A New Generation of Leaders:
The Oregon Fellowship

It’s no secret that younger generations are finding new and different ways of expressing their spirituality and faith in today’s world, that may look a little different from what many of us are used to. Many congregations and faith communities have noticed a lower level of denominational affiliation by people under the age of 40, but despite what it may seem at first glance, there is profound and deep hope for our future. 

Between 2014-2017, a few Portland-based clergy, young leaders, and ministry partners like Leaven Community & Together Lab, noticed a pattern while developing relationships with their local communities: they kept meeting incredible young leaders of color and/or queer leaders who were beginning to discern their own vocations, but who didn’t feel like any of the existing discernment or leadership development spaces fit where they were at or what they needed. Hungry for spaces of spiritual healing and justice, these young leaders were not particularly denominationally affiliated and didn’t necessarily want to become pastors. So, where was a good space for them to engage in their leadership discernment? And, if there wasn’t one, what might one look like? These were the questions that these clergy-organizers and ministry partners began to ask themselves and the young leaders they were encountering. And, as they reflected on the early days of their own leadership discernment processes, they remembered the profound importance in their own lives of having been accompanied by people along their journey of discernment. So, they set out to create space to accompany a few young adult leaders who were committed to their discernment process but were on the margins of the church. And thus, the idea for the Oregon Fellowship was born. 

Since 2017, (in partnership with Leaven Community, Presbytery of Cascades, the Deaconess Community, Forum for Theological Exploration, Together Lab, the Oregon Synod, & the Christian Social Concern class at Warner Pacific University) the Oregon Fellowship seeks to create a new and much needed space for passionate young people to explore their own leadership journeys and spirituality without the pressure of fitting into any predetermined ideas of what that leadership “should” look like, and to be deeply accompanied in the process. These fellows are paid for a ten hour per week residency at a site which serves as their primary praxis space, as well as five hours per week of dedicated accompaniment time with people who share their experiences, identities, and are a little more seasoned in their leadership. Here are snippets from three of their stories:

Through their time in the Oregon Fellowship, Murph–one of the original Oregon Fellows–organized with their queer community and discovered a common need: young queer leaders were burnt out of both activist and church spaces and needed a new kind of space where they could integrate the entirety of who they are and just be. This need gave birth to a new ministry called Queer Enough which strives to create exactly this kind of space.  
Janelly originally connected to the Oregon Fellowship through her Christian social concern course at Warner Pacific University. As a fellow, she has grown her voice into that of a strong and trusted leader among the Leaven Community Land & Housing Coalition as she has worked to develop a strong base of relationships in East County. As she prepares to conclude her time as an Oregon Fellow, Janelly accepted a position as the director of advocacy & community engagement at Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Clinic.
Jazmin, a fellow who describes her journey as a process of emergence whereby she is becoming a butterfly and finding her wings, has discovered the power of her voice in her community. Jazmin organizes her neighbors to stand up for just housing policies and practices and is building a community-owned ministry called La Casa Común which serves as a base of neighborhood leaders led by Latina women who are accompanying each other in an effort to create space where they can make meaning, share stories, co-create art, and address housing needs together in their communities. 

Over the last few yearsand seven fellows into the programthe team is learning a lot of valuable lessons about emerging young leadership. Young leaders long for the support of more seasoned leaders who know what it’s like to navigate identity and leadership in the world, someone who can journey with them as they discover their own boundaries, agency, and unlearn systems that teach them to assimilate to what exists rather than to create anew what is needed. Living up to the pressure of expectations, while also exploring their own voice and call in the midst of unjust systems of oppression, stress of paying bills, completing their education, familial expectations and realities, etc., is daunting. And yet, they are spiritually hungry and energized; they long for spaces where they have the freedom to cultivate that. This generation will take us to new places in our lineage as a church with a deep conviction to not segment out the different parts of themselves in order to fit into existing spaces, but rather, to model leading whole and integrated lives everywhere.

Investing in these young leaders is a divine call to an act of repair in the world.

Will we answer that call?

Give to the Courageous Love Fund!

You can give online here.

Individuals can send a check to the Oregon Synod office: 2800 N Vancouver Ave. Portland, OR 97227. Please make checks payable to the "Oregon Synod" with "Courageous Love Fund" in the memo line.

Congregations or ministries can send checks to ELCA Region 1: PO Box 94432, Seattle, WA 98124-6732. Please make checks payable to the "Oregon Synod" with "Courageous Love Fund" in the memo line.

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The Wild Web

A monthly series highlighting stories from across the wild web of relationships and ministries that make up the Oregon Synod. Each month we will share examples of how Christ’s love is being embodied in ministries just like yours. We are excited to highlight the amazing life emerging across Oregon Synod congregations, ministries, & relationships! 

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Oregon Synod
2800 N. Vancouver Ave., Suite #101
Portland, OR 97227

(503) 413-4191
Bishop Laurie Larson Caesar-
Bishop's Associate Juan Carlos La Puente-
Bishop's Associate Pr. Melissa Reed-
Synod Office (Jemae McCanna)- 
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Oregon Synod, ELCA · 2800 N Vancouver Ave, Suite 101 · Portland, OR 97227 · USA