“We’ve been given so much!” This was the feeling that filled those who were blessed to have taken part in the recent (May 23-27) seminar for men’s ministry in the Union of Evangelical Lutheran Church (former ELCROS). A sense of deep gratitude to God for everything that He sends us filled filled these days, and it acts as the basis for our thoughts about how we might use God’s grace for the good of our congregations and for those outside of them.
The central image of the seminar was “overhaul” which combined in a surprising way with the Biblical story of Joseph in such a way that participants could consider the unfulfilled potential in their lives. They “looked under the hood” and made a diagnosis of what needs to be changed, considering what “tools” could be helpful in the road of discipleship.
But during this seminar participants not only sat in chairs, discussing. Despite the cold-for-spring weather, many activities were organized that helped the participants do something
physical in order to gain new experience and to meet new challenges (for example, many tried bowling and a ropes course for the first time in this seminar), thereby gaining confidence for everyday life.
The diversity of participants and teachers were a serious enrichment for the seminar. Christoph Baker (Germany, Apis) led sessions on the specifics of ministry with men, in particular about the relationship of men’s ministry to mission. Bradn Buerkle was the co-organizer of the seminar together with Dean of Siberia for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Urals, Siberia and Far East, Vladimir Vinogradov. Bradn was
responsible for financial questions and for Bible studies, while Vladimir solved many questions related to organizational issues and led interactive exercises related to psychology and pastoral care. Participants came from Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Astana (Kazakhstan), Kiev (Ukraine), and from Russia (Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk, Omsk, the Ulyanovsk deanery and the Northern Caucasus deanery). Unfortunately visa issues got in the way of the increasing the geography of the participants to include Georgia. Some of the participants are long-time leaders in the church, while some were new; just as significantly, the context in each of our churches is quite different.Yet in these days together all of these differences faded into the background as they felt unity with one another, had fun with one another, prayed with one another, thought together with one another about how the Holy Spirit is working in the churches and in each of us. It is rare to have such a chance to get together these days, but such meetings give participants energy and inspiration to try something new in their lives and in the lives of their congregations.
The organizers and participants of the seminar would like to thank those who made this seminar possible - in supports of the “Equipping for Service” program in the ELCA and ELM. It is the common hope that those who took part in the seminar will able to continue their “overhaul” work back at their homes in order to strengthen the spiritual lives of men and in order to invite others into Christian fellowship.