ELCA Youth Gatheringhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/A celebration of all of us togetherHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/106http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/106<div class="ExternalClassA70ACDC31B494F97A29E4C929610E521"><p>A person's favorite teaching of Jesus is, &quot;So the first will be last, and the last will be first&quot; (Matthew 20&#58;16). S/he wants to know when it will happen. When will she get to &quot;revel in the luxuries that [the 1 percent] take for granted.&quot; Apparently s/he thinks the 1 percent are &quot;the first.&quot; </p><p>Responding to his/her inquiry, the wise teacher wonders if the inquirer is missing Jesus' point. In Jesus' kingdom there are no firsts and lasts, no winners or losers, no chosen and not chosen, no true believer and infidel. &quot;[God's] kingdom,&quot; the wise teacher says, &quot;is not a zero-sum, winner-take-all game of 'us against them,' but a non-zero celebration of all of us together.&quot; The wise teacher goes on to suggest that the inquirer choose to stop playing his/her game and start playing Jesus' game. </p><p>What if we did that? How would our experiences in Detroit be different if our sole focus was on a non-zero celebration of all of us together? I have a few ideas.<br></p><p><strong>Mutuality</strong><br>Ask the Holy Spirit to help you give and receive trust as you grow together with other Lutherans and Detroiters. </p><p><strong>Inclusivity<br></strong>Ask the Holy Spirit to amplify your awareness of people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized and strengthen your resolve to welcome them, not out of pity or obligation, but with a spirit of love and respect.</p><p><strong>Vulnerability</strong><br>Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to show your authentic self – even the parts you judge to be bad or negative – and trust that others will form a connection with you where you are. </p><p><strong>Empowerment</strong><br>Ask the Holy Spirit to heighten your awareness of the times you assume power or act as if you have all the power, and ask for the humility to give your power to another.</p><p><strong>Sustainability</strong><br>Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make an intentional commitment of attention and time to listen mindfully to another's story and invest in their thriving. <br>&#160; <br></p></div>07/01/2015We are brought together for a purpose and a messageHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/105http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/105<div class="ExternalClass485AA38943F844268E71CA052F9E33FD">​&quot;A few [weeks] ago we were dispersed; we did not know each other. Now we are together; we belong to each other.&quot;&#160;This is part of a longer quote from a book by Jean Vanier, founder of the <a href="http&#58;//www.larcheusa.org/">L’Arche community</a>, that describes for me one of the beauties of the ELCA Youth Gathering.<br>​&#160;<br>The dispersed will come together in Detroit this summer. They’ll leave knowing that God brought them together for a purpose, and God sends them back out with a message for the world&#58; Jesus is good news! Youth will be sent home with a mission to rise up together as followers of Jesus Christ who build bridges, bear burdens, break chains and bring hope.<br>&#160;<br>Many young people have limited experience with what it means to be part of the Lutheran Christian witness in the world. Many youth learn about being Lutheran from their family, baptismal sponsors and/or other caring adults in their congregation. Many don’t experience other Lutherans outside of their family or congregation. Many don’t know they are part of a larger, geographic grouping of Lutheran congregations called synods, let alone the churchwide organization or the global Lutheran communion. With such a small circle of influence, most young people think the way they worship in their congregation or the values their congregation espouses is the way all Lutherans practice or express their faith. The beauty of Christ’s church is that there is room for all under the tent of mercy made real through Jesus’ death and resurrection.<br>&#160;<br>When we are together in Detroit, youth will talk about how God has brought us together. Each participant will learn where he or she was before coming to this particular Lutheran community … and then will be conscious of now being together. A few weeks ago they were dispersed and did not know each other. Now they are together; they belong to each other. Vanier said, “We realize what an incredible gift God has given us, to bring us together from different lands of pain and loneliness, and to become one people. We become more conscious that we are responsible for each other.”<br>&#160;<br>And I would add that we become more conscious that we are responsible for our neighbors. That consciousness broadens a young person’s perspective, one of the many beauties of the Youth Gathering.<br>&#160;<br>“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2&#58;10).<div> &#160;&#160;<br></div></div>06/22/2015Build relationships with others this summerHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/104http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/104<div class="ExternalClassB71E3725F907431A8FCFC5E3641017AA"> <p>You can track almost anything these days—patterns of food intake, fatigue, mood, number of steps you’ve taken, heart rate, and even how much REM sleep you got last night. This phenomenon is part of a rapidly growing movement of fitness buffs, techno-geeks, and people with chronic conditions who obsessively monitor various personal metrics. It has been called the quantified-self movement. I was surprised to learn that there are quantified-self communities worldwide that produce international meetings, conferences and expositions, community forums, web content and services to help people get meaning out of their personal data. </p><p>I wonder what my numbers say about me? What meaning do others/companies ascribe to my numbers? On the one hand, knowing my numbers can help me optimize my physical health, financial health and maybe even my emotional health. On the other hand, the more I document and share about where I go, what I do, whom