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Reflections on Volunteering in Minneapolis

 

It has been 3 weeks since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the city in which I call home. Unfortunately, the senseless killings perpetuated from racism are not uncommon. The outcry for justice, though, has been very common across the United States and countries throughout the world.

The George Floyd memorial on 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis is holy ground where people gather. Gather to pay their respects, gather to lay down flowers, gather with advocacy organizations and gather around food and water. The words and artwork are a balm for the wounds that I, a white woman, cannot even begin to imagine.

The past couple weeks, I have spent time volunteering at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church just blocks from the epicenter. Since George Floyd’s murder, Holy Trinity has become a sanctuary for demonstrators, a medic station for the wounded, a place of support for local small businesses and a pop-up food and necessity distribution site. Streets have been lined with cars with donations and greeters. Pregnant women and people with disabilities were accompanied, to ensure their needs were met. I heard so many touching stories over the week. One of them that stood out, especially as a youth minister, is the confirmation students who purchased detergent and collected all the quarters they could find, so people could still do their laundry.

Something else that stuck out to me is seeing a mother taking pictures of her daughter in her cap and gown. I went over and started talking to her and she said, “this is her history.” I pray for this young woman and her family. I also pray for our community, our country. I pray that this moment and these pictures are the time that she can tell her children and grandchildren that this was the turning point in our history. “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

 

Kris Bjorke serves as the Service Learning Project Manager for the 2021 ELCA Youth Gathering. She lives in the Minneapolis area and enjoys drinking coffee with friends, being with family and pets, the outdoors, football and hockey games, travel (with a special affinity for National Parks) and quilting.

Meet Matthew

by: Matthew Felbein

Hello! My name is Matthew Felbein and I am thrilled to be able to serve as one of the Gathering Hosts for the 2021 ELCA Youth Gathering in Minneapolis. This will be my second Gathering, and even though it is still about 450 days away (I might be counting already…) I couldn’t be more excited!

Currently, I am a junior in high school and I try to be involved in everything that I can. Music is a huge part of my life as well as my faith. I love sharing music at my church whether it’s in a brass group, the high school choir, or playing the organ and piano. I’m also involved with a lot of theater and music activities and my school.

I was absolutely blown away by the 2018 Gathering in Houston. From the first night, I felt named and claimed as a child of God more than ever. Seeing thousands of people of all different backgrounds from all over the country come together for worship, service, and lots of fun was an incredible experience. Without a doubt, it was one of the best weeks of my life and it really did change everything. When I left, I knew I wanted to be able to inspire people like I had been inspired by the emcees, speakers, musicians, and volunteers at the Gathering, and I am so blessed to have this new opportunity!

I can’t wait to see how God’s boundless love fills us in Minneapolis in 2021. See you then!

 

 

Where I Belong

by: Adam Knudson

I am an ordained pastor and serve on staff at a Lutheran Church, but I am not an ordained ELCA pastor. My background is Presbyterian. My first Gathering experience was in New Orleans for the 2009 Gathering, Jesus Justice Jazz. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never been to Louisiana before, I’d never attended such a large youth event before, I was afraid of what it would be like to lead a group of a couple dozen youth and adults around a city that I had never visited. Why did I agree to do this anyway?

Our church is in California and while there are MANY churches and many large churches in California, there are not a lot of Lutherans and even fewer large Lutheran churches. Attending the Gathering offers the youth from my church an opportunity to understand their place and their identity within a larger community. When the ELCA gathers tens of thousands of youth from across the country and beyond, some of our best values and our highest priorities are showcased, highlighted and lived in vibrant and compelling ways. 

When our youth attend the Gathering, I don’t need to teach a lesson, read a Bible story, or prepare a class on what we believe or how God calls us to live in the world. The core values of our faith are written large on giant screens, crowded buses full of folks with bright orange shirts ready to serve, and youth and adults willing to listen to the stories of our hosts as we enter their communities and their cities.

The ELCA Youth Gathering has opened my mind to understand the great breadth and depth of what it means to be Lutheran. The Gathering has given me a chance to share this perspective with our youth, to hold up their faith as a mirror in which they can see who they are and in turn, our youth return home and share stories with our congregation. For me, the Gathering is an opportunity to participate in the kin-dom of God and to recognize God’s family as a place where I belong.

Adam Knudson has served as Youth Pastor at Hope Lutheran in Fresno, CA for thirteen years. He is involved in youth ministry networks in his community and Synod.

 

Made Free

by: Kelly Sherman-Conroy, MYLE Team Leader

In October of 2019, the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event leadership team, including youth, young adults and adults, gathered at Luther Seminary to discern a theme for MYLE 2021. Before we began our conversations as a group, we took the time to learn about and understand the history of the land where MYLE will be hosted in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This was led by an effort from Healing Minnesota Stories, to bring healing between people of faith and the Native American people who call Minnesota home. Native people have suffered deep trauma over many years, losing their land, language and culture. While many people and institutions contributed to that trauma, it happened with the full participation of Christian churches. As Pastor Jim Bear Jacobs mentioned to our group, “We all still need healing, healing is doable, and churches have a role to play in healing.”

As leaders of MYLE we believe in the power of healing stories. Stories heal because they make invisible pain visible. The listener and storyteller are both healed by their acts. This was a needed experience for our team and our theme discernment. We learned that churches and all faith communities can play a key role in promoting and experiencing healing by opening ourselves to our own history and listening to the stories of Native people. Through the sharing and retelling of traumatic stories, we can create new positive ones.

