ELCA Youth Gatheringhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/Surrender to the experienceHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/102http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/102<div class="ExternalClass47409EE15D3B41499CD8CE56CBEFFBC6"><p>We are either baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection or, as the Rev. Richard Rohr says in his book &quot;Eager to Love&#58; The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi<em>,</em>&quot; &quot;Christianity is largely a mere belonging system, not a transformational system that will change the world.&quot; The ELCA Youth Gathering has been and will always be a ministry that transforms the lives of teenagers, and transformed people of God transform the world. </p><p>As the director for the ELCA Youth Gathering I'm not interested in nurturing teenagers into a belief system that is only focused on life after death. I want to nurture teenagers into a way of life modeled by Jesus that hopefully is supported in and by the church. I'm not interested in encouraging teenagers to be part of a church hawking a spirituality of worthiness or prosperity or moral superiority. I want to invest in a generation that is formed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and not just formed but transformed. </p><p>That is why we expose young people to places like Detroit where they can come face-to-face with another's fear, loneliness, loss and brokenness, and their own. Taking up the cross of Christ, as Andrew Root points out in his book &quot;Taking the Cross to Youth Ministry,&quot;<em> </em>is not about doing hard things or suffering through things we don't like to do, which we often tell young people. It is about encountering the mystery of Christ in another's story and recognizing it as the familiar cycle of loss and renewal that keeps all of creation moving toward more life. That is the promise of the cross that we can count on. </p><p>My fervent prayer since we announced Detroit as the site of the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering is that the Holy Spirit would begin to stir the hearts and minds of youth, preparing them to welcome an experience that could potentially rock their worlds. I pray this because I know that at the Gathering young people and adults will be transformed if they will surrender to the experience. &quot;The foundational meaning of transformation is to surrender to [one's] new identity [in Christ] and consciously draw upon it.&quot; (Rohr, p. 68) All that we are preparing for this summer at the Gathering will put young people in touch with their identity in Christ and teach them how to consciously draw upon that identity. </p><p>We will return them to familial communities and church communities that hopefully will welcome and consciously draw out their newly embraced baptismal identities and channel their energies and gifts in response to the good news, which is Jesus. </p></div>04/01/2015Carrying the good news into the worldHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/101http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/101<div class="ExternalClassF107D9B31E664717ACD62E5910113DE3"><p>I promise that youth and adults who attend the ELCA Youth Gathering will return knowing the opening line of Mark's Gospel by heart&#58; &quot;<a href="http&#58;//johnmarkhicks.com/2011/08/16/mark-11-the-beginning-of-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ-the-son-of-god/">The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God</a>&quot; (Mark 1&#58;1).&#160; They will also know that they are the ones who carry the good news of Jesus into the world.<br><br>Mark's opening line was theologically radical at the time. When the Romans met Jesus, they learned that the new era of peace, good news and justice did not begin with Augustus Caesar as they had been enculturated to believe. Rather, claims Mark, it begins with Jesus. Mark tells the story of the Lord (also a name used for Augustus Caesar) who rules through self-sacrificial service in contrast to the bullying, conquering power of the Roman Caesar.<br><br>Mark calls us to believe the good news of the &quot;kindom&quot; of God rather than the proclamations of the empire, whether Roman or otherwise (Mark 1&#58;15). (I prefer to use &quot;kindom&quot; rather than kingdom as I believe God's real purpose is to build kinship—globally; between different religions; between friends and enemies; between ourselves and the neighbors we don't know.) The story of Jesus is the story of a different kind of &quot;kindom.&quot; The Roman Caesar dealt with his enemies by conquering them; Jesus deals with enemies by loving them. Through the ministry of the Gathering, young people and adults will ponder the characteristics of this new &quot;kindom,&quot; and proclaim it for themselves, Detroiters and the world.