She said it was an “experience that transformed our youth group and church community,” and that she is “excited to be at the next one in 2012.”
Carol Radler, a member of Santa Cruz Lutheran Church also a congregation of the ELCA, located in Tucson, Ariz. agrees. “Many more are looking forward to the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering, hoping to lend their time and talents to yet another amazing venture.”
Something extraordinary happened in New Orleans last summer, as so many ELCA youth experienced the public church. They participated in a church that has a mission in the world, putting the ELCA tagline “God’s work. Our hands.” into action.
The triennial ELCA Youth Gathering is not just an event. It is a ministry that nurtures faith, gives young people an experience of being part of something larger than themselves and inspires commitment to living faithfully in the world.
In 2009, the ELCA Youth Gathering strove to “inspire and equip young people to step forward as a public church by following Jesus in the practice of compassionate justice.”
As a way of helping youth live out their baptismal calling to “serve all people, following the example of Jesus” (“Evangelical Lutheran Worship” p. 236), every ELCA Youth Gathering participant contributed to an unprecedented act of service in New Orleans.
Working with over 240 organizations, the youth put in approximately 244,000 hours of service. Because of this huge effort, the organizations were able to meet the goals that they had struggled to reach after the storms.
The people and organizations of New Orleans were overwhelmed by the service of the young people of the ELCA and were generous with their words of thanks.
Many were thankful that the ELCA Youth Gathering had come to their city and, as the largest meeting held in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, it had a substantial economic impact.
Many others were thankful for the gifts they received, as young people partnered with their organizations.
The 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering returns to New Orleans with that same commitment to service as a distinctive way to inspire young people as they ponder their potential vocations and articulate their faith.
Pastors who responded to evaluation questions indicated they believe the Gathering has a compelling purpose for the mission of this church.
Synod bishops who responded consider the Gathering to be “an essential, defining ministry of this church.”
By returning to New Orleans, the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering hopes to communicate the idea that the ELCA is a church that values relationships, a church that understands we are all in this together, and a church that understands that in this intertwined world, if the least among us benefit, we all benefit — and if they suffer, we all suffer.
As God’s people engaged in God’s work in the world, participants will be a part of a relationship that involves emptying oneself, giving up the love of individualism and truly embracing and investing in God’s community on earth.
Because of God’s faithfulness toward us, participants are able to undertake acts of compassionate justice with an attitude of humility and mutuality. As the dividing walls between us are broken down, participants in the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering will truly be citizens with the saints.
Registration for the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering opens Oct. 2, 2011.