We started the morning with a lesson and discussion about Detroit and its current struggles, which are symptoms of a long history of deep rooted systemic racism. We discussed how we are called to be theologians of the cross and name the reality of the evils of racism and inequality.
I was so impressed with and proud of my youth for being incredibly thoughtful and engaged in the conversation, angry at the injustice they learned about, and passionate about having the courage when we return home to rise up together and denounce the evil sins of systemic racism and inequality in Chicago and work for justice.
The rest of the day we explored Detroit.
We hung out.
We did some dancing…
And more dancing…
And even more dancing…
And we attended our first evening mass gathering.
Here’s what Ngbarezere, a junior from Unity Lutheran Church, had to say:
It’s only been one day in Detroit and I am highly impressed with today’s adventure. I woke up to the delight of the prepared breakfast awaiting me and my companions. I am embarrassed to say, however, that I was glaring at the food as Emily was greeting and instructing us.
After thirty minutes (it really felt like five minutes), we gathered on the shuttle and departed downtown. The view I witnessed was exhilarating! Canada was approximately a mile across from Detroit, the spectacular view from both sides illuminated our nervousness as soon as we stepped off of the shuttle.
People were friendly, residents were excited, and workers were especially cheerful as the ELCA visitors swarmed their city. We visited the Cobo center, the renaissance center, and curiously peeked at the gateway to freedom slave statue. All these views were amazing and rich with memories.
At 7:30 PM we entered the Ford Field along with 30,000 other participants from across the entire country! It was uplifting to see such a large group gather together. We sang songs, heard speakers, and learned dances throughout the entire performance.
Afterwards we arrived back at the hotel to finish our day with pizza and a warm conversation on today’s experience. Thank you for making this all possible for us, I really enjoyed today!
And here is a reflection from Sam, a junior from Immanuel Lutheran Church.
Today, following the first day at the youth gathering, I am simply amazed at the community and outreach of the ELCA network. There are people here from seemingly everywhere- something I was expecting, but something that’s still very impressive and, I guess, real. And they’re friendly too! The fact that just so many others are here, brings with it a real sense of purpose and capability. Because of the sheer vastness of the crowd here, I feel weirdly powerful – I feel the holy spirit.
Regardless of what exactly is on the itenerary for each day, I’ve come to understand that we as individuals, youth groups, congregations, and churches are here together with Detroit and its people, that we are here with God to strive for social justice in all places.
And I’m excited about that. This trip is an educational experience of an environment that is suffering, that is in need of resurrection. A place where the spirit is already present, a place where we are “waiting to catch up with the doings of Jesus,” as the keynote speaker said earlier this evening. And its great to be a part of this upbringing.