A Conversation with ASA President Leanne Thompson

Leanne Thompson, MDiv '06,  takes the helm as the 2014 ASA President. The Reed spoke with Thompson, who gave us some insight into the context of her ministry, what marriage to a fellow seminarian is like, and her vision of what the ASA will accomplish this year.

The Reed: Tell us about your ministry context and how Austin Seminary has shaped your ministry.

Leanne Thompson: As I sit down to answer these questions, the wind is howling, the snow is blowing, and I was just notified that school is cancelled, again. It is winter in Minnesota, and if you have seen the movie “Grumpy Old Men,” you have seen a snapshot of my ministry context – at least the winter version of my ministry context.  Yes, people really do drive out on the ice, set up temporary dwellings, and drill holes through 24+ inches of ice in order to catch fish. In true “Lake Wobegon” fashion, they bicker about politics, have long-standing, good-natured rivalries (usually involving the Minnesota Vikings), and have been known to walk 7 blocks to morning Bible study, even when it is 15 below zero. This is the world in which I serve as a pastor in a traditional church setting. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I am blessed to have the privilege of walking the path of discipleship with a gifted group of people who know their neighbors, show up with casseroles when they are in crisis, and look for any excuse to laugh together. 

Studying at Austin Seminary did not prepare me for the weather up north, but it did prepare me for ministry within a community of faith. Austin Seminary provided me with a solid theological education, and centered me in a community where I could learn to apply theology and scripture to life. We studied, learned, and debated in the classroom, and in community we figured out how that learning changed us. Austin Seminary shaped my ministry by teaching me how to view the world in a new way – as a theologian – and live in community – as people of God. My family and I have traded Double Dave’s for Lulu Bean’s, and the Polity Bowl for the Presby Golf Scramble. No matter how much my context has changed, this remains the same: the community that shaped me at Austin Seminary continues to be a model of what I know the church can be - God’s faithful people learning together, challenging one another, growing together, and caring for each other.

TR: What is your vision for the ASA work as they communicate, connect, advocate, and care for our seminary alumni in 2014?

LR: Since graduating in 2006, I have not lived in driving distance of Austin Seminary. It is not easy to stay connected from a distance, but it is worth it. When I have been able to return to campus and reconnect with friends and mentors, the experience has been essential to feeding my mind and spirit, and helping me stay connected to my sense of call. I want other alumni to feel connected to this place that formed, and is still forming us. The ASA Board is committed to fostering that kind of connection. With that in mind, the ASA Board will be:

Communicating with alumni on a monthly basis on topics we hope are relevant to you. Look for emails from your regional representatives, and join the Austin Seminary Alumni page on Facebook. We want you to know what is going on so that you can participate in educational events.

Connecting with alumni in our regions, getting to know you so that we can care for you – our colleagues in ministry – and advocate on your behalf in our interactions with the seminary as they plan Education Beyond the Walls and alumni gatherings.

This year, you will also be hearing about the Distance Education Center that is part of Austin Seminary’s plan to grow into the future.  The ASA Board has committed to raising support for this venture because we are committed to making it possible for alumni, wherever they are, to remain connected to Austin Seminary.

TR: You and your husband, Scott, co-pastor a ministry. How do you keep boundaries between your calling and your personal life? It seems to be a challenge that many pastors deal with.

LT: I wish I could tell you we’re really good at this. It is a challenge. Being Co-Pastors requires a high level of communication and intentionality about how we do our work and how we nurture each other as spouses, parents, and people. We try to practice some things in our lives that help us accomplish this:

Work is work; home is home. We try not to bring work home with us. The pastor’s study is for sermon writing, professional reading, class prep, and administrative tasks. The home is for eating together, helping with homework, playing games, reading for pleasure, and family movie night. Of course, work occasionally seeps into the home, but when that happens, we hold each other accountable to making sure it is the exception, not the rule. And we never talk about work at home when our daughter is in the house. She doesn’t need to hear those conversations; it’s not appropriate for her to hear those conversations.

Weekly date night. It’s not always a big exciting outing.  Sometimes it is just watching “Marvel: Agents of Shield” together after Abigail goes to bed. But it is important to make time for each other.

Outside friendships and activities. It is important for both of us to have recreational activities and friendships outside of our family and church activities. So we coordinate our work schedule and our family schedule to allow for that. This past year I participated in a community theatre production of Nuncrackers, and I go to YMCA exercise classes with a friend. Scott participates in a gaming league. Participating in hobbies and activities we enjoy is good for us as people and as partners.

Above: Leanne Thompson, 2014 ASA President
Above: Leanne Thompson with husband, Scott, and their daughter, Abigail.
Above: Leanne Thompson preaching at First Presbyterian Church
Content- Black Text
Above: Leanne Thompson's home church; First Presbyterian Church
Above; First Presbyterian Church of Bridgeport, Nebraska