ELCA Youth Gatheringhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/The grace of a new beginningHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/100http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/100<div class="ExternalClass58C33341106546AAB732D2F07AA0827A"> <h3><span style="color&#58;#0072c6;"><a name="_GoBack"></a><span style="color&#58;#444444;">In his poem “For a New Beginning,” John O. Donohue writes&#58;</span></span><br></h3><p align="center" class="MsoNormal" style="text-align&#58;center;line-height&#58;normal;"><br>Though your destination is not clear<br> You can trust the promise of this opening;<br> Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning<br> That is one with your life’s desire.</p><p align="center" class="MsoNormal" style="text-align&#58;center;line-height&#58;normal;">Awaken your spirit to adventure<br> Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk<br> Soon you will be home in a new rhythm<br> For your soul senses the world that awaits you.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height&#58;normal;">I recognize that everyone has a comfort zone. How hard (and how often) are you willing to work to get out of it? Many who have chosen to come to Detroit this summer chose to do so because something – someone – was urging them forward to experience new ground. The “destination is not [always] clear” but, as Donohue reminds us, we can “trust the promise.” </p><p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height&#58;normal;">To the nearly 30,000 people who have already registered for the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering, thank you for being willing to “unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning.” And, with Donohue, I pray that you are awakened to the Spirit of adventure in you, that you hold nothing back, that you discover the new rhythm that awaits you in Detroit and join your soul to the world you will experience there. </p> </div>02/03/2016Giving of the self for the sake of the otherHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/99http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/99<div class="ExternalClass42F766CE5D49455589D3EB7E09EB5759"> <p>Why are we so captivated by celebrities’ acts of kindness? I have been overly aware, particularly during this past Christmas season, pictures of celebrities offering a day at a soup kitchen, or ballyhooing a good cause, or sharing their talents to benefit a charitable organization. Magazines are filled with pictures and stories of our favorite movie stars or athletes doing good. Alongside the commercials of luxury cars wrapped in big, red bows are segments featuring movie stars or pro-athletes asking us to join them in supporting one cause or another. </p><p>Every time I see another ad or commercial I wonder if any of them – or us – is asking how we can impact the systemic reasons why people live in poverty. Why some people are privileged over others? Or what drives us, especially in the United States, to celebrate celebrity rather than do the hard work of changing the systems?</p><p>I have also been keenly aware of how the message of this past Christmas season was co-opted by our over-identification with our consumer tendencies. Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote in a post on <a href="http&#58;//www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/12/23/the-meaning-of-incarnation/">Patheos</a> that the platitudes about Christmas include &quot;the F’s– family, food, fellowship, presents we give to ourselves.&quot; She doesn't deny that those things are part of Christmas, but reminds us that they are not the “essence” of Christmas. “In a strange twist of history” she writes, &quot;St. Nicholas himself has been turned from a gaunt self-sacrificial loving person who served others into jolly old St. Nick…over weight, and the cosmic sugar daddy that fulfills all the dreams of our materialistic little American hearts.&quot; </p><p>That message was been particularly disturbing to me this past Christmas. It was amazing to me how mixed the messages are about Jesus and Santa in popular Christmas songs that are played. The same holds true for the images on the majority of the Christmas TV specials. Pictures of Santa bringing smiles to the faces of middle-class, white children while &quot;O Little Town of Bethlehem&quot; plays in the background. No wonder so many of us still think of God as an old man with a white beard who rewards us for being good. And if God is Santa, then is Jesus Santa's elf who delivers the reward? </p><p>Popular Christmas celebrations have come and gone, but in Detroit this summer&#160; (and this is one of the major reasons I think our church needs to show up in Detroit) young people will learn about the true meaning of Christmas, which is incarnation, the giving of the self for the sake of the other. How can we celebrate Christmas every day? </p><p>Our church needs to show up in Detroit this summer; we need to incarnate the self-giving love of Christ. That is what followers of Jesus do. &#160;</p> </div>01/08/2015A calling to live a life that servesHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/98http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/98<div class="ExternalClass97F7743C895346C7B2FACE78575B9833"><p> <span lang="EN">While driving back to Chicago from Detroit a few months ago, I listened to a segment on public radio in which a business professor was talking about the national trend of lower enrollment in MBA programs. There are as many reasons for this trend as there are schools creatively addressing it, but I primarily heard affirmation for the ELCA Youth Gathering. I know that wasn’t the producer’s intention, but let me explain how I got there&#58;</span></p><p> <span lang="EN">The prevailing wisdom and research indicate a growing emphasis on and necessity&#160;for career-ready&#160;degrees </span><span lang="EN">such as computer science, engineering and finance – often included as part of STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics</span><span lang="EN">). </span> <span lang="EN">Yet, employers are saying they are looking for new hires with creative, communicative and problem-solving skills. These are skills traditionally associated with a liberal arts education, which is at the core of Lutheran higher education.