We have been created to be ourselves. Created by the Holy One. Since the last time the ELCA came together for an ELCA Youth Gathering, our young people have experienced several major life events. Still today, we are experiencing an ongoing public health crisis mixed with an economic and political crisis. However, we can rest assured that we are created to be in relationship with one another.
Our theme is centered on Psalm 139:
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end —I am still with you.
19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
We are created to be brave, to show up with an open mind and heart, willing to be challenged.
We are created to be authentic, to bring our whole selves and know that we are loved by our Creator.
We are created to be free, to be transformed by the gospel.
We are created to be disruptive, to work for justice for all our siblings.
We are created to be disciples, to be sent out into the world to love our neighbor just as we are loved by God.
Our host city, New Orleans, has always been its true, authentic self. Our theme, “Created to Be,” highlights the arts, music and soul of this beautiful, vibrant and resilient city. New Orleans was built to host and be a city where all God’s children come together.
We plan to dive deeper into justice, mental health and anti-racism conversations throughout the Gathering. These are hard conversations, but our church desperately needs to have them. We also hope to foster relationships and be a sanctuary for one another. We are saint and sinner simultaneously, and we need forgiveness when we aren’t or can’t be brave, authentic, free, disruptive disciples.
To incorporate our pre-events —the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) and the tAble — into the overall Gathering more intentionally, we are excited that both events will share the “Created to Be” theme. A brand-new Young Adult Gathering, to take place concurrent with the ELCA Youth Gathering, will share the theme as well.