Interview with Certificate of Lutheran Studies Student Kimberley Holmes Grasmick

My name is Kim Grasmick. I am married, with a teenage daughter, and I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I have had a long career in healthcare information technology and look forward to retiring in the next few years. I am a lifelong Lutheran, but only in the last seven or so years have I really had an interest in understanding more about the Bible, our faith traditions, and liturgical worship. I was walking through my Lutheran Christianity passively, by rote, and once I had a taste of theological studies from the amazing pastors at the church we started attending, I was hungry for more. I currently serve as the evangelism chair for my congregation and am discerning what next steps I’ll take in ministry. 

What drew you to consider a Certificate of Lutheran Studies through the North American Lutheran Seminary? 

I looked at several different certificate options from a multitude of seminaries and landed on the NALS because of the combination of its courses and, to be honest, the price. 

What have you found most valuable in your Certificate of Lutheran Studies program? 

There have been three classes that stand out for me. The Lutheran Tradition was great because Dr. David Nelson has such a wonderful way with words and our texts were the classic Lutheranism by Gritsch and Jenson and the Book of Concord. This class helped to cement why I am a Lutheran Christian, the history and sources of our faith, and the depth of meaning of the classic Lutheran “Word and Sacrament.” 

The next two were, frankly, classes that I didn’t like very much at the beginning. Despite that, Dr. Maurice Lee’s Evangelism, Discipleship and the Ministries of Caring was life changing. One of our texts was The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Although Bonhoeffer is a Lutheran hero, I had not read him before this class. Dr. Lee let me struggle with his work Discipleship and supported my slog at a very detailed level through the first half of the book. There is a turning point in the book where Bonhoeffer teaches that Jesus called His disciples by His Word and we are called in the exact same way through the exact same Word. We are made disciples by virtue of the Word and Water of our baptism; we don’t decide to become disciples. It was mind-blowing and totally changed the way I approach evangelism. 

The third class was Survey of Systematic Theology with Dr. Eugene Schlesinger. This class was PROVOCATIVE. It used the Apostle’s Creed as a “system” for understanding our Triune God. I won’t say my faith was rocked, but my understanding of God certainly was. Dr. Schlesinger supported my struggle, disagreed with me and encouraged me to dig in. He allowed me to have opposing opinions and challenged me to “show my work.” I read a ton of material outside of our required reading that both challenged and encouraged my positions. This was the most difficult of all the classes in my program and may have been my favorite. I would challenge everyone who confesses the Apostle’s Creed each week to take a systematic theology class to really get into just Who you are confessing. 

How has your learning impacted your current ministry practice? Is there one class or project that stands out? 

While Drs. Nelson and Schlesinger’s classes stand out for building my personal faith, Dr. Lee’s Evangelism class most impacted my current ministry practice. Learning that it is Christ who calls disciples through His Word takes a lot of pressure off an evangelist. An evangelist doesn’t make disciples or bring people to Christ. An evangelist just needs to invite people to experience Word and Sacrament, and through these means of grace, the Holy Spirit makes disciples. So my focus has shifted to finding novel ways to bring Word and Sacrament to my community.

What would you say to others considering an education at the NALS? 

I worship at a church within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) — I would encourage an open-ended search for a Lutheran studies certificate program, not just focusing on seminaries within your particular synod. I appreciated the NALS’ biblical focus, and that’s the main reason I chose it. Because it’s hosted by Trinity School for Ministry, there were courses that were Anglican-focused and so I would encourage Lutheran students to challenge the professors to remember to include the Lutheran focus. It was good to see Anglican thought and I think I brought something to discussions as sometimes the only Lutheran student in the group.