15 Youth Gatherings – Part 3

These last five Lutheran Youth Gatherings include some ups and downs and of course the unknown.

2006 San Antonio – By this time I was serving my first call in rural Western Iowa, looking for a way to stay connected to the larger church. Family friend Margie Fiedler asked me to serve on the Planning Team for The Party on the final evening of the Gathering. She and my cousin Jim Lindekugel had coordinated The Party first in Dallas, when it landed on July 4 and was under the umbrella of the Interaction Center, and for several additional Gatherings. Our team split up the area by the four seasons and then tried to incorporate Latino festivals and various kinds of music into our areas. My Winter Season co-leader backed out which was a bummer but my mom agreed to be on my subcommittee. As is often the case, the people you work with can make an experience worth it and that was certainly true for me in San Antonio. The theme was Cruzando: Journey with Jesus.

2009 New Orleans – Four girls from my congregation and I met the Western Iowa Synod buses and headed to New Orleans for the post-Hurricane Katrina Gathering.  I learned how to text on this trip thanks to some pastor friends. I absolutely loved how the Gathering adapted to post-Katrina New Orleans and that service learning became not an optional part of the Gathering but an integral part. Our service day included treating the under side of several new houses built up on stilts. This was not my first time at a Gathering but it was my first time as an adult leader and I was clueless in some ways. I have never felt so lonely in a crowd and will never be the only adult leader for a group again. It was not until I left the girls to get their palms read in Jackson Square and sat in a pew in St. Louis Cathedral that I understood my loneliness, in that moment and built up after six years serving in a town of 200 people. I wept like what seemed like forever. The theme was Jesus, Justice, Jazz.

2012 New Orleans – A few years into my call at Trinity Lutheran in Nampa, Idaho I had walked into a congregation that was enthusiastic about Gatherings but relatively new to them. 2009 had been the first time they had sent youth, thanks to a parent who had been impacted by attending the ALC Gathering in Denver as a teen, but it had been a great experience. So a parent and I took a large group on a plane to the Big Easy. The Getting Ready curriculum was solid and the pre-work paid off. We had a fabulous group of youth who cared for one another despite their differences. The Gathering brought back a theme song, thanks to Rachel Kurtz. The theme was Citizens with the Saints. I love New Orleans but was happy when they announced that we would be going somewhere new next time.

2015 Detroit – We had a smaller group from Trinity, just four, but I was not going to be the lone adult so I paired up with a Boise colleague who serves Redeemer Lutheran. We became Trideemer. You can read about our very positive experience here. The highlight for me was the impact we had on the city of Detroit and the impact the city had on all of us. It was accompaniment in the best sense. The theme was Rise Up Together.

2018 Houston – We have three wonderful youth attending from Trinity. We have joined up with Faith, Caldwell; St. Paul, Ontario; Redeemer, Boise; and Hope, Eagle. Our group of sixteen will take the bus with the group from Shepherd of the Valley, Boise. The list of speakers  for the Mass Gathering was already exciting but today they announced author and activist Bryan Stevenson! I am excited to see the city of Houston on our service learning day. We are fortunate in that the team who leads our synod day is experienced and excellent. And our third day will be in the Interactive Learning Center, which always makes me nostalgic for the days I wondered around there all week as a kid.

Posted in Youth Gathering | Leave a comment

15 Youth Gatherings – Part 2

Or, Why I will be riding a bus for 27 hours June 26-27

These next five Lutheran Youth Gatherings are the reason I keep going back and taking youth with me.

1991 Dallas – My congregation in Custer had never sent youth to a Gathering before, but six of us signed up, a small group compared to our massive youth group, and joined the Bear Butte Conference trip, taking the bus from Rapid City, SD to Dallas. We were in two arenas for the mass gatherings but our group was, in my opinion, fortunate enough to have the Jay Beech Band as our music leader for all but our last mass gathering. I can still remember Jay teaching us the actions to his song Baptized, probably the fist time I made the sign of the cross on myself. Called to Freedom was the theme of the Gathering and the Interaction Center theme was The Fair.

