In June 2013 Karin Brown and Pastor Ray Ranker, in coordination with the Metro DC Synod, led a group of 17 young adults to Israel and Palestine on a trip called “Walking with Christians in the Holy Land.” Karin is the coordinator of the Peace Not Walls Campaign and Ray is the campus pastor at the University of Maryland College Park. The purpose of this trip was to provide an experiential learning opportunity for young adults that sought to build relationships with local Lutherans and other Christians engaged in the pursuit of peace with justice in the Holy Land. Following a model of accompaniment, the young adults engaged with living stones, the people of the land, rather than just the dead stones, the buildings and archeological sites.
For Karin, this collaboration with the Metro DC Synod’s Young Adult Ministry was an opportunity to pilot a focused Peace Not Walls network building and awareness-raising effort. The 17 young adults gathered several times before the trip to learn about the historical, religious, political, and social context of Israel and Palestine and to build relationships with each other. The group met twice officially after the trip to debrief the experience, continues to meet informally, and communicates online about developments in Israel and Palestine. Individuals shared their experience with their synod assembly and home congregations through presentations, leading worship, and sharing resources.
Rozella White, the former Director for Young Adult Ministry, joined the trip for several reasons:
- Rozella had never been on an international trip that was specifically designed for and led by young adults;
- Rozella had not been to the Holy Land;
- Rozella wanted to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
- In Rozella’s role as program director for young adult ministry, Rozella was curious about how this experience might serve as a model to other synods for engaging young adults in faith based learning experiences.
The experience of this trip, along with ongoing conversations between Rozella and Karin have led to the creation of a proposal that seeks to connect with young adults and engage them in the Peace Not Walls Campaign.
To create a network of young adults who lead trips for their peers to the Holy land with the express purposes of:
- Accompanying local Lutherans and Christians in Israel and Palestine;
- Educating participants about the conflict in Israel and Palestine;
- Sharing the religious, political and social history of the region;
- Deepening faith and identity of travelers as they build relationships with global companions and neighbors;
- Connecting participants with the ELCA’s efforts through the Peace Not Walls Campaign by practicing accompaniment, raising awareness and engaging in advocacy;
- Building a base of individuals who not only travel but return home to engage their local contexts in issues of peace and justice.
In 2005, the ELCA Church Council adopted a Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine. The strategy is now in its eighth year of implementation through the Peace Not Walls Campaign. This campaign lives out its purpose through practicing accompaniment, building awareness and inviting individuals and congregations to engage in advocacy. The goal of this proposal is to aid in meeting the eight highlighted tasks of the strategy by inviting young adults to connect to this church’s efforts by providing a space where justice and faith collide for the purpose of forming faith and developing leaders.
This effort is a partnership between Global Mission and Domestic Mission Units. Namely, the coordinator for the Peace Not Walls campaign and the program director for young adult ministry would work together to create and manage this project. Other partners would be the program director for Arab and Middle Eastern ministries, the program director for racial justice ministries, the area program director for the Middle East and North Africa, the manager for companion synod relationships for the Middle East and North Africa and the program director for Young Adults in Global Mission. This program would also seek to partner with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the ELCA Washington Office and the Lutheran Office of World Community at the UN. As this project unfolds, additional partnerships and places for potential collaboration will be considered.
This strategy is now beginning it’s second phase of work. Applications are now available for young adults of color to apply to be trained to lead trips for young adults of color. Learnings from Phase One have been posted, along with reflections from trip participants and leaders. Please Contact Us with any questions, comments or concerns.