2018 ELCA Youth Gathering
Last week Youth from the Virginia Synod joined over 30,000 other high school youth and adult leaders from around the country for a week of faith formation at the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, Texas. This event was five days of learning, interacting, serving alongside local residents, worshipping, connecting with thousands of other Lutherans, and so much more! The theme “This Changes Everything” constantly focused participants attention on how God’s call, love, grace, and hope shapes everything we do.
"God's Call Changes Everything"
The June 27 opening night Mass Gathering the Gathering was marked by spirited testimonies of God’s call, fitting with the day’s theme: “God’s Call Changes Everything.” As the first Mass Gathering got underway, Gathering participants witnessed a memorable, energizing introduction to this five-day faith formation event. Highlights included words of welcome from Michael Rinehart, bishop of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, and a poetic performance from Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, the current Poet Laureate for the City of Houston. LZ7, a Christian electronic dance music group from Manchester, England, brought youth to their feet with high energy, joyful songs illuminating God’s presence in the world.
Rev. Tuhina Rasche, an ELCA pastor and writer, told youth her call began with a simple invitation to dinner hosted by her college’s Lutheran campus ministry. Rasche started attending their worship services, and one day, while singing a hymn, she was struck by an encounter with God. “God sent me messenger after messenger after messenger, setting fires all around me and I finally realized, oh hey, there’s a fire,” she said. That fire was the Holy Spirit acting in her life. “If a former Hindu can be a Lutheran pastor then, yeah, God’s call changes everything,” Rasche said.
Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, closed out the Mass Gathering, encouraging youth to consider how their vocations intersect with our calling as Christians to pursue compassion, justice and reconciliation. Stevenson encouraged Lutherans to speak out and name injustice: “When we see injustice, it is necessary that people of faith speak their truth,” he said. “We’re gonna have to say things when it would be easier to be quiet.” He spoke of tragic injustice facing young children who get tried as adults and caught up in the prison system, and he implored students to speak out for justice. “I think God is calling us to love and wrap our arms around the kids who are struggling, the kids who are in jail,” he said.
"God's Love Changes Everything"
On the first full day of the Gathering, youth from the Virginia Synod were invited to participate in Interactive Learning and Community Life, where lots of fun hands-on learning experiences were set up! There were opportunities to learn from Women of the ELCA, Reconciling Works, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Lutheran Disaster Response, the ELCA’s AMMPARO initiative, and many more! There were also opportunities to give back, with stations for hair donation, blood donation, a book drive, and fundraising for ELCA's Global Farm Challenge.

These activities all led to the second Mass Gathering. Caroline Meeker opened the Mass Gathering by sharing her battle with anorexia, a disease for which she was hospitalized at the age of nine. “I couldn’t stop the voice in my head telling me not to eat,” she said. “I was literally disappearing, physically and mentally.” In the hospital, receiving nutrition from a feeding tube, Meeker felt like she’d lost everything. As she recovered, she began noticing God. “God was there in my family, church and friends. God was everywhere,” Meeker told youth. The experience helped her see God doesn’t give us hardships, but “God promises to be there.”

Other highlights included musical performances from Ryan Brown , Rachel Kurtz and  Guardian Drum and Bugle Corps

Deacon Erin Power spoke about the importance of finding a church home and how we are called to express and embody such a home for a world in need. Power hoped that participants would go home with the realization that “Our call as the church is to embody radical hospitality and we need to proclaim this message.”
Youth were also moved by Virginia Synod's own Rev. Aaron Fuller’s heartfelt speech about his ministry as a wrestling coach and Navy chaplain. Fuller only became a pastor recently, after working as a Naval Officer and struggling with his own demons related to his identity. “I used to keep people at a distance,” he told youth. “What changed? In my own life, my own dark moments, people walked alongside me. The thing I was going through never scared them.” Today, as a chaplain, Fuller accompanies sailors and wrestlers as they wrestle with life’s ups and downs. “The world needs us to be courageous and walk alongside others in [dark] moments,” he said. “What they don’t need us to do is fix their problems and save their world. What they do need is love.” Fuller’s hope was that those attending the Mass Gathering would have the “courage to see suffering in the world, not turn away and enter into it.”
Houstonite and storyteller Marlon Hall closed out the evening by blessing ELCA youth with a message of love—and a call to action. “You were born to make an indelible mark on the world that no one can erase,” he said. “If you don’t make that mark that mark won’t be made. You make this mark by the love of God.”
"God's Grace Changes Everything"
“God’s Grace Changes Everything” set the tone for the second full day of the gathering. Youth and adults from the Virginia Synod had the opportunity to gather as the Virginia Synod community for their Synod Day. Together we sang songs, played games to better get to know one another, and worshiped together. Bishop Humphrey led us through the scripture for the day during our time together at Synod Day as well, examining the Biblical story of the Ethiopian Eunuch.
This focus on grace led into the day's Mass Gathering Elizabeth Peter opened the evening by examining the Biblical story of the Ethiopian Eunuch, who was stigmatized and stereotyped. “Maybe you’ve been stereotyped, too,” she said, later adding: “There are times where I feel like I’m not always included. I don’t always feel welcomed in the church. Because of my skin, my gender, my youth, my hair, the way I talk and dress.”

