Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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I want my life to make a difference

July 24, 2012 12:13 AM
Bishop Rimbo leading MNYS youth and leaders in prayer.

"I want my life to make a difference.

 I want my life to make change. 

I want my life to do some good here. 

I want my life to make change.

Make a Difference by Rachel Kurtz,

Theme Song for the 2012 National Youth Gathering


Last week, the city of New Orleans welcomed over 33,000 youth, leaders, and volunteers to partake in the National Youth Gathering, a triennial event of the ELCA. This event has the largest participation of any event in the ELCA and included over 400 people just from the Metro New York Synod. There were over 60 the synodical bishops present (including Bishop Rimbo) and 2127 volunteers helping throughout the week. Throughout the 5 day event, youth were dared to love like Jesus, to act creatively in bringing justice to all and to gracefully welcome all to the feast we share. There is a revolution brewing in the hearts of our youth and it will change the church.


The Gathering, with the theme "Citizens with the Saints", included three main components: Practice Discipleship, Practice Peacemaking, and Practice Justice. Each night worship was held in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. "We were instantly amazed with the sheer mass and amount of Lutherans in the dome, now nicknamed the Lutherdome," writes Rich Hoover, from Grace, Yorktown Heights. "33,000 youth all in one place worshiping together for one cause… it was truly amazing and I could tell how impressed and moved everyone was."


This year’s Dome Worship included dynamic speakers such as Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shane Claiborne, Pastor Andrena Ingram, Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, and Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, the Reverend Mark Hanson. Evenings in the dome also included rich music performances, videos, and surprises like a laser show and large balloons suspending fabric throughout the dome. Sunday morning ended with the Festival Eucharist. It is estimated that this was the largest worshiping body in America that morning.


For the Practice Discipleship day, our synod gathered together as a worshiping community. The theme weaved throughout was breaking down the walls that separate us. Bishop Rimbo preached, "It was Robert Frost that said, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ This is wrong. Good fences make lousy neighbors… We see walls all of the time, but all of those walls are broken down because God has given us a new name: Saint." The rest of the morning was spent in small groups learning about the seven faith practices: worship, study, invite, prayer, encourage, serve, and give. We looked for ways these practices could be brought into our daily lives. Finally, groups went out to look for these seven practices with a discipleship tour, looking for God and ways to be God’s hands in the city of New Orleans.


Friday MNYS groups participated in the Practicing Peacemaking day. After worshiping together, they were able to find ways to practice peacemaking by visiting booths in the Interaction Center, participating in Bible study with bishops and engaging in conversations with people from war torn areas like Palestine. Over the course of three days, 509 heads of hair were donated to make wigs for cancer patients and 1193 pints of blood was collected from Gathering participants.


Saturday was the long anticipated Practicing Justice Day. This is the day when words are put into action and youth go into the neighborhoods and schools to serve the people of New Orleans. The groups are recognizable by the bright orange shirts they donned. Many residents of New Orleans remember ELCA youth as simply the helping orange shirts.


Grace, Uniondale worked alongside 600 other youth to clear lots in the Ninth Ward – a neighborhood still recovering from the broken levees after Hurricane Katrina. By clearing these lots, they were able to help construction crews that are continuing to rebuild the area.


Our Saviour, Croton-on-Hudson learned about the slave culture in New Orleans. "It definitely made us think about a better way to approach service," writes Marcie Zook, an adult leader. "We talked about injustices; thinking about the perspective of those who are being oppressed, marginalized and taken advantage of."


St. John’s, Poughkeepsie and Redeemer, Kingston worked alongside Presiding Bishop Mark Hansen. They were working in a school to pack supply kits for 4th and 5th graders. Over three days, 15,000 kits were packed. Ascension, Deer Park and Grace, Yorktown Heights also worked in various local schools to help make the school a welcoming and safe place. They painted walls, sanitized desks, cleaned out rooms and sorted classroom books.


So what is next for these youth? They have returned home trained, changed and ready to practice discipleship, peacemaking and justice.  Now they are charged with taking it further and practicing the resurrection – bringing the good news of the gospel alive in their schools, homes and communities.



Click here to see a gallery of pictures on our Facebook page that includes links to videos of the speakers and performers as they become available.



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