1994 Atlanta – I spent the summer after high school graduation working at YMCA Camp St. Croix in Hudson, WI (just across the St. Croix River from St.Paul) but I flew to Atlanta mid-summer and joined my youth group. Dakota Road, who had led the music at every South Dakota Synod Youth Gathering of my youth, was the house band and they were fabulous. I had one of my mountain-top experiences one evening in the dome, so blown away by the speaker and the connection with my peers. I love the YMCA but I think the juxtaposition of working at that camp and then attending the Youth Gathering was formative; it convinced me to spend my college summers at a church camp in intentional Christian community. The experience probably steered me to the particular camp at which I ended up working. The theme of the Gathering was 2 Be Alive and the Interaction Center theme was Noah’s pArk.

1997 New Orleans – I spent three summers on staff at Christikon but between my junior and senior years I worked at the Dodge Nature Center in West St.Paul. I was going through a lot with my epilepsy diagnosis and it was good to be near my doctor in the Twin Cities. This also allowed me to serve on Hotel Life at the Youth Gathering. Tom VonFischer was the head of Hotel Life that year and he had all of us volunteers take turns telling stories during morning worship in the hotel ballrooms. I had given messages as a camp counselor but this was different because I was specifically instructed to tell a personal story. I ended up talking about the Habitat for Humanity Spring Break Trip I participated in as a sophomore at Concordia College. An adult leader came up to me afterwards and told me he had grown up in a community like the one I described–the power of story! On the last night, a big party for all participants, Pastor Marilyn Breckenridge, the head of Hotel Life for my property, and I walked all over and talked about, among other things, life as a parish pastor. Several years later, when I was writing my entrance essay for ordination candidacy, this conversation was woven into the essay. I never got to see the kids from my home congregation in 1997 because they did not get chosen in the lottery (see 2000 St. Louis). The Gathering theme was River of Hope and the theme of the Interaction Center, the last one my parents coordinated, was Tuesdays.

2000 St. Louis – Because so many churches did not get to attend the 1997 Gathering, in 2000 the ELCA started putting on two Gatherings back-to-back. I had finished one year of graduate school and was working as a chaplain at Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp but the director gave me the time to go to St. Louis. My Hotel Life team of four was posted at Henry VIII, an airport property soon to be bulldozed to make room for an expanded runway, so they were not fixing anything. Not only that, but someone had died in the pool the week before so it was off limits. Thank goodness the four of us got along really well. Dance With Me, because of the theme, was a popular song during the mass gatherings. The theme was Dancing at the Crossroads. I have never experienced such mugginess in my life as those two summer weeks at the convergence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

2003 Atlanta – To make up for Henry VIII, the four of us were posted in either the downtown Hyatt or the Marriott Marquis three years later. I had just finished my Lutheran Year in St. Paul, spent three weeks as a volunteer in the kitchen at Holden Village, and was going from Atlanta to Duluth, MN for a Split Rock Writing Workshop. That was a great summer with a great two weeks in Atlanta. I absolutely loved our Hotel Life team and appreciated being at a downtown hotel. The theme was Ubuntu: I am because we are.

Posted in Youth Gathering | Leave a comment

15 Youth Gatherings – Part 1

I was born just before the 1976 Lutheran Youth Gathering in New Orleans and in the midst of the Montreal Olympics. I was going to reflect back on life in increments of three or four years. I was a high school athlete and do enjoy the Olympics and stories about the Olympics, but for many years my parents were part of planning Lutheran Youth Gatherings and then I became involved in the Gatherings myself.

1976 The All-Lutheran (American Lutheran Church (ALC), Lutheran Church in America (LCA), Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) Youth Gathering in New Orleans. My parents were working for the Youth Division of the ALC and some staff wanted me to be baptized in the dome. My parents said “No. She will be baptized in a congregation.”

1979 ALC Youth Gathering in Kansas City. My mom’s friend Mable died before she was able to introduce one of the keynote speakers, so my mom stepped in to introduce author and translator Edna Hong. I was there, all of age three, in the back with family friend Laura holding me.

