Leader Spotlight

Meet Pastor Clark Olson-Smith

Posted by: Olivia Schiller on 8/1/2014

Pastor Olson-Smith grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania and currently lives in Davenport, Iowa. He is involved with Gamaliel’s affiliate, Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI). Pastor Olson-Smith has been the Chair of the Faith Leaders Caucus of QCI since March of 2014. He was ordained a pastor in 2006 and, since April of 2011, serves All Saints Lutheran Church as a pastor-redeveloper—leading the congregation in spiritual renewal and rerooting in the community.

How did you get involved with Gamaliel?

The first connection I had with Gamaliel was in November 2012, when I met with Leslie Kilgannon who is QCI’s Executive Director. I have been involved with Gamaliel ever since. I have attended National Leadership Training in July of last year and Advanced Leadership Training in D.C. this past June. Prior to being involved with Gamaliel, I had been exposed to community organizing so I was excited to become involved more in the community through QCI. 

What are some of your recent accomplishments?

Currently, we do not have an active Faith Leaders Caucus in QCI, but I’m laying groundwork in building relationship and connecting with people to help us grow. All Saints’ Rekindling Our Congregations (ROC) inreach listening campaign was a huge success. Currently, the congregation is conducting an outreach listing campaign, listening to neighbors, food pantry guests, and members of the local special needs community. 

What are you currently working on? 

I am rebuilding the QCI’s Faith Leaders Caucus, as Chair of that Caucus and as a member of QCI’s Executive Board. I’m also a member of the Gamaliel of Illinois/Iowa/Indiana ROC Steering Committee. That committee is working to draw more congregations into ROC through an overnight retreat in October. I’m inviting local pastors and lay congregation members to that event, which will also build the Faith Leaders Caucus. 

How do you want people to view you as an organizer? 

I want to be viewed as effective! This work is all about fostering deep biblical community. That’s where congregation-based community organizing starts and ends—building communities that are in deep relationship and that live the scriptures deeply through evangelizing, enacting love in the public square, developing courageous Christ-centered leaders. I want to be seen as someone who seized this moment of crisis for the church and made a real difference.

Can you talk about how your faith has inspired your leadership position?

Faith has everything to do with it. Faith connected the personal and the global, showed me that my destiny was wrapped up in the destiny of the world. The salvation we receive from God frees us from worrying about our own sin, shame, and limitations, for the sake of engaging the loving work of structural change and personal transformation. Everything is a bonus, grace: we get to play. It was in deep biblical communities, with faithful people that my own transformation began.

What appealed to you about Gamaliel’s Fire of Faith Campaign?

Rekindling Our Congregations appealed to me first—the opportunity to build deep relationship with each other. Listening sounds easy, but it’s not. All Saints needed training and the intentionality of the cohort to do it. I also never saw the inreach listening campaign as a once-and-done thing, but as an opportunity to change the culture of the congregation and as a springboard to engage the community. So after an incredibly successful inreach, All Saints is now doing an outreach listening campaign. Congregations have to be rooted in the community, so we have to consider where we are going to learn that and how are we gong to prepare? Of course, the ROC and FoF all helped make an introduction, so All Saints could connect with QCI’s issue work. The ROC is making it possible for the congregation to see how does issue work expresses our faith and how can engaging in it can bear fruit for this congregation.

Categories: Iowa |

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