by: Bishop Abraham Allende
In my time as bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, I have been blessed to attend two ELCA Youth Gatherings – Detroit in 2015 and Houston in 2018. On both occasions, we worshipped, rejoiced, served, and celebrated God’s wonderful gifts of love, grace, and hope.
Each night at Mass Gathering, we heard powerful messages from a wide variety of speakers and sang a dazzling and diverse array of music from contemporary musicians. During the day each synod either gathered to worship together, went out into the community to serve in different sites around the city, or learned of the many ways the church serves around the world in Interactive Learning.
The members of the communities where our young people carried out their service projects couldn’t stop thanking them, which was affirming for the youth. And it is through that service that they go out before others and proclaim God’s mercy and grace.
In both Detroit and Houston, I came away with a renewed feeling of hope for the church. Being around these young people keeps me young. They are eager to serve and demonstrate the love of God by loving their neighbor. The many outreach ministries they performed brought glory to God.
When we agonize about why young people are leaving church, we need to ask ourselves, what opportunities are we giving them in our congregations to offer their boundless energy and enthusiasm, their passion for the gospel? As adults, we are sometimes unable and often unwilling to give up control. God’s invasion of this world in Jesus is resisted by those who hold power, those whose lives are dedicated to keeping boundaries intact. The challenge is to avoid the temptation of refusing to let go of our sense of authority and denying youth of their willingness to serve.
Bishop Abraham Allende was elected in 2014 to lead the 162 congregation Northeastern Ohio Synod. He previously served the Lutheran Church of the Covenant in Maple Heights, Ohio, and Iglesia Luterana La Trinidad, a Latino mission in Canton. Bishop Allende is a native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. A second-career pastor, he has held successful positions in the fields of education, broadcasting and as a professional baseball executive.