Vacation Bible School (VBS) Do good. Seek peace. Go after it!

It’s summer! Hurray! No more homework! No more books! No more teachers’ dirty looks! Kids can’t wait for school to get out. The sun is warm, the sky is blue, and the ice cream is cold. And one of the best parts of summer? VBS at Mount Calvary!

VBS is a program for children ages 3 through the 5th grade to learn about Jesus, the Bible, being Lutheran, and what it means to be a good citizen of the world, in a fun, active environment. This year’s VBS theme, “Hero Central: Discover Your Strength in God” promoted the idea that within each one of us is the ability to be God’s super heroes.

This week, I had the opportunity to observe a session of group worship, and to interview the Youth Director, two of the counselors, and two campers. It was so great to see how the older counselors interacted with the young campers. I mean, who is cooler than a high school kid to an elementary student?

Charlie Dutton is a counselor now, but he remembers how he loved the older counselors when he was a camper, and it’s obvious the kids love him. His buddy, Jack, was with him when we talked, and Charlie was helping Jack perfect his superhero jumping skills. The kids made superhero capes in art class and Charlie said Jack’s superhero cape said “Jumping Jack” on the back. As Andrea F-G says, “Faith is built through trusted relationships. When they can connect with their people, God’s story makes sense. Kids are living out this story.”

Charlie Groton also grew up attending VBS as a camper. He went on to become a counselor, and now leads the camp’s outdoor recreation. The kids love the outdoor games, especially tag – (and this is not your grandma’s “tag”). They play Blob Tag, Freeze Tag, and – everyone’s favorite – Fastest Tag in the West.

Playing outside, crafting, and singing together is great for making friends. Like Charlie D says, “Everybody makes friends at VBS”. Campers Lillian J. and Ruby told me they had made many friends already, and it was only Tuesday! I asked them their favorite part of VBS, and they said “Everything!” They definitely had a favorite song though – “I Want My Life to Make a Difference” which is a great song to go along with the Bible verse of the week – “Do good. Seek peace. Go for it!” These are wise words for a superhero, and it’s good to know these superheroes are on the job. After all, their little hands are safeguarding our future.

Save the date for VBS next year: June 18-21, 2018!

Youth Learning Life

Mount Calvary’s calling is, “to make, build-up, and send out disciples of Jesus Christ.” Nothing demonstrates that more than the Rite of Confirmation taking place at Mount Calvary on May 21.
This year Mount Calvary will confirm a record 130 young people. It is a moment of pride for our entire congregation. For our confirmands, their parents, guardians, friends, teachers, and staff, this represents the culmination of many years of dedication, time, and creative Christian instruction.

The significance of their accomplishment far exceeds the ‘day-of’ smiles, hugs, gifts, and parties. We have made, built-up, and sent out the flowers of our congregation rooted in Christian morals, values, and discipline. If our efforts were successful, we have unleashed 130 giving, accepting, loving, joyful ‘forces for good’.

The journey centers on Wednesday evenings when Mount Calvary becomes ‘THE’ destination for member youth and their friends. Imagine a sanctuary filled with singing, cheering, middle school kids rocking out to the strains of Christian pop music. Using a curriculum of our own design, a teen worship service is followed by a pastoral presentation and mentored peer group discussions.

Of course, the education extends beyond our Wednesday walls as exemplified by the recent Urban Immersion event held at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, our new North Minneapolis partner. Fifty-two 8th graders, pastors and adults committed 4 hours of their Saturday to spreading 60 cubic yards of mulch, raking yards, collecting litter, serving lunch, manning the food shelf, cleaning bathrooms, and befriending community residents.
The participants were surprised to learn how much a family can do with so little. They discovered the tough, daily trade-off decisions that must be made. The kids saw that, though plagued with guns and gunfire, the neighborhood was not the anticipated ‘dark side’. Our 8th graders came to recognize the residents are much like themselves, though with far tougher challenges.

As for the residents’ perspective, the community was astonished to find so many young people willing to reach out to their neighborhood. Gethsemane’s Pastor Jeff noted the heartfelt goodwill. Pastor Aaron’s highlight was the kid’s stepping beyond the normal day-to-day to experience God at work.

In the end, our young adults realized the day was not about landscaping and cleaning, but about listening to stories. It was a time for humility and taking in the moment. It was about learning life.

Congratulations to all our confirmands on reaching this significant milestone.

Doug Affinito
Council President

Mount Calvary’s Future is at Hand

Recent letters have focused on a right-brained explanation of Mount Calvary’s 8-point strategic plan. This month I conclude the series with a left-brained interpretation of our vision.

Building on Mount Calvary’s successful 85+ year history of “making, building up, and sending out disciples of Jesus Christ,” the plan uses congregation feedback along with staff and council input, to prescribe a vision of the church’s future.

As this dream becomes real, congregants will find their spiritual journey adapted to each stage of life and the lives of their children. The path linking ministry opportunities will transition seamlessly as life ebbs and flows.

The rich experiences created by staff will grow deeper and broader as we develop the skills to mentor each other.

Worship opportunities will expand in scope and diversity as we discover new ways to praise God. The constraints of time and place will fade. While human contact will remain the priority, technology will augment the experience without intruding.

Warm, welcome, inviting partnerships with local, regional, and world-wide neighbors will continue to define our character. We will seek fellow travelers with a clear need that we are positioned to address. Inside our physical and virtual walls, we will strive to create a true sanctuary that eliminates divisive geographic, cultural, and world-view boundaries.

Our own institutional health and well-being is paramount. We will ensure that the pastors, staff and associated ministers upon which we rely so heavily feel valued, well compensated, and encouraged to grow their own faith. Plans will be established to make inevitable transitions as smooth as possible. Vibrant and creative lay leadership will remain our foundation.

Our physical and financial resources will continue to receive the expected care. Maintenance investments will be anticipated and capital improvements aligned with evolving ministry needs. Appeals for operating, capital, and benevolence funds will be clear, measured, and linked to our mission.

The pillars of belief that define our unique purpose and place in the world will be discussed and documented. We will gain comfort and skill sharing our story with pride to all who will listen. Finally, a culture of open communication with each other and our neighbors will be encouraged, for it is dialog and action that allow us to grow as a community of faith.

On that note, thanks for listening and let me know what you think at CouncilPresident@MountCalvary.org.

Doug Affinito
Council President