New Orleans looks different without 30,000+ youth (see #2). In particular, restaurant lines are a lot shorter.
New Orleans has a place in my heart because of the 1997 ELCA Youth Gathering when I transitioned from being a participant to a volunteer, a 2007 trip with a small Iowa group who stayed at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the Garden District and volunteered in the 9th Ward, the 2009 Gathering with four teenage girls from Soldier, IA, and the 2012 Gathering with youth from Trinity, Nampa. At the end of this 2016 adventure I finally got to go on a Swap Tour and see some alligators and a Great Blue Heron.
Minneapolis Synod Bishop Anne Svennenson was the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Moorhead, MN, which I attended during my sophomore and junior years at Concordia College. It was great to finally tell her in person that she is an important character in my call story.
I have new understanding for parishioners who nod off during my sermons. Worship may be the most calm, quiet, nonjudgmental, safe place during the week when they are simply allowed to sit and be still. We had a line-up of amazing preachers at CWA and I still found my mind drifting occasionally because I was in a place apart, not getting ready to vote or having a conversation or reading memorials, bios, or amendments.
Friendships from my first-call in the Western Iowa Synod are the kind where we can pick up right where we left off.
To say that I love my current synod, Eastern WA-ID, is not an understatement. We had one of the smallest voting delegations–eight of us total–but we had so much fun together. (The photo below includes spouses and people who attended the Grace Gathering)
I have been thinking a lot about the role my congregation can play in lifting up the various vocations of women in Nampa, ID. The ELCA’s new “Women, Sexism and Justice, toward a new social statement” will be a great tool.
Augsburg Fortress has focus. Maybe it’s because they have not been setting up shop at synod assemblies or fall convocations, so I’ve only been shopping through their website, but I finally saw that the ELCA’s publishing house has chosen to do a few things really well–curriculum (a great deal of which they are doing ecumenically), worship and music and, for now, 500th Anniversary of the Reformation resources.
Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) is a program the ELCA should continue. As an alumni of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, which has an international component, and someone who considered applying to the Peace Corps, I was skeptical about the ELCA creating its own program. On the final evening of CWA I ate a meal with four YAGM alumni who are all working for the ELCA (one in World Hunger, two in YAGM’s Chicago office, and one in the Rocky Mountain Synod’s Colorado Advocacy Office). What impressed me was not so much their experiences abroad or their current jobs; it was the YAGM alumni network they count on now for support. Ministering in a region dominated by Mormons, Nazarenes, and Nones, I see that network being so valuable.
I love that the ELCA walks and talks ecumenism, most visible at CWA through the Declaration on the Way document summarizing Roman Catholic-Lutheran dialogue but also through greetings from other denominations and faiths. At the same time, we are grounded in rich Lutheran theology, of which I was reminded during Timothy Wengert’s wonderful Bible Study and ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s preaching and report to CWA.