Adam Frieberg
Minister, Computer Programmer, Geographer, Photographer

captures, reflections, sketches of and about images Even though Adam lacks classical training, he tries to pay attention an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Adam serves the church and the world, experimenting with non-traditional models of ministry "didn't I already solve this once?"
the reminders of frontend (JS/TS), backend (C#), database (T-SQL)
issues and how Adam has solved them
August - November 2014
Adam and Heidi go across the U.S. on trains, retreat at monasteries,
and live in Jerusalem and Rome. Attempting to be "guests" for the entirety.
Discovering new ways of looking at humans' relationships with each other and their spaces

I'd been putting it off for over a year. I had two websites I had made in the past that were never going to change again.

One was the former version of this blog: nine years of posts, hosted for the moment on a full WordPress install. Every so often I would get my hosting company's automated message that they had auto-upgraded my WordPress version. I didn't need to worry about broken links (there were likely plenty) and I didn't need to worry about URL path integrity (Google can find and update it at the new one). But I didn't want to keep paying the WordPress hosting fees for a site I was never going to update again.

The other site was one of Heidi's: It was a great site, for a very specific moment in time, and it was also our first test of the Ghost hosting platform. Ghost is a phenomenal editor. If you're using their hosting, you get a great all-in-one setup that includes a great theme, a great traffic allotment, and tons of other features. It was great for Heidi's blog while we were on sabbatical at the end of 2014 -- but it was not worth the $15/mo it would take to keep it on Ghost.

How I got the sites downloaded

Browsers' "Save Websites" functionality are always lacking. They either throw it into a proprietary format that doesn't transfer well (including to future/past versions of the same browser), or they save just that one page and don't follow links and don't make those links relate to each other.

Fortunately, there's an open source tool called HTTrack Website Copier. Tools with websites like this make me either 1) think they're immediately legit because it looks like a single programmer made it, or 2) they're made by hackers and downloading the app will cause every secret on my computer to get stolen. It IS fully published on GitHub, however, so nefarious bugs are much less likely. Just to be safe, I installed it on one of my local virtual machines with a different OS that I use for all trial software.

Downloading the websites worked like a charm, giving me a folder with files with correct relative paths within them. I could open them from my desktop, from a remote server - anywhere - and they worked as I expected.

Then came the question of what to put them ...

Amazon S3 Static Website Hosting

I'd mentally filed a note several years ago when Amazon announced they were supporting website hosting with S3 buckets. For those who have never heard of S3, it is one of the building blocks of Amazon web services. It's where to put files. It doesn't care what kind, what extension ... in fact, I'm not even sure if it cares that the file has an extension. You just dump files there - sometimes for use in other things, sometimes as backups - and they can be given permission to either be super-secret, or open for the world, or anywhere in between.

Chad Thompson, a multi-talented developer in Iowa (perhaps best known for creating VagrantPress), wrote an article several years ago about how to configure S3 to do the web serving. It worked like a charm.

I uploaded, I set the permissions, I edited the DNS CNAME records, and I logged out for the night. I had downloaded two complete website and migrated them and re-served them within 30 minutes (probably 10 of which were spent reading the tutorials and documentation).

Anytime a church or organization is ready to switch websites, this is by far one of the best, cheapest, and easiest ways to not lose the old.

Then again, sometimes it's OK to let websites die. :)

I celebrated my 32nd birthday by officiating a wedding for my cousin, Matt Rowles, and his wife, Elizabeth Wyatt Rowles. It turns out that the destination was much more comfortable than the journey.

Let me say it clearly: Matt and Lizzie are an awesome couple and NONE of the weekend's calamities had anything to do with them.

The weekend was layers upon layers: I'm not just a minister; I'm a computer programmer and a geographer. Those commitments filled my week leading up to the journey to Iowa for the wedding. The weekend was also made up of other layers: the trip with Heidi, the logistics of leaving our pets at home and arranging for their care, even - to some extent - the momentous family reunion and all the different times we re-enacted it that weekend.

It was GREAT.

