Guest blog post by Rev. Paul Amlin, Program Director for Youth Ministry; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Chicago, Illinois
I was texting back and forth with a seminary friend this morning and the topic of the ELCA Youth Gathering, Detroit, and how the Gathering will address issues like the Charleston killings and racism during our time together. This got me thinking. If someone has never experienced a youth gathering, or hasn’t been to one in recent years, they would have no way of knowing how deep and wide we go to deal with current issues, key issues, issues that get to what it means to love our neighbor and to learn from them. I’m convinced that the bold choice to go to Detroit is affirmed in the subject matter we’ll address (equity, racism, justice to name a short list), the city where racism has played a major part in history, and recent events in our country.
This led me to think about ways to engage the material, the real examples and teaching from Detroit in our local communities. We have been blessed, the last two cycles at least, to have live streaming available for anyone with a laptop, computer, tablet or smartphone and access to the Internet. Through the stream you will be able to watch a live morning program hosted by youth at COBO (convention center) and grab a seat at Ford Field to hear the music, the praise and worship, and to hear powerful speakers address contemporary issues in light of and in response to faith in Jesus Christ. Young people and the adults who accompany them to Detroit will likely leave the city inspired (and tired!) but also wired to do big things back at home. What better way to engage this energy than to have your congregation participate through watching the live stream?
So here are a few ideas for streaming parties for all ages.
1) Open the church each evening of the Gathering, put up a screen and a projector and order some pizza or have a world-famous Lutheran potluck dinner. You could pray for those in Detroit before the stream begins, watch the stream, take notes, then discuss what you heard in small groups afterward.
2) Since not everyone will make it to the church each evening, make sure you share the link to the live stream via e-mail, text, semaphore, etc. Post questions on your church Facebook page, on Twitter, Instagram, etc. to engage folks in conversation about what they’ve heard.
3) Be sure to invite the youth to watch! For those who couldn’t make it to Detroit, this is a chance for them to feel like they’ve participated in some way. When their friends get back, they can engage in conversation about the event in a meaningful way. Of course, it’s okay to make this an inter-generational activity.
4) Give shut-ins the information, too! If you’re really edgy, set up a viewing party at a nursing home where you have members or have volunteers visit shut-ins to watch with them.
5) Have a Sunday closing worship viewing party! Live stream the service in your sanctuary while you are worshiping, occasionally turn up the volume to share the experience, OR set up a projector in the fellowship hall for anyone who wants to follow along. What if on that day your church includes the Gathering, the people of Detroit, participants AND you community in the prayers as closing worship is happening?
6) Download and share the “Getting Ready” materials. They give insight into the things we’ll discuss in Detroit, but also include things like teaching what a Theology of the Cross means for Lutherans. You could use these materials for adult education, inter-generational times, or for confirmation or youth group (even if nobody from your church is going to Detroit!).
I’m convinced that the Gathering serves as our Lutheran version of a big tent revival. Imagine what could happen if the enthusiasm, energy and teaching from this revival caught on at home! It will take some extra work and require a commitment of time and resources to make it happen, but I believe the rewards will be magnificent.
I’d love to hear your ideas, your stories of how your congregation follows along and interacts with events like the Gathering. Remember to post to social media using #RiseUpELCA and share some photos of your viewing parties for others to see.