St. Olaf College | The Lutheran Center

Introducing the Lutheran Center’s New Associate Director

We’re delighted to announce the newest staff member in the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values and Community: Associate Director Rev. Peter Carlson Schattauer, a 2008 graduate of St. Olaf! After  St. Olaf, Peter went on to Yale Divinity School where he earned a Master of Divinity and went on to work in several congregations. For the past 5 years, he has served as  Associate Pastor at Advent Lutheran Church in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Please join us in welcoming him back to St. Olaf and to the Lutheran Center team!

What drew you to apply to work at the Lutheran Center and St. Olaf?

I am coming to St. Olaf and the Lutheran Center from serving as a pastor in a Lutheran congregation in the Twin Cities. In my role as a pastor, I have followed the work of the Lutheran Center through the newsletter for the past three years and have been really impressed with the work the Center has been doing. In a time when much of the conversation around religion and religiosity in this country is about division and decline, I am inspired by the Center’s desire to gather around questions and practices that envision a vibrant, forward-thinking Lutheran identity for St. Olaf and encourage students, staff, faculty, alumni, and congregations to imagine their place in a religiously diverse and harmonious world. 

When I learned of the position opening in the Center, I wondered if the experiences that I have had since graduating from St. Olaf could contribute to the work of the Center. I was particularly drawn to the opportunity to work with students as they ask questions about their faith, their vocational discernment, and how community forms, reforms, and transforms their lives.

 You graduated from St. Olaf in 2008. How did your time at St. Olaf help shape your vocational journey? How do you see the Associate Director position connecting to your vocation?

When I came to St. Olaf 18 years ago, I thought I would go to medical school after I graduated. My chemistry lab partner and study group can attest to how good it is that I redirected those energies! 

But it was also during that first semester at St. Olaf that I took my first-year religion course with Dr. David Booth, a class entitled “The Bible, Slavery, and Civil Rights.” In the class we thought about what it meant that the stories of the Bible have been used to argue for both the abolition of and promotion of American slavery, as well as for and against civil rights for many marginalized communities. It was one of the first times in my life where I remember realizing that religion affected – positively or negatively – so many of the social issues I cared about. I was hooked on thinking this way and kept taking classes in the Religion department until I realized I should probably just major in Religion. The love of my religion courses in college encouraged me to imagine what it might mean to pursue an advanced degree in religion and a call to ministry so that I might keep exploring these questions throughout my life. 

The other experience I had at St. Olaf that really shaped my vocational journey was through my student work assignment in the Admissions office. Along with my year-long work in Admissions, I also spent the summer between my sophomore and junior year working in the office and discovered I really loved connecting with prospective students. After graduation, I worked for a few years in college admissions at Augsburg University, where I got to collaborate with religion faculty and campus ministry around connecting with prospective students. Through these experiences, I began to wonder how my interest in questions of meaning and my love of work in a college setting might work together. So when I got to graduate school at Yale Divinity School, I immediately connected with the University Chaplain and interned in her office for a year. It was there that I learned about creating multi-religious communities and supporting all religious expressions on a college campus. 

The opportunity to serve as Associate Director in the Lutheran Center combines so many of these experiences for me! I am excited to explore questions of St. Olaf’s Lutheran identity and students’ faith identities in a multi-religious atmosphere. And I am excited to learn about the questions and wonderings that animate the lives of current St. Olaf students!   

The Lutheran Center aims to advance a compelling vision for Lutheranism in the 21st century that nourishes faith, values, and community to build a more spiritually engaged, religiously inclusive, and harmonious world. What do you think that Lutheran tradition and Lutheran Higher Education have to contribute to building a more just and inclusive community and world?

From the start, Lutherans have cared about access to education. Early in the Reformation, Luther encouraged families to educate all their children – not just the boys – so that everyone would have the ability to read the Bible and engage with their faith. When immigrants who were Lutheran – like the Norwegian immigrants who founded St. Olaf – came to this country, they founded schools so that they could access education in this new country. It is always my hope that we in Lutheran higher education remember this history and ask questions about how to live out our historical commitment to equitable access to education here and now. 

In my own life, the education I received at St. Olaf committed me to a more just and inclusive world. The Lutheran tradition’s commitment to naming honestly the reality of the world frees me to see where God’s vision of a peaceable world is not yet realized. I can honestly name where I see prejudice in any form dividing those who are meant to live in unity. I think this also frees Lutherans to state clearly when we have failed to promote God’s vision of a reconciled world while living into a hopeful future. Also, the Lutheran tradition’s emphasis on the free gift of God’s grace reminds me of the abundance in our world. I am enough and there is enough! Relating to my neighbors in the world from this vantage reminds me that I do not need to hoard or obsess over what I have or don’t have. Instead, I can partner with those around me to build a world where that abundance – that enough-ness – is known in everything we do!

One of the key aspects that you will be working on as Associate Director is student engagement. What excites you about the opportunity to work with students around issues of faith, values, and worldview?

I remember how exciting and scary and intimidating and awesome the years in college can be! It was the first time in my life where I began to really interrogate what my worldview was, what values I was going to espouse in my life, and how my faith was or wasn’t going to play into that. I feel so privileged that I got to do that in a community like St. Olaf, where my friends, professors, and staff were encouraging me to think deeply about those things. 

Because of those experiences, I have spent my years since St. Olaf learning about and working to engage with young adults around these questions of faith, belonging, values, and identity. And I hope the experiences I had as a student at St. Olaf, and working in higher education since St. Olaf, will allow me to create space where current Oles can explore these questions for themselves. 

I know how much has changed since I graduated and how different it is to be a college student now, so I look forward to learning, too. I look forward to hearing the questions that animate current Oles and I feel honored that I get to encourage them to dig deeper, as I was encouraged by so many faculty and staff when I was a student.

You will be the Lutheran Center’s first Associate Director. What are some ways you envision this new role helping the Center expand its reach and impact?

I am so excited to build upon the amazing work that has been achieved here in the Lutheran Center over the past three years. I am excited to learn about the questions and hopes that the St. Olaf community has about our Lutheran identity in a multi-religious world. I hope that my presence in the Center allows us to listen more broadly and deeply to these hopes and gives us an even greater capacity to collaborate across the college to live out what it means to be a vibrant, inclusive, and just community rooted in its Lutheran heritage.

What else would you like the St. Olaf community to know about you?

If you don’t want me to shut up, ask me about my love of musical theater, indie pop music, or what I made for dinner last night. Alternatively, you could just ask to see one of the thousands of pictures I have of my 10-month old nephew on my phone.