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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!

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PROCLAMATION AS PERFORMING JUBILEE by Jeremy Myers

As a way of teaching congregations how to engage their neighbors and neighborhoods, we introduce them to a method we call the Public Church Framework. This framework consists of four movements including accompaniment, interpretation, discernment, and proclamation. These movements bleed into one another and collectively are cyclical, or a spiral, in that they are never completed but rather lead to further and deeper practice of these movements. We like to think of this framework as descriptive of what we do when we are attentive to God and to our neighbor rather than prescriptive of some “one true way” to be in ministry. 

In the beginning of October, we gathered together as a learning community to explore the artform of proclamation. The RIH Learning Partners gathered in the chapel. But what is proclamation and why does it matter? 

There is a concept within the philosophy of language called performative utterances. This idea was developed by philosopher John L. Austin in the 1940’s and 1950’s . He was arguing against the notion that all words and statements are only descriptive or evaluative. He uncovered certain phrases and uses of words that are not intended to be descriptive at all, but are rather intended to be performative. A classic example he would use is the utterance, “’I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth’ – as uttered when smashing the bottle against the stem.” Other examples would include, “I now pronounce you equal partners in marriage”, or “I forgive you.” These words and phrases are not describing or evaluating anything, rather they are doing things.

This idea of performative utterances helps us understand what we mean when we talk about the word of God. God’s words are performative utterances. They do things. In the first chapter of Genesis, God is not describing or evaluating what the cosmos has or will look like. Instead, God is calling the cosmos into being. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis 1:3, NRSV). But the performative utterances of God do not only show up as spoken words throughout scripture. In the second creation narrative, God is not speaking a word – only acting. “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground . . . A river flows out of Eden to water the garden . . .” (Genesis 2:4b-6, 10, NRSV). There are times in scripture where God’s creative force is shared with the world through performative utterances, and there are times in scripture where God’s creative force is water.

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The Christensen Symposium Was a Success!

September 22nd was the annual Bernhard M. Christensen Symposium. Jeremy Myers shared a talk called “From Nowhere to Now Here”. In it, he encourages us all to see vocation as something that roots us in the present moment for the sake of the neighbor. If you missed it or want to listen to it again check it out below.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from the talk:

  • “It’s not a journey from point A to point B, where you have to leave this place to go to that place. Instead I want to invite you into a journey that’s really more about becoming rooted deeply in the place where we already find ourselves.”
  • “Vocation is ultimately not about you it’s about the space that exists between you and your neighbor.”
  • It is “the quest of inquiry to figure out who our neighbor is and what it is our neighbor needs from us to thrive. It’s not a journey where you need to go on a quest to find some vocation that’s hidden out there in the future from you. It’s an invitation into the right here and the right now. That vocation is something that saves us from the nowhere plants us firmly right here with one another in this moment of time to do this good work that we’ve been given to do today. and we get to do that together and I think that’s pretty great.”

 

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”

RIH Cohort Gatherings

In between the large group learning events, the Riverside Innovation Hub learning community gathers in smaller cohorts. Both the large group events and the smaller cohort meetings are focused on the art forms of the Public Church Framework. Each the three cohorts are made up of four congregational teams, a mentor, and an RIH staff Facilitator.

zoom meeting and coffee
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

All of the cohorts are meeting during the month of December to check-in and reflect on their experiences practicing Accompaniment. The RIH team gathers in advance of the meetings to brainstorm their meeting outline, align their plan with the larger learning outcomes, and share facilitation ideas. Each cohort meeting is uniquely designed by the facilitator to fit their facilitating style and the experiences and preferences of the cohort members.

The purposes of the December cohort meeting are to continue to build relational trust within the cohort and grow in confidence and clarity about next steps for accompaniment. Accompaniment is the first artform of the Public Church Framework, it’s the movement into the neighborhood to hear the neighbors’ story. Prior to the cohort meeting, everyone was invited to practice the artform of accompaniment, specifically through a a relational one-to-one meeting with someone in their church’s neighborhood.