I spend time with, what I eat, what I buy, how hard I exert myself, and so on, I am creating more data that companies can and will use to create a story about me, often a story that evaluates my worthiness—or lack thereof—for their products, services and opportunities. What happens if I don’t measure up to the rest of the population? Am I just out of luck? </p><p>Thanks be to God my worthiness doesn’t reside solely in my numbers. I give thanks every day when I remember my baptism and that my worthiness before God—which is what ultimately counts—resides in Jesus. There isn’t anything I can do to make myself more worthy. Jesus doesn’t care if my numbers measure up. I didn’t have to log a specific score to earn Jesus’ love. All Jesus asks of me is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength … and your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12&#58;30-31). </p><p>When we make public profession of our faith, which can’t be quantified, we promise to continue in the covenant God made with us in Holy Baptism, showing our gratitude for God’s grace by following Jesus’ example of serving all people. (“To serve all people, following the example of Jesus.” ELW p. 237) In Detroit this summer, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be following the example of Jesus by building relationships with others. Our joy will be in seeing the people we meet through the lens of God’s grace in Jesus, and not through the lens of their numbers. </p><p>Being part of God’s story in Jesus leads us into the messiness of life where the numbers don’t always look good. As people of God, we look behind and beyond the numbers. Someone’s bad credit score may be the result of an unanticipated expense, a sudden layoff, or reckless decisions made during adolescence. Getting 10,000 steps a day may not be achievable because it isn’t safe to walk in one’s neighborhood. Addiction may impact a person’s ability to log good food intake points, and a single mom may not be able to achieve REM sleep because of the anxiety she carries for her children’s safety. The people we meet in Detroit—and we ourselves—have stories that are broader, deeper and more dynamic than numbers alone can tell. As ELCA youth co-locate their stories and the stories of Detroiters within God’s love story, lives will be transformed and Jesus will be made known. And that will happen without a GPS, smartphone, Fitbit, Google Glass or a Zeo monitor.</p></div>06/03/2015Rise Up Together - create power with postureHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/103http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/103<div class="ExternalClass2EEC83D485CF461E98057221150F8CA5"><p>Rising up does not mean having power over but, rather, having power with. Mary Parker Follett, a social worker who in the early 20<sup>th</sup> century became a management theorist and consultant, helps us understand the difference&#58; &quot;Power over is a traditional relationship in which one person has power over another person, or one group over another group, or one nation over another nation.&quot; Having power over involves dominance and coercion, and it usually means the most powerful get their way whether it is best for the other or not. This kind of traditional scenario is marked by polarities — winner/loser, good/bad, right/wrong. In contrast, power with is relational and mutual, says Follett. &quot;It creates new possibilities from the very differences that might exist in a group.&quot; Within this posture is the potential for co-creative power where something new can be generated to benefit both, and hopefully all of creation.</p><p>By adding the word &quot;together&quot; to the theme of the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering ― Rise Up Together — we were making a statement about our church's preference for the power with posture. Our church calls it accompaniment, and it is the way we are in mission in the world.</p><p>Accompaniment is defined as <em>walking together in a solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality.</em> The ELCA lives out accompaniment in its relationships with more than 80 companion churches, striving to share God's love and participate in God's mission <span style="color&#58;#ff3300;"><span style="color&#58;#ff3300;">together</span></span>. Our relationship with those companion churches is marked by mutuality, inclusivity and vulnerability. We will enter Detroit this summer with the same posture, a power with posture, and in the sacred space of that relationship God will be active, as we co-create something new and hope-filled with the people of Detroit.</p><p>In her book &quot;The Deepest Wound<em>,</em>&quot;<em> </em>Linda Crockett says, &quot;Accompaniment goes beyond solidarity in that anyone who enters into it risks suffering the pain of those we would accompany. Accompaniment … does not necessarily share the assumption that we can fix, save, or change a situation or person by what we do. It calls for us to walk with those we accompany, forming relationships and sharing risks, joys, and lives. We enter into the world of the one who suffers with no assurance that we can change or fix anything … . Accompaniment is based on hope despite evidence that there is little reason for optimism.&quot;</p><p>It is the hope of the resurrection that ELCA youth cling to as they serve throughout the Detroit metro area. In light of the resurrection of Jesus, and together, young people will be strong in their vulnerability and empowering through self-emptying. &#160;That is the posture of accompaniment. </p><p>It isn't about the work we accomplish, although that is helpful; it is more about the relationships established in the process of doing the work. Young people will courageously risk suffering the pain of those whom they meet, as well as share their joys. In the space of those relationships, which are made possible by the sharing of power, God will act, new possibilities will be created, and lives will change. The whole creation will be blessed.<br></p><p>A question I hope young people will consider when they return home is how our dependence on relationships of power over can be diminished.<br>&#160;<br></p></div>05/08/2015Surrender 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>03/09/2015