My Name Is : Dawna Svaren
My Home Church/City is: Ocean Park Lutheran Church, Ocean Park WA
My job/position is: Pastor (newly retired)
I understand my identity as: Filipino / Mexican / Santa Clara Pueblo / Spanish ; she/her
I am a Lutheran because: The short answer is because I married a Lutheran. The longer answer is that I found "home" in the deep sense of God I experienced through worship, the ncouragement of theological questioning, the welcome of diversity and the challenge to live into our faith using a mixture of skills, talents, passion and capabilities.
My story is: You might say that a chance summer at Christikon Lutheran Bible Camp in the beautiful Beartooth Mountains of Montana, along the Boulder River, as the director of their Special Education Camp session changed my life in more ways than one. During those few summer months, I met the man who would become my husband, grew to love the Lutheran outdoor camp program (I had never attended outdoor camp growing up), made lifelong friends, learned my first "Lutheran" hymns - Lift High the Cross and Have No Fear Little Flock, and realized that in this faith community, women could become pastors.
That small spark of realization, simmered just below the surface of my own life, and 20 years after I first walked onto the grounds of Christikon I stood among my family, mentors, congregation and a host of friends who gathered around me as I was ordained as a pastor in the ELCA. Who would have known that as one who had grown up in the Roman Catholic faith community, and who had felt a calling into ministry, would one day see God's vision for my life fulfilled in such a remarkable way.
41 years later almost to the day from that Christikon summer, I am now retiring and beginning a new journey. I'm looking forward to living into God's vision for the next years of my life. Not sure what that will be. But waiting with anticipation, none the less.
Something people don't usually know about me is: I have never actually compiled a "bucket list". So when I was given the opportunity to preach and preside while we lived and worked in Beijing, China (2011-2015), it would have been high on such a list. I have to admit the 18 months of being an unofficial interim (with the blessing of my bishop) for an ecumenical liturgical congregation of expats who was going through a time of transition remains a significant time which changed and challenged my understanding of evangelism, ministry and community.
To me, GRACE means: Perhaps I might explain GRACE through the words of my grandson, Maddox. When we are building Lego creations together, he reminds me that instructions are important. One time I made a (significant) mistake putting together a portion of his Lego hovercraft. I made the comment that I had done it all wrong. His response? "That's okay Grandma Dawna, we all make mistakes. Here, let me help you." To me, there is no greater reflection of God's grace than in those words I heard uttered from the mouth of a 5 year old.
I share my faith by: I share my faith quietly. After 21 years of ministry, most of that working with youth and families I have come to learn from those kids, now adults, that it was the one-on-one conversations; the notes of encouragement; the willingness to drive hours to a sports event to cheer them on; the opportunity for prayer and service to others; the questions I dared to pose about God and the times they dared raise questions about religion, faith, God and life which would make the most significant life long impact on their own faith journeys. I share my faith through the gift of song. Sometimes the best words and ways I can share the depth of my faith is through song - either of my own composition, or another's lyrics/melody. I use song when I preach. I use song when I teach. I use song Continued next page 8 Synod Voices, continued from page 7 when I pray. All my life, music and song have been an integral way of expressing myself. Song has a way of moving both intellect and emotion - soul and body. Faith and song are so intertwined in my life. Sometimes I can't tell where one ends and the other begins.
My favorite symbol of my faith is: Water. I love to remind people of their baptism and will take every opportunity to include the rite of Asperges into the liturgy. Undoubtedly, a small amount of water is all we need to make the mark of our baptism on our forehead. But when I can be extravagant with the amount of water I use, I always take that opportunity, as it becomes both a tactile and spiritual reminder of God's welcome, God's gift of love and the promise of God's faithfulness in our lives.
I pray for: so much! For the past three years, 7:14 am has become a time of dedicated prayer for the whole congregation of Ocean Park Lutheran Church (OPLC). Rooted in 2 Chronicles 7.14, 'If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray...' I invited every member to set aside a moment or two or more, to pray for God's vision for this faith community. Sometimes we pray for very specific petitions. Other times we simply lift up one another. It became a cherished time of my day and others have found this spiritual discipline to become a stepping stone into a deeper time of prayer for their own lives. As you enter into the church building, you will pass by two substantial permanent chalk boards. One encourages people to write down something they want to do before they die. The other is highlighted, "I want someone to pray for..." People in our own church community as well as our neighborhood have been invited to come to the church and write down their prayer petitions - and they have heeded our invitation. The chalkboard is nearly full - pray for my mom; pray for our country; pray for healing; pray for... This chalkboard has become a holy ground of ministry, prayer and hope.