Nathan Holst: Called to Justice
Nathan Holst is passionate about working towards a world in which everyone can live into their call: “that small voice leading us to the work we are to be about” that, when we pay attention, strengthens and clarifies our outer work. Nathan’s call is to work for justice: environmental/climate justice, racial justice, and local/global economic justice. What matters most to Nathan is sparking that sense of call in the world, and then finding our place, our piece. He believes that Christianity is a clear call for justice. Everyone deserves human rights. Anything that calls for love and compassion draws him.
Nathan’s experiences with Ecofaith Recovery in Portland, Oregon helped him to understand the issues of justice, and also helped him learn how to respond, how to act for change. Ecofaith Recovery is a network of Christian leaders working to recover from consumerism, which is a driving force behind ecological destruction. Through that community, he learned to see the connections between capitalism and environmental destruction. He believed that this understanding was essential for youth, and through an internship program created Ecofaith Youth Camp, a weeklong experience for senior high youth where they explored the connections between economic, environmental, and racial justice. They hiked, visited an organic farm run by a Native American couple, learned about the lives of migrant workers, and saw firsthand the impact of climate change on strawberry production.
Among those who have strongly influenced Nathan have been ecological theologian Ched Myers and his wife Elaine Enns, who connected him to a large group of radical Christians throughout the country. He has also been influenced by the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., which modeled for him what a church can be and can do. Ella Baker, with her work on racial justice and civil rights, with a particular emphasis on youth, has been another strong influence, as well as authors bell hooks and Andrea Smith, the author of Three Pillars of White Supremacy.
Nathan, originally from Duluth, graduated from East High School, and attended Concordia College in Moorhead. After graduation, he went to D.C., where he became involved with the 8th Day Community. He returned to Duluth for a year, during which he worked with a foster agency, and then moved to Portland where he completed his Masters in Social Work. While in Oregon, he worked at the Sisters of the Road Café, a community of houseless and formerly houseless people with an atmosphere of nonviolence. It is also an organizing space and a place to get a great meal with dignity. He also served as part time youth director at a Lutheran Church.
Nathan returned to Duluth because he missed his family, loves Duluth, and because he feels Duluth is “that sweet spot of [being]big enough to have some of the benefits of the big city, but small enough to feel small town.” He was drawn to Peace Church because it is a community of active people who want to live out their faith in justice work.
Nathan has many thoughts about what he would like to see happen through his work at Peace. He would love to bring what he learned from the Ecofaith Youth Camp to the youth here, focusing on individual/communal call, environmental and racial justice. He would like to co-create a program that helps us all get in touch with what is happening in the world with climate change— to find ways of addressing questions about what climate change means for people of color and people living in poverty, what it means to us as Christians in a first world country, what it means in terms of how we live our lives.
Music is at the heart of Nathan’s work in the world. “My most connecting image of God is Spirit of Song, and that often overlaps with my organizing/justice work.” Nathan has written (he prefers Bobby McFarren’s phrase “caught songs”) a number of songs that capture the moment of whatever was happening in the community. “I hope that music inspires justice work and expresses what we do in community together.”
Nathan brings his call, his music, his passion, and vision to Peace Church. We welcome him, and look forward to joining him in the questions, the actions, and the songs.
Interviewed by Penny Cragun ~ Thank you to Pamela Mittlefehldt for editing Voices for Justice each month.