God’s limitless grace was reflected again and again as others took the stage to share their stories, including Michaela Shelley, who has been fighting mitochondria disease since she was a teenager. For a long time, she was angry at God and at everyone. Then she started connecting with other teenagers with mitochondria disease, eventually creating an online support group for teens like her that has now connected 500 people from 20 countries. “No matter how many times you curse God, he still loves you no matter what,” Shelley said. “God’s grace is not only about forgiveness but about the way you can become the person you are meant to become.”
Rev. Will Starkweather, an ELCA pastor, shared his experience with cutting during his teenage and young adult years. In college, when he revealed his secret to his pastor, that pastor told Starkweather he was going to hell. Starkweather left the church, dropped out of school and fell into a deep depression—and he cut. Eventually he began to rebuild his life. He found a new church, then divulged his secret to the pastor. “Pastor Carla listened and then she also said four words: There’s grace for that,” Starkweather said. “Y’all, those words changed my life.” He learned cutting is a coping mechanism for stress and began to start sharing his story with others so they’d know they were not alone. Starkweather went on to become an ELCA pastor. Acknowledging the hurt and pain that resides in each of us, Starkweather told all who were gathered, “We are all recovering from something—and there is grace for that.”
Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, an ELCA pastor and best-selling author, gave the final talk of the evening. She proclaimed to youth: “If your life totally sucks right now, if you struggle with having friends or feeling like and outsider, just know that your current reality is not your ultimate reality. “There’s a word for when our tears turn to joy. There’s a word for when our pain is a home for those who also hurt,” Bolz-Weber said. “And that, my Lutheran friends, is grace.” She said she wishes someone had told her 15-year-old self what grace was. That’s why Bolz-Weber writes and preaches so honestly about her life experiences, because “the jagged edges of our humanity are what connect us to God and to each other.” God isn’t waiting for you to be thinner, smarter or more spiritual, she preached. “You are magnificently imperfect. The self God loves is your actual self, not your ideal self. And there’s a word for this: grace.” The implications of God’s radical grace mean that God’s grace is also for our enemies, she said. The uncomfortable truth is this: “salvation of my enemy is also wrapped up in my own salvation,” Bolz-Weber said.
"God's Hope Changes Everything"
On the last full day of the ELCA Youth Gathering, the daily theme was “God’s Hope Changes Everything.” For this day youth and adult leaders from the Virginia Synod had the opportunity to participate in Service Learning. With a variety of service projects taking place all over the city of Houston. Clearing away debris and overgrowth at a historic cemetery, cleaning up some area churches that had been impacted by Hurricane Harvey, hosting book fairs for communities in need, cleaning up park spaces in Houston were just some of the many ways that Virginia Synod served in the Houston area as part of their service learning day.
The Mass Gathering for the day was an expression of how God’s hope changes everything. The speakers tonight covered intense topics that need to be discussed thoughtfully and honestly within our faith communities. Rev. Stephen Bouman, executive director for ELCA Domestic Mission, opened up the final evening of the Gathering with a heartfelt speech on current issues facing the US and this church, including gun violence in our schools, racism, and the ongoing demonization of refugees and immigrants. Bouman shared how he has seen signs of hope in the work of his church, the ELCA, in its advocacy work, fighting hunger in the US and beyond, building peace globally, and accompanying migrant families and children through its AMMPARO initiative.
Youth were moved when Jamie Bruesehoff and her 11-year-old daughter, Rebekah, shared their story. Rebekah is transgender. “When I was younger, I was worried and confused. Why did I have to go through all of this?” Rebekah shared. “I’ve come to learn that God does not make mistakes. I was created in the image of God to be me.” Since claiming her gender identity, Rebekah has went on to speak to lawmakers and others, advocating on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly those who are transgender. “Transgender kids are just like other kids,” she said. “We need to be loved and supported.” As she wrapped up her speech, Rebekah called on youth to make a difference in their own communities and congregations and show others hope. “I hope for a church and world where people are not only welcomed but they are celebrated,” Rebekah said. “Go out. Start something. Help somebody struggling in their community. Cheer them on. Throw them a party. Paint a giant rainbow flag outside. That’s what I want my church to do.”
Maria Rose Belding, executive director of MEANS Database, spoke about her journey to create a national nonprofit database connecting people and organizations with extra food to donate it to nearby hunger nonprofits. She opened up to youth about her anxiety and depression in high school while she was working to create MEANS. Belding also discussed her sexuality and past trauma. When she came out to her mentor as queer, he raped her. “What happened to me what not my fault, and if this happened to you, it wasn’t yours either,” Belding said. “God’s hope and love and grace are enough for every queer rape survivor, and every hungry person who has been told to just be more responsible, and everybody in recovery from something, and every child and parent torn apart at our border.”

