Apse of the Lutheran chapel at Valparaiso University

Valparaiso, Indiana


Valparaiso, located about an hour southeast of Chicago, is a quintessential vision of small-town life in the American heartland. The city lays claim to a deep Christian heritage, dotted with churches from various denominations and home to Valparaiso University, a Lutheran school. The American Pilgrimage Project traveled to Valparaiso in May 2019. Two days of conversations​ drew together Lutherans, other Christians, and people from other faith traditions, who shared stories about how religious faith has shaped their lives. Many thanks to our host​​, Valparaiso University, and to all who took part in the conversations.

The interviews below were recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

Lois Reiner and Kristen Lewis

May 3, 2019

More stories about: Social Justice Race

Lois Reiner helped her friend Barbra Cotton become one of the first African Americans to settle down in Valparaiso, Indiana, when the small town was still a sundown community in the 1960s. In this conversation, Reiner discusses with friend Kristen Lewis the relationship between her Lutheran faith and decision to support integration efforts in Valparaiso. 

This story was produced by StoryCorps.

Jane L. and Erica Gibson-Even

May 2, 2019

More stories about: Healing & Recovery Christianity

Jane L. provided spiritual guidance to the families of death row inmates during her nearly two decades working as a prison chaplain. In this conversation, Jane discusses with colleague Erica Gibson-Even how she experienced and processed the trauma of the executions, which initially left her feeling the absence of God.

This story was produced by StoryCorps.

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