</span><span lang="EN"> </span>All of the ELCA colleges and universities are unanimous in their desire to use education, civic engagement and community service as pathways to develop informed citizens who engage with their neighbors. The ELCA Youth Gathering is built around the same commitment to help young people identify, embrace and nurture their vocation, a calling to live a life that serves the well-being of their community and the world. </p><p>This commitment to learning is reflected in many aspects of the ELCA Youth Gathering. Followers of this blog have already learned about the Proclaim Story program element that will help young people identify their story and other’s stories within God’s story. Especially during these times when fear and suspicion toward those who are different is becoming the prevailing narrative, it is important to hear again and again God’s promise of good news for the whole world. In addition to hearing it, teenagers will learn how to proclaim it by how they live in the world.</p><p>Another powerful aspect of the ELCA Youth Gathering is the “Getting Ready” materials. Evaluation data from previous Gatherings show a clear correlation between the impact of the Gathering experience on a young person’s faith formation and their group’s use of the &quot;Getting Ready&quot; materials. The groups that engage the materials in the months leading up to the Gathering are far more likely to have transformational experiences at the Gathering. I like to say that the Holy Spirit uses the materials to till the soil of young people’s hearts, preparing them for what will be planted during the five intense days of the Gathering. It is then up to the congregation to nurture those new seeds of faith discovery when young people return home. In 2015, the Gathering will offer suggestions for congregational leaders to build on the newly forming faith discoveries through a specially designed app. Later this month, you’ll find the Gathering's &quot;Getting Ready&quot; materials on our <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Resources/ELCA-Youth-Gathering">resource page</a>.</p></div>12/10/2014Contributing to Detroit's storyHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/97http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/97<div class="ExternalClass15E1BD392D3C4D95AC3BCE422437666F"> <p class="MsoNormal"><a name="_GoBack"></a><a></a><span class="MsoCommentReference"><span style="font-size&#58;8pt;line-height&#58;107%;"><a name="_msoanchor_1" href="#_msocom_1" class="msocomanchor"></a></span></span><span>I recently returned from a meeting of the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau Customer Advisory Board. Three key leaders spoke to the board – two representing billionaires Dan Gilbert and Mike Illich, who are investing millions in Detroit’s reinvention, and a rep from the mayor’s office. He reported the metrics of lights being turned back on, emergency services response times being brought more in line with the national average and, most exciting to me, the mayor’s commitment to neighborhood stabilization. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>It is easy to get caught up in these kinds of presentations. The power of big money to reinvent a city like Detroit is astonishing. As we heard, Detroit is rising from the ashes of disaster as it has many times throughout its history. Detroit will re-emerge from bankruptcy by the end of the year, stronger, more efficient and better equipped to handle the same challenges all major cities are facing.<span>&#160; </span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>In fact, before our board met, Crain’s Detroit Business hosted </span><span lang="EN" style="color&#58;#333333;">an invitation-only event called the “<span>Detroit Homecoming”</span> primarily for “expats” —<span>&#160; </span>people who were born in metro Detroit, grew up there, went to school there or worked there — and still think of Detroit as &quot;home.&quot;</span><span lang="EN"> <span style="color&#58;#333333;">The hope for the Homecoming was to re-engage and reconnect &quot;expats&quot; to Detroit through a 48-hour immersion during which they would experience the vibrancy and momentum in Detroit. There are lots of good things taking place to reinvent Detroit to become a world-class, 21st century metropolis. In fact, Warren Buffett said that if Detroit were a business, he’d buy it. </span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span lang="EN" style="color&#58;#333333;">There wasn’t much talk of reinvention when we chose to take the Youth Gathering to Detroit. We primarily saw a city that had been crushed by, some say, a history of government excess, the decline of the “big three” automakers, and the general economic downfall of 2008. I read one article that listed 15 theories for the demise of Detroit. The power brokers who spoke to us last week said it was a “perfect storm of circumstances” that led to Detroit’s bankruptcy. Like us, these leaders want to help Detroit rise up and, serendipitously, they are doing it together. The former secretary of labor, Robert Reich, recently applauded Detroit for what he described as the </span><span>unprecedented amount of private investment in public infrastructure that is taking place. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span lang="EN" style="color&#58;#333333;">ELCA youth will be part of Detroit’s reinvention through service, similar to what they did in New Orleans. Youth will be spread out across the Detroit metro area with trained young adults who will help them understand their service experiences as ministry among, rather than to, our neighbors in Detroit. Those same young adults will help youth see the </span><span>downside of gentrification. For example, a small grocery store called Tomboy Market that served lower-income Cass Corridor residents for years closed last Thursday.