For the past two weeks, the ELCA National Youth Gathering has been going on in San Antonio, TX. The first week over 15,000 students and chaperones (herd-riders? shepherds?) gathered and this past week over 25,000 did the same... I wasn't able to be there this time around, but from what I hear it went really, really well. And, from the snores rising from the couch right now, I'd say that most folks had a great time!
When I've attended in the past, both as a student and as an adult, it's been an amazing experience... I recognize that it's not a perfect system and that the costs involved are sometime prohibitive for churches to send students. However, the fact that 40,000 people come together to hang out with other Lutherans is pretty amazing.
So, here's my little bloggy shout-out to all who make such a happening happen:
To the kids for choosing to go and making the best of it once they are there -- for dancing in the aisles and on the floor, for smiling at strangers and striking up conversations, for moving outside of your comfort zone and for recognizing that they are part of the church, too.
To the adults who accompany them -- for taking time to make an impact on the kids and for allowing them to impact you, for spending nearly a week with too little sleep and too much sugar, for dancing in the aisles and on the floor, too, and for letting the experience mean something in your own faith life.
To the people who coordinate and organize this event -- whether you sold water or t-shirts, whether you made phone calls or mailed letter, whether you love your job right now or hate it, know that it means something to each person who goes, and that in some way, even if your name isn't on the billboard or even in the small print of the credits, what you did matters.
To Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson -- for preaching on Sunday morning and inspiring the next generation of pastors and church leaders, for dancing on stage and for simply being there.
To the congregations who sent the folks -- for supporting the fund-raisers and sending the kids with prayer and love, for welcoming them back and hearing their stories, and for ultimately allowing them all to be church as they grow in their faith and as their faith helps to shape yours. Together we are the church.
See ya in three years!