– Bp. Erik Gronberg
In July of 1991, I enviously watched the youth from my church in Austin, Texas leave for the Gathering in Dallas. I was one year too young to go with them. In 1994, I was in Atlanta, Georgia in the Georgia Dome (where months earlier the beloved Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl) with over 35,000 peers. I had never seen so many Lutherans in one place. It was pouring rain when we left the Saturday night mass gathering, yet we walked with the inspiring words of Coretta Scott King ringing in our ears. We were changed. My wife, also an ELCA pastor, was in Atlanta in 1994. We met years later in seminary. When we got to know one another, we immediately connected around the experiences we had at the Atlanta Gathering.
When I was in college, I volunteered in New Orleans. As pastor, I took youth to Gatherings in San Antonio, New Orleans, and Detroit. At each Gathering, I watched and rejoiced as the vision of so many young people was expanded with a realization of the size, diversity, and global impact of our church.
ELCA Youth Gatherings are pivot moments – moments of worshiping with thousands of peers, being challenged to consider another context, seeing the needs of neighbors, asking questions about vocation, engaging in service, being inspired by music and speakers, and just having plain fun. The local parish is the core of our church, yet all ELCA youth should have this mountaintop experience and these pivot moments.
As Bishop of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Mission Area/ Synod, I am prioritizing the 2018 Houston Gathering by sponsoring a group from congregations with three or less eligible youth, emerging ministries, and communities of color. It is essential these young people have this opportunity. I am happy to take on this responsibility as a pastor to my synod.
The upcoming Gathering in Houston will be my seventh. I look forward to seeing y’all there. Be prepared to be changed. As we say in Texas, “It’s gonna be a big time.”
Rev. Erik Gronberg, Ph.D. is Bishop of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Mission Area/ Synod. He resides in Forth Worth with his wife, their three children, and their rescue cat.