<span>&#160; </span>The closest grocery store now is Whole Foods, and the current population can’t afford Whole Foods.</span></p><p class="MsoCommentText"><span>The Cass Corridor and Midtown is the area undergoing the most rapid transformation in Detroit. It is the 45-block area that is being redeveloped into a world-class entertainment district. It also has the highest concentration of the city’s homeless and mentally ill. Yes, presentations like I heard last week are energizing and popular in a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap-kind of way, but that mentality can only get us so far. <span>&#160;</span>As Christian and Lutherans, I believe we are called to break open the roof and bring to Jesus those who are paralyzed by the powerful. That is the story from the second chapter of Mark that will be the focus on the Proclaim Story day (Synod day) at the Gathering.<span>&#160; </span>Some say Detroit’s story is still being written. I pray every day that God uses ELCA youth to contribute to Detroit’s story. </span></p> </div>11/10/2014"Tear the roof off" with praise and serviceHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/96http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/96<div class="ExternalClass8FC9A8DD96D74557A5527770F110CB4F"><p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;">&quot;To dream about painting and not also to work at it doesn't ever bring about a painting. To dream about creating a new world that is not teetering on the edge of total destruction and not to work at it doesn't make a peaceful world. So it is important that we are creative people working daily on the greater picture as well, bringing to it all our skills of imagination and making.&quot; This quote from Sister Corita Kent's book &quot;Learning by Heart&quot;<em> </em>struck me as representative of the spirit of ELCA youth who will be attending the Youth Gathering in Detroit. </span></p><p>ELCA youth are not unlike their peers in that they are people of action, and they like to take action alongside their friends. Friends are extremely important, often influencing the direction and quality of one's life. </p><p style="text-align&#58;center;"><img alt="image" src="http&#58;//www.elca.org/~/media/Images/Youth%20Gathering/The_Man_Let_Down_through_the_Roof.ashx" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;300px;height&#58;425px;vertical-align&#58;middle;" /><br></p><p>One of the stories from the Gospel of Mark that youth will enter into at the Gathering is the story of the paralytic being lowered through the roof by his friends so he can get close to Jesus. (Mark 2&#58;1-5)</p><blockquote><p>When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.<span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"> <sup>2</sup>So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.<sup>3</sup>Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.<sup>4</sup>And when they could not bring him to Jesus be</span>cause of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it,<span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"> they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.<sup>5</sup>When Jesus saw their faith, he said to</span> the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'</p></blockquote><p>For the purpose of this blog I want to focus on the phrase &quot;dug through it.&quot; Some translations read &quot;tear the roof off.&quot;<span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"></span></p><p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;">I don't know what you have pictured when reading this text, but I have, erroneously, thought it was some kind of thatched roof that the friends tore apart. But that was not the case. It is more likely that the roof was a mud clay (a lot like cement) roof with tiles. To lower the paralyzed man through the roof they had to do major construction and demolition to the roof.</span></p><p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"> </span>The paralyzed man's friends tore the tiles off the roof, tore a hole in the roof, and lowered him by a rope into the house.<span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"></span></p><p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;">Imagine if you're in this house packed with wall to wall people trying to listen to Jesus. All of a sudden you start to hear some banging above you. Then the roof begins to fall in on you.</span></p><p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;">How would you respond? I'm guessing some of us would be angry because we are there to listen to Jesus. We thought ahead, got in line early, and earned our spot in the crowd. Jesus could have been in the middle of a life-changing sermon, and because of the chaos from above, we could have missed the best part. And what about the person who owned the house? The zealous friends were creating a huge, gaping hole in the roof of his home. Fixing it will be a major project, not simply a minor, cosmetic repair.</span></p><p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;">Now look at Jesus' response. &quot;When Jesus <em>saw their faith </em>…&quot; Did you get that? The Bible does not say that Jesus &quot;saw the paralytic's faith.&quot; It says that Jesus &quot;saw <em>their</em> faith.&quot; Jesus didn't scold them and say, &quot;Don't you know how much a roof costs?&quot; He didn't say, &quot;Have you ever heard of a door?&quot; Jesus saw their faith and their lives were never the same.