Joe Davis, a poet, musician and recent ELCA seminary graduate, inspired youth with a message of hope amid adversity. “I am a Black man and I am speaking in front of one of the whitest church denominations. My very body is the hope of my ancestors, my very presence is a prayer,” he said. “In a world that speaks death to me … my existence is resistance. I am here for a purpose and a reason.” Davis told you they were here for a purpose and reason, and he encouraged them be bold in their faith. “You may have been told to shut up and sit down but I wanna tell you to stand up and speak out,” he said. “We’re no longer in a church building but we are building church.”

Ten Avenue North closed out the evening with a spirited performance of songs that touched on God’s love, grace, and hope.
"Jesus Changes Everything"
The final Mass Gathering concluded the event with Sunday worship and communion and a sermon from Bishop Eaton. An exciting announcement for where The next ELCA Youth Gathering will be held closed the event. In 2021 Minneapolis Minnesota will be the host city for the ELCA Youth Gathering!
To watch a video highlighting some of the many great experiences had at the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering, click here.
Are you looking for more ways to share your Gathering experience with friends and family? The ELCA Youth Gathering Team has tons of pictures and videos to help you share the Gathering story! Check out the albums on the National Youth Gathering's  Facebook  page, as well as videos available on  YouTube .
Do You have an announcement, upcoming event or news story idea? Send it to Emily Pilat at  pilat@vasynod.org  and make sure to follow our
Announcements
Flooding in Southwestern Minnesota
Our partner synod, the Southwestern Minnesota Synod, has recently experienced a powerful downpour that accumulated 7-10 inches of rain, with some areas receiving over 12 inches of rain. This weather has washed out roads and flooded residential basements in their area. Most congregations in the synod have been okay. Shetek Lutheran Ministries (Bible Camp) had significant flooding and had to evacuate the campers. They worked with the sheriff department and red cross so parents could go to a designated place to be reunited with their kids.  

We ask for prayer for the people affected by this flooding in Minnesota. May God’s healing presence give them peace and hope in their time of need.
LAUNCH 2018
LAUNCH  is an event for youth who have just graduated from high school. Its purpose is to give them a chance to take stock of where their faith life has led them so far and also to provide an opportunity to engage in discussion on matters of faith and life that are likely to face them as they move on to the next stage of their lives, whether it be the workforce, military or other public service, college, or something else. If participants are veterans of our Virginia Synod ELCA Youth Events (Lost and Found, Winter Celebration, Kairos, etc.), they will find that this event is structured differently. We will spend our three full days together in a rhythm of worship, informal presentations to the whole group, small group discussions, and individual reflections that engage the mind as well as the spirit. Of course, there will be time for fellowship and relaxation and enjoyable meal times together.

For more information and to register, click here.
Junior High Servant Event 2018
At the Water’s Edge is a week-long servant event for Youth who have completed the 6th, 7th, or 8th grade, and their adult advisors. We spend the week together experiencing the Christan life through worship, fellowship, and service. Of course, being in Virginia Beach, we will also spend some time having fun at the water’s edge.

