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Taking the Gathering Home

– Eric Carlson

carlson1991I attended my first ELCA Youth Gathering in Dallas in 1991 – check out the fanny pack and rolled up jean shorts. The theme was “Called to Freedom,” and the main stage highlighted Maya Angelou, Tony Campolo, and the Jay Beech Band. I was an adult leader for a group formed of several congregations sponsored through Lutheran Lakeside Camp in Spirit Lake, Iowa. We all showed up as complete strangers the morning we departed for Dallas, and we returned transformed. Sure, long bus rides across the country help people connect—but it was the power of the Gathering that made us more like family.

I have had the opportunity to attend seven of the ten ELCA Youth Gatherings. As I think about all of them, there are three consistent themes.

The Gathering:

  • proclaims the good news of God’s love made known to us in Jesus in amazing and powerful ways,
  • provides a unique setting for faith formation of young people, and
  • stretches participants beyond their comfort zones as we are set free to love and serve our neighbor.

carlson2I am very excited to be one of the Team Leaders for the 2018 Gathering. I get to work with an awesome group of people who are planning Synod Day. Synod Day is one of the rotation program days when participants meet as a synod for worship, Bible study, learning, and more. The bishop of your synod appoints a Synod Day Director who is responsible for implementing the curriculum and worship experience for your synod.

The mission of the Gathering is to provide faith formation with high school age youth. Synod Day provides yet another opportunity for participants to connect God’s amazing story in geographical groupings that assist in translating the Gathering experience to their home context.

The planning team for Synod Day is working hard on your behalf to provide the best opportunity for you in Houston. I can’t wait to see you in 2018!


Pastor Eric Carlson lives in Des Moines, IA with his wife, Beth, and their two teenage children, Greta and Benjamin. They are members of Faith Lutheran in Clive, IA. Eric serves as the Assistant to the Bishop in the Southeastern Iowa Synod.