Standing at the foot of the cross together

Heidi Hagstrom

"We are not served by getting away from the grubbiness of suffering." This sentence comes from a new book by Anne Lamott titled “Stitches: 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.

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, "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" is what it takes to bring healing.

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?

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.

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,