ELCA Youth Gatheringhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/The experience alone is pricelessHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/95http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/95<div class="ExternalClass05195F084EA64681BA9D38CF770E451F">Beyoncé and Jay-Z brought their show to Chicago’s Soldier Field recently. Friends who went said it was fabulous. Most of the tickets were in the $250 range. Teenaged “sneakerheads” think nothing about spending the same amount―or more―on a pair of Lebron James signature shoes. <span>&#160;</span>And for the first time since 2003, teen spending on food, Starbucks being their favorite, has eclipsed spending on clothing. |<span style="font-size&#58;10pt;color&#58;#333333;"> <a href="http&#58;//www.piperjaffray.com/private/pdf/Taking_Stock_Teach-In_Spring_2014.pdf">Taking Stock</a></span>. <br><br>When I hear numbers like these, I’m convinced that the life-defining experience of the ELCA Youth Gathering is a bargain.<br><br>While we can’t compete with Beyoncé and Jay-Z, the evening main stage events at the Gathering are, for many teens, the first time they will experience a Christian rock band – live, or hear a world-renowned speaker – in person, or celebrate Holy Communion with thousands of their peers – in the flesh. That experience alone is priceless. But wait, there’s more.<br><br>Young people who attend the Gathering will also spend a day offering their service in and around Detroit, an act of love in Christ’s name. Some will board up blighted homes to create safer environments in which families can live, work and play. Other ELCA youth will be planting and/or weeding urban gardens and meeting the people who depend on the gardens for their very existence. Some young people will work with Detroiters who are recycling abandoned tires from city streets, repurposing them into welcome mats and flip-flops. Some youth will work side-by-side with Detroit school students as part of a summer reading program. Still others will be helping to transform neighborhoods from urban bleak to urban chic by working with local artists to enliven neighborhoods through art.<br><br>On another day at the Gathering, congregations will gather as synods. Call this day a fan club meeting, or a block party, or a synod meetup. On that day young people will tell stories – God’s story (as told in the Gospel of Mark), their story, our story. They might even hear their bishop’s story, as she or he will be with them the whole time. Who wouldn’t like to hear about their bishop’s confirmation experience or see his or her photo? By the time the Synod Day ends, youth will be able to tell a story that transcends personality to reflect God’s profound truth about who they are and who others are in Christ.<br><br>The third program day is like a day at a carnival with a purpose. Sound strange? Just ask the young people who have sat at the edge of the high=ropes platform, 25 feet off the floor, pondering the risks God is asking them to take for the sake of their faith. Or talk to the kids <span>who chatted with Lutheran Men in Mission as they waited for the bumper boats about the &quot;bumper&quot; that God promises us, always protecting us from fear and death. Or the great faith conversations the foursomes had on the ninth hole of the mini golf course about being claimed by God no matter how many times we miss the mark. </span>Rather than politicians trying to get your attention as you walk the 500,000-square-foot grounds, at our carnival youth get the attention of representatives from ELCA colleges and universities, or find out what ELCA Advocacy staff are doing in Washington, D.C. The opportunities are endless.<br><br>Before I end this blog post, I want to highlight the Community Life opportunities at this Gathering, a bargain at any price. While Detroit spans over <span class="kno-fv"> <span style="color&#58;#222222;">142.9 square miles,</span></span><span class="kno-fv"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;color&#58;#222222;"> </span></span>the downtown area is rather compact. Whether youth are at the Cobo Convention Center or Ford Field, or walking along the Riverwalk, there will be music and activities they can enjoy together with existing and new friends.<br><span><br></span>Five stadium shows, a day of service, a carnival with a purpose, and a host of other activities. If you are a savvy shopper who knows the value of a dollar and the value of a life-defining experience, you definitely will want to register a group for the Gathering in Detroit next summer. Take it from one who has been privileged to witness the Holy Spirit change and direct the lives of thousands of teenagers through five previous Gatherings. What your young people will take away is priceless. I encourage your congregation to do whatever it can to give them the experience of a lifetime.