1982 ALC Youth Gathering in San Antonio. No one seems to remember if I attended this one.

1985 ALC Youth Gathering in Denver. Most people remember the Gatherings by the big theme. I remember them by the Interaction Center themes because for many years my parents led the team that coordinated the Center. The Habitat, the same name my parents gave our home in the Black Hills, was the 1985 theme.

1988 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Youth Gathering in San Antonio. The Interaction Center theme was Holy High. There were holstein cows (like, Holy Cows at Holy High) all over the Interaction Center. Two of them were in the rafters of our garage for about twelve years–a friendly reminder of San Antonio. Here is a link to the history of Lutheran Youth Gatherings.



Posted in Youth Gathering | Leave a comment

Stories from Houston

Parents, Parishioners, Supporters of our Youth,

If you want to follow the adventures of the young people and adult leaders from Faith, Hope, Redeemer, St. Paul, and Trinity Lutheran Churches, you have come to the right place. We will boarding a bus on June 26 and heading to Houston, Texas (also known as Space City) for the ELCA Youth Gathering. We are so thankful to everyone from the Treasure Valley and around the country who has supported the youth and leaders attending this amazing event. Please check back here for photos, journal entries, and other story telling. Click on follow, to the right of this post, if you want to sign up to receive emails. You can unsubscribe after the Gathering. Or bookmark this page and check back at the end of June.

Posted in Youth Gathering | 2 Comments

Star Word – Relationship

On Epiphany Sunday many of us at Trinity Lutheran Church, Nampa picked up Star Words, a word or phrase to guide self-reflection and action throughout 2018, as the star guided the magi to the baby Jesus. My word was Relationship. Relationship may seem like a boring or easy word for a parish pastor. After all, my job requires me to be relational, within the congregation and the broader community. When I first read the word on my star my response was “sigh….” I am a true introvert. Members of Trinity Lutheran who have worked with me for seven years might tell you that it is the perfect word for this particular pastor. Why? Because having relationships with people does not automatically mean I am doing the WORK of relationships, specifically the work of being vulnerable. I know after over 40 years on this earth that my default self can appear cold in crowd, simply because I am observing everything rather than engaging. I told my mother once that someone had described me as cold. My mom said, “I have gotten that my whole life.” I could not believe her. She makes a party wherever she goes. Yet she proceeded to tell me that people never understood that she was simply being serious and taking the world in. I remember high school classmates berating me in the hallway, “you always look so serious Meggan.” My mother’s body language and facial expressions, like mine, were interpreted as shyness at best and disinterest or disdain at worst. I have worked intentionally to engage, rather than observe, as an adult. The thing is that my mom and I love people, both as fascinating beings to be studied and listened to but also as people we care about and love. So, guided by the word Relationship, this year I am trying to be just a bit more vulnerable. I am doing this mostly in my personal friendships, which I value so highly. I am also trying to share a bit more of my story, my joys, and my concerns in all of my relationships, including those with parishioners, colleagues, and community members. “Relationship,” I know is a gift, worthy of gratitude and openness rather than a sigh. Let me know if you want to write about your Star Word. I would love to have some guest bloggers.

Posted in Reflections, Trinity Lutheran | 2 Comments

“Tully” and “Little Women”

Last weekend I took in a Mother’s Day Weekend double feature–the drama Tully, in theaters now, and the first of the new three-part Masterpiece adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women.

I absolutely loved Tully, the story of a mom, played brilliantly by Charlize Theron, who gives birth to her second child and experiences postpartum depression. Eventually she takes her in-laws up on their offer to pay for a night nanny named Tully, played by Mackenzie Davis. There is a montage of the first few days home that is fleshy, real, and brilliant. Ron Livingston plays the husband/father very well, so well that I felt sorry for him even as he infuriated me. If plot is the only thing that gets you to the movie theater I suppose you may want to pass but when character development can overcompensate for it, as it does in this film, I am fine with a weaker plot. I heard that the film is receiving grief from the professionals who study and treat postpartum. Here is my response–make another film! We have thousands of super hero films and twice as many Christmas movies. Why does one film have to carry all of the postpartum experiences alone? Let us please have more stories told. They will make us cry and laugh and, more importantly, care for the women who are suffering alone. I for one am thankful for a new kind of film about mothers.

