2014 Ohio Conference German Partnership Report

2014 Ohio Conference German Partnership Report

We are enjoying an increased level of activity in our partnership with UEK von Westphalia in the past year on a variety of levels. 2014 Ohio Conference German Partnership Report

We are enjoying an increased level of activity in our partnership with UEK von Westphalia in the past year on a variety of levels.  Below is a list summarizing the points of contact:

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins travelled to Dortmund in September, 2013 to speak at a symposium on Just Peace in honor of the birthday of Christa Kronshage.  She was also able to meet with members of the UEKvW committee and shared the initial idea of a senior adult travel/exchange program.

Sandy Lindahl travelled to Dortmund later in September 2013 to speak at a gathering of people involved in “fund raising” in the Westphalia and Rhineland German churches and then participated in a similar gathering of folk from various churches at their annual meeting in Hannover.  She learned a great deal from this exchange hosted by Hille Richers, from Bonne.

Ohio Young Ambassador Program:  Official endorsement has been received and the leadership and planning for this program between the Paderborn district and the Eastern Ohio and Western Reserve Ohio Associations is in process for a group of German youth to come to Ohio in July 2015 and Ohio youth go to Germany in July 2016.

We are also awaiting word that another district may also be interested in a Young Ambassador program and are waiting to set that up with another Ohio association.  This program would probably be geared for 2016-2017 time frame.

The Dortmund district will be the target area to partner with northwestern Ohio for the new Exchange, Engage, Envision Program (EEE) for adults age 55 and over.  This is in part being sponsored by United Church Homes.  The German portion of the program will take place in fall 2015 and the Ohio portion in spring 2016.  We are targeting participation of 24 adults, ½ from each country and it will include touring, home stays, cultural opportunities and retreat.  Each ½ of the program will be 10-12 days in length.

Paradise UCC is the host of a young woman, Alena Vieregge, who is working in the congregation for a gap year between gymnasium and university.  She volunteers in the church’s week day preschool and then with the congregation’s youth program.  It worked very well in that there was enough time to organize this through the UCC volunteer offices and the German program in the Rhineland with their interns who live for a year in various countries throughout the world.  These two connections provided her the opportunity to participate in pre-travel preparation, a mid-year retreat with other volunteers here in the US and there will be follow-up programming to help in her re-entry into her culture.  Both Alena and her host pastor, Joyce Schroer, are taking “notes” and learning from this experience in hopes that others will try this model in the future.

Dave Long-Higgins travelled to Germany in February, accompanying Beth who represented the UCC at the UCC-UEK forum meeting.  He was making connections with the local church partnership with the congregation in Mengede.  A group of 17 will be coming to Ohio in July 2014 for two weeks attending family camp with members of David’s UCC, Canal Winchester, and then traveling in Ohio.

Rev. Sigrid Rother led a group of 24 from Westerville UCC to the parish in Schwelm in the next exchange between these two congregations’ partnership.  A part of their shared experience was to tour sites significant to the Reformed heritage of the UCC.

Finally, there will be two young adults coming from Westphalia this summer to live and work at Pilgrim Hills and the Ohio Conference Outdoor Ministry program.  We have had students participating in this way for about 20 years.  Even after the Ohio Conference had to change their reimbursement strategy for the program, this has been so significant for the Germans who have participated, that the church has picked up the expense of the airline tickets in order for this program to continue for at least one more year.  The future of this program is very uncertain beyond the 2014 program year.

We are looking forward to having members of the Ohio Conference attend the September UCC-UEKvW Forum retreat in Villigst this year.  Our interim minister, Rev. Phil Hart, will be providing a keynote for the event.