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’re highlighting the great appeal that was held at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Norfolk.

Emily Martinez and Mackenzie Van Nurden are two high schoolers who attend St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Norfolk. When they heard about the ForwardingFaith campaign during this January’s Winter Celebration, they were asked, “Has your church participated?” they knew right away that their congregation had not taken part. Once they were home, the two girls took action and raised this question to their church council, asking “Why isn’t this important to us as a congregation?” From their question, they learned that the council had been hesitant to join the campaign with a congregational appeal, despite having a long history of supporting faith formation events, because the congregation was in the call process. But this hesitation did not deter Emily or Mackenzie who challenged themselves and their families to take up the role of campaign leader for their congregation. Both girls, and their parents Christina Hodges and Lenae Osmondson, took charge, setting a date to start, and prepared to hold an appeal following the provided campaign manual.

St. Timothy’s ForwardingFaith appeal had a spirited kick off on May 6th, the congregation’s youth Sunday. On that Sunday the youth of St. Timothy got the chance to shape the service by sharing their favorite hymns from youth events, guiding the congregation in motions to the songs, giving the readings for the day, and leading the children’s sermon. Maren Corliss, a young adult at St. Timothy who grew up as an active participant at Virginia Synod youth events, shared her experiences in a temple talk that Sunday as well. There she shared that, “Synod youth events have strengthened my faith in Jesus and have given me a second family in Christ.”

Youth stepping up at St. Timothy continued all throughout their appeal. The youth helped send out letters about the campaign, and assembled hymnal wraps with campaign information. Emily continued to lead her congregation in the campaign at St. Timothy by sharing her experiences and the value of faith formation events with a temple talk. She shared that, “Being able to fully express yourself at these events and not feeling judged whatsoever is an amazing feeling. We are all here for the same reason, to grow our faith and have an amazing time with one other.”
Jim Sommerville also provided a temple talk during St. Timothy’s appeal. As a longtime ACTS member, he spoke to the value of adult faith formation events in our Synod that have made an impact on his faith journey. It’s because of these events that he has felt called to leadership roles within his own congregation as a lay leader.
“I really enjoyed seeing Emily and my daughter Mackenzie, taking action with the campaign.” Lenae said of the youth leadership in action at St. Timothy, “Having two youth take this task on and want this opportunity to give back is really what made this campaign have an impact. Seeing the leadership of these young women, and that these events gave them the confidence to be leaders in their church is a testament to what they gain from these experiences.”
The youth and lay leadership at St. Timothy fully displayed the gifts and abilities that have been endowed and encouraged by Virginia Synod faith formation events. “It’s okay, you don’t have to have a pastor to lead this,” Lenae said in encouragement of other congregations interested in holding their own appeal, “you have all the materials provided, you just need some people who are willing to take a little extra time to make it happen.” Thanks to the hard work of lay leadership and youth, St. Timothy’s congregation has committed over $60,000, in lead and future gifts.
The Virginia Synod celebrates the leadership and generosity of the people of God at St. Timothy in support of the ForwardingFaith campaign. As a Synod, we look forward to celebrating with your congregation and sharing how your congregation grows forward in faith.