<br><br>The Gathering's program is built around three opportunities to proclaim the in-breaking of Christ's &quot;kindom&quot; into our current day empires&#58; Proclaim Story, Proclaim Justice and Proclaim Community.<br><br>On their <strong>Proclaim Story</strong> day, young people will learn that God's story is a love story, and that all of God's people have an important role in this story. Everything we do is &quot;The beginning of the good news…&quot; and, as followers of Jesus, we are sent to live out the rest of this story through discipleship. Through storytelling, music, Bible study, interactive learning and worship, participants will dwell in God's story, begin to articulate their own story, engage each other's story and be sent out to proclaim that Jesus = good news.<br><br>On their <strong>Proclaim Justice </strong>day, young people will work alongside Detroiters helping them to recreate an American city.&#160; Many people have written off Detroit, but we have the unique opportunity to see first-hand the resiliency of the people of Detroit. Although they are only giving a day of service, young people will learn lessons from the people they serve alongside that they will remember long after the Gathering.<br><br>On their <strong>Proclaim Community </strong>day, young people will&#160;visit the interactive learning center and in doing so follow Jesus on the way to the cross.&#160;Through a variety of mediums, such as art, music, technology, sports, community, fun, and reflection, students will be challenged to&#58;&#160;recognize the good news in all relationships while working toward reconciliation in Christ,&#160;listen before speaking and ultimately&#160;proclaim the good news in their own communities.<br><br></p></div>03/09/2015The grace of a new beginningHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/100http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/100<div class="ExternalClass58C33341106546AAB732D2F07AA0827A"> <h3><span style="color&#58;#0072c6;"><a name="_GoBack"></a><span style="color&#58;#444444;">In his poem “For a New Beginning,” John O. Donohue writes&#58;</span></span><br></h3><p align="center" class="MsoNormal" style="text-align&#58;center;line-height&#58;normal;"><br>Though your destination is not clear<br> You can trust the promise of this opening;<br> Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning<br> That is one with your life’s desire.</p><p align="center" class="MsoNormal" style="text-align&#58;center;line-height&#58;normal;">Awaken your spirit to adventure<br> Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk<br> Soon you will be home in a new rhythm<br> For your soul senses the world that awaits you.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height&#58;normal;">I recognize that everyone has a comfort zone. How hard (and how often) are you willing to work to get out of it? Many who have chosen to come to Detroit this summer chose to do so because something – someone – was urging them forward to experience new ground. The “destination is not [always] clear” but, as Donohue reminds us, we can “trust the promise.” </p><p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height&#58;normal;">To the nearly 30,000 people who have already registered for the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering, thank you for being willing to “unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning.” And, with Donohue, I pray that you are awakened to the Spirit of adventure in you, that you hold nothing back, that you discover the new rhythm that awaits you in Detroit and join your soul to the world you will experience there. </p> </div>02/03/2015Giving of the self for the sake of the otherHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/99http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/99<div class="ExternalClass42F766CE5D49455589D3EB7E09EB5759"> <p>Why are we so captivated by celebrities’ acts of kindness? I have been overly aware, particularly during this past Christmas season, pictures of celebrities offering a day at a soup kitchen, or ballyhooing a good cause, or sharing their talents to benefit a charitable organization. Magazines are filled with pictures and stories of our favorite movie stars or athletes doing good. Alongside the commercials of luxury cars wrapped in big, red bows are segments featuring movie stars or pro-athletes asking us to join them in supporting one cause or another. </p><p>Every time I see another ad or commercial I wonder if any of them – or us – is asking how we can impact the systemic reasons why people live in poverty. Why some people are privileged over others? Or what drives us, especially in the United States, to celebrate celebrity rather than do the hard work of changing the systems?</p><p>I have also been keenly aware of how the message of this past Christmas season was co-opted by our over-identification with our consumer tendencies. Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote in a post on <a href="http&#58;//www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/12/23/the-meaning-of-incarnation/">Patheos</a> that the platitudes about Christmas include &quot;the F’s– family, food, fellowship, presents we give to ourselves.&quot; She doesn't deny that those things are part of Christmas, but reminds us that they are not the “essence” of Christmas. “In a strange twist of history” she writes, &quot;St. Nicholas himself has been turned from a gaunt self-sacrificial loving person who served others into jolly old St. Nick…over weight, and the cosmic sugar daddy that fulfills all the dreams of our materialistic little American hearts.&quot; </p><p>That message was been particularly disturbing to me this past Christmas. It was amazing to me how mixed the messages are about Jesus and Santa in popular Christmas songs that are played. The same holds true for the images on the majority of the Christmas TV specials. Pictures of Santa bringing smiles to the faces of middle-class, white children while &quot;O Little Town of Bethlehem&quot; plays in the background. No wonder so many of us still think of God as an old man with a white beard who rewards us for being good. And if God is Santa, then is Jesus Santa's elf who delivers the reward? </p><p>Popular Christmas celebrations have come and gone, but in Detroit this summer&#160; (and this is one of the major reasons I think our church needs to show up in Detroit) young people will learn about the true meaning of Christmas, which is incarnation, the giving of the self for the sake of the other. How can we celebrate Christmas every day? </p><p>Our church needs to show up in Detroit this summer; we need to incarnate the self-giving love of Christ. That is what followers of Jesus do. &#160;</p> </div>01/08/2015A calling to live a life that servesHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/98http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/98<div class="ExternalClass97F7743C895346C7B2FACE78575B9833"><p> <span lang="EN">While driving back to Chicago from Detroit a few months ago, I listened to a segment on public radio in which a business professor was talking about the national trend of lower enrollment in MBA programs. There are as many reasons for this trend as there are schools creatively addressing it, but I primarily heard affirmation for the ELCA Youth Gathering. I know that wasn’t the producer’s intention, but let me explain how I got there&#58;</span></p><p> <span lang="EN">The prevailing wisdom and research indicate a growing emphasis on and necessity&#160;for career-ready&#160;degrees </span><span lang="EN">such as computer science, engineering and finance – often included as part of STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics</span><span lang="EN">). </span> <span lang="EN">Yet, employers are saying they are looking for new hires with creative, communicative and problem-solving skills. These are skills traditionally associated with a liberal arts education, which is at the core of Lutheran higher education.</span><span lang="EN"> </span>All of the ELCA colleges and universities are unanimous in their desire to use education, civic engagement and community service as pathways to develop informed citizens who engage with their neighbors. The ELCA Youth Gathering is built around the same commitment to help young people identify, embrace and nurture their vocation, a calling to live a life that serves the well-being of their community and the world. </p><p>This commitment to learning is reflected in many aspects of the ELCA Youth Gathering. Followers of this blog have already learned about the Proclaim Story program element that will help young people identify their story and other’s stories within God’s story. Especially during these times when fear and suspicion toward those who are different is becoming the prevailing narrative, it is important to hear again and again God’s promise of good news for the whole world. In addition to hearing it, teenagers will learn how to proclaim it by how they live in the world.</p><p>Another powerful aspect of the ELCA Youth Gathering is the “Getting Ready” materials. Evaluation data from previous Gatherings show a clear correlation between the impact of the Gathering experience on a young person’s faith formation and their group’s use of the &quot;Getting Ready&quot; materials. The groups that engage the materials in the months leading up to the Gathering are far more likely to have transformational experiences at the Gathering. I like to say that the Holy Spirit uses the materials to till the soil of young people’s hearts, preparing them for what will be planted during the five intense days of the Gathering. It is then up to the congregation to nurture those new seeds of faith discovery when young people return home. In 2015, the Gathering will offer suggestions for congregational leaders to build on the newly forming faith discoveries through a specially designed app. Later this month, you’ll find the Gathering's &quot;Getting Ready&quot; materials on our <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Resources/ELCA-Youth-Gathering">resource page</a>.