Rise Up Together Events

Rise Up Together Video

What can I expect if I attend a Rise Up Event?
DSCN0015Rise Up Together events include opportunities to serve alongside local ministries and non-profits who are responding to the needs of their neighbors who are living with the adverse effects of poverty. Events also include a time of reflection about poverty, and how we respond as disciples of Christ in our 21st century context. Along with caring for the immediate needs of our brothers and sisters, plus a chance to hear their stories, our goal is to help empower volunteers to return and reflect on the ways their own congregation may begin accompanying others living with the effects of poverty in their neighborhoods and communities. 
See more FAQ’s below.

Is the “pilot” model working?
YES! Some volunteers who attended the first Rise Up Together Event, returned to their home congregation in Harrisburg and started a “community meal” that closely resembles the meal they assisted with at Union Lutheran in York. The Community Breakfast at St. Mark’s, Harrisburg, also includes live music and a craft for children.

riseup2Not simply a replica of the Community Meal at Union Lutheran in York, the leaders at St Mark’s explored the ways they could respond to their specific local need, and found their community meal fit the neighborhood needs for lower-income families, aging neighbors on limited income, and singles starting out, all who live in local apartment complexes. The meal is part of a ministry that includes an annual Trunk-or-Treat Event that also attracts many local families.

How might YOUR congregation respond to the local needs of your neighborhood? Many congregations already ARE, but if you are exploring ways to do so, perhaps a Rise Up Together Event can be a step in helping leaders of all generations to experience serving learning first-hand, and discuss the possibilities with caring and faithful partners.

How did the York city “pilot” event go?
A number of congregations were represented as we gathered to serve alongside of four local ministry partners in the west end of York:

  • St Matthew Lutheran’s Youth Center known locally as “The Matt’s”
  • Union Lutheran’s “The Well” Food Pantry
  • York Rescue Mission
  • The Lehman Center, providing emergency residential child care

Along with providing meal prep and service, we had opportunity to meet and learn about the stories of a number of local residents who were guests of these various ministries. At St. Matthew’s Youth Center, an evening of games and snacks includes a time of prayer reflection and discussion known as “halftime.” The halftime conversation focused on the subject of gun violence, and when polled over over 80% of the young people in the room stood when asked if they knew someone personally affected by gun violence.

At both feeding ministry sites, Union Lutheran and the York Rescue Mission, we saw a few hundred meals served and encountered people of all ages, races and genders, some of whom had been on the streets for months and some who had recently found themselves with limited resources and the need to access services. In all cases the need was real, and the appreciation genuine and heartfelt.

A neighborhood walk revealed some of the challenges facing the people of this community, and helped our participants to gain a greater understanding of the need we experienced in all the venues where we served. Our day Saturday culminated in time reflecting on the nature of poverty and the ways we are called to respond, from serving immediate needs as we had that weekend, to advocate for change that will lessen the impact of poverty statewide.

Martha Martin, director of the Lehman Center, shared her belief that “poverty is relentless,” a comment that struck me in a profoundly new way after our day of sharing community with so many volunteers who are responding to their neighbors needs, and with our actual neighbors who are experiencing those needs.

Read more about our service ministry partners in west York 

Why focus on LOCAL service?
For years, youth from Lower Susquehanna Synod have been traveling to places like Haiti, Guatemala, New Orleans and Detroit to serve and learn. In the wake of the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering, we wanted to help congregations explore ways to assist people living with the daily realities of poverty in their own neighborhoods.At our “pilot” events we’ll do some service, but we will also get to know people from the neighborhoods where we serve, and learn about the dynamics that have led to the spread of poverty in our communities.

Who can attend the Rise Up Together events?
We are encouraging congregations to send one adult with one or two youth and/or young adults. We hope those who participate will become advocates who return to their home congregations and help stir up interest in a service-learning weekend for their congregational youth group or multi-generational group.

What does it cost?
A synod grant has allowed us to keep the cost of these events affordable, so more individuals and congregations can participate. We realize that the cost of many synod-sponsored service-learning trips are beyond the financial reach of many families. In addition, we are working closely with Thrivent, and with our synod’s Hunger Committee, to access grant dollars to help offer grants to congregations who may be willing to sponsor a similar service-learning event. More details will emerge as we are able to determine what grant dollars are available to assist with this kind of accompaniment ministry.

What are the accommodations?
The participants will be staying at St. Matthew in York, and will be housed on the floor. St Matthew does have a locker room with showers, and a full kitchen, as well as their Youth Center. Meals will be prepared on site, and aside from when we are serving offsite, we will be eating at St. Matthew.

What can participants expect in terms of “service” and schedule?
“Service” opportunities are designed to bring participants into contact with those who we will be serving alongside of in a way that allows for relationship building. Our hope is to work towards accompaniment. We will spend time as a group discussing what this means, and how we move from a place of charity towards others as simply volunteering, to entering into relationship with those we are called to serve. To learn more about the organizations with whom we served, read our review of the “pilot” event (above), and visit our partners page at:

Our events are designed to inspire congregations who are looking for weekend-long, affordable, service learning experiences for youth groups or multi-generational groups.
Our hope is to use the events our office sponsors as pilot events.Our office has established contacts with local churches and organizations who are caring for the needs of local people on a daily basis, plus we’ve developed a curriculum. We’d like to give the curriculum and contacts away to any congregations wishing to experience this kind of service learning weekend. Many of the current service-learning “trips” we support involve a full-week commitment, and can cost a lot of money to attend. The Rise Up Together events are designed to be affordable and local, so they involve only a weekend or in some cases ONE-day of time commitment. Perhaps gather a youth group or multi-generational group to attend one of our events in 2016, or plan an event like this one to help in your own community? The idea is to foster more Rise Up Together events led by congregational leaders.

Will there be more of these events offered by the Office for Children, Youth & Family?
Yes! Our office will continue to expand the model with events in Chambersburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster and  Carlisle in the near future, to help facilitate that growth. While we hope congregations will travel to other communities in our synod to participate, we also agree there is need EVERYWHERE, and would like to help develop relationships with non-profits and churches who are providing hunger and justice ministries in a number of communities around our synod.