<span><br><br> </span><a name="_GoBack"></a></div>09/08/2014Embracing the realityHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/94http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/94<div class="ExternalClass39D0B5EC79C24541B78136C82D917B86"><p>This month I am going to share the most important piece of advice I have for primary adult leaders regarding the Gathering. Here it is&#58; Let reality shape your expectations.</p><p>That's it. I am suggesting that you get a clear understanding of Detroit, your youth, their parents, your adult leaders and the Gathering. Let that truth shape your expectations of what the Gathering can be and will be.</p><p>Why is this so important for a successful Gathering experience? Let me share a particular topic where realistic expectations and desire can lead to two different experiences.</p><p> <strong>Housing.</strong> If every congregational group desires an assignment to a four-star hotel with a one-star price located directly across the street from the main venue with all double-double rooms, every congregational group will be disappointed. No such property exists and no one will get all double-doubles.</p><p>Still, housing is an issue for every Gathering I have worked on since 2000, because there is this expectation out there that if a person asks loudly enough, reality will change to suit what that person desires. It won't. However, it will create anxiety for the adult leader who wishes that a situation is something other than what it is.</p><p>On the other hand, by accepting the truth of the Detroit landscape — rather than resisting it or labeling it negatively — we are less likely to let it get in the way of young people's deepening discipleship through the ministry of the Gathering. In fact, we can use it to catapult ourselves farther into the community that God has been building in Detroit for more than 300 years.<br><br></p><p>So, the question is&#58; <br><strong>Why aren't there more hotels in downtown Detroit?</strong></p><p>In the late 1960s, racial tensions engulfed parts of our country at the cost of lost lives and abject destruction. The 1969 Detroit race riots were the worst race riots our country had seen. As a result of the racial tensions and assisted by the affordability of cars, the white middle class sold or abandoned their homes in diverse neighborhoods and fled to the suburbs. (By the way, Lutheran congregations also left the city!) This mass exodus was dubbed &quot;white flight,&quot; and eventually resulted in a wholesale abandonment of the city by white people. &quot;White flight&quot; created economic chaos that can be seen in the architecture of Detroit. The metro area's hospitality infrastructure grew up in the suburbs and around the airport, leaving Detroit proper lacking in amenities.</p><p>The term &quot;white flight&quot; has become less common in recent years, and young people coming to the Gathering may not even know the meaning of the term. It is, however, one of the touch points uniquely available to us in Detroit, a touch point that young people can ponder alongside the Gospel of Mark (the text for the Gathering) and their daily realities.</p><p>They may not know about the 1960-70s phenomenon called &quot;white flight,&quot; but I bet they are familiar with the fear and sometimes outright racial prejudice that destroys many cities around the world today. A <a href="http&#58;//www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/05/millennials_racism_and_mtvpoll_young_people_are_confused_about_bias_prejudice.htm">recent poll</a> conducted by MTV, yes MTV, found that Millenials have a hard time talking about race and discrimination.</p><p>I want to encourage you to talk with your young people about this part of Detroit's history and ponder together how knowing that story will impact your experience of Detroit next summer. Perhaps start a conversation on the bus as you travel from your hotel to Cobo.</p><p>Here are some starter questions you can use&#58;</p><ul><li>Is there any situation in the world today that is similar? </li><li>Are there situations today in which we are conditioned to hate rather than love, to separate rather than unite, to hurt rather than heal?</li><li>What are the implications for people of faith? How are we, or are we, responsible to change those situations? If so, how can we accomplish change?</li></ul><p>I think Mark's Gospel provides guidance for us in situations where embracing reality is difficult or uncomfortable. In chapter 10 verse 32 we find the disciples &quot;on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.&quot; </p><p>This was a turning point in Mark's Gospel as Jesus begins to go toward Jerusalem. We can imagine how confused the disciples must have been when Jesus explained that this new path would lead ultimately to his death and resurrection. Even though they were puzzled and confused, the disciples continued to follow Jesus on this unfamiliar route with an undesirable ending. How would you respond in a similar situation?