All the World’s a Church

By Lauren Spillinek – Word and Service Candidate

I have always been a storyteller. From a young age, I was fascinated by hearing, retelling, and creating stories, and it very quickly drew me into the world of the arts and theatre. From Tolkien to Brecht, Greek Tragedies to Liturgical Dramas, I was just so enamored by what our God-given creativity could come up with, and soon found myself pursuing an undergraduate degree in Theatre Design/Tech, and working in multiple scene shops around Nebraska. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was a call to ministry.

Growing up in a very small rural church without a pastor for many years, I always felt a certain lack of a theological foundation. It wouldn’t be until coming to the Lutheran Center Campus Ministry at UNL where I would finally start finding answers to some of my spiritual questions, and also many more questions. About midway through my undergraduate degree, I started discerning a call to further theological education, and I would come to think of seminary as the clearest route for me, but there was just one problem… I knew I didn’t want to be a pastor. I was starting to find a drive and passion for church leadership, but the role of pastor just did not seem fitting to me. Without a clear answer at the time, I decided to just continue my theatrical studies. Little did I know that there was a certain Word & Service roster waiting for me.

It’d be the summer after my junior year in undergrad, about 30 minutes before I was to board a flight, where I would listen to a voice message left by a good friend of mine who is now a rostered deacon, where I would start to see the bigger picture for me. Hearing her story about her passion for what she called “food ministry” and the idea of service meaning more to her than the sacraments, I started to uncover more of God’s call for me. I started to see how my passion for storytelling and arts could find a beautiful place in God’s mosaic of ministries.

I would then return to school for my last year and continue discerning my options. I made the decision to continue my theatrical work, to better prepare me for the ministry I was envisioning… and then a certain little pandemic happened. Left with no clear paths, I continued discerning, and soon found myself flipping the game plan completely and applying for seminaries.

Throughout all these moments, and even now I as write this amidst the spring term of my first year in seminary, I am constantly reminded of what this path means to me, especially as a queer transgender woman. Our stories hold power. God invites us to be a part of the story of God’s people, and to come as we are with our many gifts. Be it food, theatre, or something new, we all hold gifts, and to me, pursuing Word & Service ministry brings those different pieces of myself together, allows me to share that, and build with the church in new and exciting ways.