Celebrating the Lay Academy, embracing the Damascus Project: What’s next?

Tisha BrownThis year’s Wisconsin Conference Annual Meeting will include a celebration of the 26 years during which the Lay Academy transformed and equipped the saints of the Wisconsin Conference. Wisconsin Conference Life is taking a look back at this beloved program, whose success has shaped the Damascus Project and enabled us to transition from in-person to online delivery of the curriculum and the sense of community that helped make the Lay Academy so special. In this essay, the Rev. Dr. Tisha Brown, director of the Damascus Project, reflects on how the DNA of the Lay Academy will inform and guide the new online learning platform.

I hope you have appreciated this opportunity to look back on the transforming and equipping work of the Lay Academy. This ministry of learning, faith growth and leadership development has touched hundreds of lives and affected individuals, congregations and our Conference in immeasurable ways.

Our final reflection on the history of the Lay Academy is an opportunity to shift our gaze to the Damascus Project and consider how the Wisconsin Conference’s decades-long commitment to transforming and equipping the laity and its mission to support, resource and connect congregations and clergy is finding fresh expression in the Damascus Project. This transition reflects an understanding among Wisconsin and Minnesota Conference leaders that an increasingly digital culture demands a different way of doing ministry and being the body of Christ. If we are to remain in conversation with our culture, our willingness to embrace the best of what technology offers is our most important resource.

The first and most important thing to note is that the Lay Academy’s capacity to transform and equip the saints of God for ministries of all kinds is being deepened, broadened and expanded by the opportunities online learning platforms offer for connection, collaboration and creativity. The core curriculum that grew over time in the Lay Academy is the firm foundation upon which the Damascus Project has grown and will continue to grow. As we continue to build upon this foundation, we will discover ways to embrace the best of what online learning offers.

Here is a tiny glimpse into all that has become possible through our collaboration with the Minnesota Conference, our choice to embrace online learning technology, and our commitment to high-quality adult learning and formation:

  • Damascus Project learners can access content at times and in places that fit into their lifestyles.
  • Damascus Project learners never have to miss a session. All course content is available all the time and Z oom sessions are recorded and made available to participants on the course platform.
  • Damascus Project courses are available to anyone, anywhere who has access to a computer and an internet connection.
  • Damascus Project course offerings can expand and grow exponentially as time goes by. We can include a wide range of topics and can offer a variety of short-term, long-term and one-time learning opportunities
  • Damascus Project expansion meets the needs of a wider range of people seeking transformation in faith and skills for ministries of all kinds. This includes lay leaders, seekers, clergy and those preparing to become pastors
  • Damascus Project’s course platform, the Damascus Project Network is a growing and increasingly vibrant free community available 24/7 for support, resourcing, collaboration and connection. You don’t have to take a course to join. Sign up for a free account today.

As you can tell, we are excited about the foundation that has been laid as we have transitioned from the Lay Academy to the Damascus Project. Here are three things we hope you will do today:

  1. Watch this 5 minute video, which will tell you more about the Damascus Project and provide you with a glimpse into the feedback we are hearing from Damascus Project learners.
  2. Visit the Damascus Project website and sign up for our email communications.
  3. Create your free account in the Damascus Project Network and join our growing community

As we prepare to celebrate the Lay Academy and give thanks for the richness of its ministry and its blessing to so many at this year’s Wisconsin Conference Annual Meeting, I invite you to join in this brief prayer:

Transforming, Equipping One, we give thanks for the blessings of the Lay Academy:

The teaching and learning

The challenges and growth

The friendships and community

The ministry and meaning

May all whose lives and congregations have been touched by this ministry of learning continue to bear fruit in beautiful ways.

And may we, members and friends of the Wisconsin Conference covenant together for the future to hold in prayer

The teaching and learning

The challenges and growth

The friendships and community

The ministry and meaning

That is yet to come through the Damascus Project. Use these tools of learning, transformation and equipping to serve your people now and for many years to come.

May it be so we pray,


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