ELCA NEWS SERVICE
July 16, 2007
Thousands of ELCA Teenagers Head for New Orleans in 2009
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Under the theme "Jesus, Justice, Jazz," more than 35,000 high-school-age and adult Lutherans are expected to gather in New Orleans for the 2009 Youth Gathering of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), July 22-26, 2009. Held every three years, the event is a major ministry for teenage Lutherans in the 4.85 million-member ELCA.
The 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering will focus on service and justice, according to Heidi Hagstrom, director, ELCA Youth Gathering. She said the shape and rhythm of the gathering will be different than previous gatherings as young people and others attend to New Orleans' "rich, spiritual and ethnic history," as well as its "changing reality post-Hurricanes Katrina and Rita."
"It became clear to us that God's people need to be" in New Orleans, said Hagstrom. For the gathering, "we've always gone into a city with the intention or deep value to give back, to leave a city better than when we've arrived," she said. "We want to give back and leave a legacy of service and witness" in New Orleans.
When staff of the ELCA Youth Gathering visited New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina "it became clear that we need to be there," said Hagstrom. "Every person we interviewed or talked to, whether it was ELCA members, hotel staff or other vendors in New Orleans, said to us, 'Without the church, we would not be where we are today.' They (also) said to us, 'Don't forget about us. Don't forget about us.'"
New Orleans has been a host city to previous ELCA Youth Gatherings in 1976 and 1997. It was in consideration for 2009 prior to Hurricane Katrina, which struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005. After many visits, meetings and discussions with city and convention officials, Hagstrom said staff "felt very confident that the areas we are going to be in for the major portions of the gathering are going to be safe. The convention center looks brand new, and the (Louisiana) Superdome looks virtually brand new. The city is ready, and it has proved that a number of times," she said.
"I think the best words for the gathering are 'bearing witness.' We would love it for young people to come to (New Orleans) and hear stories, learn the history and discern how God has been present in the disaster that has happened there," said Hagstrom. "Bearing witness means that you need to step into the story of another person, to understand the call to justice and be a part of the need in the city for a long time and witness to that," she said. When returning home after the gathering, participants will be asked to share the story of how God is present in New Orleans "and look for ways to live 'Jesus, Justice, Jazz' in their context," she said.
Each day of the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering will begin with service and end with programs at the Louisiana Superdome and Morial Convention Center. Stage presentations will include special effects and technology-enhanced music, dance and drama; Bible study; featured guest speakers; storytelling; audience participation and worship. Participants can choose from a variety of activities that help them to think biblically and theologically about what it means to be a baptized Christian who lives out God's justice in the world, said Hagstrom.
Two leadership events precede the gathering July 19-22, 2009 -- the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event and the Definitely-Abled Youth Leadership Event. The Eighth Triennial Convention of the Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO) will be held July 26-29, 2009. The LYO consists of the high-school-age members of the ELCA.
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Information about the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering is at http://www.ELCA.org/youth/gathering.html on the ELCA Web site.
Audio of Hagstom's comment is at http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/070710.mp3 on the ELCA Web site.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog