Q&A With Past Chapel President Dain Swanson '02
Meet Dain Swanson '02
Past Chapel President
Q. Where are you now? Please share your location and job title, and provide a description of what your position entails.
A. I am currently on staff at Word of Peace Lutheran Church in Rogers, Minnesota, a northwest suburb of the Twin Cities. I have been there for 14 years this September and have held a few different positions since I began working there in 2003. I started as Director of Youth Ministry and began to explore video production and photography for the sake of the ministry. I also used my musical abilities to lead worship for the youth and larger congregation. In 2013, I transitioned to my current position in Worship and Media Arts. It ended up being a conglomeration of worship planning/leading as well as supporting our congregation as we transitioned into a more media rich worship environment. I help with the youth program leading youth worship bands for confirmation. I support the different ministries of the church by documenting the life of the congregation through photography and video. I lead worship a number of times a week as well as train and coordinate the volunteer for our sound, media and video ministry.
I also have been working with the larger church planning and implementing the ELCA Youth Gathering in 2015 in Detroit and next summer in Houston.
Q. Please share a bit about how campus ministry at Augie influenced your life.
A. Campus Ministry was the first place at Augie where I felt at home. It was what I was most familiar with for the first few months of my freshman year. As the rest of campus slowly became my home as well, Campus Ministry held a special place in my day and in my life. I found wonderful friends in the Chapel Musicians and my outreach team. Carol LaCroix was always there to ask how my day was going and a mother figure to me when I was homesick. The pastors celebrated my accomplishments and helped me through hard times. In short, they were my family.
But I think the thing that influenced me the most was when I was literally "handed the keys" of leadership when I became Chapel President. The experience I had my senior year was what led me to want to work in the church after college. The student leadership was a part of the committee to call Pastor Paul (Rohde) and for his first year we were responsible for a large part of the direction of the Campus Ministry as he learned the ropes. That time focused my belief that, through the church, I could help make the world a better place.
Q. Share how your faith was nurtured outside of Chapel — by professors in class, by peer advisors, by friends, through participation in clubs and intramurals, etc.
A. One of the things I loved best about Augustana was how the physical walls of the Chapel ended but the feeling of community I had while inside covered the entire campus. I was engrossed in religion and philosophy because of my major, but there was something emanating from Campus Ministry that encouraged students to continue to grow in their faith where they were on campus. I always felt like the core value of "nurturing the search for a mature religious faith" was truly at the center of every class I took or anyone I talked to. I also really appreciated the different Bible study groups that helped lead worship for each week. There were so many people in different stages of faith life around campus. And yet, it seemed like Campus Ministry, staff and professors were always supporting and encouraging me to pursue a deeper relationship with Christ no matter where I was in my faith journey. Even today, my college friends and I get together and reminisce about how we weren’t just living on the same floor trying to win our next intramural championship, or singing in choir, but shared life and faith in all the things we did. And I see that reflected in how we live our lives today.
Q. How does faith continue to serve as your compass?
A. Faith is a gift from God. There are moments when I struggle to find my next step. There are times when I feel like I've hit a dead end. But because of the faith and belief I have in Jesus Christ, I know that whatever the next step is, God is there. I also believe that God has placed people in my life that are walking along side me to help keep me focused on the cross and in turn be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
Q. How has your faith helped you navigate through life's changes and challenges?
A. I think the biggest thing my faith has helped me with is seeing the bigger picture, or at least believing there IS a bigger picture. There are so many times in life that I catch myself focusing on small details or a single event. I fret or worry about the littlest things almost to the point of being sick about it. One of the things I miss and cherished most about my time at Augie was the ability to come into the Chapel late at night and just sit and pray. This would allow me to take a step back and calm my fears so I could focus on God rather than what I believed to be a road block. I don't have the luxury of a beautiful chapel right outside my house today, but I do make sure to take time each morning and take a step back knowing that God is always there and nothing can separate me from God's love.
I do have to tell a story about one of the biggest challenges we faced as a Chapel staff, as Augustana and as a country while I was president. Sept. 11, 2001 was during my senior year. The attack on the World Trade Center rocked the country and made us wonder if we would be safe even in a small city in the Midwest. Augustana quickly convened student and staff leadership to put together a plan for how we would gather as a campus to pray and support one another. The logical place was the Chapel and for the rest of the day we mourned, prayed and hugged each other. That evening, a candle light prayer service was held and it felt like the entire campus was present. It was a proud moment for us as a Chapel staff.
Q. Who was the most inspiring professor at Augie, and why?
A. There were so many inspiring professors, it's hard to choose. I have to choose two: Dr. James Johnson (choir) and Dr. Ann Pederson (religion and advisor for my major). I choose two because they spoke to different parts of my faith and belief. Dr. J spoke to my music, creative, emotional side of my faith; my heart. And Ann related to my thinking, logical, processing "head" faith. They both gave me reason to dive deeper into my faith and ask hard questions. They allowed me space to think and feel. But most of all they encouraged me to explore my faith, knowing that it was a journey so many others have been on before and this was my time to take those steps.
Q. What's given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating Augie? And why?
A. Tough question. One of the hardest things about working in ministry is not knowing if the seeds of faith being planted are having any effect on people's lives. There is a lot of planting that happens, but will those seeds of faith grow into something more with deep roots? It's hard to know. But since I have been at the same church for 14 years I have had the privilege of seeing a few of the seeds planted in middle and high school students long ago grow into something truly amazing. Knowing that I have been a part of shaping the lives of young people through relationships, music and conversation inspires me to keep doing more. Having the confidence that through my faith I am a vessel for God to use each day is truly humbling. The most important things in life are my faith and my belief in God, and to be able to pass that along to my family, kids, friends and the congregation and community I work with is truly humbling.