For more information and to register, click here.
Power in the Spirit: Walking in Newness of Life
Power in the Spirit is an inspirational conference for people of all ages who wish to explore God’s call to service through joyous worship, Bible studies, keynote addresses, workshops, games, and fellowship. In addition, congregational leaders—teachers, organists and choir directors, choir members, committee or council members, family life consultants, pastors, and others—will find Power in the Spirit nurturing and challenging as they consider their mission and ministry.

For more information and to register, click here.
Kairos 2018
Kairos  is our annual week-long faith formation event for youth who will be in 9th-12th grades in the coming fall. It is a chance for youth who are already committed to a life of faith to be part of a unique Christian community for an entire week, to have a fresh experience of the grace and presence of God in that community, and to develop habits for discipleship that can be taken home as they live out their call to be “Ambassadors for Christ.” Kairos is different from our weekend events in that congregations do not send advisors with youth; the event staff serves as small group leaders and dorm advisors for the week. “Kairos” is the New Testament Greek word for “special time.” It is used whenever God’s people want to talk about a time of change, of renewal, of God’s special work in the believer and the community.

For more information and to register, click here .
Have you registered for Summer Camp? It's not too late!
Summer 2018 at Caroline Furnace promises to be an exciting one! The theme verse is Ephesians 2:8 - "For by GRACE you have been saved through FAITH, and this is not your own doing; it is the GIFT of God." Camper life is centered around building community through daily worship, Bible study, and new experiences. Campers aged 1st-12th grade can choose from activities such as horseback riding, caving, archery, culinary, backpacking, canoeing, crafting, and fishing.

Registration clos es 10 days before the start date of each week of camp. To learn more and view the summer schedule,  click here
Expanding “God’s Work. Our Hands.” from a Day of Service to a Life of Faith Worship Resource
“God’s Work. Our Hands.” is an opportunity “to explore one of our most basic convictions as Lutherans: that all of life in Jesus Christ—every act of service, in every daily calling, in every corner of life—flows freely from a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.” As the ELCA website says, the intent is to reinforce the reality that “You work every day to make your community a better place.” Without careful reflection and equipping, we can leave the impression that our call to participate in God’s work is fulfilled on this one day of service each year, and then we return to our workaday world where God is largely absent.

Expanding “God’s Work. Our Hands.” from a Day of Service to a Life of Faith is a worship resource that describes a way to expand “God’s Work. Our Hands.” from being a single day of service to a way to equip our people for a life of faith, so that “every act of service, in every daily calling, in every corner of life flows freely from a living, daring confidence in God’s grace” indeed.

To download this document to make use in your worship planning, click here.

For more information on the ELCA Day of Service and Virginia Synod Week of Service, visit www.vasynod.org/resources/week-of-service
Crumley Archives Summer Workshops - July 23
Are you and your congregation interested in preserving your history? Do you have questions about what to preserve, and what to toss? Ever wonder what you can do with those old Bibles?

Then consider attending the Crumley Archives Summer Workshop! This one-day educational opportunity will cover important areas in archives and preservation, including:

  • Current preservation techniques
  • Storage
  • Digital archives
  • Disaster preparedness
  • Records management
  • Collection development and processing
  • Finding aids
  • Genealogy research
  • Public service

The Workshop will be conducted July 23 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM at the Crumley Archives, 4201 N. Main St., Columbia, SC 29203
Cost is $20 per person. Church rate for 3 or more attendees is $50. Contact Trudy Bouknight at crumleybookkeeper@gmail.com to reserve your seat!

Pastor Lance Braun from Mount Tabor, Staunton, and Redeemer, McKinley, is coordinating Crumley Archives CAR POOL transportation and Scholarships for Shenandoah Valley participants. Contact him at his cell phone 540-879-9575 or email  treetops@shentel.net  for information and assistance.
Reflect, Renew, Recommit Seminar
September 24-29, 2018
Reflect, Renew, Recommit (3R) , a week long discernment retreat will be offered September 24-29, 2018 at Lutheranch in Tallapoosa, GA.  This experience creates a safe place for rostered leaders and spouses to process, share, worship, embrace prayer practices, use tools for vocational support, and discover a newfound community.   If you know a leader that might find this retreat helpful, please invite them prayerfully to consider attending. 
 