</p></div>12/10/2014Contributing to Detroit's storyHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/97http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/97<div class="ExternalClass15E1BD392D3C4D95AC3BCE422437666F"> <p class="MsoNormal"><a name="_GoBack"></a><a></a><span class="MsoCommentReference"><span style="font-size&#58;8pt;line-height&#58;107%;"><a name="_msoanchor_1" href="#_msocom_1" class="msocomanchor"></a></span></span><span>I recently returned from a meeting of the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau Customer Advisory Board. Three key leaders spoke to the board – two representing billionaires Dan Gilbert and Mike Illich, who are investing millions in Detroit’s reinvention, and a rep from the mayor’s office. He reported the metrics of lights being turned back on, emergency services response times being brought more in line with the national average and, most exciting to me, the mayor’s commitment to neighborhood stabilization. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>It is easy to get caught up in these kinds of presentations. The power of big money to reinvent a city like Detroit is astonishing. As we heard, Detroit is rising from the ashes of disaster as it has many times throughout its history. Detroit will re-emerge from bankruptcy by the end of the year, stronger, more efficient and better equipped to handle the same challenges all major cities are facing.<span>&#160; </span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>In fact, before our board met, Crain’s Detroit Business hosted </span><span lang="EN" style="color&#58;#333333;">an invitation-only event called the “<span>Detroit Homecoming”</span> primarily for “expats” —<span>&#160; </span>people who were born in metro Detroit, grew up there, went to school there or worked there — and still think of Detroit as &quot;home.&quot;</span><span lang="EN"> <span style="color&#58;#333333;">The hope for the Homecoming was to re-engage and reconnect &quot;expats&quot; to Detroit through a 48-hour immersion during which they would experience the vibrancy and momentum in Detroit. There are lots of good things taking place to reinvent Detroit to become a world-class, 21st century metropolis. In fact, Warren Buffett said that if Detroit were a business, he’d buy it. </span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span lang="EN" style="color&#58;#333333;">There wasn’t much talk of reinvention when we chose to take the Youth Gathering to Detroit. We primarily saw a city that had been crushed by, some say, a history of government excess, the decline of the “big three” automakers, and the general economic downfall of 2008. I read one article that listed 15 theories for the demise of Detroit. The power brokers who spoke to us last week said it was a “perfect storm of circumstances” that led to Detroit’s bankruptcy. Like us, these leaders want to help Detroit rise up and, serendipitously, they are doing it together. The former secretary of labor, Robert Reich, recently applauded Detroit for what he described as the </span><span>unprecedented amount of private investment in public infrastructure that is taking place. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span lang="EN" style="color&#58;#333333;">ELCA youth will be part of Detroit’s reinvention through service, similar to what they did in New Orleans. Youth will be spread out across the Detroit metro area with trained young adults who will help them understand their service experiences as ministry among, rather than to, our neighbors in Detroit. Those same young adults will help youth see the </span><span>downside of gentrification. For example, a small grocery store called Tomboy Market that served lower-income Cass Corridor residents for years closed last Thursday.<span>&#160; </span>The closest grocery store now is Whole Foods, and the current population can’t afford Whole Foods.</span></p><p class="MsoCommentText"><span>The Cass Corridor and Midtown is the area undergoing the most rapid transformation in Detroit. It is the 45-block area that is being redeveloped into a world-class entertainment district. It also has the highest concentration of the city’s homeless and mentally ill. Yes, presentations like I heard last week are energizing and popular in a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap-kind of way, but that mentality can only get us so far. <span>&#160;</span>As Christian and Lutherans, I believe we are called to break open the roof and bring to Jesus those who are paralyzed by the powerful. That is the story from the second chapter of Mark that will be the focus on the Proclaim Story day (Synod day) at the Gathering.<span>&#160; </span>Some say Detroit’s story is still being written. I pray every day that God uses ELCA youth to contribute to Detroit’s story. </span></p> </div>11/10/2014