THE DAMASCUS PROJECT STORY

Looking back at the Beginning and looking ahead into a Bright and Exciting future of Possibilities

Inspired by Paul’s story on the road to Damascus and following the call to be transformed and see things in a new way, the Design Team for the Damascus Project began its work in December, 2017. Led by Rev. Vicki Wunsch, Director of Leadership Development for the Minnesota Conference and Rev. Tisha Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development for the Wisconsin Conference, this team composed of clergy and laity from both states – teachers, professors, psychologists, church and conference leaders, lawyers, public servants and organizational development professionals is working to be imaginative, creative and innovative in the arena of theological education and formation for the church of today and tomorrow.

We seek to honor the traditions and experiences of our past and also to build upon them as we move into the future. We are committed to cultivating communities of learners in order to deepen Christian learning and discipleship for all folks – parishioners, church leaders, licensed clergy, ordained clergy, pilgrims, and seekers.  All of us!  We intend to provide learning experiences across a broad spectrum including faith enrichment, lay leadership development, preparation for authorized ministry, continuing education, and community development and transformation. Our aim is nothing short of the transformation of hearts and minds as together the scales fall from our eyes and we see more clearly how we as people of faith might contribute to the development of God’s beloved community within local congregations and beyond, in the current church and in emerging churches and faith communities.

The Damascus Project’s mission is to encourage and enhance lifelong learning, spiritual growth and development, effective ministry and church vitality. We do our work in order to equip spiritually grounded leaders for a changing church; to provide a range of learning opportunities for personal enhancement, leadership development, community vitality and potential ministry authorization; and to resource changing congregations, inspire church renewal and work for justice and peace.

  Our core values are:

  • Strengthening life-long learning & faith development
  • Offering UCC informed, theologically grounded, spiritually rich learning opportunities
  • Attending to real people, real stories, real needs and real world application
  • Empowering the development of people’s spiritual gifts for ministries of all kinds
  • Creating communities of learners and hospitable learning spaces
  • Working for justice and peace by equipping people to address issues of concern from a faith-based perspective
  • Fostering creativity, innovation and transformation

FOUNDATION OF CORE CORRICULUM

Our Core Curriculum is built upon the foundation of the United Church of Christ’s Marks for Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers. As we have worked with that document, we have identified four broad themes – Personal/Spiritual Identity and Integrity, Biblical, Theological and Sacramental Foundations, Outreach/Care for Others and Social Justice, Spiritual Imagination and Vision – and three levels of potential outcomes – Enhancement, Leadership and Authorization. All of our courses will be geared toward a combination of these themes and will be levelled based on the desired outcomes for the learners and the identified target audience.

OUR FIRST YEAR AND BEYOND

In our first year, we offered two experimental courses. The first, “Exploring God’s Call in a Changing World” brought together 11 learners from both Minnesota and Wisconsin to explore call, vocation and discernment throughout the life of faith. This was a hybrid course combining in person retreat weekends with online learning. The second, “Returning to Sacred Texts and Finding Stories You Can Live In” opened the New Testament for its 23 participants and invited them to engage scripture in new ways. This course was asynchronous and took place online using Moodle. As we capture the learning from these two experimental offerings, we are shaping our design and honing our approach in order to cultivate the habit of continuous improvement and ongoing project development. Currently, we are planning eight courses for 2019-2020 that

FOUNDATION OF CORE CURRICULUM

Our Core Curriculum is built upon the foundation of the United Church of Christ’s Marks for Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers. As we have worked with that document, we have identified four broad themes – Personal/Spiritual Identity and Integrity, Biblical, Theological and Sacramental Foundations, Outreach/Care for Others and Social Justice, Spiritual Imagination and Vision – and three levels of potential outcomes – Enhancement, Leadership and Authorization. All of our courses will be geared toward a combination of these themes and will be levelled based on the desired outcomes for the learners and the identified target audience.

OUR FIRST YEAR AND BEYOND

In our first year, we offered two experimental courses. The first, “Exploring God’s Call in a Changing World” brought together 11 learners from both Minnesota and Wisconsin to explore call, vocation and discernment throughout the life of faith. This was a hybrid course combining in person retreat weekends with online learning. The second, “Returning to Sacred Texts and Finding Stories You Can Live In” opened the New Testament for its 23 participants and invited them to engage scripture in new ways. This course was asynchronous and took place online using Moodle. As we capture the learning from these two experimental offerings, we are shaping our design and honing our approach in order to cultivate the habit of continuous improvement and ongoing project development.

Currently, we are planning eight courses for 2019-2020 that will speak to a wide range of audiences in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. A few of these include UCC Polity and History, The Crux, (click here for details) Discerning God’s Call in a Changing World, and Bringing the Old Testament to Life, Ministering through life’s Challenges and Transitions, and Equipping the Church in Responding to The Opioid Crisis. Check the COMMAntary and our website for more information and details about these courses.

As we continue to grow and respond to the needs of our church, we are committed to provide a variety of learning opportunities – online and in person, short glimpses and shallow dives alongside deep explorations that will take place in cyber space, in sacred spaces, on a wilderness excursion or wherever a learning community can be formed around matters of Christian faith and faithfulness.

The Damascus Project story continues to evolve but our commitment to ongoing transformation and our passion for equipping spiritually grounded, theologically sound, visionary leaders for the spiritual communities of today and tomorrow will remain strong. Please join us on this exciting journey!

If you have suggestions for future course offerings or for questions or additional information, please contact Rev. Vicki Wunsch.

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