And this is how our theme for MYLE 2021 was created. Made Free. Our stories, our experiences matter. And together as leaders, we want to be able to nurture community and inspire healing with all our MYLE participants, leaders and volunteers.  We realize that our ethnic cultures are rich in community and family bonds. Made Free to me is an understanding that our MYLE community can be a pathway for healing and brings a time for celebrating the diverse expressions and many facets of our community which are woven through the Holy Spirit.

The scripture chosen for this theme says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  What this says to me is that the Spirit empowers us and when we feel empowered, things begin to happen. The soul is very much a part of the body, and the Spirit awakens our soul and gives us life. As a body of Christ, our soul is not fully complete unless the rest of the body is also in harmony. Together at MYLE, we emerge as a community to listen courageously and create Spirit-Filled relationships of healing.

MYLE 2021 is going to be a space that will inspire and create liberating relationships with all in attendance and beyond. We want to characterize these relationships by equity, difference, mutuality, communion and oneness. MYLE aims to be an exciting Spirit-Inspired community, inclusive and accountable to all. Celebrating our cultures together we will literally be breathing Spirit into our own healing.

God’s boundless promise

by: Claire Embil

This week, I had the opportunity to preach about the Baptism of our Lord in Matthew chapter 3. This is a story that perfectly exemplifies God’s boundlessness. Jesus is claimed by God as the beloved son before he has accomplished anything, no healing, no miracles.

In today’s society, it’s so easy to only present the image of ourselves that we want the world to see, and our worth becomes tied to clicks, likes and views. You could be smart, talented, beautiful, but the world says, “Ok, prove it.” I think a lot about how radical and spectacular it is to be claimed as beloved without having to prove yourself. We don’t have to prove ourselves for baptism. God’s grace knows no qualifications.

There is nothing we have to do, that could make us worthy of the love and grace that God extends to us through baptism. It is important to strive to be our best selves, but God already thinks we are worthy and beloved. God promises us this undeserved, unconditional, unending grace that we never had to earn because baptism is not about our commitment to God. Baptism is about God’s commitment to us.

That main theme of this text is particularly important to me because it took me a long time to learn. Back when I was getting confirmed, I think I did so begrudgingly, and not because I didn’t want to be confirmed. I very much did, but because I knew that confirmation is the affirmation of baptism.

I was baptized in the Catholic church and my family didn’t come to a Lutheran church until I was 2. The closer we got to Confirmation Day, the more I felt a nagging sense that I didn’t belong. As we talked more about our baptismal promises, I began to talk to my pastors and my youth leaders about getting re-baptized. I very quickly found out that’s not an option. Jesus wasn’t baptized Lutheran so why did I have to be? I knew that we “acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” but I still wanted to be re-baptized. I felt like I had to do something to fit into this family. It took me a little bit to learn that anything I thought I could’ve done was already done for me through the waters of baptism, the first time. No repeat needed.

Claire Embil is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying English creative writing, religious studies and photography. She is actively involved with the ELCA Young Adult Leadership team, the ELCA Youth Gathering, Wisconsin Campus Ministry, Lutheran Student Movement, and competitive gymnastics.

Fundraising 101

by: Amy Wagner

The ELCA Youth Gathering offers a great way for congregations to be a part of the larger church. The Gathering can be quite a financial and faith commitment on the part of the congregation as well as the family, but I strongly believe this event belongs on the timeline of each person’s faith journey. With a solid plan in place, collecting the funding for this experience can be both faith-filled and joyful. 

Set a budget and have a plan

Start with a budget. What can the church budget cover? What will you ask families to pay? Know your goals, jot down ideas on how fundraising will play a part in the preparation of this experience and enjoy the process. I appreciate fundraising opportunities where the young people were able to share about why mountaintop weeks like these are important points in their faith journey.

Have a goal, now what?

Great, you know how much you hope to raise from now until the Gathering. How do you raise money? In one word, ask. Mike Ward has a fabulous resource called the $10,000 Car Wash on MartinsList.org that changed the way I look at fundraising. Martin’s List is a database of original member-created resources for adults who work with young people and is included in your ELCA Network membership. He believes that through fundraisers, you are providing an opportunity for your entire congregation to be part of passing faith on to young people.

Fundraisers can also bond the group together through working for the common goal of sharing the story of why this event is an important part of the ministry and how it impacts the lives of the participants.

Butter Braids, Car Washes, Dinners, Flamingos, Oh My…

Be sure to check your congregation’s policy for fundraising; but there are many great and fun ways to raise money with endless lists on the Internet; like this one, or this one. You can do everything from butter braids to dinners to Dodgeball Tournaments to flamingoes. 

Another way to raise money is by creating opportunities for ongoing relationships when asking for support. This can be through a “Stock Sale” or similarly a bulletin board of envelopes marked with set dollar amounts stuffed with information about trip participants. In a sense you are creating built-in relational prayer partners. Donors not only get to give financially but they also get to know and pray for the participants by name leading up to, during and following the trip. You can get the details of the basic setup of these with a simple Google search

Thank Donors

Be sure to thank all of the people that helped get your group to the Gathering. This can be done with handwritten Thank You notes before you leave, postcards on the trip, specialized text messages with a photo during the week and/or a special dinner after your group as returned and so much more. There are many great ways to tell the impact of the experience to let them know how they made this life-changing week possible.

 

Since the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering, Amy has served as Gathering Synod Coordinator for the Nebraska Synod. She was the Director of Youth Ministries for more than five years prior to serving the same congregation in her current role as Communications Coordinator.