AYTI Student Leadership 2019
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Augsburg Youth Theology Institute 2019

Growing Green Hearts at Augsburg Youth Theology Institute

AYTI stands for Augsburg Youth Theology Institute and it’s a long-standing tradition! Growing Green Hearts partnered with Augsburg University in hosting 35 high schoolers from around the country in exploration of vocation using the AYTI 2019 theme…

The letter below was written in July by Heidi Ferris, Growing Green Hearts, as a both wrap-up and sending out of young leaders that participated Augsburg Youth Theology Institute which ran from June 23-28, 2019. After the week together, students continued research and development of an environmental stewardship project in their own congregation, neighborhood, camp or school. Read about student action projects and research papers here.

Dear Supporter of Youth Leaders:

What are the needs of the world? There are many. Wondering about God and wandering through the neighborhoods of Minneapolis, the students of Augsburg’s Youth Theology Institute (AYTI) encountered stories of need and action, presence and joy.

By defining vocation as using God-given gifts and talents to meet the needs of the world, we were empowered to see systems-thinking, theological wisdom, field experiences, and relationships as tools for our work co-creating with God. This book is proof that student leaders are using their vocation to turn knowledge into action.

Field experiences — including a sustainability tour of the Augsburg campus with Allyson Green, a Sacred Sites tour led by Jim Bear Jacobs, a visit to Mill Ruins Park with the National Park Service, fossil hunting in limestone with Growing Green Hearts, EcoFaith Network community organizing with Grace Corbin, and food gleaning with Campus Kitchen’s Natalie Jacobson — all provided examples of vocation.

We learned that making the world a more trustworthy place for all people is a process. These steps for change are often called the Engineering Design Process. We defined engineering as using resources at hand to problem solve and fill a human need or want. From there, iterations of design-build-test-improve took us through goof-ups, grace and communication glitches. We came out of on the other side with solutions, team skills and stronger community.

Case in point: A breakthrough in understanding of systems thinking arose on day three. Students were challenged to build a contained river system using paper, pipes, rubber bands, and helping hands. As the concept of human “pipeshed” versus natural watershed began to sink in, small groups united into one large group. Then a small group broke off. Buoyed by the confidence and security they felt in being accepted by their larger community of peers, the smaller group followed their instincts to innovate and problem-solve creatively. It turned out that both pipeshed models worked, all students gained a new perspective on water quality, and the results were stronger because of their experience in resiliency and resourcefulness. Ain’t that being church, folks?

All week long we experienced an abundance of Creation’s four interconnected systems — biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. Student leaders put these concepts in action as they:
• sculpted the Genesis 1 text with a team
• reflected daily upon Revelation 22 verses
• displayed personal strengths publically on the sidewalk in chalk
• ate lunch daily at local restaurants
• built a giant watershed modeling pollutants and rain gardens
• navigated 6 steps of the STEM curriculum called “Connect-the-Rocks: Faith, Science & Youth Leadership”
• performed in an evening AYTI talent show
• tasted the aspirin within bark of the aspen tree
• ate June berries on campus; redefined 9 typical weeds as edible plants
• explored climate chemistry through burning of wax
• conducted an energy or water audit on campus
• witnessed biodiversity through seed-saving of native plants.

Those activities were framed by a foundation of spiritual tools for daily life. We turned to theologians Jeremy Myers, Barbara Rossing and Pope Francis to highlight the false dichotomy between faith and science and emphasize the need for care of Creation. As co-creators with Christ, we work to unravel the mysteries simultaneously standing in awe, wrapped in abundant love, patiently waiting with questions and vocation.

And then we are called to move knowledge into action.

When we stood as community at Pilot Knob Hill with environmental racism evident in story and infrastructure, that overflowing, often underestimated love of God most certainly showed up. It keeps showing up. It’s in the interconnections of land, air, water and living things with humanity. It’s in the mix of mystery and our seeking of answers. It’s abundance surrounded us then, as it does now.

Blessings to your faith community as you lift up student leaders. Prayers for each of the leaders and their action project descriptions published here. And may we all keep listening for that vocational call to serve, using our gifts and talents to meet needs of the world and in doing so make this world a more just and trustworthy place.

In Peace,

Heidi Ferris, Chief Grower
Growing Green Hearts, LLC

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