– Molly Beck Dean
(Click here to read last week’s entry, Gathering Hopes and Goals, Part I)
The Gathering is an awesome way to meet Lutherans from across the world, but ultimately, we hope this ministry strengthens your congregational group. You will be with us in Houston for a maximum of eight days and the Holy Spirit will move in powerful ways in that short time.
However, we know that the real “magic” happens back in the young people’s home congregations.
Often the Gathering is used as a spring board for a congregation’s youth ministry as they restart or re-energize. Whether it’s the bus ride to Houston or a meal time at the University of Houston or a late night Final 15, we hope that the various parts of this ministry deepen the connection that youth have to their peers and adults in their home congregation.
The final goal of the Gathering is that young people learn about the ELCA. Some will come to Houston and realize for the first time that they are part of something bigger than their congregation. Others may have strong connections with their synodical ministry, but not be fully aware of what we do throughout our country as a Church. And most young people (and adults) have a lot to learn when it comes to how the ELCA is present with our global Lutheran siblings and doing ministry across the world. I hope that young people meet ministry partners in the hall of NRG Center and are amazed at the many and creative ways we are Church together. I hope they hear and see that there are opportunities for young leaders to be engaged right now in many parts of the ELCA’s call to be Christ in the world.
And finally, I hope they go home and share with those in their home congregation about the ELCA and the ways they are most passionate about engaging.
Perhaps I should have opened with this, but maybe you are thinking, “why are these five things Molly’s hopes and goals for participants?” The answer is actually quite simple – because it’s what I have experienced each time I’m a part of this ministry. My first Gathering was as a high schooler in 1997. I journeyed on a bus from small town North Dakota to New Orleans. It was my first urban experience, the first time I realized my Church was so huge, the first time I saw people of color who were Lutheran. I think it was at the Gathering that God solidified my heart as a youth minister. Several of the other youth who journeyed with me at the Gathering are still my best friends because we grew in our relationship with God and each other that week in ways that are hard to put into words.
And each time I return to MYLE, the tAble and the Gathering, I am challenged and affirmed in new ways as a Christian, as a leader, as a woman, as a mom, and as a friend. My eyes are opened and my heart breaks. Every time I’m a part of this ministry, I am brought to tears because of the incredible beauty and the haunting darkness in people’s stories and in our world. Even though I’ve been a legit ELCA church nerd since high school, each cycle I learn something new about what our Church is doing with and for God’s people across the world and I am proud to be part of the ELCA.
This is a powerful and transformational ministry if you are brave enough to let your guard down long enough for the Spirit to enter in, if you can be quiet long enough to listen to someone different than yourself, if your prayer is to be open to what God is calling you to, if you realize the strong roots of a community will ground you no matter the strength of life’s storms, and if you imagine yourself as part of something bigger than you.