One Person’s Journey With the Damascus Project

The Damascus Project became a reality this fall with the launch of our first course “Exploring God’s Call in a Changing World.” This brings to life a vision of The MN and WI Conference boards, both Conference Ministers, and the Damascus Project Design Team.
Kristen Shipler is one of the participants in the vocational discernment course this fall. She has recently become an authorized minister and been hired on as staff at Austin Congregational UCC in Austin, MN.  Here is what Kristen has to say about her journey with the Damascus Project:

Kristen Shipler

I first learned about the Damascus Project at the 2017 Annual Meeting. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of it. I am so excited about this Minnesota/Wisconsin UCC initiative because it will enable me to receive some outstanding training for my calling in ministry. As a single Mom with a full-time job, as well as my part-time position at the church, it was important for me to find an educational option that fit my needs-logistically and financially! I was one of the first people to sign up for the first class, “Exploring God’s Call in a Changing World”. I am not only hoping to deepen my knowledge, but also my understanding about my faith and spirituality, what my calling means, and how I can bring even more purpose and meaning into my life.

On September 15th and 16th I traveled to Eau Claire, WI where I met the Instructor, Dr. Sandra Graham and other UCC lay people who are ‘on this road to Damascus’ with me. We quickly jumped into getting to know one another, then opened our laptops and started learning and discussing (it felt very much like being in college, again) and I loved every minute of it!

The first class of the Damascus Project

This class is helping me to explore all kinds of transformations in a “God is still speaking” world. It is also teaching me about the discernment process and showing me how to engage in theological reflection. Who am I as a person of faith? What is my spiritual identity as I see it right now? What are the influences of organizations or institutions (church, school, work, neighborhood activists) on my faith? What are the societal and global influences? In what ways do I have impact on others? These are just a few of the questions I have already begun to explore during this first month. It’s challenged me, in a good way, to look within and really think about things.

In the upcoming months, my weekly assignments will include reading several books (including Clyde Steckel’s memoir), writing papers and recording short videos about my reflections on different topics. I will also be spending some time digging deeper into the UCC, including the Statement of Faith and Preamble and Mission, starting my own Action Circle, learning how to become a better listener, and finally…creating a personal faith memoir that I will be shared with my class when we meet again in December. I know it will be a valuable experience.
I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity and can’t thank the MN Conference enough for supporting lay leaders, like myself, who are all on a journey.
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