Lay Academy

Wisconsin Conference Lay Academy and The Damascus Project Join Forces

Information and Registration for Faith Foundations 1 and Leadership Skills cohorts available HERE

More about Faith Foundations 1 (dates, sessions etc.)

More about Leadership Skills (dates, sessions etc.)

For more than 26 years, the Wisconsin Conference Lay Academy has engaged lay people in spiritual growth and development through theological education and equipped God’s people for ministries of all kinds. As one participant said: “Lay Academy has helped me try different things that I might never have tried on my own without the support and encouragement of my teachers and classmates. In a way, each of us challenged ourselves to step out of our comfort zones and trust that God would help us as we tackled new challenges. I’ve learned that there is so much more we can do as Christians to share our faith, our love for one another.”

In a joyful development of this beloved program, the Lay Academy is finding a new home and name under the umbrella of The Damascus Project, a joint initiative of the Wisconsin and Minnesota Conferences of the UCC. We are excited to expand the Lay Academy beyond the boundaries of our conference as we reach out to the people of the Minnesota Conference.

Much about Lay Academy’s structure will remain the same, including the four years of learning opportunities. However, each former Lay Academy year now has its own name: Years 1 & 2 are known as Faith Foundations 1 & 2; year 3 is now called Leadership Skills; and year 4 is called Ministry Skills.

Each year of learning will continue to have five six-week units evenly spaced between August and May. We will work with the same amazing instructors to offer the transformative learning opportunities for which Lay Academy has become known. Participants will deepen their learning through independent reading and at-home activities, and we will meet together and with the instructors using Zoom and the new Damascus Project Network (think Facebook but with a UCC flair and no ads!).

Click here to learn more about what to expect in Faith Foundations and Leadership Skills and to explore all of the Damascus Project’s course offerings. Questions? Please contact Tisha Brown or Abigail Henderson at

Testimonials from past Lay Academy participants

Lay Academy: Tim Keenan from Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ on Vimeo.


A Lay Academy Testimonial
By Laurie Van Grinsven
First Congregational, Oshkosh

During her sermon entitled “How Would You Tell the Story?” my pastor, Rev. Nancy Taylor, asked when any of us had a conversation about Jesus, God, or faith?  Days before the sermon, Margaret, a friend who happens to be a devout Catholic, and I talked about Eucharist.  Margaret expressed the emptiness she would feel if it were not for her belief in transubstantiation; I shared how powerful it was for me hear Rev. Nancy’s blessing and know I am welcome at Jesus’ table.  Even with our differences, Margaret and I were able to hear, and respect, each other’s truths.  If it had not been for the Lay Academy and Rev. Nancy’s enthusiasm, I doubt I would have been in church to hear that sermon or have the deeper conversation with my friend.

I first heard about the Lay Academy about 2 years ago when from Rev. Tisha Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development was a guest speaker at First Congregational UCC in Oshkosh, where I am now a member.  Tisha described a unique opportunity to engage in theological education/discussions.   At the time, I described myself as spiritual but not religious.  Even so, I was intrigued and talked with Tisha after the service.  I mentioned that although I was at service that day, I was otherwise ‘unchurched.’  Although most participants are members of UCC congregations, and oftentimes in leadership roles, Tisha reassured me that I would be welcome to attend.  Normally participants establish a covenant with their pastor but she would make an exception in my situation.

Somehow, I managed to muster courage and introduced myself to Rev. Nancy Taylor.  I probably said something like “You don’t know me, but would you be interested in …”  After an enthusiastic “Yes!” from Rev. Nancy and a scheduled meeting, I was going to the academy.  Almost two years later, I’ve learned a great deal, and I look forward to exploring answers to deeper questions.  I’ve also become a member of FCC, Oshkosh.  God truly does work in mysterious ways.

I would encourage anyone who is curious about the Bible, wishes they knew more about the Christian faith or wants to deepen their spirituality to consider attending Lay Academy. If you would like to know more contact Tisha Brown at


More information

Rev. Tisha Brown
Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development
Email Tisha Brown

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