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We Meet Again! A Recap of the Second Writers’ Retreat

Amanda Vetsch, book project coordinator, shares an update on the young adult book project.

The group of writers outside in the sunshine posing for a group photo. The Young Adult Book Project has surpassed another mile marker in our project! Our author team gathered for a second Writers’ Retreat at Mt. Olivet Conference and Retreat Center last month. This gathering marks the completion of mile marker #5! We’re just over a year out from The Threshold Envisioning event, where about fifty young adults gathered to share our joys, heartaches, hopes and dreams for the church and the book chapter themes were distilled from those stories and experiences. Since then, we selected a young adult author and a thought leader author to co-write each chapter. We gathered those authors in March at the first Writers’ Retreat to create a shared vision for the book and start the co-writing process. Two authors have had to discern out of this project due to needing to prioritize their time and energy on health and recovery. As people come and go from this project – we give our deep gratitude for the contributions along the way. Their departures created space to invite two new authors in.  Each set of authors has navigated the highs and lows of the writing process, defined and redefined their expectations of each other, and wrestled with their busy schedules to write and revise first and second drafts of their chapters.

The purpose of this second Writers’ retreat was to move into the “Craft Phase” of the book.  Rick Rubin describes the creative process as four phases: Seed, Experimentation, Craft, and Editing & Completion. The “Craft Phase” moves from generating possibilities and ideas into refining material with a clearer sense of direction and structure. For this project that means both the individual chapters and the larger book are beginning to take clearer shape and more cohesive structure. We accomplished this at the retreat by developing a shared larger vision of the overall book, large group discussion and decision making for cohesiveness across chapters, and co-author work time.  Continue reading “We Meet Again! A Recap of the Second Writers’ Retreat”

Saying Yes Because of This Truth: Project Reflection by Amar Peterman

Amar HeadshotIf you have not heard yet, we are writing a book! The purpose of this book project is to amplify the voices of young adults as they articulate their hopes, dreams, concerns, and frustrations to the church. This is not a book about young adults. Nor is this a book about how to attract young adults back to church. Rather, it is a book that offers the wisdom of young adults to the church as it discerns its next most faithful steps in these emerging times. Check out our author team here.

We recently asked the young adult writers for the project to reflect on this experience. Below is the reflection from Amar D. Peterman.

Amar D. Peterman (M.Div., Princeton Seminary) is an award-winning author and constructive theologian working at the intersection of faith and public life. His writing and research have been featured in Christianity Today, Faithfully Magazine, Fathom, The Berkeley Forum,, The Anxious Bench, Sojourners and The Christian Century. Amar is the founder of Scholarship for Religion and Society LLC, a research and consulting firm working with some of the leading philanthropic and civic institutions, religious organizations, and faith leaders in America today. Amar also serves as Program Manager at Interfaith America where he oversees programs related to emerging leaders, American evangelicalism, and Asian America. He writes regularly through his newsletter, “This Common Life.” You can learn more about him at amarpeterman.com. Amar’s co-author is Nicholas Tangen.


Why did you say yes to this experience and what are your hopes for the project? 

Written by Amar Peterman

Writing is always shaped by the people around us and the places we are located in. The best writing embraces this, capturing every moment as an opportunity to tell a story or find meaning in the ordinary moments of our life. Writing that reflects these daily experiences and infuses such with sacred meaning holds the opportunity to change us—even convict us—and as we are called into a community beyond ourselves. 

I said yes to this experience because of this truth. Through this project, I am not only brought into conversation with other writers across the country, but into active participation towards a shared goal. As we gather to envision a hopeful future for the Christian church, we are diligently writing and marking out tangible steps to create equitable spaces of inclusion and belonging for young people in local congregations across the United States. Together, we represent a diversity of experiences, locations, denominations, and beliefs within Christianity. These differences, though, are not a hindrance to our cooperation; they are gifts that allow this project to speak to more people than any individual could do on their own.  Continue reading “Saying Yes Because of This Truth: Project Reflection by Amar Peterman”

The Confluence 2023 Mentor Experience

Written by Mentor Sarah Runck

Mentors taking a selfie over the overlook in Saint PaulMaking new connections and building on those relationships can be really exciting but also really scary. I got the opportunity to make new connections with high school youth at the 2023 Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: The Confluence! This program was filled with connections between our story, God’s story and The World’s story. We learned about our own spiritual gifts, practiced vocational discernment and heard stories from the neighbors in our community. Many memories, laughs, smiles, and even cries were shared. All of these things influenced why I chose to be a mentor this year. Having these connections with people who come from all over is a really important part of who we are. We get to hear each other’s stories, learn from them and grow because of them.

