“I am somebody!”  As a teenager at the 1979 Lutheran Youth Gathering in Kansas City, I had front row seats to hear Rev. Jesse Jackson lead us in his call and response of empowerment. (Trying to get front row seats is a longtime Youth Gathering tradition!) Then my world was rocked when I heard an African-American teenage girl sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Such powerful memories that stick with me even today. “The hymn is known as the Black National Anthem, but it’s more than that. It’s a history lesson, a rallying cry, a pledge of unity, and as people gather to fight for equality and justice, it is an ever-present refrain.”

Fast forward to the 2000 Gathering in St. Louis, I attended as an adult leader. We listened to Archbishop Desmond Tutu say “thank you” to US Lutherans and the rest of the world for standing with the oppressed in South Africa to end the apartheid. Twenty years earlier as a college student, my friends and I tried to get Concordia College to divest in companies doing business with the white South African government. Our little group of activists failed. And then, two decades later, at the Gathering, tears roll down my face when I hear “Thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you” from Archbishop Tutu. Lesson learned: the larger church can be a powerful force. 

Are you excited to join us at the 2022 ELCA Youth Gathering in Minneapolis? I hope so. Please don’t miss this opportunity to deepen your walk with Jesus and learn about your church and the world. You get to make memories with thousands of your new friends from across the ELCA! 

Let’s make some powerful memories together in Minneapolis.

Pastor John Hulden serves as the Assistant to the Bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod. He’s attended the Gathering as a youth, adult leader, pastor and currently serves on the Synod Day planning team. He’s super excited about Synod Day being hosted in local congregations this cycle!