Meet the Heitz Squad: 10 E.C.T (Edgewater Congregations Together) youth, 2 pastors, and 2 parents from Unity, Ebenezer, and Immanuel Lutheran churches in the Edgewater neighborhood in Chicago who are attending the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit this week.
The ELCA Youth Gathering is a 5 day event that takes place once every three years and brings 30,000 9th-12th graders from across the world together for a common purpose: to worship together, to grow in faith, and to put our faith into practice.
The theme this year is “Rise Up Together.” In Detroit youth will explore how we – as the body of Christ – can rise up together to proclaim the good news Jesus proclaimed to the world. This week, we will take time to proclaim community, to proclaim justice, and to proclaim God’s story: how God is in our story, how God is in the story of others, and how those stories inter-connect.
During the service, we were reminded that: “At our baptism, we were claimed by God, and promises were made on our behalf. At confirmation, we claimed our faith as our own and made promises to ourselves:
– to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper
– to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through words and deed
– to serve all people, following the example of Jesus
– to strive for justice and peace in all the earth”
As we were commisioned, we were sent out to “live out our baptism and live out these promises [in Detroit]… To go forth on our journey to experience Christ beyond [our current] place… [and that we might] return with a new commitment to serve all God’s people, follow the example of Jesus, and with new skills to be able to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”
This is my hope for the Heitz Squad this week.
Tonight, we begin with a reflection from Pastor Monte Johnson (from Immanuel Lutheran Church.)
“After months of preparation, planning, fundraisers and hard work, ECT youth were so excited today had finally arrived. We stood in a circle on the sidewalk outside Unity Lutheran for prayers and to be commissioned as servants of God before piling into vans to Union Station. Thanks to Rick Gustafson and Blaine Boogert for driving downtown.
At Union Station, we met up with youth groups from other local ELCA congregations in Evanston and Palatine. There were 38 of us in all. We nearly filled an entire Amtrack car ourselves.
Our hotel is right near the Amtrack station in Detroit. Already, we’ve seen lots of other youth from around the country arriving. We begin tomorrow as the Gathering opens up with all community events, including a street fair, live music, climbing wall, learning experiences, information booths, and of course, the big opening convocation at Ford Field (where the Detroit Lions play). More than 30,000 youth will worship and praise God together.
At our “final fifteen” (that is our last few minutes together before heading to our rooms for the night), enthusiasm and expectations are already running high. We’re going to have such a good week. ECT youth will grow in faith and deepen their connections with one another. We’ve already adopted a new nick-name for ourselves. We’re the Heitz-squad, named for our leader, Pastor Emily Heitzman who has poured her heart and soul into making this trip meaningful for all of us.”