Sarah and Jasmyn at the overlook in Saint PaulThis weeklong program had a lot to offer to young people. However, as this week progressed there were some challenges that arose for us mentors. “Having the energy, the patience, and the positive attitude around the participants was the most challenging part” (A 2023 Mentor). But not only were there challenges, there were exciting moments. A fellow mentor said, “It was exciting to see the participants interact with guest pastors, speakers and teachers. Their curiosity was so inspiring and fun to watch.” As mentors, we realized that it was truly amazing to get to know each other and all the participants. We were able to create a relationship with everyone at this program. By having our own small groups, we got to know and understand participants at a deeper level spiritually and we were able to help each other grow in our faith”.              Continue reading “The Confluence 2023 Mentor Experience”

Abby’s Writing Process So Far: A Joyous and Challenging Journey

Written by Abby Grifno

Abby Grifno's in her natural writing habitat with a coffee mug, laptop and living room chair. Working with the Riverside Innovation Hub on this writing project was a task that I stumbled upon. I applied full-heartedly and with a certainty that I’d be adding a rejection to my slushpile. When I received news of the opposite, I was proud of myself, but then I was overwhelmed. Our writing project had “vulnerability” written all over it, something I knew from the very beginning. My topic, “Marginalization, Inclusion, and Liberation” is one I feel both passionate about and often ill-qualified to speak on. Thankfully, I’ll just be writing.

My co-author, Dr. Jimmy Hoke, has guided our discussions and the process with the utmost care, and it’s made a huge difference. But the writing process still has its challenges. We are dealing with problems that aren’t just our own, but also of the generations and the lives that came before us. Novels could and have been written on our topic and there’s no way my writing will be able to speak on everything I wish it could. All I can do is add my own perspective to the mix and hope it reaches the right people, resonates with someone, and contributes to an on-going discussion of what our beautiful church could be. 

The hardest part? Deciding what is allowed on the page and what is still only written in my heart. While I’ve always loved writing personal narratives, I’ve remained selective about who views them. A chapter. Out in the world. Scary. Writing my thoughts, even only in draft form, can feel like an admission I’m not quite ready to make. Even though I know that there is always a backspace and more importantly, a kind conversation available on any differing viewpoints Jimmy and I have. I’m still working on it though, and my current draft is an obvious reflection of my thoughts working themselves out.  Continue reading “Abby’s Writing Process So Far: A Joyous and Challenging Journey”

Young Adult Book Project Update!

Written by Amanda Vetsch

headshots of all 11 young adult writers in a gridThe Young Adult Book Project authors recently completed a huge writing milestone, they submitted first drafts of each chapter! Each set of co-authors has been working on their chapter draft since the writers’ retreat in March, and submitted their drafts in early July. 

Each chapter has a set of two authors writing on it, a young adult and a thought leader. The writing process is unique to each set of co-authors. Some have regularly occurring check-in calls, with independent writing time in the in-between. Some of them have shared writing prompts they both respond to, and then review similarities, differences, and what they want to hold on to. Some split up their outline and assigned parts to each author. All of them spend time in conversation figuring out how to weave their writing together, into one chapter. 

Each writer has a process that’s unique to them. Some set aside consistent time in the morning to write about a specific thing, some let the ideas simmer while they drive, clean, or garden and capture them in a notes app to later add to and elaborate on them. Some start their writing time by reading. All of them work hard to communicate their experiences, thoughts, wonderings, and questions. 

So far, the biggest challenge to writing a collaborative chapter seems to be finding time, time to write, time to meet, time to rest, time to celebrate. Other challenges include figuring out how to weave the different perspectives into one chapter and right-sizing the content. Does each author write from the first person point of view and just notate when they switch? Do they write as a collective “I” or “we”? How do they tackle a theme that’s so enormous and narrow it down enough to fit in a chapter?

Over the next month, Kristina and Amanda are reading, reviewing, offering feedback and conversation for each chapter’s co-authors. Help us celebrate this milestone by cheering on our authors! 

Stay tuned for more blog posts soon about how the writing process has been going for our young adult authors!

Meet the Writers for the Book Project

We are excited to introduce the young adult writers for the young adult book project that is currently in progress! The co-author teams have been busy writing their chapter outlines and soon will be writing the first draft of their chapters. You can find out more about the project here.

Below you will meet our young adult writers that are leading this project. You can find the whole list of writers, their bios and headshots here.

Young Adult Writers


Amar HeadshotAmar D. Peterman (M.Div., Princeton Seminary) is an award-winning author and constructive theologian working at the intersection of faith and public life. His writing and research have been featured in Christianity Today, Faithfully Magazine, Fathom, The Berkeley Forum,, The Anxious Bench, Sojourners and The Christian Century. Amar is the founder of Scholarship for Religion and Society LLC, a research and consulting firm working with some of the leading philanthropic and civic institutions, religious organizations, and faith leaders in America today. Amar also serves as Program Manager at Interfaith America where he oversees programs related to emerging leaders, American evangelicalism, and Asian America. He writes regularly through his newsletter, “This Common Life.” You can learn more about him at amarpeterman.com. Amar’s co-author is Nicholas Tangen.

