We Show Up

In November I attended the first ELCA Young Adult Discernment Retreat. This retreat was an incredible opportunity to find a rare space of reflection, prayer, and worship with peers, and a space to be ministered to. With what feels like decreasing numbers in the ELCA young adult demographic, it may be surprising that young adults have an interest in gathering together to discern in community. I have some news for you: young adults show up! With over 50 of us in attendance and the wait list in the hundreds, young adults throughout the ELCA sent a message: If you make the space, we will come.

Young Adults at the first ELCA Young Adult Discernment Retreat.

Info from the first ELCA Young Adult Discernment Retreat.

The Word

…When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”…(Esther 4:12-14)

A Season Of Hope

When I heard this reading for the Second Sunday of Advent, I reflected on my time at the Young Adult Discernment Retreat and I was filled with so much hope. Each of us, like Esther, came to our position “for such a time as this”. And like Esther’s faith community, the young adults of the ELCA came together in support of one another in holy community for the sake of the world. The peers I was surrounded by are ready to be leaders. The space to discern our next most faithful step was vital to stewarding those gifts of leadership. If we remain silent, change will come but we won’t be part of it. We were created on purpose for this moment, in this time, in our unique positionality, and we need “Mordecais” in our life to remind of us of our call. My hope is rooted in the sound of this reminder resonating with the 50 young adults I was surrounded by and our peers around the world.

Young Adults at the discernment retreat being anointed for service in the world!

Savanna Sullivan, the Program Director for ELCA Young Adult Ministries, addressed the attendees of the retreat as “prophetic young leaders”. This was my first “Mordecai moment”. God is speaking through young people and it’s time to listen. The second came as another attendee shared her writing during our final worship together:

When I think about call, I think about Hagar
the runaway slave-girl turned single mother.
The most vulnerable in her community
When the angel of the Lord comes to call her he asks her two questions.
Where do you come from and where are you going?

So I asked myself, where do I come from?
I am standing on the shoulders of those who stood up for me.
Ancestors, mentors, teachers, friends.
I am standing on the shoulders of those who stood up for me.

So I asked myself, where am I going?
I am called to stand tall so others can stand on me
because like Hagar in Genesis 16:13,
I have seen the One who sees me.
(Claire Embil)

A Season of Action

My identity as a young person in the church has been particularly salient to me lately. It’s hard not to feel strength in identities that hold less power when reading Claire’s words. Young people need a place in our church and we need young people to be in positions of agency to create those spaces.

Last month I was nominated for a position on my congregation’s Vision Team (Church Council). This is my opportunity to ask “Who’s not at our table” and take steps to create opportunities for all people to show up as their fullest self. This doesn’t stop with age. As I looked around our retreat, I saw a room full of God’s people across all identities that are ready to be “prophetic young leaders”. I have to trust that God is preparing our church to be ready for us.

Discussion Questions:

1. How did the season of Advent bring hope into your life?
2. How can you better ask “Who’s not at our table”? What’s the best way to invite them?
3. Who are the “Mordecais” in your life? What are they saying?
4. How can you better create space to listen to young people share new ideas?

Daniel serves as a lay leader for children’s ministry at New Heights Lutheran Church and is an active member of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin – ELCA Youth & Family Ministry Network. He is a gymnastics coach, a substitute teacher and spends his spare time playing nerdy board games. Daniel has been a part of several different ministries’ strategic planning efforts and finds joy in dreaming with organizations about systemic ways to be radically welcoming.