Speaking of stories told and retold, I do not know what I went into the newest Little Women adaptation expecting. How many ways can this classic be remade? But I am a die-hard Little Women fan and will watch, and have watched, every version. I was the student in 7th Grade who read a biography on Louisa May Alcott for class. There is something, maybe more than one thing, timeless about this story. Sibling relationships and coming-of-age make for great ingredients. My very favorite adaptation of this story was a double-tape audio recording by The Minds Eye that my parents and I listened to so many times on car trips. I can still hear the music chosen for the saddest part of the story. This latest version, which continues tonight, seems solid so far. They recruited Angela Lansbury to play Aunt March and Emily Watson, a favorite of mine, to play Marmee. Maya Hawke does a great job as Jo. Thus far, of all the screen adaptations, my favorite remains the 1949 version with June Allyson as Jo and Elizabeth Taylor as Amy.  What’s your favorite adaption of this story?

Posted in Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

What Good Ecumenism Requires in Nampa

I had a fascinating week of ecumenism in Nampa, beginning May 3 with the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast and ending with the last (we take a summer break) monthly Nampa Ministerial Meeting at St. Alphonsos Hospital May 8. Here is what I know. For me to continue showing up at ecumenical events in my adopted city I need only one, but there must be at least one, of the following: shared ministry, relationships, or gender equity.

I attended the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast this year primarily because of the speaker. Several of my friends are on faculty at Northwest Nazarene University and I thought it would be interesting to hear President Joel Pearsall give the keynote address. There was an invocation, a benediction, and perhaps six prayers for things ranging from stewardship to youth and families. I have been the token woman prayer in the past. This year again, one woman was on the stage to pray. I knew only a few of the people at my breakfast table and around the room.  After seven years I still feel like an outsider at this event. Yes, prayer is ministry but none of the prayers made me feel more united with those gathered.

The Installation of Deacon Diane McGeoch on the afternoon of May 5 was intimate but fabulous. Rev. Karen Hunter, Grace Episcopal, gave a wonderful sermon in which she tied together the history of deacons (ministers of Word and Service), the past and future of Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids, and the Holy Spirit calling Diane to this position. Local Methodist and United Church of Christ friends were on hand to present gifts. Lutheran colleagues drove from Boise, Mountain Home, and Star to read, sing, serve food, and support Diane. So men and women both had roles. I have relationship with nearly everyone who participated. We clearly have a joint ministry–Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids.

This was the third time we took a tour and blessed a variety of Nampa Community Gardens. Sunday afternoon, we started at Trinity’s home garden and then proceeded to the Seventh Day Adventist Garden, Nampa First United Methodist Garden, Trinity’s second plot (named after the Saint of Gardening–Saint Phocas), the R3 Recovery Garden, and finally Grace Episcopal’s garden. Karen and I took turns leading the litany. We heard wonderful stories about God working through various ministries to draw people together, heal broken hearts, and of course to feed hungry bellies.

I had just mentioned to someone that occasionally I am the only woman at the Nampa Ministerial monthly luncheons and often I am the only clergy woman. Last week an LDS woman came and three women representing Nampa schools were present to give an update on the Tuesday night community meal the Ministerial helps provide. Though lacking in gender equity, I have known many of the people in the Nampa Ministerial for seven years. We have relationships and care about one another. Someone’s denomination is going through turmoil. A retiree is recovering from surgery. Someone else and I discussed how to train and nurture young people who are continually searching for the next best thing. Even without our shared ministries (in addition to the meal, we discussed the baccalaureate we sponsor) the relationships will keep me coming back to this group. I care deeply about ecumenical partnerships and have written about here before. There is so much more we can do together than we can alone. I give thanks for Learning Peace, the network of Nampa community gardens, and my relationships with colleagues through the Nampa Ministerial.



Posted in Reflections | 1 Comment