ELCA Youth Gatheringhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/Embracing 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…because you have become very dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:8) November, 2011Heidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/10http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/10<div class="ExternalClass82CF0FEC3F1446FD96D9EFA173432F63"><p>​“So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”</p><p>(1 Thessalonians 2&#58;8) This verse from the second lesson on Sunday, October 23, 2011, jumped out at me. Youth and adults who attended the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering could have written that to the people ofNew Orleans.</p><p>Whether they know it or not, through their presence in New Orleans ELCA youth and adults are modeling a way of being in mission that defines our church. This form of mission is about relationship-building, about deep investment — emotionally, physically, mentally, financially and spiritually, and it is about self-emptying. This way of being in mission is called “accompaniment.” “The ELCA Global Mission unit defines accompaniment as <em><strong>walking together in solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality</strong></em>. In this walk, gifts, resources and experiences are shared with mutual advice and admonition to deepen and expand our work within God’s mission.” (<a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Global-Mission/How-We-Work/Accompaniment.aspx">http&#58;//www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Global-Mission/How-We-Work/Accompaniment.aspx</a>)</p><p>Notice that it is God’s mission in which we participate and not our own. For example, immediately after Hurricane Katrina devastated theGulfCoast, disaster workers inMississippitold us they had to figure out what to do with hundreds of winter coats, hats and mittens that caring people sent. Really? What were people thinking sending winter gear to the Gulf? This expression of care, which I’m sure came from kind, good-intentioned people, became a health hazard (as rodents took up residence in the mountains of useless materials that piled up), and required the attention of disaster workers who were there to serve people who had lost everything. That is an example of humans responding out of their own need to help rather than offering what is most needed. God’s mission or my need? Americans, especially, do it all the time. We act as if theUnited Stateswere at the center of the earth’s orbit. We think the rest of the world should want to be like us, and we act accordingly.</p><p>If ELCA youth journey to New Orleans this summer, and then return to their home congregations with an understanding that it is God’s kingdom that is truly exceptional and God’s way that should be advanced, then they’ll be on the path of discipleship. The fruits of their discipleship will be identification with the poor and weak, the sick, those who are treated like outcasts and those called strangers. In Ephesians, the book from which our core text (Ephesians 2&#58;14-20) is chosen, Paul says the church was to show that people — Jews/Gentiles — would get along because they love Jesus and are committed to the things the church is committed to. The confession that Jesus is Lord was one thing that held them together in community, their actions of feeding the poor, caring for widows and orphans, raising the dead, and serving all people were the living out of this confession.</p><p>I, for one, am really excited to welcome a generation of leaders in our church whose radical identification with “the other” becomes the Lutheran charism.</p></div>11/09/2011