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Alumni Profile: Rev. David Norse B.A. ’08

August 28, 2014

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Rev. David Norse B.A. ’08

Major: Religious studies
Hometown: Sherwood, OR

Can you tell us a bit about the collaboration between your organization, Broad Street Ministry, and the Rooster Soup Company project?

Philadelphia restauranteurs Mike Solmonov and Steve Cook are key members on Broad Street Ministry’s hospitality advisory board, a group of restaurant and hotel professionals who volunteer and provide insight into how to create an extraordinary experience for our guests who come to the four weekly Breaking Bread meals.

We serve more than 60,000 meals to more than 3,500 individuals each year. We have a trauma-informed, harm-reduction model that we employ, and part of that model is creating an experience that is hospitable, where tables are bussed quickly and no one ever has to wait for too long to sit down and be greeted by one of our volunteers. We serve our meals to our guests on real china plates at round tables with bread and (because it’s Philly) pretzels, refill water promptly, and play a groovy mix of Motown, reggae, and Santana, all in a beautiful gothic revival sanctuary with windmills and origami swallows hanging under our beautiful wooden ceiling.

But we couldn’t do this work without folks like Mike and Steve and their amazing staff. They come and volunteer, and they help us figure out how to extend hospitality to our guests while also keeping costs manageable, have efficient systems for how we run the meal.

I started at Broad Street Ministry in September 2013 and quickly met the CookNSolo team when they came to volunteer. I heard about this idea Rev. Bill Golderer, Mike, and Steve had about chicken soup. I was invited to sit in on one of the early meetings, and it was fascinating to see the collaboration start to take shape. As we moved forward with this idea, I collaborated with Tim Moyer—who shot and edited our Kickstarter video—and Rev. Andy Greenhow, to write the script. It was probably one of the most entertaining writing sessions I’ve ever been a part of. How do you explain an idea like Rooster Soup Company in a way that’s engaging, funny, and also informative? I think we came up with a good answer to that question. Putting a world famous chef into a chicken suit helps. 

After we had the video script ready, I helped with the actual filming, playing myself in some of the shots, welcoming and interacting with guests, just like I would welcome them into my home. For a lot of people Broad Street Ministry is home; it is for me, and it is for many of our guests. 

Once we had the Kickstarter page up and running, I spent a lot of time on social media tweeting about Rooster Soup Company, sharing the articles that have been written about this unique project, and talking with everyone I met about our vision for Philadelphia. I came back to Oregon to see family right as we first started the campaign, and on the plane I started a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. By the end of the conversation, he got on the plane’s Wi-Fi and made a donation. 

Were there any formative experiences, courses, or faculty at Lewis & Clark that helped shape the path you took after graduating and ultimately led to where you are now?

I use my education from Lewis & Clark all the time at work. I spend most of my time collaborating with unlikely partners and working toward a profound vision of Philadelphia. Philadelphia is an amazingly diverse city, and I often go from talking to an elderly veteran about his housing to running orientation for a group of Jewish synagogue volunteers to leading a Bible study talking about the documentary hypothesis of Genesis to running an LGBTQ faith and doubt spirituality group for young people at high risk for human trafficking and sex work.

Paul S. Wright Professor of Christian Studies Rob Kugler prepared me amazingly for having thoughtful conversations about the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, and studying psychology and childhood development is profoundly important in my work with at-risk young people. I studied a lot of photography as well, and Broad Street Ministry has a strong relationship with artists on the Avenue of the Arts.

When I studied abroad with Kim Stafford, director of the Northwest Writing Institute, we studied Scottish theater, and that experience opened me up to the importance of churches like Broad Street Ministry collaborating with the Fringe Festival here in Philadelphia. 

How has your connection with Lewis & Clark cultivated your own leadership qualities?

Lewis & Clark gave me a lot of opportunities to cultivate my own curiosity and to find surprising people with whom to collaborate. I also learned to find people that captivate me and get to know them better. From professors to fellow students, from Focus the Nation to learning about nonmilitary interventions to prevent genocide, I learned how to work with folks very different from me, and get excited about how other people’s passions and mine could match up to create something new and exciting. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say to current or future Lewis & Clark students?

If you want to change the world and if you want to work in nonprofits, cultivate your curiosity, find what you are passionate about, and learn how to work with others. Also, learn as much about economics as you can; my intro to economics course helps me ask better questions of data all the time.

Learn how to make friends while you’re at Lewis & Clark. It’s amazing how important friendships are, how working alongside people on a difficult common task that is worth doing creates community. And if you’re in Philadelphia, swing by and say hello. We’d love to have you come volunteer!

Religious Studies Career Development

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