Kayla headshot

 

Kayla Zopfi is an Hunger Advocacy Fellow with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Zopfi graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, where they studied Religion, Political Science, and Interfaith Studies. Zopfi is interested in understanding how people’s core values affect the way they see and interact with their communities and the world around them, and is passionate about institutional reform and storytelling. Kayla’s co-author is Jeremy Myers.

 

Drew's HeadshotRev. Drew Stever currently serves as a pastor in Southern California and lives with his partner, three kids, goldendoodle, and betta fish. He is a co-organizer for Koinonia Mutual Aid – a network of care for LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC faith leaders. In his free time, he is an amateur spoon carver, bird watcher, and moseying enthusiast. When thinking about power, Rev. Drew looks to those who inspire him the most – drag queens, women and femmes, queer folks, and artists. When used correctly, power is the ability to imagine and create new, liberating worlds and inspire people to come along for the ride. Drew’s co-author is Pastor Angela Shannon.

Abby's Headshot

Abby Grifno is an English teacher and writer based out of Washington, DC. She loves to write about local culture and has work featured in Bethesda Magazine, The Washington City Paper, and more. Beyond teaching and writing, Abby loves discussing theology within the church community. Abby’s co-author is Jimmy Hoke. 

 

Rev. Madeline Burbank (she/her) is a pastor serving congregational and campus ministry in southern Wisconsin. Bringing particular perspectives as a queer leader and young adult, she highlights how God embraces the diversity of human relationships and inherent worth of pleasure, which reinforce our path toward mutual liberation. In addition to writing and pastoral care, she enjoys connecting with people through tabletop and video games, or birdwatching for Sandhill Cranes. Madeline’s co-author is Kara Haug. 

Continue reading “Meet the Writers for the Book Project”

The Writer’s Have Met! A Recap of the Writer’s Retreat in Montreat

Written by Amanda Vetsch

I, Amanda, said yes to stewarding the young adult book project because I believe that this book, a book that centers and amplifies the voices of young adults who care deeply about the church, will be inspiring, disorienting, and transformational for the readers, congregations, neighborhoods, and communities who experience it. My hope is that this book will inspire us into hope, disorient us away from the status quo, help us remember who God is calling us to be, and continue transforming us so that we can show up more wholeheartedly in the places and spaces we are all called to be. 

We launched the writing phase of the young adult book project in Mid-March by gathering all twenty-two writers at Montreat Conference Center for a Writers’ retreat. The purpose of the time together was to become familiar with each other and this project, preview how we plan to write a cohesive multi-voice book with twenty-two authors, and have each set of co-authors spend time together, in-person, to connect and plan. 

Two values listed on purple papers. Curiosity and No hold barredness (authenticity). Headshot of Amar speaking into the mic. Lower right image is a group at a table chatting. On Friday evening, we gathered for dinner and our first session together. We introduced ourselves to each other, shared what values were carrying into the room and into the project, and looked back at the project’s story so far (Project Overview).  

On Saturday, we had a mix of large group time and co-author time. In the large group, we looked at the logistics of how this project will come to fruition, and heard from each young adult author on why the theme they’ve been chosen to write on is important to the church.

In co-author pairs, each thought leader and young adult spent time connecting, brainstorming a chapter theme summary statement, and creating a game plan for how they’ll communicate, collaborate, and schedule their work. Each pair did this work uniquely, some started with a hike, some began with solitude, some took a stroll across the retreat center, some began by sharing about how their lived experiences will inform the theme they’ll write on, some began with writing, and all of them did really, really great work. Nicholas Tangen, the thought leader for the Community theme, said, “[He was] glad to meet so many new folks, to conspire and dream with my co-author Amar Peterman (who may be among the smartest people I’ve ever met), and to laugh way more than I had any business to. When people say the church is dying, I’m going to point back to rooms like the ones this weekend and let them know the church is more alive than ever!”  Continue reading “The Writer’s Have Met! A Recap of the Writer’s Retreat in Montreat”

Emerging Themes from the Threshold Envisioning Event

Threshold Envisioning Event Recap

Three young adults at the happy hour reception in conversation.
The happy hour reception. Photo by Grace Porter.

In early November, a community of fifty young adults gathered at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, MN to identify our deepest held concerns, hopes, and dreams for God’s church at The Threshold Envisioning event. From those conversations, we distilled key themes that Young Adults want the church to know as it moves from the present moment, into the future. Each of those themes will be a chapter of the book.