The total cost to attend is $1100. Synods will be asked to support leaders in sharing the by contributing $550 toward their tuition. Participants will contribute $550 and spouses an additional $300.
 
For more information please contact: Tiffany Pieters, 3R Registrar, at  tiffany@scsynod.com  before August 15. If you have questions about the week, please reach out to Tammy Devine ( tdevine@porticobenefits.org ).

To see the 3R informational brochure, click here. To register for the event click here.
Fall 2018 ACTS Course
This year's spring ACTS course will be held October 20th and November 10th at Grace Evangelical Lutheran in Waynesboro (or at two Simulcast locations). The Rev. Dr. Timothy Wengert will present on Lutheran Confessions.

For more information on the Fall ACTS course and to register for this fall's course,  click here .
2019 Impact Grants—Apply Now!
Impact1890—A National Lutheran Program is pleased to announce the availability of Impact grants for the 2019 year. Each year, Impact1890 awards grants to non-profit organizations that share in the same passion of serving seniors, particularly those who are aging in place in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. All grants must address at least one of the following urgent needs faced by seniors:

  • Social isolation
  • Transportation
  • Housing
  • Navigating and accessing health care and social services
  • Chronic disease management
  • Dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and memory loss

Does your organization qualify? Proposals will be accepted June 1, 2018 – August 15, 2018. To learn more about the submission of grant proposals visit www.impact1890.org. Questions? Contact us at grants@impact1890.org or 301-354-2703 and ask for Impact1890.

To download a flyer with info on Impact1890's Impact grants, click here.
Job Opportunities
Educators at Saint John Lutheran Church and School, Norfolk
Saint John Lutheran Church and School in Norfolk, VA, established in 1978, seeks to educate the whole child through the dedicated teaching staff, exciting curriculum, and the spiritual focus of a private, Christian, academic setting. Our staff is seeking educators for our two-year-old through Second Grade. Successful candidates will have experience and/or education in the field of early childhood development/ education and must meet the requirements of the accrediting agency.

Resumes will be accepted until July 15th. Please email resume and references to: churchoffice@stjohnnorfolk.org.
Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network 11-month Program
LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network, is looking for young adults (age 21-30) with Bachelor's degrees for an 11-month program of non-profit volunteer service and learning about social justice. From the end of August 2018 to the end of July 2019, our corps members will be provided housing, utilities, health coverage, transportation, spiritual direction, and a $400/month food stipend. We also offer a $1000 re-entry grant at the completion of the program.

The placement sites for the upcoming program year include faith-based non-profits, secular non-profits, congregations, the Sierra Pacific Synod office, and our campus ministry at UC Davis. These service sites address issues of homelessness, unemployment, children and youth ministries, computer literacy, and other important social justice issues facing our communities.
 
We gather each week for worship, dinner, and formation. The corps members live in intentional community in a triplex in Sacramento, CA. We're an ecumenical program in the Episcopal Service Corps network; applicants needn't be either Lutheran or Episcopal to apply—interest in Christian spirituality is the only expectation. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until the program begins.
 
Visit levn.org or contact Program Director Casey Dunsworth at 530-756-1550 or programs@thebelfry.org for more information!
ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow- Washington, DC
Through the support of ELCA World Hunger, ELCA Advocacy works to end hunger by engaging directly with local, state and national governments and equipping people of faith to seek justice through advocacy. ELCA Advocacy is a ministry of the ELCA Domestic Mission Unit. This is a twelve-month, non-renewable contract position.

The Hunger Advocacy Fellow will participate in a 12-month transformative experience that combines leadership development and faith formation with impactful advocacy that moves us toward an end to hunger and a just world where all are fed.

The 2018 Hunger Advocacy Fellow is a full-time contract employee (with benefits) of the ELCA Advocacy office in Washington D.C. The Fellow will serve as a member of the ELCA Advocacy national staff team.

Focusing on analyzing and addressing the root causes of hunger and economic injustice, and promoting a holistic approach to hunger ministry, the Hunger Advocacy Fellow will build ELCA World Hunger capacity to end hunger by deepening and expanding Lutheran advocacy efforts in synods, coalitions and networks.

For a complete job description, and to apply for this position, click here.
If you have a position opening you would like posted, please email Emily Pilat at  pilat@vasynod.org