Synod Journey & ELCA Youth Gathering Overview Catherine Anderson and Sarah Gunderson from the Synod Journey planning team share the new plans for this year’s Synod Journey and a brief overview of the ELCA Youth Gathering. A detailed online training for the ELCA Youth Gathering (how to register, housing and other logistics) will be held later this summer.
The Synod Journey Planning Team has been meeting to discuss the impact and implications COVID-19 will have on the Synod Journey…and most importantly the youth, adult leaders and congregations who participate in the Journey. These are not easy conversations, and I know you have been having them as a congregation as well for the upcoming year of ministry.
We know this coming year will have many challenges for ministry.
There will be health challenges. How safe will it be to gather? What will CDC and government recommendations be?
There will be financial challenges. Congregations have lost valuable fundraising time this spring and summer. Unemployment and uncertainty is impacting family and church budgets.
There will be leadership challenges. The fatigue from responding to COVID-19 is real, and impacts our leaders.
There will be scheduling challenges. We know many activities from spring and summer will be postponed to this fall and to next summer.
At the same time, there is opportunity! We have been changed by this pandemic. While we yearn for “normal” we know things will never return to how they were before. How do we take advantage of what we have learned to create a new normal? How do we re-shape faith formation opportunities to address the needs of our young people for this time in history?
These are the questions the Synod Journey Planning Team has been asking. In short, “How can we be most helpful to youth and congregations for this time?”
There is no one answer to that question. To help us discern how we move forward, we have used the following filters:
Does this make us nimble? Things will continue to change in the coming year. Do our plans allow us to be flexible to respond to changes so we can be safe and still offer solid faith formation opportunities?
Does this make us financially accessible? We know finances are going to be a concern for families and congregations. We want to make the Journey accessible to all, not just the privileged few.
Does this build scaffolding in case leadership changes? There is never a guarantee in ministry that staffing positions remain financially viable. Now more than ever. The “staff” of the Synod Journey are all volunteer leaders from congregations. We want to make decisions that have enough support around them in case our leadership needs to change mid-stream.
Does this provide relief for adult leaders? We know how hard all of you are working in your congregations to shift your ministries online and create new ways of walking with young people in this new reality. We want to support your efforts, and not add more work.
Does this meet the goals of the Synod Journey? The mission of the Synod Journey has been to “Be Church Together” as we nurture faith, develop leaders, and build community and relationships that equip participants to live out their faith beyond the Journey.
With those parameters in mind, we believe this is a time of opportunity for the Synod Journey to revision its ministry to be most helpful to youth, adult leaders and congregations.
It is with the hope that our God is making all things new that we announce our new Synod Journey plans:
There will be a Synod Journey! But it will not be tied to the ELCA Youth Gathering. Congregations will still have the opportunity to attend the ELCA Youth Gathering. At the time of this writing, plans are still underway for the Gathering to be held in 2021. Congregations who wish to attend will need to register on their own, and manage their own logistics (transportation, housing, etc). The synod will still offer trainings and support.
The Synod Journey will offer a year of free resources for your high school ministry! We will develop monthly resources (8 sessions) that will be based in scripture, offer mental wellbeing resources, and provide leadership development. They will be developed with high school youth in mind, but with very little tweaking we imagine they would be beneficial for middle school youth as well. Each congregation will receive a “Hope Kit” with ritual activities that will frame your conversations. They will be formatted to use online or in person. Resources will be flexible: they could be used monthly beginning in September, use several during a retreat, divided out to use weekly, and more. The content of the resources will NOT be tied to the ELCA Youth Gathering. However, the thematic tone will support congregations attending the Gathering.
The theme for the year will be “Deeply Rooted in a Boundless God Beyond Measure.” We are using a tree for our logo as a reminder of the deep roots that give life for all the seasons – new life (spring), growth (summer), maturity (autumn) and even death (winter). Change is not only inevitable, it is how we were created. How does faith root us for times of change? How can we grow in times of change? What do biblical stories of change have to teach us today? We are not bound by change, but set free through the strength of our roots to be transformed. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
There will still be a “trip”! If it is safe to gather next summer (based on CDC and government guidelines), we will partner with our synod outdoor ministries to worship, learn, grow, and play together at Camp Onomia, Luther Crest Bible Camp and Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry on June 27-29, 2021. The cost per person will be no more than $100. Scholarships will be available. It will be open to youth in grades 8-12 in the fall of 2020. Congregations will register an intent to participate in the fall and register participants in the early spring. The focus of camp will be on faith formation and leadership development. We will end on Tuesday in time for congregations who wish to travel to the ELCA Youth Gathering to do so. You do not need to participate in the trip portion to participate with the free resources and learning throughout the year.
There are many details to still be put in place. A tentative timeline includes:
July 1: Details posted online at www.nemnsynod.org/SynodJourney August 1: Sessions #1 and #2 available online August: Hope Kits delivered to congregations September 1: Sessions #3 and #4 available online October 1: Sessions #5 and #6 available online October 15: Group Intent Registration (Deposit holding your congregation spot for the June event.) November 1: Sessions #7 and #8 available online Jan-March: Participant Registration for June event
I know there will be deep sadness in this change for the Synod Journey. Our planning team feels it too. We grieve the rhythm of the Synod Journey as we have known it. And yet…there is so much hope. We will grow in faith. We will grow as faithful leaders. We will build community and relationships. And we will journey together in this year to come. Thanks be to God for deeply rooting us in faith for times of change. We are not stuck or hopeless as we face change, but transformed and renewed. We are deeply rooted for times such as these.
In Christ, Catherine Anderson and the NE MN Synod Journey Planning Team: Pastor CJ Boettcher, Zion Lutheran Church, Cloquet Sarah Gunderson, Grace Lutheran Church, Hermantown Shivon Miller, Trinity Lutheran Church, Duluth Deb Westerberg, Elim Lutheran Church, Duluth