Reverend Til Bauer’s Sabbatical Journey: Exploring Faith, Culture, and Creativity in Chicago

Til Bauer in the forest

Reverend Tilman Bauer, affectionately known as Til Bauer, is embarking on a transformative sabbatical semester at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. His primary goal is to gain practical insights and knowledge that will enrich his ministry back home at the Lutheran Church of Württemberg. By engaging in new academic, artistic, and cultural traditions, Bauer looks forward to returning to Württemberg with new insights for his congregation and community.

Rekindling Old Connections: A Roommate Reunion

The germ of Bauer’s journey to Chicago started over three decades ago, when Bauer and LSTC Professor Klaus-Peter Adam (KPA) lived and studied together in Munich. “We lived together for a year while studying and we keep in touch, of course,” Bauer says. For Bauer, who had always had an interest in how Lutheranism played out in the United States, this connection played a crucial role in his decision to spend his sabbatical in Chicago.

While some Reverends in the Lutheran tradition spend sabbaticals close to him, Bauer knew that he wanted to spend this time expanding his horizons. “I decided, ‘Well, it doesn’t make sense to live at home and just drive [to the local university], I’m living next to it,’” he says. “And so, I thought, ‘I’m Lutheran, where are other Lutheran [schools] around the world? And then I remembered KPA.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Event and Input: Enriching Ministry through Engagement

Bauer’s ministry approach revolves around the concept of “event and input.” He believes in inviting people to events that go beyond the surface level of enjoyment. These events serve as platforms for deeper engagement and meaningful discussions, where faith intertwines with real-life experiences.
For Bauer, that means connecting to congregations through non-traditional means and encouraging congregants to deepen their faith through developing their interests. As an example, Bauer, an avid Tango dancer, has incorporated his passion into his ministry. He organizes tango services, a blend of faith and dance, where the community can experience spirituality in a creative and unique way. You can see this dancing live here and here. Through tango, he connects with a new audience, forging bonds that transcend traditional boundaries. “We do a tango service once a year,” Bauer says of his initiative to support increased church enrollment. “It’s a big issue here.”

A group smiling and holding bottles at PreacherSlam
Above: PreachSlam, 2023

Bauer has other interests as well, including Slam Poetry, which he has incorporated into his ministerial approach. He has even started a “PreacherSlam” event back home, inviting fellow pastors to share their messages through the powerful medium of spoken word. PreacherSlam is recorded and put online to reach even more audiences. You can see the director’s cut of the most recently PreacherSlam here.

This innovative approach encourages fresh perspectives and enhances community engagement. Both Tango and poetry are elements of expression that Bauer hopes to explore further during his time in Chicago.

Three couples dancing in front of an audience in a church
Tango Night, 2023

A Journey into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Another of Bauer’s primary goals during his sabbatical is to deepen his understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). He is particularly interested in gaining insights into the Black Lives Matter movement and the broader realm of intersectionality studies. This journey aligns with his commitment to fostering a more inclusive and empathetic ministry back in Germany. “The United States does a lot more with [the idea of] intersectionality,” Bauer says, “And so my being here is to understand that and gain insights into that.” Once back home, Bauer hopes to bring these insights to an eager congregation, excited to engage in new avenues of discussion and activism.

Building a Global Network

Bauer’s journey exemplifies the power of building connections and learning from different cultures. His experiences in Chicago, both within the theological realm and the city’s cultural scene, will undoubtedly enrich his ministry and contribute to the global dialogue on faith and community engagement.

Indeed, Reverend Til Bauer’s sabbatical in Chicago is more than just a personal endeavor; it’s a testament to the transformative power of learning, connecting, and embracing diversity. His commitment to expanding his ministry horizons through cultural engagement, innovative approaches, and a deepening understanding of DEI principles serves as an inspiring example for ministers, academic theologians, and anyone who wishes to travel beyond the edge of their comfort zone to experience personal and professional growth.

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