LSTC Exchange Student Tobi Friedlein: A Path to Pastoral Leadership and Advocacy
Tobi Friedlein, a 2023 exchange student hailing from Germany, has embarked on a new academic and faith journey at LSTC with the generous support of a Lutheran World Federation Scholarship. Here, his purpose extends far beyond the pursuit of academic excellence; Friedlein aspires to become a pastor, driven by a passion for working with young people and advocating for environmental and social justice.
For Friedlein, the desire to become a pastor is deeply rooted in his belief that the church must evolve and adapt to the needs of contemporary society. These are realizations borne not only from his own faith-based theological study in Germany but also from his lived experience, which has been deeply entwined with the Lutheran church for nearly his entire life: “My mother works as our Pastor’s secretary,” he notes, “and my father is on our local church council.” Together, they provided Friedlein with a unique view of both the inner-workings of church operations and the possibilities that exist for faith-based communities to foster important social change.
As a result, Friedlein recognizes the importance of engaging young people to infuse fresh perspectives into the faith community. “I’m convinced that younger persons are actually interested in faith and spiritual experiences,” he notes. “But at the moment [the Church doesn’t have many] offers which attract young people.” He’s here to change that. For Friedlein, faith is not just a personal belief but a tool for fostering positive change in society writ large. His commitment to working with young people reflects his understanding that their involvement is essential for the church’s growth and relevance in the modern world.
Bettering Our Society, Bettering the Planet
While at LSTC, Friedlein hopes to develop practical skills in preaching as well as organizing for social and environmental change. Indeed, as much as Friedlein is interested in cultivating support for the Lutheran tradition amongst young people, he is also interested in creating opportunities for environmental stewardship and justice, both driving forces behind his pastoral aspirations. “I hope to use the practical knowledge I learn here to help make churches themselves more environmentally friendly,” Friedlein says.
Friedlein’s dedication to social justice is equally motivating. Growing up in a family deeply involved in church activities, he was exposed to the importance of social engagement from an early age. His decision to become a pastor is also a testament to his commitment to addressing social injustices and helping marginalized communities, a commitment that he hopes to address though opportunities that abound at LSTC. “I’m very interested in anti-racism work being done at LSTC,” he says, “and that was one reason I was interested in the institution to begin with.” Also keen on economic equality, Friedlein hopes to deploy what he learns related to economic justice in his work with communities back home in Germany.
New Home, New Goals
In describing his first impression of the institution, Friedlein notes with appreciation the familiarity and generosity he has experienced since the academic year began. “The people here help you whenever they can,” he says, “it’s a really welcoming atmosphere.”
Friedlein’s journey in Chicago will shape his future as a pastor and social justice advocate. As he navigates the academic and cultural landscape of Chicago, Friedlein is not just honing his theological knowledge but also nurturing the qualities of empathy, leadership, and dedication that will make him an outstanding pastor and advocate for change. His journey is a testament to the power of education, faith, and scholarship in molding the leaders of tomorrow.