One Sunday, after Anna Madsen
had finished teaching an adult education class, a man walked up to her
After listening carefully to what Madsen had said, he
had come to a conclusion.
"I've always thought I'm a Lutheran," he
, "and I hear you, and I think I'm a Baptist, and I don't want to be a Baptist."
Madsen, a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has founded OMG Center for Theological Conversation.
second-floor downtown office, she
will welcome visitors with coffee, bakery treats and a nonjudgmental atmosphere in which they can share the struggles they are facing.
"Christians are afraid of questions because we might discover that we might be wrong," Madsen says, quoting Murray Haar, an Augustana College professor and former co-worker.
Egland would take Claire to gymnastics, the same class that Madsen
took her daughter, Else.
Egland, then going through chemotherapy, began asking Madsen
about God and Jesus.
was able to pull out of her
head five pieces of evidence that Jesus was definitely real and definitely here and about his
(2 of 2)
and Egland continue to have similar conversations on a monthly basis.
also had to look at God's presence in her
On June 19, 2004, her
husband, the Rev. Bill Coning, died of injuries he
sustained in a car-pedestrian accident in Regensburg, Germany, where the family was living.
Madsen had accepted a teaching position at Augustana.
followed through on those plans when Karl was well enough to travel.
Today, Karl is a student at Robert Frost Elementary.
still has physical and cognitive difficulties because of the accident.
Else is 6 years old.
tells the children every day that they are "my sunshine" and "my miracles."
had written her
dissertation on God and suffering.
husband then that the notion of God being present during a person's pain sounded good, but would it be enough if something happened to him or the kids?
answer almost five years ago.
also developed a greater appreciation for God's complexity.
As a parish pastor, she
realized, when people were suffering, she
would tell them about Easter's promise of eternal life, unaware they still were living in a day of despair.
"I would go home to Easter pre-accident forgetting that these people were still in Good Friday and that Good Friday lasted a really, really, really, really long time."
Madsen taught at Augustana for several years until being on the tenure track with a special-needs child and a precocious preschooler became too exhausting.
She was theological adviser for the ELCA's South Dakota Synod before beginning OMG, which, yes, stands for Oh, My God.
At that point, Madsen
already was fielding four to six questions a week from people who knew they could come to her
own well-developed curiosity, Madsen
says, helps her
deal with the questions of others.
expects to work with individuals, couples and small groups, along with workshops for larger gatherings.
"Many questions about God do stem from personal experience that can be very painful," she
"One of the challenges I'll have is try to make it clear that I'm open to talking very much about how questions of theology are borne out of people's experiences, and yet I'll have a golden Rolodex for addiction counselors and psychotherapists and financial planners."
won't compete with pastors, who often stretch themselves thin dealing with congregational needs, she
"The best phrase I've been able to come up with, which isn't so hot, is I offer theological outsourcing," she
Anna Madsen, a former Augustana College professor, has started a freelance job answering people's questions about God. She founded OMG Center for Theological Conversation and is a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Anna Madsen, a former Augustana College professor, has started a freelance job answering people's questions about God.