ELCA NEWS SERVICE
June 29, 2009
37,000 Lutherans Heading to ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans 09-140-FI
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Tens of thousands of teenagers will converge on New Orleans for the Youth Gathering of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), a triennial event for the high school-age members of the 4.7 million-member church, and to work alongside those who build, teach and live in the area still recovering nearly four years after Hurricane Katrina.
As many as 26,725 teenagers are registered to attend the gathering July 22-26. They will be accompanied by 8,593 adult leaders, including 37 bishops, and another 1,700 volunteers.
"Jesus Justice Jazz" is the gathering theme. Worship, Bible study and Christian community will bolster the participants as they work in about 150 community service projects across the area and engage the unique culture of the region.
"We have done some research and have determined, to the best of our ability, that the ELCA's service effort in New Orleans is likely to be the largest servant ministry ever attempted in a three-day period of time," said Heidi Hagstrom, director for the ELCA Youth Gathering. "We have 300 buses taking young people -- about 12,000 per day -- to 154 service sites, organized around six interest areas: housing, environment, wealth and poverty, health and wellness, the arts and culture, and literacy."
"We know that by choosing to hold the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering among the people of New Orleans we will be richly blessed by their experiences of God's embrace during hard times, and we hope to embody the church's commitment to stand with them for as long as it takes," Hagstrom said.
In advance of the gathering, each participant picked one of the six interest areas. The program in New Orleans was developed to help the youth practice what they've learned when they return home.
Two events will precede the gathering and one will follow. A Definitely Abled Youth Leadership Event (DAYLE) and a Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) will be held July 19-22 at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel. About 30 young Lutherans with disabilities and their adult companions will attend DAYLE. MYLE will attract about 900 youth. A convention of the Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO) will be held July 26- 9 in Hattiesburg, Miss.
The gathering kicks off the evening of July 22 at the Louisiana Superdome. Wednesday night speakers are:
+ Marc Kielburger, chief executive director of "Free The Children,"
has built more than 500 schools in Asia, Africa and Latin America
+ Liz McCartney, a "CNN Hero of the Year" for 2008, founder of the St.
Bernard Project, to help Hurricane Katrina survivors in St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans
The three full days of the gathering will include time in the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, an evening event at the Superdome, music and other evening activities in the hotels, and a "Final 15" to conclude each day with 15 minutes of small group devotions.
A third of the participants will board buses for community service or "ServantLife" projects each of the three full days; another third will take part in learning programs along "Krewes Boulevard" in the Convention Center; and the other third will join in physical activities at the Interaction Center. Each third will rotate each day to a different servant learning experience based on the participants' six interest areas.
ServantLife projects will include working with staff and volunteers at New Orleans' City Park, the St. Bernard Project and various Habitat for Humanity sites.
Thursday night speakers at the Superdome are:
+ Becca Stevens, Episcopal priest and chaplain, St. Augustine's Chapel,
Vanderbilt Campus, Nashville, Tenn.
+ Viola Vaughn, another 2008 "CNN Hero of the Year," who founded the
Women's Health Education and Prevention Strategies Alliance and "10,000 Girls," to benefit schoolgirls in Senegal
Friday night speakers at the Superdome are:
+ Spencer West and Michel Chikwanine, representing "Me to We," a sister
organization that supports Free the Children through socially responsible choices and leadership experiences
Saturday night speakers at the Superdome are:
+ Donald Miller, author of "Blue Like Jazz," Portland, Ore. Anne Mahlum
+ who started "Back on My Feet" to promote the self-
sufficiency of Philadelphia's homeless population
+ Venice R. Williams, executive director of Milwaukee's Kujichagulia
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, will preach at closing worship the morning of July 26 at the Superdome. An offering will benefit selected international and domestic ministries.
An online catalog is receiving donations toward supplies for the ServantLife projects. Gifts will be collected in the Interaction Center throughout the gathering for the ELCA World Hunger Appeal.
ELCA Global Mission's international companion program is bringing about 50 young Lutherans to the gathering from as many as 25 countries in Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe and South America.