</p><p>When we dig into the Gospel of Mark, we'll learn that the disciples follow Jesus throughout the story, listen to all of Jesus' unconventional teachings and witness Jesus' miraculous acts. They vow never to leave Jesus' side (Mark 14&#58;27-29).</p><p>We will also learn that in the end the reality is they can't keep their vow. Every single one of them ends up fleeing at Jesus's arrest. Peter, the most impressive of the disciples, denies <em>three times</em> that he knows Jesus (Mark 14&#58;62-72). One of the disciples escapes in the nude when he barely evades the grip of a guard by stripping off his cloak (Mark 14&#58;50-52). Even when facing the reality of the resurrection, the disciples flee in &quot;terror and amazement&quot; after seeing the empty tomb, saying &quot;nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.&quot; (Mark 16&#58;8)</p><p>Could we call that &quot;disciple flight&quot;? </p><p>Will we leave Detroit and say &quot;nothing to anyone&quot; about the historic and systemic injustices that have contributed to the breaking down of a once grand city? Will we continue to flee from the hard conversations about race and discrimination? Will all we share be the moments of escape into gaming and pageantry? Hopefully not. </p><p>Hopefully, with the conviction of our faith and the support of our faith community, we will be encouraged to steer into the hard conversations about what is real rather than flee from them. Hopefully we will be encouraged to follow Jesus on the way of the cross, and as we walk that path with Jesus and others we will join hands to <em>Rise Up Together</em>. </p></div>08/08/2014Learning How to "Walk the Talk"Heidihttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/93http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/93<div class="ExternalClass0ABDD9DF800C47D2BA0EC207CC708E1C"><p>​Clara is a young adult from Germany, who moved to the Chicago area to intern for the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Ill.&#160; In a recent blog entry, Clara reflects on being German and expresses some uncertainty about&#160; tending to the holocaust survivors she meets at the museum. “Should I say, ‘I am really sorry’? or ‘It’s terrible what happened to you’?” Clara wrote. Every time Clara thinks about the Holocaust, she feels guilt for the collective sins of her ancestors. Then one day a survivor’s response broke open Clara’s heart. The survivor said that Clara didn’t have to feel bad because, to the survivor, Clara was an ‘instrument of justice.’ I hope that the people of Detroit experience ELCA youth as ”instruments of justice.”<br><br>The vast majority of ELCA youth who will come to the Gathering are typically reared in middle-class families with predominantly well-informed parents. And, they are white. Like Clara, they are inheritors of systems that fail to render justice to people of color and immigrants. But they don’t have to perpetuate those systems. <br><br>In Scripture, there is a constant call to seek justice. Jesus got upset at the Pharisees because they neglected the weightier matters of the law, which Jesus defined as justice and the love of God. Isaiah 58 complains about the fact that while the people of God are praying and praying and praying, they are not doing anything about injustice. Hebrews 11&#58;33 tells us that we are God’s hands for dispensing justice, and God uses us to “administer justice.” <br><br>All of the service experiences being planned in Detroit will help young people learn how to “walk the talk” and put their prayers into action to change some of the systems that keep people stuck in cycles of poverty and oppression. They will learn that the “good news” we embody is Jesus, who frees us to stand together at the foot of the cross. It is from Jesus’ endurance of the cross that we draw strength for the marathon work of justice-seeking.<br><br>Just as in New Orleans in 2009 and again in 2012, we are showing up in Detroit – body, mind and soul – to do everything in our power to act as God’s hands, feet, hearts and minds in bringing justice. We don’t go to Detroit to offer charity. As Saint Augustine reminds us, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.” And, as Mother Theresa once said, “The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action.” <br></p></div>07/01/2014Still I RiseHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/92http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/92<div class="ExternalClass9013104EC1EE40A78F29AEF2F0D17DD0"><p>I had two other pieces written for this month's blog, but when I read about Maya Angelou's death I knew I had to write something else. Dr. Angelou, a poet, storyteller, civil rights activist and educator, was a keynote speaker at the 1991 ELCA Youth Gathering in Dallas, Texas. Two years later, in 1993, she recited her poem, &quot;On the Pulse of Morning,&quot; at President Bill Clinton's first inauguration. She was both the first African American female cable car conductor and the first African American female to have written a screenplay that was actually filmed.