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December 20, 2010 10:03 PM

Freelancing Faith

Sioux Falls, SD


Churches throughout South Dakota are preparing for large turnouts for their Christmas Eve services later this week.
  But a Sioux Falls woman is proving that delving into spiritual matters isn't confined to the pews. Her new business helps clients explore their faith in an informal office setting, an hour at a time. Find out why her customers are becoming true believers in freelancing faith.

The exploration of life's deepest mysteries goes down much easier over a cup of coffee.

"We talk about everything under the sun," Char Skovlund of Sioux Falls said.

Once a week, Skovlund has been coming to OMG: Center for Theological Conversation. OMG as in the texting shorthand for Oh My God.

"I came from a family that was very active in church. I've been very active in church and have taken several religion classes and really thought I had a handle on what I believed in religion," Skovlund said.

Skovlund says she came to the center to meet with director Anna Madsen to gain a deeper insight into her own beliefs.

"As she talked about different ways to make your faith richer and more meaningful, it grabbed me. And so what we do is talk," Skovlund said.

Madsen is a former Augustana religion professor as well as an ordained minister who's carved a new niche in the spiritual landscape.

"In a sense, I describe myself as a religious professional for hire, or a freelance theologian," Madsen said.

But Madsen says she's not trying to compete against traditional churches and their ministers.

"I do think sometimes people feel more comfortable going to a place where they can say, 'I don't get this and I'm not sure I buy it and help me through that,'" Madsen said.

Madsen's clients include people in their 70s to a little girl who's 10 years old and possesses a very adult-like theology of her own.

"She's curious how do we know what heaven is going to be like, or there are different people I know who believe differently than I do and how do I know that I'm right," Madsen said.

But helping clients wrestle with their faith often begs tough questions for which there are no easy answers.

"So I, by no means, can say, 'Well, there's suffering because...'  But I can give a couple of possibilities," Madsen said.

Madsen's personal testimony of suffering came in 2004 when her husband and young son were struck by a car in Germany. The accident killed her husband and her son suffered a brain injury.

"And so, I understand the questions and the angst much better than this side, and the doubt and wrestling much better on this side than I did prior to the accident," Madsen said.

Madsen says without enduring the trials of that tragedy, there never would have been an OMG. Now she helps others who may be seeking, striving or struggling with the questions of faith.

"Theology is complex; it's not simple. And in fact, life is complex. It's not simple," Madsen said.

Madsen meets with couples and groups, as well as individuals. She charges $60 a session. Madsen says you pay a mechanic to fix your car, so why wouldn't you pay a professional theologian to help you with spiritual concerns.

OMG: Center for Theological Conversation
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