Q&A With Past Chapel President Jessica (Maske) Kingsborough '09
Meet Rev. Jessica (Maske) Kingsborough '09
Past Chapel President
Q. Where are you now?
A. I am currently living in Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, a small river town near the Poconos. I serve as pastor of Faith United Evangelical Lutheran Church and of course as a solo pastor I have become a jack of all trades. I truly consider my call here to be one of walking with people. Whether that is leading worship in my full clerics and alb or wearing jeans and hauling food and equipment down to the local soup kitchen. I have the great privilege to preach, teach, counsel, work, serve, learn, play and literally walk with my people (we've just begun a walking group to promote healthy living together).
Q. How did Campus Ministry influenced my life?
A. When I came to Augustana I was moving four hours from what was familiar to me in Nebraska and I knew absolutely no one. Campus Ministry became my safe haven. It was a familiar place that I could go and find comfort in the hymns, liturgy, and structure. The campus ministry staff was supportive and loving, yet soon it became a place that challenged me for the good. It is a place that I was pushed to grow in my understanding of faith in the world and what it means to be in relationship with one another. As outreach coordinator and chapel president I learned my own leadership strengths and flaws. I had tough and fruitful conversations with those on campus and in the surrounding areas about what it meant to be a Christian. I had the opportunity to worship with the Catholic students at mass, and to lead services in Lutheran congregations in the surrounding areas. Campus Ministry stretched my outlook on what it meant to live faithfully and today I am a better pastor because of my time there.
What I loved about Augie is that my faith was nurtured everywhere on campus. Faith was also infused in all the classes that I took at Augustana. In biology class we discussed science and religion working together. As a history major my classes would include topics like the impacts of religion around the world and at home. I learned about religious art, and I even found God in the quiet and concentration of the evening yoga classes. My junior year I lived in a theme house whose theme was "The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi." My faith could be nurtured in just about any place and people I encountered.
Q. Please share a bit about how Campus Ministry at Augustana influenced your life. Please also share how your faith was nurtured outside of Chapel — by professors in class, by peer advisors, by friends, through participation in clubs or intramurals, etc.
A. When it came to professors I had a unique advantage as the Religion and Philosophy Department's student assistant for all four years. I formed great relationships with all of the professors and in many instances I got to dream with them about new projects, classes and programs. They all contributed to my learning and mentoring for ministry. If you heard me teach or preach today I am sure you would hear a little: Bowman, Croghan, Pederson, Swanson, Haar, Storm and O'Hara incorporated. What I found beneficial at Augustana as a liberal arts institution was that it provided not only a way for my education to be well rounded, but a way for my understanding of faith to be well rounded.
When it comes to friendships many of the people I met at Augie are still some of my best friends and we have supported each other over the years through living out our faith. One of my classmates, Jenny Anderson, was the maid of honor at my wedding and we still refer to each other as "our Lutheran friend." I met her the first night of student orientation and we have been talking theology and faith ever since. I send baptismal birthday gifts to the children of my sophomore year roommate, Sara Gillis. We are passing the faith on to future generations.
Q. How does faith continue to serve as a compass in your life?
A. Faith has led me on a wild journey. After Augustana I moved across the country to attend the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelpha. I landed into a world of Lutheranism I had never experienced, one with smells and bells and lots of chanting. My understanding of faith was transformed as I encountered the church’s role in interfaith and ecumenical ventures. Living in a large city made me aware of all the facets that ministry entails and where Christ pushes and calls us. This meant sometimes jumping into the mess of things. I studied with students from all faith backgrounds and it made me understand my own faith and beliefs in a new way. It was not about just worship anymore, it was about getting in the trenches with the people who were homeless, addicted, struggling with mental illness, being discriminated against. I worshiped with the Jewish and Muslim communities and listened to their hopes for a better society. My internship took me down to Naples, Florida, for a year and I had the opportunity to learn what it meant for those who were elderly to still find a purpose in the church. I saw God working and fighting for the immigrant communities. At seminary I met my husband who I now share a larger community of faith with and is supportive as a colleague in ministry. Faith has pushed me to places I never imagined and the Holy Spirit has transformed how I see the world.
Faith is what I cling to the most when I go through challenges and struggles and during college had to hold on tight. My junior year I suffered from depression. It affected my school work and service to campus ministry. It took a lot to climb out of the pit, but God did a great job working through my community of professors and friends at Augie during that time. I still struggle, yet my faith has allowed this challenge to become a gift. I am able to use my experiences to help those in my congregation and especially my youth and young adults.
In my local context, I am challenged by being the first woman pastor for the congregation I serve, while also being the first woman pastor in my community. Being respected and taken seriously has been a learning experience and yet my faith has given me strength to lead and also to educate my congregation and community about the various ways God calls all people into service and leadership.
Q. Who were some of your most inspiring professors at Augustana, and why?
A. The professor that inspired me the most was Dr. Richard Bowman. I worked with him as a student assistant and got to witness a great professor and person at work. I have never met someone so passionate about the Old Testament and also so understanding and committed to mentoring religion majors and future pastors. His insights into scripture were helpful and his activities in class always made for engaging ways to learn. I admit that I use some of his activities now when I teach the Old Testament to my confirmation students. I will never forget his red shoes that he would wear sometimes and because of him I wear red shoes to every ordination that I attend for colleagues. And of course he had the best syllabi, always full of colors! He was great mentor and I am forever thankful and grateful to his witness as a professor and pastor.
Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why?
A. I have found my greatest satisfaction in living in a small community not only as a pastor, but as a community leader. I serve as the President of the Board for the local area United Way. I spend a lot of my free time advocating for my community which is in severe poverty, helping local projects come to fruition like a community performing arts center and swimming pool. I gather our local ministerium together to do projects and raise money. This year we are starting a community VBS where 11 churches are coming together to pool resources. We have Catholic, UCC, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and non-denominational churches working together. I am committed to making my community the most welcoming and accepting place we can be through education, conversation and kindness. My congregation has become a safe haven for those in the community who are LGBTQIA, opening doors for those who have been silenced and told God is not for them. Partnering together provides opportunities for changing perspectives. I have learned that in certain settings you are not just the pastor for your congregation, but the pastor for you community. The community knows who I am and what my congregation does and knows they can depend on us and work with us to make a difference.