Except for the calamity that I introduced.

I left Chicago and headed to Iowa for the weekend and thought I was ready. I had a plan. I had the ceremony. I had the sermon. I knew where I was going.

And when I arrived at the hotel in Des Moines, I realized I'd left all of my dress clothes and vestments hanging by the front door at home.

Luckily, my support network is huge. One of my minister friends in Iowa, Rev. Travis Stanley at Norwalk Christian Church, had a stole for me for the weekend. I also have a very resourceful brother (Luke Frieberg) who had a local clothier in Beaverdale, The Backroom Clothing. Our suit choice at 10am and the rush tailoring over the lunch hour meant that the wedding at 4:30pm was every bit as focused as it should have been.

Even in the midst of the preacher's worst nightmare, it's really not that bad.

Thanks all!

Here's Heidi and I during a break between the ceremony and reception. Thanks Travis and Luke!

I've only publicized this among some of my close friends, but this fall I started a new Masters program.

I'm six years out from my MDiv and I'm wanting to learn more. I finally have enough insight into some of the technologies of geography and mapping that my curiosity is piqued.

Last fall, when Heidi and I were on sabbatical, we started a time of discernment. That's minister-speak for "what's next?" Actually, it's not minister-speak exclusively ... it's a great question for EVERY PERSON to ask. As one of my best friends, a congregant+retiree, likes to say: "you reach a point and you have to figure out why you're still on this earth." It's a point of privilege. It's also a point of tumultuousness. It's almost as if, once you pick a next step, there's no going back to the place of comfort you stepped out from.

Heidi and I aren't going anywhere in the foreseeable future (in case any Church of St. Benedict people are curious). We went into the sabbatical time trying to figure out if/how we and the congregation still needed to do ministry together. The answers were plentiful. We're in a changing time: our church is using its virtue of racial diversity to be proactive and reconciling in the face of the recent spats of racism's survival struggle. (I feel like we need to name this time: #DeathMarch. May racism writhe in the agony its lies create.)

As a congregation, we've chosen to devote ourselves to intentional charity+mission organizations and to make the relationship deeper and less token than previous efforts were. We've chosen to grow up as a parish, and to work to finally become financially self-sustainable and find new ways to contribute back to the rest of the Diocese of Chicago, grateful for all of the ways they helped our community remain. And we've taken stock and realized there's still so much to be excited about and to keep growing in: Christian formation for all ages, more intentional study of Scripture and our wider community, and more time+space for Heidi to continue her writing ministry.

Heidi and I often describe St. Benedict as this wonderful mix of our two cultures: as an Episcopal congregation, it's enough liturgy for her, and it's informal and "folksy" enough that I feel like I'm with fellow disciples of Christ. The church is down-to-earth and the people are faithful* (*even though we're all sinners!)

It's also hard to not stress how great this is: they really like us!

It's a healthy mix of comfort + challenge + growth.

Which probably begs the question: why geography as a degree for me?

As I told several friends this summer: I'm a data geek. Some of them took exception at that. (It was too pejorative, struck too close to home, etc). Some of them said, "DUH!" (Looking at you, Swartzentruber). I'm not scared of volumes of data; I'm scared of sweeping conclusions without the data and/or without the research integrity to support them. I'm curious. Every time I see studies from the Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life, I go first to the methodology section, rather than the conclusions. It's probably no surprise to anyone in the mainline church right now that the newest studies of our decline bleed into the headlines. It's impossible to avoid the anxious responses to them; however, rather than getting stuck with the dim prognosis, I'm usually wanting to know what methods they used to find those results.

So this fall, I'm starting a Master of Science in Geography at Northern Illinois University.

I don't know my thesis topic yet. I don't have any publicizable goals beyond the degree that I'm moving towards. I'm going to be studying GIS / Spatial Analysis and doing a sub-specialty in human + urban geography (demographics!). I'm still a minister. I'm still a husband. I'm still a computer programmer. I'm still a photographer.

And I'm a geographer.

And I'm a student!

And I'm still Adam.