</span></p><p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;segoe ui&quot;,&quot;segoe&quot;,tahoma,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"> The paralyzed man would have never gotten to Jesus or been healed without his friends, and their lives would never have been changed had they not acted on their faith. At the Gathering young people will ask themselves if they have friends who are willing to &quot;tear the roof off&quot; for them and if they are willing to do that for others. </span></p><p>In one sense, ELCA youth will be &quot;tearing the roof off&quot; for the people of Detroit by their presence and service in July and by their advocacy and witness when they go home. At the Gathering they will learn – experience – that Jesus replenishes our lives in sacramental community, which in turn offers us as individuals the opportunity to find and connect with Jesus' regenerating impulse in our own lives. As the Spirit works in their hearts and minds, young people may feel emboldened to &quot;tear the roof off&quot; for their peers who need to be exposed to Jesus love, grace and healing. Young people may eventually connect that impulse to their vocational choices so that they can &quot;bring to it all [their] skills of imagination and making&quot; (see Sister Corita Kent's quote above) for the healing of humanity and the earth. </p></div>10/01/2014The experience alone is pricelessHeidi Hagstromhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/95http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAYouthGathering/95<div class="ExternalClass05195F084EA64681BA9D38CF770E451F">Beyoncé and Jay-Z brought their show to Chicago’s Soldier Field recently. Friends who went said it was fabulous. Most of the tickets were in the $250 range. Teenaged “sneakerheads” think nothing about spending the same amount―or more―on a pair of Lebron James signature shoes. <span>&#160;</span>And for the first time since 2003, teen spending on food, Starbucks being their favorite, has eclipsed spending on clothing. |<span style="font-size&#58;10pt;color&#58;#333333;"> <a href="http&#58;//www.piperjaffray.com/private/pdf/Taking_Stock_Teach-In_Spring_2014.pdf">Taking Stock</a></span>. <br><br>When I hear numbers like these, I’m convinced that the life-defining experience of the ELCA Youth Gathering is a bargain.<br><br>While we can’t compete with Beyoncé and Jay-Z, the evening main stage events at the Gathering are, for many teens, the first time they will experience a Christian rock band – live, or hear a world-renowned speaker – in person, or celebrate Holy Communion with thousands of their peers – in the flesh. That experience alone is priceless. But wait, there’s more.<br><br>Young people who attend the Gathering will also spend a day offering their service in and around Detroit, an act of love in Christ’s name. Some will board up blighted homes to create safer environments in which families can live, work and play. Other ELCA youth will be planting and/or weeding urban gardens and meeting the people who depend on the gardens for their very existence. Some young people will work with Detroiters who are recycling abandoned tires from city streets, repurposing them into welcome mats and flip-flops. Some youth will work side-by-side with Detroit school students as part of a summer reading program. Still others will be helping to transform neighborhoods from urban bleak to urban chic by working with local artists to enliven neighborhoods through art.<br><br>On another day at the Gathering, congregations will gather as synods. Call this day a fan club meeting, or a block party, or a synod meetup. On that day young people will tell stories – God’s story (as told in the Gospel of Mark), their story, our story. They might even hear their bishop’s story, as she or he will be with them the whole time. Who wouldn’t like to hear about their bishop’s confirmation experience or see his or her photo? By the time the Synod Day ends, youth will be able to tell a story that transcends personality to reflect God’s profound truth about who they are and who others are in Christ.<br><br>The third program day is like a day at a carnival with a purpose. Sound strange? Just ask the young people who have sat at the edge of the high=ropes platform, 25 feet off the floor, pondering the risks God is asking them to take for the sake of their faith. Or talk to the kids <span>who chatted with Lutheran Men in Mission as they waited for the bumper boats about the &quot;bumper&quot; that God promises us, always protecting us from fear and death. Or the great faith conversations the foursomes had on the ninth hole of the mini golf course about being claimed by God no matter how many times we miss the mark. </span>Rather than politicians trying to get your attention as you walk the 500,000-square-foot grounds, at our carnival youth get the attention of representatives from ELCA colleges and universities, or find out what ELCA Advocacy staff are doing in Washington, D.C. The opportunities are endless.<br><br>Before I end this blog post, I want to highlight the Community Life opportunities at this Gathering, a bargain at any price. While Detroit spans over <span class="kno-fv"> <span style="color&#58;#222222;">142.9 square miles,</span></span><span class="kno-fv"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;color&#58;#222222;"> </span></span>the downtown area is rather compact. Whether youth are at the Cobo Convention Center or Ford Field, or walking along the Riverwalk, there will be music and activities they can enjoy together with existing and new friends.<br><span><br></span>Five stadium shows, a day of service, a carnival with a purpose, and a host of other activities. If you are a savvy shopper who knows the value of a dollar and the value of a life-defining experience, you definitely will want to register a group for the Gathering in Detroit next summer. Take it from one who has been privileged to witness the Holy Spirit change and direct the lives of thousands of teenagers through five previous Gatherings. What your young people will take away is priceless. I encourage your congregation to do whatever it can to give them the experience of a lifetime.<span><br><br> </span><a name="_GoBack"></a></div>09/08/2014