When I transitioned into a new role of Communications Coordinator three years ago, I knew I would miss leading students through those mountain top experiences of mission trips, retreats, and yes, the ELCA Youth Gathering—as exhausting as they can be.
I served three times as the Gathering Synod Coordinator for the Nebraska Synod. The role of Gathering Synod Coordinator is integral in helping prepare congregations experience the ELCA Youth Gathering. A facet of my role as a Gathering Synod Coordinator was to participate in the Gathering either as an adult leader for a congregation or as a volunteer. Since I wasn’t going to be bringing a group to Detroit in 2015, I was more than excited to be a volunteer.
This Gathering has continually renewed my faith in a mighty and powerful God that always shows up in our lives. Sometimes I forget to look for God through the to-do lists and calendars. God was already in Detroit before “the Lutherans” came. But to see God shine, through the hands and feet of the 30,000 participants during the week, is hard to describe. It was countless hugs and high fives, screams of joy, and youthful energy, as far as the eye could see.
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, addressed the whole community of participants twice, and in her Sunday sermon said, “We were taken out of our normal places wherever they were across this country and the Caribbean, and we were set down here in Detroit. We were just ready—ready to see what was going to happen. The Spirit could come in because we didn’t have our defenses up.”
The Gathering allows young people to see how big the church is, how big the reach can go beyond our communities and how we, as Lutheran Christians in the world, can affect change together. The event hashtag (#riseupELCA) was even trending on all three main social channels throughout the week! This event is a big deal: plain and simple.
It is a joy to be a part of a church that lives and breathes service to our neighbors, near and far. I look forward to the opportunity to volunteer again in Houston in 2018. Will you join me?
Amy Wagner currently serves as the Communication Coordinator for Sheridan Lutheran in Nebraska.