Our time together on Friday began with gratitude practices, dinner, and conversation. We finished the evening with a reception. Our morning and afternoon on Saturday were shaped by the framework of an Awareness Examen. The examen invites you to reflect on moments of Consolation or hope, joy, freedom, and life and moments of Desolation or fear, brokenness, heartache and anxiety.

Young Adults posting their consolations written on post it notes on the wall of the chapel.
Young adults posting their consolations. Photo by Grace Porter. 

We then spent time reflecting on our life experiences with the church, noticing times, places, or experiences of desolation. Each person shared snippets of those experiences by writing them on a post-it note and sticking it to the wall. We followed the same process for reflecting on consolation and our experiences of church. As we listened to each other, and read what was on the walls, themes began emerging. Those were shared in small groups conversation and through a Mentimeter Poll, you can read those reflections here: Poll Results

In small groups, we worked on creating a Table of Contents where each chapter is a theme of what has emerged. Each group shared theirs and then everyone got to vote on their favorite chapters and book styles. At the end of the evening, the facilitators added up the votes and synthesized the chapters into key reoccurring themes. The keynote listeners started off our final day together by sharing what they had heard over the weekend. Then we had time to reflect in conversation and writing on our theme of choice. There were eleven themes that emerged from the weekend. Check them out below!

Continue reading “Emerging Themes from the Threshold Envisioning Event”

Stewarding Work with Hope and Lament by Amanda Vetsch

 

It’s sometimes strange to be a young adult that cares deeply about the church. I have so much hope for the possibility of a church that embodies God’s promises, and I lament the way in which the church has created, sustained, and participates in harm. 

So many of my peers who might consider themselves “Christian” have discerned that the institutional church isn’t something that they are willing to invest their energy or resources into any longer. We have often experienced church as a community that doesn’t live out the things it claims to believe in. When we’ve sought out a community of belonging that nourishes us and compels us to live our lives for the sake of the neighbor, we oftentimes found instead a place that intentionally or unintentionally perpetuates harm and exclusion, a place that continues to sustain white supremacy as the status quo, a community that prioritizes the privileged, and tokenizes people perceived as “other.”

Background of water flowing over rocks from a river with text over it "There’s often a really loud narrative about decline, death, and dying... And in the conversation about young adults and church, it often feels like the anxiety around scarcity gets aimed at young adults, seeing them as people who could become new members, and help lessen their anxiety about impending death, they could help lower the average age, and increase the monthly giving. And that is objectifying. It turns wonderful, gifted, wise humans into a “butt and bucks” . I, and my young adult peers, are so much more than that, and we’re seeking so much more than that out of a faith community. ~Amanda Vetsch"There are definitely churches and communities that are practicing their beliefs, and are committed to dismantling the systems of oppression, and living into God’s promises. And yet there are so many more that so badly want people to join them, and haven’t quite figured out how to let go of a way of life that’s no longer serving them, and not in alignment with God’s vision. 

There’s often a really loud narrative about decline, death, and dying. This narrative is one that comes out of a scarcity mindset, rather than abundance. And in the conversation about young adults and church, it often feels like the anxiety around scarcity gets aimed at young adults, seeing them as people who could become new members, and help lessen their anxiety about impending death, they could help lower the average age, and increase the monthly giving. And that is objectifying. It turns wonderful, gifted, wise humans into a “butt and bucks” . I, and my young adult peers, are so much more than that, and we’re seeking so much more than that out of a faith community. 

Realistically, we’re not going to save the church, quite frankly many of us don’t want to. There are parts of the church that I think should die, especially the parts that are interwoven with white supremacy, and perpetuating an oppressive, harmful status quo. 

For the last couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity work alongside faith communities that are chasing after what it could look like to be part of God’s redemptive work in our world, here and now, and wondering about and practicing a way of life together that brings flourishing and life to everyone. Continue reading “Stewarding Work with Hope and Lament by Amanda Vetsch”

A Month for Reconnection: It’s Amanda and Geoffrey!

While summers can be hectic, they also can be a time to feel more grounded and to reconnect to our bodies and the earth. If we are quiet and listen, we can hear our bodies calling us to connect with the earth, which in turn is calling us back to each other. It can be a time to push back on the myth that we need to be always producing. Always checking the tasks of the list and making “progress”. 

With more people out and about rather than nestled inside, we are given the opportunity to meet those around us with our presence in new ways. This month we will be inviting you to reconnect in a variety of ways, with yourself, with your neighbor, with our initiatives, and even our CCV Staff! We have some recent changes with two of our staff members now in new roles and we would love for you to celebrate them with us! 

In case you haven’t met these two lovely individuals, it is a pleasure to introduce you to two amazing humans who are on our CCV staff. Amanda Vetsch and Geoffrey Gill. 

If you have the chance, please send them a congratulations via email or the next chance you see them!

Continue reading “A Month for Reconnection: It’s Amanda and Geoffrey!”