St Olaf College, a residential liberal arts institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), hears in the Thriving Congregations initiative a call to accompany congregations in a process of vocational discernment, guided by a series of "high-impact" learning experiences that will engage them with their distinctive theological commitments and faith practices, with their changing communities, and with both their "deep gladness" and their "deep sadness" in a time none of us could have imagined. Our Nourishing Vocation program will serve four learning communities of approximately seven congregations each. Two communities will be drawn from the Southeastern Minnesota ELCA Synod; St Olaf's ELCA student congregation will be one of the participants, and the remainder will be selected in partnership with the bishop of the synod. The remaining two learning communities will be ecumenical, selected from a national pool in consultation with the National Council of Churches and ELCA Churchwide. Guided by the paradigm of high-impact educational practices, these learning communities will participate in a Quo Vadis ("Where Are You Going?") curriculum of collaborative activities; draw on a Quo Vadis Online compendium of curated resources supporting the curriculum; engage in a community partnership project designed to advance their re-imagined congregational vocation and the mission of their partners; participate in the St Olaf Conference on Worship, Theology, and the Arts; and complete a Quo Vadis congregational portfolio to support their vocational learning, reflection, and planning. Some congregations will also host a student Congregational Fellow who will serve as a young adult companion on their vocational journey. In partnership with the Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities, St Olaf will also convene a concurrent learning community of other colleges and universities seeking to support congregational thriving, to share insights and strategies on programming and evaluation.
Nourishing Vocation: Re-Imagining Congregational Callings in Unimaginable Times