This is the first chapter of my new book, “Love Out Loud”. It takes place at a Lutheran college that was born from the ashes caused by a schism involving Concordia University-Wisconsin’s Board of Regents, Faculty Senate, and Student Government Association. The new college, Trinity Lutheran University, is a combination of the former Carthage College and the students, faculty, and staff from Concordia who chose to stay following the moving of the college with its sister campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The first day of campus life for Trinity Lutheran University started bright and early as the Class of 2022 began arriving at 8am to move into their dorms and get acquainted with campus before the school’s opening service for freshmen and athletes at 4pm. Erin Matheson, a women’s lacrosse player coming to TLU from Rockford, MI, was unloading her parents’ minivan when the school’s chaplain, Deacon Marc Schmidt, and his wife Danielle joined them.
Marc: Jim, Val, I see all of you made it here safely. You should have called us if you were going to be in town a day early. We could have gone out to dinner, the five of us.
Jim: We got in about 9:00 last night because I was needed at the museum in the afternoon and couldn’t pass the task off to another curator.
Danielle: How is the bouncing, baby freshman doing today?
Erin: Good as can be. I don’t know anybody here but you and Mr. Slick, but I hear that there will be a LOT of my teammates coming today.
Marc: I think I heard your team has 18 freshmen out of the 24 on the roster. Since athletes get to move in early, I’m guessing all 24 of you will be here by the end of the day. Have you seen your schedule for this evening’s beginning of orientation?
Erin: We have a team meeting that will run from 7-7:30, then “bonding time” from 7:30-10pm. Us athletes are exempted from the hall meeting tonight, but will have to schedule in a time to meet with our hall director before classes start on Monday.
Marc: I need to get back to my office to work on this afternoon’s opening service. Erin, stop by after you get moved in and settled. We’ll do lunch together and I can give you some of the low-down on campus and what I’ve learned in my first month or so up here.
Marc gave Erin a hug, which was reciprocated along with a peck on the cheek. Marc kissed his wife goodbye and waved at Jim and Val before heading over to Luther Hall and returning to work on his first worship service as Trinity Lutheran University’s chaplain.
Around 11:30, Erin stopped into Marc’s office in Luther Hall.
Erin: Is the chaplain in?
Marc: For most people, no, but for you, yes. Take a seat.
Erin sat down and looked around Marc’s place of work, taking in the combination of religious and sports artifacts.
Erin: If I hadn’t seen the proof, I wouldn’t believe that you had done all that you have.
Marc: It’s been an interesting life, I can tell you that. From my time at Drake to Ball State and Western Michigan, where Danielle and I met your parents, and onward to Buffalo and building my own soccer club before going into coaching education and getting through my diaconal coursework, everything has helped me get to this point, and I wouldn’t change anything that has happened. Well, maybe one thing. I wish my dad had been able to see me achieve all of this. Then again, if he were still with us, most of this probably wouldn’t have happened.
Erin: Did you think you’d be here a year ago when I decided to apply for admission?
Marc: In reality, no. I didn’t know that the position here would be vacant or that I’d be asked to take it on after being consecrated. Things just fell together the way they were meant to. I get to do what I’ve always wanted, which is campus ministry in a setting where my previous experience in student affairs and athletics can be a help to both the professionals and the students.
Erin: Ready for lunch?
Marc: Just let me get this last sentence written for my homily and then I’ll be set.
Marc finished up and then the two of them walked over to Albrecht for lunch at Luther’s Landing, comprised of six different mini-restaurants in a food court style setting. The pair went to their preferred counters, as Erin got a sandwich and salad from Express Deli and Marc a burger and fries from the Original Burger Company. While getting condiments for his food, Marc ran into someone from his past.
Danielle Dillon: Marc. Funny seeing you up in this part of the world.
Marc: Yeah. Took a job here about six weeks ago. Still getting my feet under me. I thought you were teaching elementary school.
Danielle: I was, but when Trinity advertised for a full-time assistant coach, I thought “what the heck” and put in my application. Guess the athletic director liked what he saw, as I got hired.
Marc: Congrats. You’ve always had the ability and confidence. Just needed the opportunity to show it.
Danielle: It didn’t hurt that I took a coaching seminar last year as part of my continuing education in the district. A local coach developed a module for current and future coaches to learn the ins-and-outs of athletic administration as well as the hurdles athletes face away from the field and issues that schools and coaches face.
Marc: Seems to have helped you land the gig here.
Danielle: So what have you been up to since we last saw each other?
