Trinity had partnered with Living Waters in Chicago a couple of years ago and had a great experience. This year, I didn’t expect a text that I received.
The day after our group arrived, my phone beeped and a photo appeared in my inbox. It was a photo of Sam, sent to me by Lisa Jeffreys. Lisa works in the Southeast Michigan Synod. We’d worked together, and become friends, working on the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit. I had no idea that Lisa was working with the Living Waters program this summer.
I saw the text, and I smiled.
And a couple of days later, Lisa sent me another photo, this time it was Sam, standing arm in arm with a good friend and mentor, Pastor Kelly Chatman, from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, who was also in Detroit with Living Waters this week.
I found myself moved emotionally, by seeing these photos. I mean of course, it’s alwaysgood to see the smiling face of your son. But beyond that, I loved the fact that Sam was there with his friends from Trinity…with our adult volunteer leaders…and now with my friends from ministry; from the Network.
It is powerful because when Sam ran into Lisa…into Kelly…when Sam was present with the youth group, and its amazing adult leaders, he is experiencing the promises that God made to him in the waters of his baptism. This week, Sam is experiencing what it is to live among God’s faithful people.
When Sam met Lisa…when Sam met Kelly, he was experiencing the family of God. My friends became his friends. The son whom I love met the friends whom I love.
Thank you Lisa, for being a friend. Even though we only chat occasionally, and I really only get to see you at the Extravaganza, I am so glad that Sam gets to experience you this week. Thank you Kelly, as much as you’ve been a fantastic powerful influence on my life, I’m so glad that Sam has had the opportunity to spend some time with you as well.
I’m reminded this week of what it is to be church. We are all interconnected. We all share a mission. We are all, whether we’ve met or not, connected in a relationship that is centered in Christ. I’m reminded of what it is to be Network.
I’m reminded what it is to be the people of God.
Thank you for being who God called you to be. Thank you for being people who I want my kids to get to know, and spend time with.
And thanks be to God, for creating the church, this place where we are all connected, in the name of Christ.
God is up to something new within our community, within our church.
The church talks a good game when it comes to community. We focus on “being” together in congregations. But the world is shifting.
Our very understanding of what community is changing as a relationships in a digital age are stretching our understanding of what it is to be together. Communities are no longer exclusively geographic, but instead can be defined by interest, education or affinity.
At the same time, the church struggles with how to do ministry with young adults. The number of blogs and videos that have popped up in the last two years explaining why or how the church has “lost” young adults is almost overwhelming; they describe the problem well. And any time you gather a group of clergy, or congregational staff folk together, and you bring up the topic of young adults, the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth is almost immediate.
No one really knows what to do about it.
Drawing together young adults to live together in an intentional community for a “gap-year” experience. The Living-Learning web site describes a communal experience that would center around faith practices, such as service projects (10-15 hours a week), theological reflection, bible study, spiritual exercise, prayer, worship leadership, and participation in local congregations and ministries. A skilled facilitator would lead and administer each community (half-time to full-time salary range), with help from local volunteers. A network of Christians, often through local congregations, would pledge to support these young adults in the experience, and in return the young adults would share their valuable perspectives, hours of service, and gifts with the communities that host them.
Visualize “The Real World” meets service-learning meets Jesus.
The church has a tradition of intentional community to draw on, (see Holden Village and the Highlander Folk School),we have a vibrant and lively theology of community and ecclesiology and we have a deep need to engage young adults for the sake of Christ’s mission in the world.
We also have Josh, one of the most passionate people I have encountered around this issue. He is a gift to the church.
I am occasionally asked by young adults about ways that they can participate in mission after high school. We’ll talk about seminary…we’ll talk about Lutheran Volunteer Corps or AmeriCorps…we’ll talk about Teach for America…we’ll talk about Holden… I am very excited that there is something new to talk about. I am excited that there is the possibility for community, reflection and service to be drawn together into an experience that is really about discerning meaning for individuals, communities and the world.
I’m excited about the Living-Learning Initiative and what it can mean for the life of those who participate and for the church. The first pilot community is opening up in September in Toledo, Ohio. We’ll be watching closely. I hope you will be too!
You can also follow the initiative on Facebook.