by Deacon Pat Derry
The 2018 Saint Paul Synod Assembly presented fresh new voices in the church. At a time when many ELCA churches are struggling with low young adult participation in the congregation and many claim themselves as “None” when asked of religious affiliation, these young voices were inspirational, visional, and hopeful! It was a gift simply to hear them, and especially to hear them at a church assembly!
These insights were not born of inexperienced youthful naiveté, but rather from places of strug-gle and challenge. Young people are not distanced from difficulty. Some are born to it, like our own Louie McGee, who at 5 years, was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration. Louie and his sister, Carmella received a well-deserved standing ovation af-ter they presented “Louie’s Vision,” a nonprofit organization Louie created for visually impaired youth to experience the fullness of life and to reach their own full potential.
Some young people voluntarily place themselves in difficulty, like Samantha Ea who partici-pated in the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mis-sion (YAGM) program. This took her to a teach-ing position in a Lutheran school in Palestine, where she experienced first-hand the difficulty of living under oppression.
Others do not run from difficulty but seek to change it, like Kendrick Hall, who is passionate about issues such as affordable housing, the school-to-prison pipeline and immigration. Kendrick, a Luther Seminary student, currently works for Lutheran Advocacy – Minnesota, and hopes to reduce poverty and struggle as he enters communities that are filled with pain.
We also watched a video greeting from Pastor Msigwa of the Iringa Diocese in Tanzania. Pastor Msigwa said that 60 percent of the Iringa Diocese members are young people! Last year, four Saint Paul Area Synod young adults accompanied fourteen of their young adult peers in the Iringa Diocese to a youth camp. One participant, Tina Erickson, spoke of the transfor-mation in her life when she witnessed her Tanzanian counterparts praising God with radiant joy, and speaking of their faith in the context of every part of life. Their excitement was contagious, and Tina was filled with hope. Tina, and all the other young people who shared their stories, spoke of their restlessness in the face of the world’s countless challenges, but also spoke of being resolute that change will come when we all work together as God’s people. Tina shared what all these young people hold as a real possibility, that “God’s church might be a more joyful and hopeful place by leaning into the wisdom and witness of young adults near and far.”
God knows we need more joy and hope! Thanks be to God for these voices!