Marc: After I shut the club down, I took a little time off before figuring out what I wanted to do next. I couldn’t really find a next chapter until after I was hospitalized a couple of years ago for anxiety and depression. Once my psychiatrist got my medication straightened out, I got into coaching education, developing the module you mentioned.
Danielle: That was your creation?!
Marc: Yep. 100% my own thinking on how best to get female coaches on equal footing with the inside track that men seem to always be on when it comes to knowing people in the business and informal mentoring.
Danielle: I know you’re not in the athletic department here, so where do you work on campus?
Marc: Luther Hall. I am the school’s chaplain.
Marc: Yes. I was set to go to seminary about 15 years ago, but my synodical candidacy committee denied me entrance due to debt racked up getting my two master’s degrees. During my sabbatical from soccer, I started the local synod’s diaconate education program. I was consecrated as a deacon in June and was asked, based on my past experience in campus ministry and student affairs, to take on the position here when Carthage’s campus pastor chose not to re-locate for the job.
Danielle: I better eat or I’ll be late for our coaches’ meeting at 1. No second training today because of the team meeting this evening following dinner.
Marc: I need to get truckin’ or my goddaughter Erin will wonder where I got off to. Great seeing you again. Still as button-cute as I remember. Maybe we can do lunch sometime and you can fill me in on what’s happened with you in the last three years. Opening service for freshmen and athletes is at 4 in Bonhoeffer Chapel in case you’re interested.
Danielle smiled at Marc as they parted and he found Erin.
Erin: How long could a burger and fries take to be made?
Marc: I ran into a former player of mine from MUSC. She’s the assistant women’s soccer coach here.
Erin: Cool. You’ll have to introduce me to her at some point.
Marc: I think I can do that at the All-Sports Mixer on Wednesday. Have you met your roommate yet?
Erin: No. She was at practice. I’ll hopefully see her when I get back to my room. What time is service again?
Marc: 4:00. It will be VERY similar to what you’re used to in your home congregation.
Erin: I should get back to see if roomie is around and to maybe meet some of my teammates.
Erin left Albrecht and went back to Augsburg to try and make a few friends before orientation started tonight.
Erin unlocked the door to her room and saw her roommate watching television.
Cassie Kingston: You must be Erin.
Cassie stood up and greeted her roommate with a handshake.
Erin: You’re Cassie, then. Cute boyfriend you have.
Cassie: Thanks. We’ve been together three years now. He’s playing soccer at St. Thomas up in the Twin Cities.
Erin: Is that where you’re from?
Cassie: Yes, Woodbury to be exact. You?
Erin: Rockford, MI, about ten miles northeast of Grand Rapids.
Cassie: What are you majoring in?
Erin: Management. Yourself?
Erin: I know you’re an athlete since you were already moved in when I got here this morning. What sport?
Cassie: Soccer. I’m a defender.
Erin: I play lacrosse. Defender as well.
Cassie: I’m not sure how our team will do this year. We have 14 freshmen out of 20 spots on the team.
Erin: My uncle told me that we had 18 freshmen among our 24-player roster. He also ran into your assistant coach while we are at lunch earlier.
Cassie: Danielle? She’s a cutie. Of course, I don’t swing that way.
Erin: It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Cassie: So you do?
Erin: Yes and no. Yes as in I THINK I do, but no in terms of any experience dating one.
Cassie: You know that women’s sports tends to be a fertile ground for them. Maybe you’ll get lucky and one of your teammates will be an option.
Erin: I’m not TOO eager to jump someone at the moment. Just want to get to know people here. Being from out of state, it’s a little intimidating knowing no one right now.
Cassie: I guess being in a spring sport puts you at a disadvantage in that department versus the fall sport athletes. We had a ready-made group of friends when we came to campus two weeks ago.
Erin heard some commotion and went into the hall to check it out. She saw a few of the women on her floor running toward the stairwell and then through the door to go downstairs. When the person chasing all of them ran past her, she walked behind her and looked her over. Erin saw that her back was chiseled as the muscles poked around the areas that her t-back sport bra didn’t cover. She also noticed a tattoo on a good portion of her right arm. She knew that the mystery woman was at least a couple of inches taller than her 5’7″ self and that her backside was smokin’ in her yoga pants. Erin felt a little funny and thought to herself, “They sure don’t grow them like THAT where I’m from.” Her stomach turned over and, once her dorm mate turned around and Erin saw her magnetic smile and piercing eyes, she quickly thought about what to say as she came walking back down the hall.