The Damascus Project

An initiative of the Wisconsin and Minnesota Conferences to form spiritually grounded leaders for a changing church


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The Damascus Project

The Damascus Project is an Initiative of the Wisconsin and Minnesota Conferences to form spiritually grounded leaders for a changing church. We envision the Damascus Project as a hub in the network of resources and learning opportunities available to individuals and congregations, clergy and laity, seeker and lifelong church member alike.

In a world where fewer and fewer congregations can afford full-time clergy leadership, we are developing an approach to ministry formation, leadership development and theological education that will equip the entire church to do the work of ministry both within the congregation and in the wider world. Our approach is grounded in the wisdom of the Christian tradition; encourages and nurtures the ministry of the laity; is outcome based; and incorporates a challenge/response model of teaching and learning that focuses learning on the real life ministry contexts of our congregations and communities. We are committed to being agile and responsive to the actual needs of today’s congregations. We are also committed to being an expression of church for those who have left the institutional church but have not left behind their spiritual hunger or their faith.

We are called to re-think the purpose of theological education in a changing church and to feed all who are hungry for theological and spiritual food. We are inspired by the story of Paul’s transformation on the road to Damascus during which he was compelled to re-think everything he thought he knew about what it meant to be a faithful disciple. We are called to follow Paul’s example and reconsider all we believe we know about how to equip the saints for ministry to build up the body of Christ. As we engage in re-imagining theological formation we envision vibrant learning communities and safe learning spaces in which questions are encouraged, wisdom is drawn from real life contexts and experiences and God’s people are empowered to develop their spiritual gifts for ministries of all kinds in the church and throughout the world.

The Crux: Engaging the Wisdom of the Wilderness for Today’s Changing Church

September 3 – October 14, 2019
Online and in-person (Sept. 26-29 Wisconsin River trip)

Through the Crux, wilderness is experienced and explored as a source of wisdom for the challenges of facing unfamiliar terrain. Biblical narratives of transformation along with other spiritual practices and disciplines equip participants to move through change courageously and with less anxiety. Paddling through an undeveloped stretch of the Wisconsin River provides space to connect with the earth, with each other, and with one’s own heart, at an unhurried pace, leading toward renewal and greater resilience.

This experiential course begins with four weeks of reading, journaling, and on-line meetings (September 3-26, 2019) during which time the wisdom in biblical and wilderness literature will be explored. Then follows the four-day, three-night wilderness retreat on the Wisconsin River (September 26-29). The course closes with two additional weeks of reflection on the experience.

About the Instructors:

Pamela Shellberg, Ph.D has served as an educator, a biblical scholar, and a spiritual director in a number of settings including as the Scholar in Residence at The BTS Center.

Aram Mitchell is a Registered Maine Guide and Wilderness First Responder with an M.A. in Religious Studies from Chicago Theological Seminary. He serves as the Executive Director of Renewal in the Wilderness.

Course Details

This is a blended course (online and in person) that will run from September 3 – October 14, 2019 . These dates include a four day and three-night wilderness retreat on the Wisconsin River Thursday, September 26 through Sunday, September 29, 2019. For more details, see The Crux course FAQs.

Cost: $700. Register here (Registration opens April 1 for Members-in-Discernment only. Registration for everyone starts in May).

Limited scholarship assistance is available. Additionally, we encourage participants to seek financial assistance from their associations, family and friends and local congregations. Contact Tisha Brown with questions

Returning to Sacred Texts and Finding Stories You Can Live In

This class is currently happening

Dr. Pamela Shellberg, Instructor

February 4, 2019 – April 5, 2019

Course description
There is no lack of bad biblical interpretation available these days, one consequence of which has been almost a wholesale rejection of the Bible and the Christian tradition it undergirds. But even for those who stand in the tradition and hold the Bible in high regard, reading it can feel intimidating and complicated, and its message distant and maybe even a little bit irrelevant.

This course will give you the opportunity to:

  • Discover what happens in the act of reading and what the implications are for reading the Bible, so that the Bible can become a source of wonder, wisdom, and inspiration for you;
  • Learn some specific tools to increase your competence and strengthen your confidence in reading and interpreting the Bible;
  • Spark your spiritual imagination so that you might understand and appreciate more deeply the circumstances of your own life by finding your story in the sacred stories of the Bible;
  • Become better equipped to respond to and lead today’s changing church by engaging your community’s stories with the sacred stories of the Bible.

Cost: $250

About the Instructor:

Dr. Pamela Shellberg is the Scholar-in-Residence at The BTS Center, crafting programs for imaginatively responding to changes in the church and in life that are grounding in biblical narratives. Pam was the assistant professor of New Testament at Bangor Theological Seminary and also taught at Andover Newton Theological School as the visiting professor of New Testament studies. She is the author of Cleansed Lepers, Cleansed Hearts: Purity and Healing in Luke-Acts (Fortress Press, 2015) and has written several articles and discussion guides for Bearings. A teacher, speaker, and consultant for lay ministry schools in the UCC and the New England Synod ELCA, she thinks and writes about the metaphors in poetry, art, and music as lenses for bible reading and as tools for interpretation.

Have some questions about the logistics and content of this course? Click Here to read the FAQs. Still have questions? Contact Rev. Vicki Wunsch

For registration questions, please contact Nola Risse-Connolly

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Contact Us

(608) 846-7880