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RIH Celebration Banquet

Recently, a small group of participants from the first Riverside Innovation Hub learning community gathered for a celebratory banquet to officially mark the end of the three year learning experience. After the last year and half of meeting virtually, it was so delightful to gather in-person with those that were able to attend. Our time together was shaped by text of Ezekiel 47: 1 – 12, especially verse twelve, “Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” We shared stories of celebration, transformation, and gratitude.

Social Time & Celebrations

Upon arrival, people were invited to write things they wanted to celebrate for themselves, their faith community, their team, their neighborhood, and young adults on printouts of leaves and fruit. We celebrated persistence, relationships, our neighbors, ice cream, community, stories, strong connection during the pandemic, new connections and nurtured relationships, new friendships, curiosity, leadership, vaccines, and much more.
 
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Launching a New Riverside Innovation Hub Learning Community!

Event Recap

On Friday, July 30th and Saturday, July 31st, the Riverside Innovation Hub gathered online with 75 participants from 12 local congregations to mark the launch of new learning community. We spent our time together learning more about who is in the learning community, how our learning will take shape, and what’s next.
Enjoy a few highlights from our event.

Introductions to Congregationsmap of Minneapolis with pins of congregations

One person from each congregation was invited to introduce their congregation and why they’re participating now. Some shared that they hope this learning community can provide  guidance as they reimagine what church might look like after the pandemic has disrupted the ways in which the church had often remained inside the four walls of a building, or for others in time of deep transition. Some congregations hope that this learning community helps hold them accountable to the neighbor-oriented work they have wanted to do, but have not always been able to make a priority. Others hope for a process to learn how to be good neighbors in their neighborhoods. See this blog post for a list of partner congregations.

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Introduction to Phase 2: Equipping & Discerning (August 2018 – August 2019)

On Monday August 6, 2018, we began training our eight Innovation Coaches who will spend the next ten months coaching sixteen local faith communities into a method of discerning and generating innovative ministry with young adults. Our coaches are young adults between the ages of 22 – 30 years old. They come to us from lives lived around the globe — the Twin Cities, Iowa, Rwanda, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Argentina, South Dakota, California, Texas, Europe, Philippines, China, Missouri, and Montana. Read about Our Innovation Coaches!

Photo of Innovation Coaches Top row (left to right): Lindsay Boehmer, Emily Kindelspire, Mason Mennenga, Baird Linke, Tim Thao, Asefa Melka Wakjira Bottom row (left to right): Amanda Vetsch, Michelé Crowder
Photo of Innovation Coaches

Top row (left to right): Lindsay Boehmer, Emily Kindelspire, Mason Mennenga, Baird Linke, Tim Thao, Asefa Melka Wakjira

Bottom row (left to right): Amanda Vetsch, Michelé Crowder

This training included three intense weeks (August 6 – August 24, 2018). Here were some of the components of that training:

  • Morning and Evening Prayer each day
  • A day in Voyageur canoes on the Mississippi River as we explore our theme text, Ezekiel 47:1-12
  • Time with Augsburg University president Paul Pribbenow exploring the University’s call to be an institution for the sake of the neighbor
  • Learning about Martin Luther’s theology of vocation from Dr. Mark Tranvik
  • Learning to practice one-on-ones with Harry Boyte from Augsburg University’s Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship
  • Finding our type in the Enneagram with Tyler Sit from New City Church
  • A Salon Dinner and day-long training on creativity, change, and welcoming resistance with Rev. Marlon Hall — pastor, filmmaker, storyteller, and anthropologist
  • Intercultural competency assessment and training
  • Immersion into the Public Church Framework

The goal of this training was to equip our coaches to be able to walk into two faith communities and help them engage young adults in their contexts in new ways, creating opportunities for the faith communities to listen and learn. We understand innovation to be that thing that happens when we are responsive to both the movement of the Holy Spirit and the demands being placed upon us by our neighbor in a particular place at a particular time. Our coaches learned to help faith communities locate themselves in these places and respond with hope.

Our work with these faith communities launched on September 18, 2018.

 

FOLLOW OUR JOURNEY

Read the Summary of our Phase One: Research!