as a pastor in Guyana and South Africa, and traveling the country studying the intersection between science, religion, and faith, Reverend Siri C. Erickson and Reverend Brian E. Konkol are bringing colorful backgrounds and a fresh energy to campus.
“We are excited to bring a hopeful, energetic spirit to the way we share our work together. We want our office to be a place of joy, and we are working to create an environment that really honors the unique talents of each person on our team. It’s not about the two of us, but about the culture we’re trying to create,” Erickson said.
Erickson graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Carleton College with a degree in chemistry. She received her master of divinity degree from the Claremont School of Theology, where she was honored with the President’s award for academic excellence and the Award for Excellence in biblical studies. Since then, Erickson has worked as the Pastor of Lifelong Learning at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, MN and around various churches in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Minnesota.
Erickson discusses the advantage of arriving on campus with another chaplain.
“We had never met each other before this summer. Then this possibility started to emerge. It’s great to be new, to be here with Brian and to be starting at the same time. We’re together in this process, and we can collaborate on new ideas together. We share a vision and want to reach out to the community together,” Erickson said.
Konkol graduated with a criminal justice degree from Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin with the original intention of attending law school. Konkol decided to instead pursue a divinity degree from Luther Theological Seminary. His education and work since have taken him to Guyana twice for an internship with the Ebenezer Lutheran Parish and as a pastor to the Emmanuel Lutheran Parish. He served in South Africa, as well, as country coordinator for the Young Adults in Global Missions program.
After returning to the U.S., Konkol served as a co-pastor at Lake Edge Luthern Church in Madison, Wisconsin, before accepting the position as a chaplain at Gustavus.
“Everyone morning on my walk to the office down Eckman Mall, I read all the banners that display the values of the college. To get to my office, I have to walk directly between the banners of faith and justice. I think about this every morning, as I think about the countless people who never have the chance to go to college . . . It reminds me of the responsibility that we all have here, that this education is not just about information, but it’s about a deeper transformation that we all experience for the sake of the poor and marginalized in our world,” Konkol said.
Erickson and Konkol have not only forged a strong connection, but have reached out to colleagues to strengthen the connections within the Chaplain’s Office and campus.
“I think one of the fun things of being on campus are the so-called interruptions – the spontaneous, serendipitous moments of bumping into someone on campus. We try and make ourselves available to that. Whether it’s bumping into a student on the mall and jumping on their skateboard, or what. Its meeting people on their territory,” Konkol.
Konkol and Erickson happened upon Junior Nate McNab, who was on campus preparing for his second year as a Gustie Greeter.
“My first interaction with them came in the summer. I heard that they were great, but I wanted to do my own investigation. I ran into them outside of Old Main. They were full of positive energy and so much excitement,” McNab said.
“After Siri hopped on and rode my longboard, I realized they seemed like they wanted to make people feel welcome and loved. I could tell they were goofy like me, and I enjoyed that a lot,” McNab said.
In addition to McNab, Erickson and Konkol had the opportunity to interact with many more Gustie Greeters and their first-year students.
“Brian and I had the opportunity to meet with them, introduce ourselves, and share some of our ideas for ministry at Gustavus. We also listened to their questions and ideas, and they were phenomenal. We had a number of opportunities to interact with the first-year students that the greeters made possible, and we are grateful for that,” Erickson said.
Transition to a Daily Sabbath
In addition to discussing their current plans for the Chaplains’ Office, Erickson and Konkol spoke on the recent changes that have brought them to the office.
“The chaplains that served here previously we respect very deeply. And we know others did as well. We recognize that when there is a change, there’s a sense of loss. While people are excited that we are here, and we have received wonderful hospitality, there’s a sense of loss when we lose someone who was loved. We hope to continue to build on the service of those who came before us and also listen alongside those who are experiencing loss,” Konkol said.
Chaplains Erickson and Konkol’s new and shared vision for chapel service begins with reimagining it as Daily Sabbath.
“We wanted to break [Daily Sabbath] into a smaller focus each day. It gives us the chance to go deeper into practice and hopefully people will feel like it’s easier to engage and learn,” Erickson said.
The re-envisioned fall schedule for Daily Sabbath will concentrate on defining and exploring the different aspects of Sabbath by day. The themes include ‘Prayer’ Monday, ‘Discuss’ Tuesday, ‘Celebrate’ Wednesday, ‘Revive’ Thursday, and ‘Play’ Friday.
Another significant change to chapel service includes spreading the reach of Daily Sabbath across campus. Erickson and Konkol will encourage people to partake in Sabbath practices across campus, even online so that people can recognize that you can practice faith outside of a chapel.
“The concept of Sabbath is very important to me, personally. While on sabbatical two years ago, I spent a lot of time studying and reflecting on the theology and practice of Sabbath in a variety of religious traditions. I have grown into a deeper understanding of Sabbath as a way of understanding time. It is time set aside when we can just be—be present together in community, in prayer, in conversation, and in play,” Erickson said.
Erickson and Konkol both encourage the feedback from the greater community on the change to structure and format of Daily Sabbath.
“We hope [Daily Sabbath] will be an affirmation of the Lutheran roots of this college, and also an explanation of the contextual reach of this college. Each day will have a very defined meaning. It’s a counter to the busyness of life. It reminds us, ‘Let’s be in time, and let’s be in time together,’’’ Konkol said.
The service may look different from week to week, but Erickson and Konkol are hoping to promote mindfulness about what happens during Daily Sabbath on any given day.
“I think that they are very open to campus and are trying to reach every single student on campus and they want to give back. It was really encouraging to hear more about why they are here and why they are excited to do everything. I’m excited to see how their time here influences the campus,” McNab said.
To find more information about the backgrounds of Chaplains Erickson and Konkol, you can read the original press release announcing their arrival, as well as find a tentative schedule of Daily Sabbath on the Gustavus website. To receive mobile updates from the Chaplains, text @ GACCHAPLAINS to 23559. You can also follow Chaplains Erickson and Konkol on Twitter at @SiriCErickson and @BrianKonkol.