This blog is for all of the adults who accompanied young people to the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering. Your commitment to the faith formation of teenagers deserves the admiration of our entire church! We know how hard you have worked these past couple years getting ready for the Gathering, and we have the deepest gratitude for your 24-hour-a-day sacrificial service to your group in hot, muggy, rainyNew Orleans. And we know that your work didn’t end when the bus pulled into your congregation’s parking lot.
From my experience, it is now that the Holy Spirit really gets busy. Please remain connected to the young people who had this potentially life-shaping experience together. There are resources on the Gathering website to help you continue the faith journey: www.elca.org/gathering. We also hope that you will share your stories and resources with each other on Facebook www.facebook.com/youthgathering and continue to follow us on Twitter www.twitter.com/elcagathering.
We especially want to help you care for the young people who are leaving for college. If there is an ELCA campus ministry at the college they are attending, call the staff and invite them to reach out to the precious soul you are entrusting to their care. Do the same if they are attending an ELCA college, or any other private college with campus ministry. If they aren’t leaving your community, ask your congregation to take note and take action to draw them more deeply into your community of faith.
If your pastor wasn’t able to come to the Gathering, make a point of meeting with her/him. Invite her/him to intentionally reach out to the young people who attended the Gathering. Encourage the congregation council/governing board to take the time to ask the teens how Jesus was made known to them inNew Orleans. Give the young people opportunities to bear witness to their experiences inNew Orleansin multiple venues at multiple times in the next few months. Let the teens teach the adults !
I think the adult church can learn much from what youth crave – an interconnectedness that transcends differences and conflicts. How could any young person trust Christianity as a viable way of life when it is so blatantly and obviously ignored by the commitments and actions of many adults? Jesus reminds us of our profound interconnectedness when he says that the two greatest commandments on which all the others depend are concerned with relationships, with God and one another (Matthew 22:36-40). And, with the coming of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit, the focus on relationships is sharpened, as is the constant emphasis on reconciliation, made possible through the cross, which must be the basis for all relationships.
Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche community http://www.larcheusa.org/ wrote in his book “Community and Growth”: “Each human being, however small or weak, has something to bring to humanity. As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to each other’s stories, things begin to change. We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgment and prejudice to forgiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the heart.”