Devin Ames on the Detroit ELCA Youth Gathering
I was a youth participant at the national ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit this summer. I traveled with the synod, along with 30 others, through an eye opening and life changing experience. In addition to being a youth, I also had the privilege to be the synod registrar and a member of the planning committee. Here is an explanation of some of our experiences that my fellow travelers can remember so those who were not with us can hopefully understand what we did.When we first gathered in Wheeling, some of us knew many others, some did not. Our time there allowed us to get to know one another and spend time forming new friendships. After an evening then a full day together, we boarded our bus and traveled overnight to the Lutheran Monastery, St. Augustine’s House, in Oxford Michigan, just north of Detroit. We arrived bright and early at 4:45am and proceeded to have 4 very different services between that time and lunch. We were also able to meet and ask questions of the three monks that live there, and see the grounds. The services were different than what we were used to, but I know that I found them interesting and moving despite the fact that we all felt half asleep. For further information about the monastery, you can go to www.lutheranmonk.org The next three days were divided into Proclaim Community, Proclaim Justice, and Proclaim Story events. On our Proclaim Community day, we spent the day in the COBO center, which is a convention center the size of 11 football fields. While here we got to do pretty much whatever we wanted. From booths about different ministries in the ELCA, to a high ropes course, to mini golf sponsored by seminaries, to all different sports, there was always something to try. I know that I really enjoyed when our synod went up against another group in dodge ball and when I got to speak to a young Lutheran from Palestine about his life and faith back in his homeland. Also, the walk for water was an eye opening experience for everyone as we carried 6 gallons of water 1/10 of a mile, while reading about, and experiencing some of the problems people in other countries face daily to get water, where they travel an average of 3.7 miles a day for their water. The next day was our Proclaim Justice day which started off great as we got to watch Bishop Dunkin go down the zip line as a result of the funds raised at our synod assembly this year for hunger. After this, all in the fluorescent orange Gathering tshirts, we went out by bus into the community to do service projects. We were working in a grass median between two roads. We trimmed trees, weeded flower beds, trimmed bushes, pulled overgrown grass off of a sidewalk, and worked to clean up the area for the community. It was amazing to see people from the community stop to cheer us on, come out to thank us, and sometimes even join us in our work. When we were heading back at the end of the day, it was amazing to see all of the orange shirts spread through the neighborhood, all 10,000 of us that were working that day making a difference for the people of Detroit. Then came Proclaim Story. On this day we gathered as members of the synod trip as well as those from the synod that did not go up with us. Together we gathered and discussed our stories, who we are, what has brought us Page 9 The Proclamation Volume 12, Issue 6 The Gathering...by Devin Ames up to be what we have become. As a youth leader in this, I not only had the joy of working through my story, but I also got to talk to everyone about my experiences, and lead them through the process of explaining their story. After this completed we had a wonderful worship service as the West VirginiaWestern Maryland Synod. At the end of each day, all 30,000 participants made their way to Ford Field for the end of the day program. This included music from the house band, different performing and musical groups, and motivational speakers. These events were recorded and can be found at https://www.elca.org/YouthGathering One speaker that stood out to me said that the Bible is not good news. Good news is when we hear that summer break is extended; good news is that everyone gets a free Ipad. The gospel and the word of God is not good news, but dynamite. On Sunday morning, it was amazing to have 30,000 Lutherans gathered for worship. From the sermon by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton to the retirement of Gathering Director Heidi Hagstrom there was enthusiasm and fascination that was shown through moments of absolute silence to thunderous booms of applause. The energy filled the stadium, and it was driven up even more when it was revealed that the Gathering in 2018 will be in Houston. I could go on and on with describing my experiences, but I have pretty much described the basics of the experience. As both the youth and a planner, it took a lot of work but traveling as a synod was amazing. I got to be with friends from across the synod, as well as make many more that I had never talked to before. People from other synods talked of having hundreds of people; while we were not the biggest, we definitely shared something special, and we shared a bond and a sense of togetherness that came up time and time again. This Gathering allowed me to witness a living faith that I will never forget, and it was made possible by everyone that helped to plan and those who attended the Gathering.