</p><p>In an NPR story about her death, film director John Singleton pointed to Angelou's poem titled &quot;Still I Rise,&quot; saying that it made him feel better about himself as an adolescent living in South Central Los Angeles. </p><p>Like New Orleans and Detroit, South Central Los Angeles struggles with high unemployment, poverty and street crime. Like Detroit, their history has been marked by boom times, followed by devastating riots. Like New Orleans (and Detroit, and other cities across our nation) poor rates of literacy and systemic racism contribute to keeping people stuck in the cycle of poverty. Immigration has definitely made a huge impact, changing neighborhoods from primarily African American to a majority Latino. It doesn't take much for me, a middle-aged white woman, to understand why Maya Angelou's poem would speak to a young, black man growing up in South Central. </p><p>Mr. Singleton considers Angelou an elder storyteller, and her stories, he says &quot;hold a lot of wisdom from walking through the world and experiencing different things.&quot; That phrase describes for me one of the benefits of attending an ELCA Youth Gathering. If we are to be God's hands and feet in the world, shining the light of Christ, it is important for us to have a diversity of experiences <span lang="EN" style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">in</span> <span lang="EN" style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">the</span> <span lang="EN" style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">world</span>, experiences that open us to the movement of the Holy Spirit and call us to engage our particular gifts in service of God's vision for creation. &quot;For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.&quot; (2 Timothy 1&#58;7) If your congregation is still on the fence about sending young people to Detroit, listen to <a href="http&#58;//www.npr.org/2014/05/28/316728748/maya-angelou-reads-still-i-rise">Dr. Angelou's poem</a>, and understand why we need to stand with the young people of Detroit and invite them to rise up together with us. </p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Still I Rise</strong></p><p>Maya Angelou, 1928</p><p><strong>&#160;</strong></p><p>You may write me down in history</p><p>With your bitter, twisted lies,</p><p>You may trod me in the very dirt</p><p>But still, like dust, I'll rise.</p><p>&#160;</p><p>Listen to the full poem, read by Dr. Angelou, by clicking <a href="http&#58;//www.npr.org/2014/05/28/316728748/maya-angelou-reads-still-i-rise">here</a>. </p></div>06/06/2014Standing at the foot of the cross togetherHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/91http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/91<div class="ExternalClassD35FF9CF5BD147048478D8B4B841F23E"><p>​</p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;"> </span><p><span style="color&#58;black;font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">&quot;We are not served by getting away from the grubbiness of suffering.&quot; This sentence comes from a new book by Anne Lamott titled “Stitches&#58; A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair.” It jumped off the page when I read it because it describes the vision for the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit.</span></p><p style="text-align&#58;start;word-spacing&#58;0px;"><span style="color&#58;black;font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">By choosing to hold the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit, we are choosing to stand with Detroiters in the truth of our own grubbiness (read that as a fancy new word for sinfulness/brokenness), and the grubbiness of their daily realities, made grubbier by decades of racial tensions and the more recent collapse of the auto industry. According to Anne, &quot;stand[ing] in the middle of the horror, at the foot of the cross, [waiting] out another's suffering where that person can see us&quot; is what it takes to bring healing.</span></p><p style="text-align&#58;start;word-spacing&#58;0px;"><span style="color&#58;black;font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">Standing with our neighbors is what we do as the ELCA. We accompany people in service to God's mission. But what about needing to be seen?