Obviously, more to come ...


Here's my student IDs through the years!

2002 - Freshman Year at TCU

2005 - Study Abroad Card at TCU

2006 - Semester as Research Assistant at TCU before Div School

2010 - University of Chicago MDiv Alum Card. We had to hand in our real student ID to get access as alumni/ae to the library. My 2006 entering photo was SO MUCH better! ;)

2015 - Northern Illinois University

T minus 18 hours until Heidi Haverkamp and I go on sabbatical.

I'd like to say it's been a seven-year countdown for this trip. But it hasn't -- and if it had, that would have been even more unhealthy than this current mad-dash to the finish line.

Yesterday I solved three UI issues for the "regular work" project I had to sign-off on.

Today, I've,
1. finalized arrangements with my Sunday School teachers who are filling in for me while we're away these three months
2. done a 5-hour sexual abuse prevention training that our church thankfully requires for all leaders working with youth
3. updated someone from our congregation going through the discernment process to become a deacon about the committee's timeline and its unfortunate delay of a month
4. mowed the lawn
5. paid the bills
6. done four loads of laundry

Maybe at some point this evening, I should pack.

Tomorrow morning we have our second baptism of the month at church. The congregation is also going to bless Heidi and I before driving us to our local train station where we'll board a three-day/two-night train for Emeryville, CA.

All of this may seem like I'm doing it "at the last minute," but I'm not sure that I really am.

There is time remaining. There will always be more time.

I remember my trip at the beginning of my senior year at TCU, when I went to study in Florence. The night before leaving - at 1:15AM or so, I sent David Gunn (my professor/employer/collaborator) a note that I'd just finished a build of the new web service + WinForms application and deployed them to our server. Attached in the email was the latest version and a note that I could still make changes from Florence if he found anything that wasn't working as expected. Kindly, he let most of his feature requests wait until January when I'd returned.

Flash forward to now and I remember that there is time remaining. There will always be more time. I'm not going to live under the oppression of scarcity and miss the moments that I have.

The work will never end. The priorities will always be under scrutiny - most of all, by me. But I'm eager to travel these next three months ... to figure out more of who I innately am ... and, with Heidi, to see what it's like to be a stranger, a pilgrim, and a guest.

Now, to get to packing ...

In this face, you will see the face of God.

This March I received the gift that keeps on giving. I joined the International Affairs Seminar (IAS) for the Christian Church in Oklahoma (Disciples of Christ).

With 24 high schoolers and 5 other adults, we went to Washington, D.C. and New York City to learn about the complex, multi-faceted evil of human trafficking, as well as steps churches + non-profits + governments are taking to fight it.

In the 10-day journey, I helped document what it takes to make an IAS trip happen.

I also took over 10000 pictures -- 3000 of which are decent enough I didn't delete on-the-spot. (Yeah, kind of glad I'm out of school and graded on my own curve).

As with most of my photography projects, the editing is the most arduous task. Capturing the moments = easy; selecting which are moments worth sharing for a specific purpose = challenging.

As I edited each photo, I stumbled into a ritual:

  • Who am I looking at?
  • What are their needs?
  • Who is God making them into?
  • What of their virtues do I need to ask God to help them with?
  • May it be so.

It's not hard to look at these wonderful human beings in their late teenage years and imagine all that they have in store. They're priming and readying themselves for life. They're developing themselves, choosing to show who they are.

What was difficult, in the ritual of editing their photos, was to figure out what - of myself, that - I was projecting onto them. What did they really need me to pray for them for? (rather than what did I need to pray for myself for?)

I give you a glimpse - a gallery - of each of their faces. I'm not identifying them by name (modern search technologies offer too much danger with that). I'm not identifiying their locations or their churches. But I am giving thanks to God for their experiences and the small ways God forms them:

Ignatius of Loyola wrote as the preamble to his Spiritual Exercises:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.

And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.

I'm grateful not only for what these youth experienced that week -- but I'm also grateful for how they helped me glorify, revere, and seek God more. Thanks y'all.