We’re excited to hear stories about congregations who have joined in the ForwardingFaith campaign and creatively spread the good news of faith formation in Virginia during their appeals. This week we spoke with Sarah Parker, the Campaign Leader for St. Philip Lutheran Church in Roanoke. She shared her personal connection to faith formation in Virginia as well as her congregation’s experience during their ForwardingFaith appeal.

Sarah Parker has a wealth of experience with faith formation in the Virginia Synod. Her father, The Rev. Paul Henrickson, was a longtime leader of youth faith formation events like Winter Celebration, and Lost and Found and she attended numerous events growing up. “For me growing up there wasn’t ever a question that faith formation was going to be a part of our lives, it just was. It was what you did,” Sarah explained, “Not just youth events either- we were always at Power in the Spirit, we were always around and helping my parents put things together for a children’s sermon. When I went to college and realized that not everybody had gotten these amazing youth event experiences, and I was just like ‘What? How is that possible?’”

Faith formation is still an integral part of Sarah’s life, and now that she has children of her own she wants to see these programs continue and to evolve for future generations, “For me, my kids don’t need the exact same Lost and Found I had. But they need something that is going to grow and appeal to them. We need to keep working to meet people where they want to talk about their faith. I think these youth events do that, and simultaneously provide a safe space when youth, in particular, need one.”

Sarah introduced members of St. Philip to the ForwardingFaith campaign by asking folks “Who taught you about faith?” with the overwhelming response being that somebody- be it a parent, Sunday School teacher, or Pastor- had taught them, “That’s exactly what we’re talking about when we’re talking about with the ForwardingFaith Campaign! It’s this whole idea that you don’t just learn stuff out of nowhere. You learn things from teachers, and you learn stuff from other people who have been taught.” Sarah said, “We really tried to emphasize this idea that [the campaign] is promoting teaching faith and doing faith in a purposeful way and doing it through the Virginia Synod.”

The week before St. Philip’s commitment Sunday, ForwardingFaith took over the sermon, “We had people from all different walks of life in the church speak. Some people whose children had done youth events, people who personally had been engaged in events, people with and without kids all talk about how ForwardingFaith in the Virginia Synod touched their lives.” Sarah explained. There were three people in attendance at each of the day’s services to talk about what faith formation means to them in the Virginia Synod.
“We had a couple of parents talk and that’s what struck me the most. These were people who never went to youth events themselves but they sent their kids. They talked about how their kid got off the bus a different person following a youth event, and that must be a crazy experience as a parent. Seeing your child’s world expand in that way must be a wonderful thing.” Sarah shared.
After sharing the value that faith formation can have, and the deep connection the congregation has had through faith formation events over the years, St. Philip was ready for their Commitment Sunday. On pledge day, Pastor David Derrick incorporated ForwardingFaith into his sermon, and had the kids during the children’s sermon collect a noisy offering and the pledge cards.
“We were fortunate to have two large donations that helped us hit our mark, but we also had an incredible engagement across our congregation with monthly donations ranging from $3 to $100. Amazing.” Sarah followed up with pledges made at St. Philip by writing personal thank you notes to everyone that she knew had responded to the campaign. “We actually almost doubled our goal. Our original goal was $25,000 and our final number was $43,452.00”
The Virginia Synod celebrates Sarah’s commitment and leadership to the ForwardingFaith campaign, as well as members of St. Philip Lutheran Church for their great generosity and support to faith formation in Virginia.