</span></p><p style="text-align&#58;start;word-spacing&#58;0px;"><span style="color&#58;black;font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">Where we are seen Anne suggests that we need to stand with people in their grubby stuff — and we all have grubby stuff — until they see us. That is what ELCA youth did in 2009 and 2012 in New Orleans. New Orleanians saw us, they noticed the young people wearing orange t-shirts working in their neighborhoods, or the ones who took the time to listen to a Katrina story, or those who bought gumbo and a soft drink in their restaurant.</span></p><p style="text-align&#58;start;word-spacing&#58;0px;"><span style="color&#58;black;font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;">ELCA youth understand the need to stand together with others in the grubby stuff of life. I would like to suggest that ELCA youth are teaching our historically self-effacing church about why it is important to be seen, especially through proclamation and humble service. I pray that ELCA youth and adults show up and stand with Detroiters just like they stood with New Orleanians until they can see us, and trust that the God we serve strengthens us to Rise Up Together to build bridges, bear burdens,</span></p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size&#58;14.6667px;"> </span></div>05/02/2014God’s economy of grace, December, 2011Heidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/9http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/9<div class="ExternalClassC22C9A3212C24F75A4115FD76DCBD321"><p>​When young people step off the bus, plane or van inNew Orleansnext summer, I want them to step into a community of the beloved that operates according to God’s economy of grace. I want them, and me, to experience a community wherein the rules of merit are broken, a moment in time when God is completely in charge for a while.</p><p>&#160;In our culture we base almost everything on “achievement, performance, accomplishment, payment, exchange value, or worthiness of some sort.” * In God’s economy of grace we are released from the “internalized merit-badge system” that holds many of us hostage. Within that system, and “without grace, almost everything human declines and devolves into smallness, hurt, and blame.” Many of us try so hard to earn the merit badge ― consciously or unconsciously ― that we sacrifice the freedom and peace we are promised in Christ.</p><p>&#160;I want young people, and the adults who accompany them, as well as myself, to be disoriented when they are inNew Orleans, disoriented by grace that “humiliates our attempts at private virtue” in an effort to gain the merit badge. I want us all to experience the peace Paul references in our theme passage (Ephesians 2&#58;4-20), peace that knows no division between people, nations or faiths. In Christ, where all are one, (v. 14) we give up what Richard Rohr calls our “ego consciousness” and replace it with a “soul awareness.” Fr. Rohr says it is going from being “driven” (to perform, achieve, accomplish, please, earn, etc.) to being “drawn” into God’s heart.</p><p>&#160;I would like to suggest that it is at the intersection of action and prayer (contemplation, reflection) where we are drawn into God’s heart and where transformation happens. That is why the Gathering program activity days, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, are wrapped with worship at the beginning of the day, and prayer/reflection at the end of the day. In worship we enter into the <em>paschal mystery </em>(the death and resurrection of Christ) as we join with the saints of every age, the body of Christ, around the Lord’s Table. We become the body of Christ after we eat the body of Christ and are sent out into the world to be Christ for others. But “Jesus did not call us to the poor and to the pain just to be helpful to them, although that is wonderful, too. Jesus called us there for <em>fundamental solidarity with the <strong>real</strong> </em>and from that, to the <em>transformation of ourselves.”</em> Each night, as groups gather for the Final 15, they will be reflecting on where God has met them in the day, and asking God to use those moments to draw them closer to God’s heart.</p><p>&#160;I cannot predict when the Spirit will move in the hearts of young people at the Gathering, but I know chances are good that during times of prayer and reflection (i.e., contemplation) on the action of the day young people may glimpse the grace-shaped, life-altering path of Christian discipleship. Their witness upon returning to their congregations may not be one of celebratory victory for mission accomplished, but rather they may reflect a powerlessness that is evidence of God’s economy of grace. <em></em></p><p><em>&#160;</em>* All of the quotes in this blog come from “A Lever and a Place to Stand&#58; The Contemplative Stance, The Active Prayer<em>” </em>by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico&#160; <a href="http&#58;//www.cacradicalgrace.org/">www.cacradicalgrace.org</a></p></div>11/30/2011