As Cross of Glory continues to welcome its new pastor, Dana O’Brien, a little background on our new friend and colleague is always a useful endeavor. That said… put on your learning caps… and let’s have a little Q and A with our new pastor!
Now that you’ve been at CoG for several weeks, what’s your initial reaction?
“You guys are great! The worship feeds me — this music style really speaks to me and I’ve been without it for awhile. There a many things that impress me, but the two that jump our right now are how active the congregation is (people are involved in the community and so many are active here in worship etc.), and what great prayers you are. (I’ve never had people pray this much before. I’m going to pick up my own level of prayer just to keep up with you all.) Periodically I will have friends coming down from my first congregation in Racine. I think they will feel very much at home. This congregation — particularly the worship service and the worship space — is very similar to that one.”
How do you think you will fit in and help lead our church?
“You are clearly starting from a different place than many congregations that are being redeveloped. So the specifics of what I do will differ (and I’m just beginning to learn about you and where we need to stretch). But the basics will be the same. First, I need to make sure you know that I love you. Second, my call is to equip and empower you to live as missional followers of Jesus in the world, 24/7 each and every day. When we do that, we will impact others and they’ll want what we have. There are also many things you will teach me, so we’ll be taking this walk together. I am looking forward to it.”
The Oktoberfest party was a nice touch…you planning on organizing more events like it? Christmas? Blackhawk parties, etc…?
“I really had nothing to do with the Oktoberfest party. That was all you guys. I just showed up and helped. And I understand that you do a number of events. I do like to use parties as community events, so we’ve got the Halloween party coming up and we’ll make sure we have our Christmas with Santa party and the Easter Egg hunt and some stuff in summer also.”
Can you speak a little bit about your background, i.e., pastor experience?
“I’m a second career pastor, so I’ve only been a pastor since 2010. Prior to that I was an attorney at a corporate law firm in Milwaukee for 22 years. I grew up in the Missouri synod but during a move I inadvertently started going to an ELCA congregation where I’ve been ever since. I am a strong believer in the missional understanding of the church — the idea that the church is the sent people of God participating in God’s redemptive mission in our world. I’m not a fan of church hierarchy, but love the historical stuff like learning how people in Jesus’ time would have understood what he said to them.”
So what’s your personal background? Children?
“I was married (and divorced in 1998) and have two adult daughters and one grandson. My youngest daughter lives in Tucson and is a psychiatry resident and my oldest daughter and her husband live in Chicago with my grandson. (She works for the Illinois Treasurer’s Office and he is an engineer.) Hopefully, you will see them occasionally because they’ll come out to visit. My parents live in Greendale (a suburb of Milwaukee) in the house in which I grew up. I have one sister whose family lives near the Twin Cities. I also have two rescue dogs who are still adjusting to the move.”
Since CoG is a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) church, do you have any specific message for our LGBT church family or any prospective church-seekers out there?
“I believe we have a really big God who welcomes all of us. Coming from the Missouri Synod, my understanding of the ‘bigness’ of God has definitely been a journey, but I did do a wedding for a couple of my friends a few years ago as soon as Wisconsin recognized same sex marriages. Finding out that CoG is an RIC congregation was a definite plus for me in choosing to come here. I hope that all our LGBTQ brothers and sisters feel welcome here and find this a place where their gifts are valued and can be used in God’s mission.”
What are some of your suggestions/ideas to help us grow our congregation?
“I think lots of people don’t know we’re here, so getting out in the community is important. But it’s important not so much to represent Cross of Glory, but so that we can live as Jesus’ disciples participating in God’s mission in our community. I don’t actually think God calls me to help CoG grow; instead, I think God calls me, and all of us, to a much bigger mission. We are called to help people see God’s kingdom breaking into our world, to help them see a God who loves us beyond measure and to help people develop a relationship with that God. I do believe, however, that being in community here at CoG is a great way to develop such a relationship.
“… we all know people we could invite on a Sunday morning. We’ll work on inviting and have some special “Invite a Friend” Sundays. I will also specifically try to reconnect with some prior CoG people who may not have found another congregation and will contact people who are new to the community. If we are excited about what we have here at CoG, we will tell people about it.
“I do think it’s important to distinguish between an individual congregation and a relationship with God. Other congregations for the most part are not our competitors — we all work for the same God. And I don’t want to come off as not caring about numeric growth here, but I think it’s so much more than that.”
During a recent sermon, you indicated your desire to stick around for many years and help grow our church. Can you elaborate?
“I bought a house here and don’t plan on going anywhere. I would be thrilled to walk with all of you here at Cross of Glory for a long time. However, a pastor needs to continually ask God and him/herself whether she’s still the person to move the congregation forward and the right person for a particular congregation at a particular time. I need to make sure I’m always giving you my best. (If that ever stops being the case, then I need to reconsider whether I’m still the right person for this congregation.) Or if the congregation ever feels that it needs to move on, then I need to respect that. I trust that God will let us all know how long we’re going to be together, and personally I hope it’s a long time.”
It’s gonna come up at some point…you planning on being a Sox fan or a Cubs fan? We get a little uppity here over south/north competition!
“I’m from Milwaukee so I’m a Brewers fan. I’ll also root for the Bucks over the Bulls and I am a huge Packers fan. On the other hand it’s hard not to support a team that hasn’t won a championship in 108 years, so I’m definitely rooting for the Cubs right now. Over time, I’ll probably root for other Chicago teams except in head to head games with Milwaukee/Wisconsin teams (with the exception of the Bears — that’s just not going to happen.)
If you haven’t already … and I’ll bet most of the congregation already has … please welcome Pastor Dana to our church! It’s great to have her!