On May 10-12, 2019, young adults of the Virginia Synod gathered for a weekend retreat at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp & Retreat Center. This exciting new ministry, supported by the ForwardingFaith campaign, saw 14 young adults from all across the Virginia Synod gathered to spend their weekend in worship, fellowship, and community. Led and organized by young adults of the Virginia Synod, the retreat’s theme was “Foundation of Community” and focused on Ephesians 2:19-22.
The weekend kicked off with opening worship, led by The Rev. Alex Zuber and Alyssa Kaplan. During opening worship, Pastor Alex prompted the participants to write about their foundations in faith on cardboard blocks. This activity kickstarted reflections on identity and community, and the ways in which God sends and sustains us. The adorned blocks were then used to build up to a baptismal font as part of the remembrance of baptism.
The first session, led by The Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick and Amanda Silcox, had participants take a closer look at familiar scripture and reconsider them in a modern context. The young adults worked in groups to evaluate how society, culture, and assumed norms may have shaped these works of scripture. They also discussed how we can strive to be inclusive, and justice-focused for others as we look to scripture in a modern setting.
Samantha DiBiaso guided the group in Lectio Divina for the second session. Lectio Divina is a scriptural reading, meditation, and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s word. Samantha read out loud for the group Luke 18:35-43 several times. Following each reading, she asked a prompting question, lifting up the word in meditation and prayer.
In the final session, the group took part in some creative visioning for future young adult gatherings to be held as a synod, as well as regionally based gatherings. Concerns and hopes were lifted up among the group, who shared that young adults are in great need of faithful communities. Many of the participants present at the retreat shared that they have experienced some kind of transition and loss of community. From graduations from college, moving away from family, or relocating for new jobs, the loss of community and need for a network in faith is needed. The young adults brainstormed on a number of activities and goals specific for their age group and focused on opportunities to connect both in person and digitally. This young adult group will continue to plan on a synod and region-specific basis for future events.
Throughout the retreat, there were also opportunities for friendships to grow and bonds to deepen through free time activities. Conversations were held around bonfires, friendly competition over cornhole boards, and new board games were taught across the table. A number of young adults also got to go on a walking tour of the campgrounds at Caroline Furnace, connecting them to the beautiful nature of Fort Valley. It was a great weekend to reconnect with friends made growing up through synod youth events, and to meet new folks who had never before attended a synod event!
During their Sunday worship together a second pillar was constructed out of cardboard blocks with each block serving as a reflection on faith life. This second pillar helped support the table, which the young adult community had written their names and the names of those who had formed them in faith! It was a wonderful way to tie the worship services together and continue to build up this young adult community of faith.
The young adult retreat was a spirit-filled weekend full of energy, passion, and leadership in our church. The group is looking forward to planning future synod-wide and regional events in the coming weeks and months and is eager to present their report during the Virginia Synod Assembly in June. Any young adults (20 to 30-somethings) who would like to connect digitally to the young adult group, are invited to join the Facebook page for planning and information about future events!