Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Calumet Youth Retreat Plan: Faith, Identity and the World We Live In

Friends, as part of my internship this year I have the honor of chaplaining a retreat up at Camp Calumet this coming weekend in New Hampshire.  It'll be for sixty youth between ages 13 - 15 who were Yellows campers at Calumet last summer.  I haven't done one of these in a while (and never one this big), so I'd love to hear your thoughts:

Looking back on the past year, it’s pretty easy to get discouraged.  Amidst continued economic problems, superstorms, long elections and the tragic school shooting in Connecticut, not to mention what might be going on in our own personal lives, it’s easy for all of us to wonder where God is in everything we’re facing.  For young adults coming of age in such challenging and changing times, figuring out what it means to be a person of faith can often be particularly difficult.

Luckily, our Lutheran tradition offers the world the precious insight that God is gracious God who loves all Her children.  In a world where we’re hungry for acceptance, love, community and meaning, whether they’re a person of faith or not, the central Lutheran insight that God loves us is indeed very good news.  But the question then becomes, how do we respond to the good news that God loves us in the actually world we live in?  Perhaps putting it even more fundamentally, how does God’s good news affect who we are?

Throughout our weekend at Calumet, we’ll be exploring that very question through four steps, with 1 John 4: 7 – 12 as our guiding framework:

7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Our first step during devotions on Friday night will be to think about how we live out our faith in everyday life.  We’ll be doing this through a fun bingo activity where participants can sign off on squares about what types of service, etc. they participate in.

Our second step during the Saturday morning session will be to think about issues facing our world and how Lutherans are responding to such issues.  Participants will break into groups and answer quiz questions about various facts (multiple choice, true/ false, etc.)  They’ll then break into small groups and discuss what they’ve heard.  If there’s leftover time, they’ll report back some of their responses to the larger group.

Here are just a few of the facts about the world we live in that we’ll touch on:

-       Lutheranism is no longer a Western tradition.  Roughly 5% of the US population is Lutheran, while roughly 50% of the Namibian population is Lutheran.  There are more Lutherans in Lutheran World Federation member churches in Ethiopia and Tanzania than in the United States.

-       Despite nearly eliminating hunger in the US back in the 1970s, nearly one in four American children live in a household facing food insecurity.  One quarter of children below the age of five are stunted worldwide due to lack of proper nutrition.

-       In 2011, Lutheran World Relief helped nearly 5 million people in forty countries.  Lutheran Social Services is the largest single charitable organization in the United States, based on revenue.

-       One third of US teens report being bullied in school, while 8% of students report being injured or hurt with a weapon at school.

-       ELCA Lutherans advocate for social justice through a national office in Washington, twelve state public policy offices and the Lutheran Office for World Community in New York.

-       Nearly a quarter of American young adults have no religious affiliation.  New England is the least religious area of the country.

-       Average global temperature increased by about one degree Celsius over the 20th century.  The Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets lost 36 to 60 cubic miles of ice per year between 2002 and 2006.

-       The ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program sends roughly fifty young adult volunteers to serve abroad each year.

-       In developing countries, women tend to work far longer hours than men. In Asia and Africa, studies have shown that women work as much as 13 hours more per week.

-       After a strong effort since 1990, nearly 90% of primary-school aged children are now enrolled in school worldwide.  Most countries have achieved relatively equity in primary school enrollment between girls and boys.

Our third step will be to reflect on what it means to be a person of faith in the world we live in.  We’ll do this by discussing how what we learned in the morning session relates to what the 1 John passage reads in our small groups.  We’ll then take some time to think about what it means for us to be a person of faith and then break into different stations where we can express our identity.  This can be done through writing, taping of YouTube videos, art, and perhaps even a skit performance.  What we come up with will be shared with the wider world through a variety of avenues (LWF Youth Blog, NE Synod blog, etc. are possibilities)

Our final step will be to gather around Word and Sacrament during Sunday worship to showcase and discuss what we’ve experienced over the weekend.

God's peace,

Dustin is currently a vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

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