Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast: An Interview with Rev. Svennungsen

With the ticket deadline of November 20th fast approaching Sons of Norway hopes you'll be in attendance at the 2014 Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast! To give you a little taste of what you can expect at this premier event, we hope you will enjoy the second in a series of interviews with this year's NATB speakers. This time we interviewed Rev. Ann Svennungsen, who will be speaking to the audience on the topic of faith.

SofN: Please tell us about your connection to the Nordic American community. 

Svennungsen: My paternal grandparents were 100% Norwegian. In 1994, my father and I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to visit the sites where our ancestors lived. In addition to the Svennungsens, our ancestors were Groethes, Monsons, and Frichs. The Frich family was well known in Bergen, where a museum still stands in their name. Norman Borlaug and Leland Sateren are also descendants of the Svennungsen immigrants (though spellings vary). I attended Concordia College in Moorhead, and served as pastor at St. Olaf and President of Texas Lutheran – all of which have significant Norwegian (and Swedish) ties.

SofN: Have you ever attended the Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast before? 

Svennungsen: No. But I’m delighted to attend this year! 

SofN: Can you give us a sneak peek into what the audience can expect from your presentation?   

Svennungsen: I am eager to speak about what I sense as a deep yearning for faith and about how the church is meeting - or struggling to meet - that yearning. I also love to tell stories – so there will be a few of those!

SofN: A person in your position is sure to have a very busy schedule. Can you tell us a little about what convinced you to speak at this year’s event? 

Svennungsen: I have high regard for Rick Torgerson and knew he’d spoken at last year’s event; so I sensed it was well worth my time. Also, I’m pretty proud of my Norwegian heritage (in a good sort of way, I hope!).

SofN: As this year’s speaker on the topic of faith, can you share with our readers what you believe is most important element of faith? 

Svennungsen: The good news of God’s unconditional love – revealed in the death and resurrection of Christ.

SofN: Do you have a favorite quote or passage about faith? 

Svennungsen: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

SofN: As a person with a long history in the church, what is the most important lesson our readers should know about faith? 

Svennungsen: If we are justified by faith in Christ as a gift from God, then our whole theology grows out from that central promise: We celebrate the priesthood of all believers and the vocation of all the baptized to love the neighbor; we rejoice in the gift of community and the promise that God meets us in finite, sacramental ways; we rest in the “theology of cross,” a theology that welcomes questions, appreciates struggle, and calls us see God most clearly in the cross; and we live out the radical welcome we ourselves have received from God. 

SofN: Can you share with our readers why you think it’s important to support local charities?  

Svennungsen: As one theologian put it, “when some have too much to eat and others have none, we ain’t got the Kingdom of God.” We give generously because it’s a powerful way to live out our call to love the neighbor as oneself, and especially the neighbor in need. When charities promote the fullness of life for all people – as well as the common good – we are called to share in cheerfulness and gratitude.

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